Fifth Decade of Psalms
Psalm 45 is an Epithalamium, which is to say, a wedding song. The way it is quoted in the New Testament makes it very clear that the ultimate fulfillment of this psalm is found in the marriage of Christ to the Church. This psalm is unlike any other, and is likely the wedding hymn for the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of Pharaoh. At the same time, the psalmist speaks of the king is a way that cannot be understood of any earthly ruler.
“My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer . . .” (Psalm 45:1-17).
Summary of the Text
The psalmist has a good and pleasant subject before him, and so he is ready to overflow with praise for the king (v. 1). He stands out among all the children of men, grace is on his lips, and God has blessed him forever (v. 2). The king is urged to gird his sword upon his thigh—not for war, but because when a warrior takes a bride, his sword should be part of the pageantry, along with glory and majesty (v. 3). The gravitas of “terrible things” is one of the guests at the wedding (v. 4). He is an effective warrior; his arrows are sharp in the hearts of his enemies (v. 5).
The next two verses are quoted in the first chapter of Hebrews, and are applied to Christ (vv. 6-7). Christ is addressed as God. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. Therefore God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness. His garments are precious spices and ointments (v. 8). Kings’ daughters were part of the court, and the queen mother (Bathsheba perhaps) was at the groom’s right hand (v. 9).
Then the bride is addressed by the writer, and is urged to forget her people (v. 10), indicating that she is a foreigner. She is told that the king desires her beauty, and that she should serve him (v. 11). Other royal visitors are there with gifts (v. 12). The bride is a king’s daughter, all glorious within, and beautifully adorned (v. 13). As she comes, beautifully attired, her bridesmaids follow her (v. 14). They all enter the king’s palace with gladness and rejoicing (v. 15). Her children will be princes (v. 16). She will be praised forever and ever (v. 17).
Thy Throne, O God . . .
The author of Hebrews is engaged in comparing Jesus Christ to the angels. The angels are created servants, and they are commanded to worship the Son (Heb. 1:6). They are created “ministers.” But to the Son, God speaks, and God says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Jesus Christ is being addressed by God and is spoken to as one who is fully God. Some who want to evade the clarity of this try to say that the Greek (ho thronos ho Theos) should be rendered “Thy throne is God.” But this would place Jesus Christ above God, which doesn’t exactly help their case. This psalm is clearly speaking beyond what would be appropriate to say of Solomon, or any other earthly king, and finds its fulfillment in the marriage of Christ to the Church. This is an image that St. Paul elevates so wonderfully in Ephesians 5. God became a man so that He could take a human bride.
The Bride of Christ
Although the image is glorious, we must be careful with it. Because Christians have not been careful with it, particularly in the West, we have created an environment in the Church that is hostile to masculinity. And the hinge of the matter is the difference between corporate piety and individual piety. The entire Church is feminine in relationship to Christ. But beginning with Bernard of Clairvaux, corporate expressions of devotion were radically individualized. This has resulted in a good bit of gender weirdness. It is one of the reasons why Christian men have become so effeminate, and why men who refuse to become effeminate are chased out of the Church.
There are two problems here: one is with the men who won’t conform to this and leave, and the other is with the men are willing to have a try. It is one thing for the corporate Church to adorn herself as a bride for her husband (Rev. 21:2). It is quite another for a burly lumberjack to sit down for his quiet time and try it. The former is glorious, and the latter is sick and gross.
The Warrior Groom
The Lord Jesus is the model for all husbands, as Paul teaches. One of the things we learn about Him here is that He is an accomplished warrior. He is well-spoken—grace has been poured out upon His lips. In other words, a biblical warrior is not a thug. It is appropriate for Him to wear His sword at the wedding. His arrows have slain His enemies, and the peoples have fallen before His conquest. At the heart of His effectiveness as a warrior is the fact that He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. In this world (which is fallen), anyone who loves righteousness and hates wickedness will have to be, by definition, a fighter, a warrior. Because He has been an effective warrior, He is anointed with many blessings—the pageantry, the spices, the majesty, and most of all, the bride. Faint heart never won fair lady.
The Bride Adorned
The king desires her beauty, as He has every right to do. She adorns her beauty with more beautiful things, which she has every right to do. But, anticipating the teaching of the apostle Peter, her beauty is not merely outward and external. The king’s daughter, it says in verse 13, is “all glorious within.” Her beauty is obviously not limited to that which is internal, but it most certainly begins there.
She is the daughter of a king. She is married to a king. She will be the mother of kings. And through Christ, God has made us kings and priests on the earth. He is in the process of establishing true nobility on earth—and about time.
The Oil of Gladness
Over the years, we have emphasized sabbath living and rejoicing before the Lord. This is all well and good, and this psalm gives us even more examples of it. “Oil of gladness” (v. 7) and “with gladness and rejoicing” (v. 15) are wonderful examples of this. But this is not the celebration of the lazy. We see here war, victory, gladness. We see accomplishment followed by gladness and rejoicing. Gladness is our birthright, but so is work and war and sacrifice and giving. If we make gladness our hallmark in some detached way, then we will become a haven of complacency. And that is not what God calls us to.