A Wedding Song
Topic: English Passage: Psalm 45:1-17
Last week, in our sermon and in our Family Life Groups, we looked at some kingship psalms, or royal psalms. Today’s psalm is in the same category, but with a slight twist. The psalm we’re looking at today was written for a wedding.
Weddings today, especially for the wealthy and the powerful, can be pretty extravagant. And the media spends a lot of attention on pulling people into those kinds of events. A lot of people want to know what’s happening.
Well, during the times of the Old Testament kings, royal weddings were a big deal too. In the Hebrew culture, the wedding celebrations lasted for a week. And it was a time of joy and celebration. If a king, or a future king, was getting married, that was an extravagant event.
Well, in conjunction with one of those royal weddings, Psalm 45 was written. We can’t be certain which king or which wedding prompted this psalm, but as we’ll see, that’s not the issue.
Let’s read it as we begin. Read PSALM 45
It’s not a foreign concept to us to have special events marked by a song. That’s just part of what we do because music gives us an emotional connection to what’s happening; it helps us express what we’re feeling.
Maybe there was a special song to mark your high school graduation. If you’re married, I imagine there was at least one song that was chosen to be connected with your own wedding, even if you can’t remember what that was.
For one fortunate Israelite king, he was lucky enough, not only to get his own wedding song, but to have it included as part of the Bible. This, we could say, was a custom-made love song.
That’s what it says at the beginning of this psalm, in the heading. This psalm starts with instructions for the choirmaster; that’s the person in charge of the music.
Then it says that this song is “according to the Lilies,” which could be a reference to the tune, as best we can tell.
It also seems that this Psalm was written by the sons of Korah, or at least someone who was part of that group. If the name Korah sounds familiar, it’s because that was the guy who instigated a rebellion against Moses in the book of Numbers. That didn’t end well for him, since God caused the earth to open up and swallowed him and everyone who was on his side.
But that wasn’t the end of Korah’s line. Korah’s son, maybe because he was too young to be part of the rebellion, was spared. And after more than 400 years, the Sons of Korah, his descendents, were chosen by David to lead in the choir and in the orchestra. Total, the sons of Korah are credited with 11 of the psalms, starting with Psalm 42.
Psalm 45 is one of those psalms. And, as the end of the heading indicate, it’s a love song. A love song to mark a wedding. Similar to Song of Solomon, this is a love song written for a wedding.
And it wasn’t written by begrudging scribe at the king’s order. This is a song the author was eager to create.
Look at verse 1—My heart overflows with a pleasing theme [literally, a good word]; I address my verses to the king [or, for the king]; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
This song was written to be sung, to be delivered by a skillful singer, or group of singers, in celebration of what was taking place. Like I said, we don’t know which royal wedding this was originally written for, but it might have been a wedding of younger king who was co-reigning with his father.
In his excitement, the author is eager to begin writing or dictating this song. At the same time, though, the stirring in his heart and his eagerness to write is also evidence of God’s spirit. All Scripture is breathed out by God.
And what we’re going to see in this psalm is that even though there’s an immediate event that prompted this psalm, there is also, by the inspiration of the Spirit, a prophetic pointing to something in the future. This song is not just pointing us to a wedding on that day. Like the other royal psalms, it’s pointing us to a future king in the line of David. And we’ll be looking at both of those aspects as we work through it.
The first half of the song, verses 2-9, is focused on the bridegroom. And then verses 10-15 are focused on the bride. That’s a pretty easy outline to follow. In each section, the song points us to some characteristics in that person.
So, to start, What does this song say about the King, or the Groom?
First of all, the Groom is Beautiful. He’s beautiful. Ordinarily, that’s a word we’d use for the bride, rather than the groom. But not in this psalm.
Strictly speaking, it’s not wrong to describe a man as beautiful. Merriam-Webster defines beauty as “the quality…in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”
The point is: there’s an attractiveness to this man. The Hebrew word used to describe the King on His wedding day is “beautiful.” NAS translates it as “fair.” ESV uses “handsome.” Look at verse 2 — You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
This groom looks good. In today’s terms, he’s got on the best tuxedo money can buy. He stands out. In Hebrew culture, he’s probably got on a robe and a sash, and maybe even a turban. But the attractiveness of the King is not just his appearance; it’s his speech. His words, His lips, it says, are marked by grace.
Al Mohler has written a booklet or an article entitled “From Boy to Man: The Marks of Manhood.” And in there, he lists 13 identifying marks of the transition form boy to man. Number 11 on the list is: Verbal maturity sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.
