The King and His Bride, Psalm 45

Has your heart ever overflowed with a good theme? Have you ever experienced or witnessed or learned of something that was so extraordinary, so amazing that you could not keep it to yourself, you had to speak of it, you had try to describe it to others that they might share a bit of your experience? Maybe you were watching the night sky and all the sudden saw a bunch of comets or something spectacular up there, and you couldn’t help but say, “Whoa! Wow!” and to the people next to you, “Did you see that? It was incredible! There was this! And it did this! And was like this!” This Psalm is the overflowing of the heart of the author whoever he was, some prophet, a son of Korah. He has seen something, a vision perhaps, or he’s been told of something that is so extraordinary that he cannot keep it to himself. His heart overflows with this good matter. And apparently from the contents of the Psalm what he’s seen or heard of has to do with a great and glorious king and his bride and their upcoming wedding.

wedding photo
Photo by numfoto

Now, I don’t about you, but I don’t get too excited about weddings, even royal weddings or famous people weddings. I know they’re on the covers of the magazines at the grocery store, but I couldn’t care less. And when it comes to attending weddings, unless it’s the wedding of a close family member or close friend, I would rather stay home and do yard work or just about anything else. My wife and others of you ladies like those shows on TV about weddings and brides preparing for their weddings and finding the perfect dress. But personally, I’d rather watch paint dry. I don’t get the thrill of it. Maybe I’m too insensitive. But this Tuesday when I was doing the Bible reading for this week, this Psalm about a king and his bride and their upcoming wedding was part of the reading, and after I read it once, I read it again. Then I read it again and again. My heart overflowed when I read about this wedding. I went home at lunch and said, “Ally, I just read something really awesome that I hadn’t noticed before. Look at this and this…” I had to speak of it. This wedding is awesome even to insensitive fellas like me when you see…

Who this king and his bride are

They are not identified in the Psalm. Different commentators and scholars have suggested different kings of Jewish history and their wives as being who this Psalm is about. Many suggest that this is about king Solomon and his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter. But that doesn’t seem to fit to me. One reason is that this king apparently from v3-5 is a conquering warrior, and at the end of v5 it says that the peoples, the nations fall under him and his arrows are in the heart of his enemies. But Solomon was not a warrior. Solomon enjoyed a peaceful reign. Others I found suggested that this is about king Ahab and his marriage to Jezebel or perhaps king Jehoram and his marriage to Athaliah. But that doesn’t fit either, because the Scriptures summarize the conduct of those kings saying they did evil in the sight of LORD. But this king in Psalm 45 we’ll see has loved righteousness and hated wickedness and grace is on his lips and he’s pleasing to God. That was not Ahab or Jehoram at all. Unless this Psalmist was really flattering king Ahab or Jehoram this can’t be about them. And we’re going to see that some of the descriptions of this king are too exalted, too lofty to be fitting for any earthy king that ancient Israel ever had. Some say that this Psalm is not describing any king in particular; it is rather just describing the ideal king, who the king should be, and the ideal queen and the ideal wedding, how it should be. And perhaps this Psalm was sung as part of the royal wedding ceremonies, encouraging the king and queen to be this way. Maybe this Psalm was used that way, but I think it’s about an actual king. Look at v6-7. This is addressed to the king. “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows.” This king is called God. And because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness, God exalted Him over all others and anointed Him with joy. And He will reign forever and ever. Does that sound like an actual king that you know? And look at the last statement in v17, “Therefore the peoples [the nations] will give You thanks forever and ever.” Has there ever been an actual king to whom the nations will give thanks forever and ever? Yeap. But only one. I think this is about King Jesus. And I’m not the only one. So did the writer of Hebrews in the NT. Hebrews 1:8-9, “But of the Son [of Jesus] He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. 9 YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” That comes right out of Psalm 45:6-7 and he says that’s about King Jesus. Now, if Jesus is the king and the groom in this Psalm, then who is His bride? Did Christ have a bride? Does He have a bride? II Corinthians 11:2, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to see themselves as betrothed to Christ. The wedding day is coming. And Paul hopes that on that day, they may be presented as a pure virgin, as one who has been a faithful fiancé. Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” Christ’s bride is His church, His disciples. Right now we are in the betrothal period. The wedding day is coming when we will be presented glorious without a spot or wrinkle or any such thing. I think in the book of Revelation there are visions of the wedding day. Revelation 19:6-8, “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Then look at Revelation 21, right after the vision of the judgment day at the end of ch20. Heaven and earth have passed away. All of the dead, the great and small, have been raised and have stood before God’s throne in judgment, and everyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Then Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” Now, in the book of Revelation it appears to me that the church is pictured not only as the bride of Christ but also as the holy city, Jerusalem. If we had time to do some study in Revelation 11 we could see that, where it says that the nations will tread underfoot the holy city for a times time and half time (Rev 11:2). It’s not saying they will tread underfoot the literal city of Jerusalem. It’s talking about the persecution of the church. The church is pictured as the holy city, Jerusalem. Well, here in 21:2 this city, the church, is coming down from heaven made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. It’s like here she’s coming down the aisle in her beautiful gown. This is the wedding. v3-4,”And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” When the wedding has taken place then the Lord and His bride are going to live together, and He is going to make her very happy forever and ever. You see, Psalm 45 is awesome because it is not just about some royal couple and their wedding. It is about us and our king and our wedding. This wedding is the purpose and culmination of all Creation. This world and us exist because God wanted this bride to love and to be loved by. So with that understanding let’s look real quick at Psalm 45.

