We’re looking at some Psalms in these late summer weeks. Last time we met it was Psalm 46 - an encounter with the God who casts out fear. This week it’s Psalm 45
A wedding psalm - see the title. Very appropriate for this time of year. It’s actually a psalm for a royal wedding. The bridegroom is the King v1 glorious in his magnificence. The bride is a princess - v13 - within her chamber, her wedding dress is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king.
there’s much debate among scholars about which particular King and Queen within the history of Israel this Psalms was written for. Solomon’s marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kings 3) could be in view; another possibility is the marriage described in 2 Kings 8 between Jehoram King of Judah andPrincess Athaliah of Israel whose mother was from Tyre (mentioned in v13 of the Psalm). In light of the common near eastern practice of treating any bridal couple as royalty, it’s suggested by some that the Psalm describes any conventional wedding ceremony, with a comparison between the characteristics of a bridegroom and the qualities of a king. All couples are royalty on their wedding day.
Weddings are great occasions aren’t they? Well, they are If you are involved. If it’s your wedding day it should be good shouldn’t it!? or perhaps if you’re a bridesmaid or best man or close relative or friend of the bride or groom.
But let’s be honest, if you’re not that closely involved weddings can be tiresome affairs. When it’s a distant relative that’s getting married and you know absolutely no-one there. All that standing around. Missing lunch. The Champagne headache. And then you’re seated at the reception with Uncle Peter and Aunt Cynthia both of whom had their funny bones removed at birth… and you’re definitely planning to get away and home for match of the day after you’ve wolfed down the free nosebag.
Surely that’s what this wedding in Psalm 45 is like isn’t it? We’re just distant onlookers. Actually we’re almost certainly not even invited to this if it is a royal wedding. At best we get to watch it on TV. It’s nice to gawp at the brides dress and see the opulence of the occasion but you’re about ready to switch channels and watch bargain hunt on ITV.
But wait. Actually… There’s a suprise here. You are far far more involved in this wedding than you realise. You’re not just invited. You are centrally involved.
You really are.
Well let’s have a look then at the suprising identity of the groom and the bride
First. The groom who must be praised.
The psalmist praises the king on his wedding day. But this is no humorous best man's speech. There are no skeletons in the cupboard. The psalmist’s heart is strirred he can do another than praise this bridegroom with the most high and exalted language.
1st in v2 he praises him for the sheer attractiveness of his person and the graciousness of his speech.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
This king on his wedding day is the finest person you’ll ever meet, his words always build up and bless. He’s blessed, eternally blessed by God.
2nd in vv3-7 the psalmist praises the king on his wedding day for the excellence of his rule
This monarch is not some glorified administrator pushing papers. Nor is he some puppet king. No, he is a military leader who rides out to victory. And yet, crucially, he is no tyrant. Plenty of leaders of the ancient world were. As they are today. Plenty believe Might is right. That you throw weight around to get your own way. But this king, mighty as he is, is not on some kind of power trip.
V4 tells us his cause is the true ethical foreign policy. Truth, humility, righteousness. his sceptre, v6,- the symbol of his rule is a
sceptre of justice.
“You love righteousness and hate wickedness” proclaims the psalmist.
What a king he is!
But the language to describe him gets more extravagant still. Those qualities in v4 - truth humility righteousness, doer of awesome deeds They are qualities and actions normally ascribed in Scripture to God himself.
And in vv 6-7 -look - the psalmist gets explicit with the divine language
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
What is the psalmist doing here? Is this shameless sycophancy. It's been known. Many kings have set themselves up as gods. But not the Kings of Israel! No Israel’s king must have blushed. No mere man could ever fulfil the kind of divine rule described here. No king.
What is going on here?
Well here we see one among many examples of OT language bursting it's banks to demand a more than human fulfillment.
The psalmist, even though he addresses the King, can hardly be speaking about a real person can he? Well he is. because several hundred years later a man appears in Israel who takes upon himself both the titles king and bridegroom.
The New Testament book of Hebrews, we were looking at it recently, affirms (Hebrews 1:8) that Jesus fulfills all these words. They are best used to describe him. So the psalmist praises the King but somehow the King is a foreshadow of a better King, a Divine King, the Messiah. It’s him that the psalmist perceives.
And we, we have seen his glory (John chapter 1) the glory of the one and only son, full of grace and truth
When we look at Jesus in the gospels he truly is the most excellent of men. There's never been anyone like him. There never will be anyone like him
We often focus on Jesus’ actions. His healings, his miracles. But what often amazed and astonished the crowds were his words. His teachings, the way he spoke to people.