Let me read that section to you. He writes: “many adolescent boys and young men seem to communicate only through a series of guttural clicks, grunts, and inchoate language that can hardly be described as verbal. A man must be able to speak, to be understood, and to communicate in a way that will honor God and convey God's truth to others. Parents must work with boys, requiring them to speak, to articulate, and to learn respect for language.
“This respect must extend to an ability to enunciate words so that articulation is clear and communication succeeds. This skill must be learned at the dinner table, in family conversation, and in one-on-one talk, especially between father and son.
“Beyond the context of conversation, a boy must learn how to speak before larger groups, overcoming the natural intimidation and fear that comes from looking at a crowd, opening one's mouth, and projecting words. Though not all men will become public speakers, every man should have the ability to take his ground, frame his words, and make his case when truth is under fire and when belief and conviction must be translated into argument.”
In a nutshell, that’s the groom at this wedding. He knows how to speak with grace. It’s evident. It’s a sign of God’s blessing, and it has produced God’s blessing on his life. This King, this groom, is attractive.
Now, if we stretch this passage prophetically, if we fast forward to a future Son of David, who is it pointing to? It’s pointing to Jesus, the epitome of grace and beauty. As He said, He is greater than Solomon. Even the people who rejected Him heard Him teach and were in awe at the gracious words that fell from his lips. They said, “We have never heard a man speak like this!”
Now, if you truly know Jesus, then you know His beauty, His attractiveness. You love Jesus.
There’s a hymn from the 1800s entitled “Fairest Lord Jesus.” Here’s what it says: “Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature, O Thou of God and man the Son; Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.
“Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, robed in the blooming garb of spring. Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, who makes the woeful heart to sing.
“Fair is the sunshine. Fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling, starry host. Jesus shines brighter. Jesus shines purer than all the angels heav’n can boast.
“Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations, Son of God and Son of Man. Glory and honor, praise adoration, now and forevermore be Thine!”
We serve a Beautiful Savior, don’t we? We see that beauty in His creation. And we see it in His mercy and His love. If you don’t see Christ’s beauty, if you don’t see Christ’s glory, then you don’t belong to Him. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the radiance of God’s glory.
Secondly, this groom is Triumphant. He’s Triumphant. Verses 3-5 are talking about his might and his victory in battle. He is strong, and he is victorious for the cause of righteousness.
Here’s what it says — Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 4In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 5Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; the peoples fall under you.
Girding your sword on your thigh was what a soldier did as he got ready for battle. Even though this is a love song for a wedding, it anticipates the King’s military power.
To the Israelites, the King was an extension of God’s rule. He ruled on behalf of God. He carried out God’s justice in the nation. That was the expectation.
In smaller way, but still important, every husband today is called to express the heart and the character of God in marriage. That’s the message of Ephesians 5 and 6. A husband is expected to lead and to love his family, and to provide and protect them. And there is both a physical and a spiritual component to that.
In Hebrews culture, education ended at around 13 years old. And then the young man went off to work and to train in a trade. He might spend 4 or 5 years learning from his father or a relative, and also beginning to build a home of his own. The man was required to show maturity, to be equipped to sustain his family.
Well, if that’s the case for a regular guy, how much more is going to be expected for a king? The King was going to rule the nation. He had to be equipped. He had to be ready.
None of Israel’s kings ever perfectly demonstrated God’s reign. They all fell short. But one day, the true King will come, right? He’s already come once, that’s what we remember at Christmas. But Christ will come again and rule in perfect justice. He will crush His enemies, and He will rescue those who belong to Him. I’m pretty sure I said it last week, but I’ll say it again: Read Revelation 18, 19, and 20, and you’ll see what is going to happen when Jesus comes. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the descriptions we see here. He is the Messiah the Jews are waiting for.
This psalm uses words for the King that, for the most part, were used for God. According to verse 3, He is the “mighty one.” He is a man of “splendor and majesty.” Those words are used throughout the psalms for God.
According to verse 4, He is victorious for truth, and He does “awesome (or fearful) deeds.” His enemies will be terrified by His power. Verse 5 says, His enemies will be defeated. So, this King is attractive, and He is triumphant.
Thirdly, He is Exalted. This is an Exalted King. He stand out among the rest in beauty and in military might, and in status.
Look at verses 6-9 — Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;7you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 8your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; 9daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Verses 8 and 9 make sense in light of a wedding. This King has His perfume and his spices. It’s all very extravagant and lavish. In verse 9, He’s got the maids of honor with him. It’s all very elaborate.