Introduction (v1)

My heart overflows with a good theme;” I am bubbling over. I can’t contain it. I have to speak of it. “I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” This pen will be my tongue with which I speak.

Address to the king (v2-9)

You are fairer than the sons of men“. You are the most eligible bachelor ever. “Grace is poured upon Your lips“.  His lips are covered with grace. So every word that proceeds from His mouth is gracious. Never hurtful, never vulgar, never deceptive, never ugly. Always true and blessing, like a gift, every word. “Therefore God has blessed You forever.” God also has found Him fairer than the sons of men. So He has blessed Him and blessed He shall be for eternity. I think this Psalm is envisioning the Messiah from a Christian perspective. It’s viewing Him from our point in time after His perfect life on earth and death and resurrection and He’s on the throne of the universe, blessed and ruling all creation. “Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty! And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let Your right hand teach You awesome things. Your arrows are sharp; The peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.” He still has enemies at the time that have not yet been brought into submission to His rule. His enemies are evil. Conquering them is for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness. His enemies promote lies and pride and unrighteousness in the world. So the Psalmist says, “Conquer them! Make them a footstool for Your feet.” “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” He will always win against those who oppose Him. He is God. In Him is no weakness, no flaw, no vulnerability, no limitation. He will always win and reign forever and ever. “A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” All His laws and decrees and judgments and decisions are right and good, always for the ultimate glory of God and good of man. “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness ” As a man on earth He reflected the heart of God. He loved what God loves and hated what God hates. “Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.” “All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.” In His presence your senses are filled with pleasantness. He smells wonderful. It sounds wonderful. Everything around Him looks wonderful.  All associated with Him is pleasant and extravagant and glorious. “Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;” I think that the picture is of the ladies that serve in His palaces. They are the most desirable ladies in the world, king’s daughters. The idea may be that He can have any woman that He wants. “At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.” He can have any woman He wants. But He has chosen one. And He loves her. She is at His right hand dressed in the purest finest gold. He shares His wealth and His rule with her. But the wedding hasn’t happened yet. That’s later in the Psalm. Ephesians 2:6 says that if we are in Christ, if we been added to His church, His people, “God has raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places…” The church right now is the queen at His right hand. We are in that highest position in all creation. His wealth is ours. His access to the Father is ours. His safety, His blessedness is ours. But our wedding is still yet to come. We may not realize that yet but I learn in the book of Revelation that when we die, if we die faithful, if we die as a part of His bride, we go to be with Him and we reign with Him. Revelation 2:26-27, “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;  27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father“. Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” In Revelation 6:9-11 John has a vision of the souls of Christians who have been killed and they’re with the Lord and they cry out to Him, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And they’re told to wait a bit longer. They’re with Christ and talking with Him. In Revelation 20:4-6 there is this symbolic picture of the age in which we are now living. It pictures it as a 1000 year period of time. Like the other numbers in Revelation, 1000 years is not literal. It’s just symbolic of a lengthy complete period of time. And John is given this vision of this 1000 year period of time and he sees the souls of Christians who have died sitting on thrones and judgment is given to them and they are reigning with Christ. It calls it the first resurrection. It is a sort of a resurrection before the final bodily resurrection that will occur on the day of judgment, on the wedding day. When we die, before the final resurrection in which we are given new bodies, our souls go to be with Christ and reign with Him.  I have no idea what all that entails or what that will be like, but I am looking forward to it.

Address to the Bride (v10-12)