Your lips have been anointed with grace
since God has blessed you forever.
What about his rule? The book of revelation does show us Jesus the Warrior king on a war horse with sword strapped to his thigh riding out for the cause of truth humility, justice, righteousness.
But it is not with sword or arrow that God pierces the hearts of his enemies but with his word.
Jesus defeats his enemies by turning them into his friends.
Jesus makes the nations fall before his feet ...In grateful worship.
Jesus Christ loved righteousness and hated wickedness and that cause shaped him to the cross.
The illustration from Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic film The Last emperor, helps here. The boy emperor lives surrounded by luxury as the last emperor of China. He is a boy. In one scene he is asked what happens when he does wrong. When i do wrong he answers somebody else is beaten. And to demonstrate he wilfully breaks a vase, one of his servants is brought in an whipped. Such is the prerogative of Kings. But JC reverses the ancient pattern. It was the servants who had sinned and the King gave himself up to be punished for them.
Loving righteousness, hating wickedness, the king dies for his servants to win their forgiveness.
Therefore God has crowned Jesus with glory and honour; sets Jesus above his companions anointing him with the oil of joy. Raised from the dead and exalted, His throne and rule will last forever and ever.
The bridegroom who must be praised
Wonder at Jesus
Look at him
His speech, His Justice, His love, His rule
His bride?? This is after all his wedding day.
Who could be the bride of God? this God? Who? Who is worthy?In the mythology of the gods the consort of a great God would be a goddess - equally supernatural.
Jesus’s name is on the order of service. But a bit like when, in 4 weddings and a funeral, Hugh Grant’s Charles finally marries (or tries to) the brides name is covered up.
Who can be this Divine King's Queen?
Who’s the bride? Beautifully dressed and attended
The bride - is you..
You're the bride. All the men in here…slightly taken aback!
Read the Bible and you know that God’s chosen people - throughout the bible - are called the bride of God.
In the NT - the church - is called the bride of Christ
You if you are a Christian - you are the bride
It’s not a gender thing. It’s a relational thing
jesus the bridegroom came for US
Why do we love weddings?
This royal wedding, every wedding - because every wedding is foretaste, a glimmer of the ultimate marriage - Jesus and his church
Wedding vows of commitment - “all that I am I give to you all that I have I share with you” wonderful as they are, they are a foretaste, a glimmer overshadowed by Jesus' ultimate wedding vows.
His Arms outstretched upon the cross. Crying, Father forgive
He says All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you
All my righteousness, and I'll take all your sin
The brides dress. Beautiful Pure white and Woven with regal gold. Wonderful as they are, they are Just a foretaste a glimmer of the moral purity and beauty of the church in the eyes of God
It’s what the bible means when it's saying that when you're a christian you are beautiful to God. You are, in Jesus morally clean and beautiful in his eyes.whiter than white. Of course you still stuff up but your status is secure.
Did you know that? Sometimes the problem is our behaviour is less than we are, because we forget who we are. We forget to rest in Christ. Our status before God is one of purity and so seek to live out your beautiful cleanness. A s it says in the psalm. Let the King be enthralled with your beauty.
The wedding feast. The food, the wine, the joy, the dodgy dancing.
Wonderful as that is, it is just a foreshadow a glimmer of the true, ultimate wedding feast. The marriage supper of the lamb where the church takes pride of place.
Incredible don’t you think - we all know that the real centre of attention at a wedding is the bride and God gives that role, that place not to himself but to us, to you such is his humility and love.
Marriage. This is how God describes his rel with you.
Not a distant creator to creature relationship
not a simply functional relationship between a god and a mortal
Not merely a dutiful relationship of a master and slave
Not even just the dependent relationship of a child to a father.
No, the love, unity, commitment, faithfulness and intimacy of a husband and wife - that is how God describes his relationship with us.
We are made for this kind of close relationship with God. That’s what it means to know God. Not just know about him. Not just trust in him. But the of intimacy, of knowing and being known. Of loving and being loved.
Some of us, myself included, find intimacy difficult. We perhaps push God away. It’s too much - to be loved, to be known.
But this is what we were made for. We need to discover why we reject that real intimacy and learn to love and be loved.
Perhaps we need to talk to each other about that. Pray for each other that we might each enjoy our relationship with God.
Forget your people and your father’s house.
honor him, for he is your lord.
Leave the world behind and worship your King.