Obviously, the groom is going to be exalted on the day of His wedding. He’s there at the center of it all.
But what’s curious about this King’ exaltation is verses 6 and 7. The song was speaking to the King, and now in verse 6, it’s addressing God. So, either this King is being addressed as God, or the psalmist has stepped away for a moment of praise. Which is it?
There is an older translation known as the Revised Standard Version, and it came out in the 1950s. The translators there didn’t like the shift toward addressing God. They thought the psalm should continue addressing the King. And yet, they didn’t like the idea of referring to this King as God. So, here’s how they translated it: “Your divine throne endures forever and ever.”
They kept the idea of addressing the King directly, but they softened the idea of addressing this King as God. But that meant they had to change the translation.
If we take verse 6 as some kind of a poetic blurring between the King and God, then we run into a problem in verse 7. Because there, it says, “God, Your God.” If we’re talking to God, how then can we talk about His God? Does God serve His own God?
To the Jews there would have been some mystery here. I think they would have understood that this passage had a prophetic and messianic significance, even if they didn’t know how it all works out.
We have the benefit of God’s continued revelation to the Jews. Specifically, we have Hebrews chapter 1. There, the author is talking about Jesus’ exalted status over the angels, and he specifically quotes Psalm 45:6-7. We’re not going to look at it today, but I would encourage you to read Hebrews 1 for yourself. You’ll even see a connection to Psalm 110, which speaks of the Messiah sitting at God’s right hand.
The message of Psalm 45 finds it’s fullest meaning in Jesus Christ. He, we could say is the answer to the riddle. In the Mystery of the Trinity, we could say that King is God. And yet, since the Son came in service to the Father, we can refer to the Father as His God.
When Jesus talked to the disciples and to the multitudes or the Pharisees, He talked about God. He lived, as a man, in reliance upon God. That’s part of the mystery of the incarnation. The word became flesh. God became a man. And yet, He never stopped being God.
As the Son of God, then Jesus has been supremely exalted by the Father. That’s the message of Philippians 2. He humbled Himself unto death on a cross, and then God highly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Many, many will bow in judgment. But those of us who have repented of sin, and entrusted our lives to Him, will bow in love and submission. We know who the true King is. And while this world runs in rebellion, we follow the true exalted King. He is beautiful. He is Triumphant. And He is exalted.
Now, as the end of verse 9 tells us, next to the King, is the Queen, dressed in gold. And so, after conveying to us the greatness of this King and Groom, the psalm transitions to the Bride, the Queen. And there are three main attributes for the Bride. I’ll just give them to you upfront: Her separation, her submission, and her satisfaction. Her separation, her submission, and her satisfaction.
You see the separation in verse 10, and you see the submission in verse 11 — Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house; and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;
Genesis 2:24 remind us that that “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Marriage is the uniting of a new family, but it’s also a type of separation from the old family, right? At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be.
The man is beginning his own new family, and the woman is being joined to him.
In our own culture, that’s what’s symbolized with the changing of a woman’s last name. She’s coming under the leadership and the headship of that man, and they have a new identity together. They’re one. And for the wife, there’s a separation, and there’s a submission.
We don’t have time for a sermon on this, but that is God’s design. Women are not inferior to men. But in His design, in the family, the man is the head of the woman. That’s the way it’s worded in First Corinthians 11.
The instruction to the wives in Ephesians is “submit to your husband.” First Peter 3 says that this submission and respect is not rooted in any kind of inferiority. It’s not even dependent on whether or not the guy deserved it. A wife’s submission and respect is rooted in her obedience to God and her faith and courage in His plan. The right heart in a wife, First Peter 3 tells us, is priceless. It’s precious in the sight of God. And that applies whether you’re a queen marrying or a king, or just an “ordinary” wife marrying an “ordinary” man.
So, this love song is a reminder about a wife’s separation and a wife’s submission. Lastly, it points to a wife’s satisfaction.
You can see that in verses 12-15. The main point there is: enjoy the wedding. Enjoy the marriage. Enjoy God’s blessing in your life as a result of this union.
Marriage is not supposed to be a chore. It’s not supposed to be a burden. Sure, it takes work, but the result should be joy and satisfaction and blessing.
Look again at verse 12 – The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people.
In other words, you are entering into a position of great blessing. This is not an enslavement. This is an honor.