Listen, O daughter [I think he’s talking to the queen, to the bride of the king], give attention and incline your ear…” Here is something important for the bride hear, for us to hear. There are 2 instructions here and 2 promises. The first instruction is “Forget your people and your father’s house“.  I take that to mean that we must no look back longingly or become distracted by whatever or whoever we’ve had to leave behind to be with Christ. I take it to be the same kind of thing Jesus was teaching in Luke 17 when he said that we are in a situation kind of like that of Lot when God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin, and the angels told Lot and his wife and their 2 daughters to run and not look back until they get to such and such a place. Lot’s wife looked back and she didn’t make it. And Jesus says in Luke 17:32-33, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” In Luke 9:61-62 a man came to Jesus and said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home,” which sounds like a reasonable request. But Jesus appears to have detected that this man was still very attached to his old life and the family that he would leave behind to follow Him and that this man, if he followed Him, would be distracted by those things. Jesus said to that man, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” In plowing a field back then they’d steer the plow with one hand and use the other hand to goad the ox that was pulling the plow. And you’d have to pay attention to keep the ox and the plow going straight. It would be disastrous to try to do that while looking back over your shoulder. There’s no way you could plow a straight furrow while looking back. The Lord is saying that those who look back longingly at the old life and at what they are missing as they follow Him are unfit for the kingdom of God. Realize that the pleasures of sin we experienced in our past and whatever the world has to offer us is fleeting, momentary, and pulls us away from our King to whom we are betrothed and from the eternal glory and wealth and world to come that He wants to share with us. So the first instruction here is Forget what you’ve left behind to be with Christ. Then there’s a promise. v11a, “Then the King will desire your beauty.” You make Him your heart’s desire and you will be His. Then v11b, the second instruction, “Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” To bow is to show respect and submission. Ephesians 5:23-24 says, “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” The bride of Christ is subject to Him. If we’re the bride of Christ we must be subject to Him. In other words we must not be defiantly doing things our own way in life; we must be trying to do things His way, trying to be honest in all we say, trying to keep our language clean, trying to control our temper, trying to be kind and helpful to everyone we meet, trying to use our money without greed, trying to raise our kids to know Him, trying to be excellent employees and a light for Him in the work place, and to be encouraging to our fellow Christians. He doesn’t require us to be perfect, but subject to Him, trying to follow His will in our lives. Then v12 is another promise. If we are wholly devoted to Christ and not looking back, here’s a picture of what our position will be. “The daughter of Tyre [which was a very wealthy, strong, influential city in the day. The language of the daughter of a city commonly in the OT refers to the people of the city. That’s likely the sense of it here.] will come with a gift; The rich among the people will seek your favor.” It’s a picture I think similar to the one at the end of v9 of this bride at the king’s right hand dressed in gold. The wealthiest and strongest of the world pay her homage and seek her favor. It’s a picture saying that she is exalted over all, ruling with the King.

The Wedding (v13-15)

It’s helpful to understand a little about weddings in ancient Israel. Before the wedding the bridegroom would prepare his home for his bride, and a great wedding feast would be prepared, and family and friends invited. Then on the appointed day of the wedding the bridegroom would go forth at the head of a procession that would make its way to the residence of the father of the bride. As they arrived, she would be waiting in her wedding dress. She would have her attendants with her. They would lead her out to meet the bridegroom. Then the entire procession would return to perhaps the home of the bridegroom for the wedding celebration. You remember the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25 about the ten virgins who were part of bridal party. And they were to wait one evening with their lamps lit for the bridegroom to come and then lead a lighted procession to the home where the wedding feast was to be held. That’s the sort of picture presented in v13-15. v13, “The King’s daughter [the princess, the bride of the King of King’s] is all glorious within; Her clothing is interwoven with gold.” You have never seen a more beautiful gown. And she is also glorious within. Beautiful inside and out. Ephesians 5:27 describes her/us has having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and blameless (Eph 5:27). Philippians 3:21, “He will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…” I John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” v14-15, “She will be led to the King in embroidered work; The virgins, her companions who follow her, Will be brought to You. 15 They will be led forth with gladness and rejoicing; They will enter into the King’s palace.” Jesus told His disciples, John 14:1, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” And He said there’s going to be a great banquet. He said many from east and west and north and south are going to recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God (Lk 13:28-29). I don’t know how much of that is literal or figurative, but it’s a beautiful picture and I’m looking forward to it. And then we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps 23:6).

Conclusion (v16-17)

The conclusion to this Psalm is interesting. v16 speaks of the King’s children, His descendants. Normally when a couple gets married then eventually they have children. That imagery is used in v16. It’s speaking to the king. The pronouns in the Hebrew text are masculine singular. To the king it says, “In place of your fathers will be your sons; You shall make them princes in all the earth.” So as His forefathers (like David and Solomon perhaps) were rulers, so shall His descendants be rulers. Hmmm. If this is about Christ, who are these children? Well, in Scripture that’s another image used for the church, the people of Christ. Isaiah 53:10, “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days…” Jesus has offspring spiritually. As the NT teaches that we are descendants of Abraham if we imitate his faith and obedience, we are also children of Christ spiritually if we become His followers. So perhaps there is some mixing of metaphors in Psalm 45 and not only are we to see ourselves as the bride of the King , but also as the children of the King. And it says that we will reign over the earth. Like Revelation 5:9-10 the beings of heaven sing to the Lamb, “Worthy are You… for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” I Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” We will even judge angels?! I don’t know what all it entails or what it will be like, but sure sounds to me like in hereafter we, the bride and children of Christ, rule with Christ. v17, “I [which is either the Psalmist or God. I’m not sure which.] will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever.” Forever and ever. Let that register in your heart for a moment. 100 years from now we will be saying, “O, thank You, Lord!” 10 million years later we will still be saying, “Thank you, Lord!” Forever and ever we will be giving Him thanks for His grace and kindness to us. God has so much more in mind for us than just this short life. This life is just the time to accept His offer through the gospel of marriage and then to keep ourselves wholly devoted to Him until the wedding day. Have you said through repentance of your sins and baptism in His name, “Yes, Lord, I will marry You”? And are you living as His bride, subject to Him, doing things His way in your life?

– James Williams

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