Psalm 45

Praises throng to crown his head

Psalm 45 is absolutely unique in that it is a song of praise addressed to  human beings, the king and queen.  The context is a royal wedding set in Jerusalem.   The psalm can be outlined as follows:

  • Introductory remarks (v.1).
  • Words to the bridegroom-king (v.2-9).
  • Words to the bride (v.10-12).
  • Words to the royal couple (v.12-16).
  • A concluding blessing (v.17).

The psalm, on one level, celebrates human love.  Later, the Song of Songs would take this even further in a sensuous hymn of praise to love, a wedding song celebrating a royal marriage.

In Judaism after the collapse of the monarchy, this psalm came to be understood as a Messianic prophecy and New Testament writers followed suit.  Christian readings made the connection to Christ as the king who alone is worthy of all authority and power. 

In Hebrews, vs.6-7 of this psalm are quoted:

        “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
(Hebrews 1: 8,9)

In the Ancient Near East, the king was often pictured as one who embodied the best of human qualities. So, in verses 3-8 the Psalmist exalts both the moral and physical beauty of the king. He is not only clothed with rich attire and anointed with the finest fragrant oils, the king is also a person of moral integrity, ruling with justice, humility, and truth. The king should embody all the best qualities that God intended not just for monarchs, but for all humanity.

These qualities are seen in the life of Jesus: When he overturned the tables in the Temple he was a warrior for justice.  When he gathered the crowds together to teach he was no less a king; his words then and now would form his followers in the ways of peace and patience, of suffering in adversity, of mercy and humility.  Jesus’ kingship is embodied as servanthood, kingship as self-giving.

The bride theme (v.10-12) is also picked up in the New Testament (see especially Ephesians 5.11-122; Revelation 19.6-9).  Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5 is a good example. He begins by addressing the  behavior of husbands toward their wives, then quickly moves on to quote the familiar lines from Genesis 2, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” But, in. a surprising move he immediately adds, “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:31-32)

So the human institution of marriage, and even its most intimate act, points to the relationship of Christ to his bride, the church. Marriage conveys a deep sacramental truth about our relationship to Christ. As the bride and groom bind themselves to each other in a covenant of love and faithfulness, Christ binds us to himself. We are his bride.

This image of Christ as bridegroom emerges once more at the close of the Bible. it’s still the story of God’s great romance with his people and with his creation. John sees the staggering vision of where everything is headed. He calls it the “wedding feast of the Lamb.” “And I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21: 4)

All our lives, our loves, our relationships, our marriages, must now be seen in the light of God’s great romance with his creation, and the redemption of his human image-bearers.  We are the bride of Christ who has clothed us with the garments of righteousness.  He has betrothed us to himself with his own blood, and sealed it in the cleansing waters of baptism.  So, let us be his beloved people, faithful to his covenant, obedient to his commands. - Jesus shall reign, where’er the sun’