Verse 13 — All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. 14In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her. 15With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
This is talking about the actual wedding procession. It’s marking the moment. In today’s culture, what we do when the bride shows up? We stand. And traditionally, the “Wedding March” plays. Here comes the Bride! And in order to help us take in the moment and understand the significance of what’s happening, she’s not running. She’s walking very slowly, right? Step by step. And everybody is taking in that joyous moment.
Well, apart from thinking about our own weddings, or thinking about some ancient wedding, what’s the prophetic significance of this section? Another way to ask it would be: Who is the Bride?
I’m going to give you my personal view, and you don’t have to agree. The fast answer here would be to say that we are the Bride, we the church. I’m not so sure that what this is pointing to.
The Old Testament says practically nothing about the church. The New Testament tells us that the church was part of God’s mystery, hidden until the appropriate time.
I think the best understanding of the prophetic significance of this queen is the future restored remnant of Israel. In the prophets, God compared Israel to His wife. And He blessed them with gold and riches, but she was unfaithful. You see that message in Hosea and Ezekiel.
But one day, she will be restored. The nation of Israel, which turned away from her King and Her God, and crucified her Messiah, will come back. She will repent of her rejection and turn to her God, and recognize the true King.
And in that conversion, we do see some parallels to our own conversion today, right? Like this queen, all of us, if we come to Jesus are called to separate from this world, and to submit to Jesus our Lord, and enjoy the satisfaction that only He can give.
And that’s part of the imagery of marriage, right? Ephesians 5, again, remind us: Marriage was created by God for one man and one woman, in order to serve as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.
Did you know that after our Resurrection into the kingdom of God, there aren’t going to be any more marriages? Did you know that?
Marriage is temporary because marriage is a sign. John Piper wrote a book on marriage, which I would recommend. And he called it This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.
Marriage is a sign; and once the reality that the sign points to has come, you don’t need the sign anymore. That’s why there are no billboards about Knott’s Berry Farm in Knott’s Berry Farm. You’re there already. You don’t need the signs.
The joy and the unity of a marriage points to the joy and unity we will all experience as one spiritual family. We will be united to one another, and we will be united to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.
The final two verses of this psalm switch back to addressing the King. You can’t really see it in English, but in Hebrew, the pronouns are masculine again.
And again, let’s look at the immediate meaning first. Verse 16 — In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. 17I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
For the couple getting married that day, this was an expectation of the blessing of children. Psalm 127 tells us: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb [is] a reward.”
Kids are such a blessing. Again, like marriage, they take work. But they are to be cherished as a gift. They’re a blessing.
In the Hebrew culture, children were especially prized, because it was the continuation of the family. You needed an heir to continue the line. And that was especially important for a king. There has to be an heir.
And in the case of King David, an heir was even more significant, because God promised that one day, a Son of David would reign forever. That’s how this psalm ends. The nations will praise this King’s name forever and ever, which is the same wording used in verse 2 about the blessing on the King. It will be forever.
For the Israelites, they went many years without seeing the full fulfilment of this promise. They went away into exile. And even when they got to return to Jerusalem, the line of kings disappeared. No more thrones. No more kings. But God’s true people were waiting. They knew God was faithful.
If you’re familiarizing yourself with the Christmas story, then you’ll be reading Matthew and Luke. And do you know how Matthew starts his gospel? With a genealogy.
He takes the line of Abraham and follows it to King David. And then he follows the line of the kings. He walks you through the sons of David, until we get to the ultimate Son of David, the Messiah, the Christ, the King of kings, Jesus of Nazareth.
Christmas is a reminder of God’s faithfulness. God kept His promise to Adam, and His promise to Noah, and His promise to Abraham and David. He sent us a Son.
C.S. Lewis said it like this: “The birth of Christ is the arrival of the great warrior and the great king. Also of the Lover, the Bridegroom, whose beauty surpasses that of man. But not only the Bridegroom as the lover, the desired; the Bridegroom also who makes fruitful, the Father of children still to be begotten and born.”
We’re seeing people from every nation come to know Jesus and surrender their lives to Him. And just like this wedding love song would have filled the people there with anticipation, we ourselves, we as the people of God, are still anticipating something, right?
We know who the King is. And we’re waiting for Him to come again in glory. We will be presented to Him like pure virgin, cleansed from every defilement of sin, because of the cross. And we will enter into an eternal joy.
As Revelation 19 puts it, we are waiting for the marriage supper of the Lamb, and His bride has made herself ready. Let’s be faithful to our King and invite others to do so as well.