Open your Bibles to Hebrews, chapter 1. (For this Psalm 45 commentary)
Psalm 45 in Hebrews 1
The author of Hebrews makes the point immediately in this book that Jesus Christ is God’s final speech. Look at verses 1 and 2.
KJV Hebrews 1:1 ¶ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…
And then the author goes on to speak of this Son and what he’s like and what he’s done.
And what’s he’s like and what he’s done is so glorious that the author can say in verse 4 of Jesus Christ…
KJV Hebrews 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
And if we need proof of Jesus being better than the angels, that’s what Hebrews gives us for the rest of this chapter. It starts in verse 5…
KJV Hebrews 1:5 ¶ For unto which of the angels said he at any time,
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
And the author of this book will go on to give several more quotes from the Old Testament in which he contrasts the unique position of the Son of God to the secondary and servile position of the angels.
But we want to focus on verses 8 and 9. Let’s read those.
KJV Hebrews 1:8 ¶ But unto the Son he saith,
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:
a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;
therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee
with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
So, we see that the author of Hebrews clearly states that Jesus Christ – the Son of God – who is better than the angels – was addressed as “God” in the Old Testament.
And do you know what Psalm that quote is taken from? … It’s Psalm 45. And it just so happens that this is the next psalm on our path through studying through the book of Psalms.
So, let’s turn to that Psalm and study it in its context. Psalm 45. ...
To begin, let’s read the superscription of this psalm.
KJV Psalm 45:1
<[To/For] the [chief Musician/choir director/music director]
[upon/according to the] [Shoshannim/tune of “Lilies”],
[for/of/by] the [sons of Korah/Korahites],
[Maschil/a well-written poem],
A [Song of loves/love song].>
So, we gather from this superscription a few things.
The primary fact that we take away from this part of the psalm is that this is a love song. And what we’ll see throughout this psalm is that it’s written on the occasion of the wedding of a Davidic king.
The fact that it’s according to Shoshannim – or “the lilies” gives it a more gentle feel, which is appropriate to a wedding love song.
And it’s a Maschil or probably a well-written psalm for such a momentous occasion.
Preparation for the subject matter
And so, now for the rest of verse 1 we are being prepared for the subject matter to come throughout this psalm.
My heart [is inditing/overflows with/is stirred by] a [good matter/good theme/beautiful song]:
I [speak of the things which I have made touching/address my verses to/say, “I have composed this special song for] the king:
my tongue is [the pen/as skilled as the stylus] of [a ready writer/an experienced scribe].
So, the psalmist is ready to write about this wonderful subject. Our anticipation should be building. Like – What could this good matter be that is so stirring to you heart? What would you like to tell us about with your pen-like tongue??
The beautiful subject
Well, here it is in verse 2 – the beautiful subject that we’ve been anticipating.
2 Thou art [fairer than/the most handsome of all] [the children of men/men]:
[grace is poured into thy lips/you speak in an impressive and fitting manner]:
[therefore/for this reason] God [hath blessed thee for ever/grants you continual blessings].
And I think that throughout this psalm we will be operating on two levels.
The first is that we recognize that this was written for a mere human Davidic king for his wedding procession. He’s on his way to his wedding and this love song has been written to accompany such an exciting and joyful event.
But at the same time, this psalm is thoroughly Messianic. And so, we can see how it relates to Jesus Christ and his bride the Church throughout.
The king was attractive and gracious
So, for verse 2, if we’re dealing on the human-only Davidic king-level, we see a king being praised for his handsome appearance and gracious speech and evident blessing from God.
Jesus is attractive and gracious
But as we look at it from the Messianic perspective, we see a Savior who is both inside and out the most beautiful man to ever live.
We see the man of Calvary whose speech – and whole life – was full of grace and truth.
We see the Nazarene who is – according to Romans 9 – God-blessed forever.
The King encouraged to engage in military exploits
And so, now in verses 3-5 this King is encouraged to engage in military exploits.
3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O [most mighty/mighty one/warrior],
[with/in/appear in] thy [glory and thy majesty/splendor and majesty/majestic splendor].
4 [And in thy majesty ride prosperously/Appear in your majesty and be victorious]
[because/for the cause/ride forth for the sake] of [truth and meekness/what is right] and [righteousness/on behalf of justice];
[and/then] thy right hand shall [teach thee/accomplish] [terrible things/awesome things/mighty acts].
5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies;
whereby [the people/nations] fall [under thee/at your feet].
The king was mighty in battle
And so, it’s easy to see how this kind of encouragement would fit into the life of a human Davidic king. He’s brave and he goes into battle for the protection and safety of his people. He’s their deliverer. And so much of the time, delivery comes as a result of fighting and war.
And so, even at this man’s wedding procession, the people are thinking of him in these terms of being a military hero and protector of his people.
Jesus will be mighty in battle
But if we look at this from a Messianic standpoint, we need to ask ourselves - what will Jesus need to do before he comes to enjoy his full reuniting with his Bride, the Church on earth?
Jesus is going to need to come on his white horse and destroy all the enemies of his people Israel and set up his Millennial Reign wherein his people will reign with him.
There we’ll see truth and meekness and righteous fully carried out in every way.
The King recognized as deity
Now, the next part of the psalm in verses 6 and 7 is honestly quite difficult to see on the merely-human level. Because it’s in these two verses that the King is actually recognized as deity.
6 Thy throne, O God, is [for ever and ever/permanent]:
the sceptre of thy kingdom is a [right/just] sceptre.
7 Thou lovest [righteousness/justice],
and hatest [wickedness/evil]:
therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee
with the oil of [gladness/joy] [elevating you…] above thy [fellows/companions].
And I wondered what Jewish people who don’t receive Jesus as their Messiah do with this verse. And so, I looked at one of their commentaries and they actually changed the word “God” in verse 6 to be “Judge.” And the commentator had this elaborate view of this passage - that it’s actually speaking not of a king but of teachers of the Torah.
Why? That’s because to a Jew who doesn’t recognize that Jesus is both man and God – Davidic King and Yahweh God – there’s not a whole lot he can do with this passage. If he wants to avoid the claims of Christ, then he needs to try to translate himself out of this uncomfortable reality – that in Jesus Christ, all the fullness of deity dwells bodily.
The only alternative to just mistranslating this verse for an unbelieving Jew would be to say that verse 6 is basically an aside to God and that it’s not addressing the King at this point.
And yet, that’s hard to maintain. All the while, the psalmist is speaking of the King. Leading up to verse 6 he’s speaking of him. And then in verse 7 it’s quite clear that he’s still speaking of him.
And so, even verse 6 is addressing this King. And he’s addressed as “God.”
I honestly don’t know how people in the days of this king would have handled these verses that address the King as God.
But I know how we’re supposed to think of it. And, that's the way that Hebrews 1 portrays it. This is speaking of God’s kingly Son, Jesus Christ, who is God’s last word and who is better than even the super-powerful angels.
The King’s desirableness and luxury
Now, the psalmist goes on to speak in verses 8 and 9 of the King’s desirableness and luxury.
8 All thy garments [smell of/are perfumed with] myrrh, and aloes, and cassia,
[out of/from] the [ivory/luxurious] palaces, [whereby/comes the music of] [they/stringed instruments] have made thee glad.
9 [Kings' daughters/Princesses] [were/are] among thy [honourable/noble/honored] [women/ladies/guests]:
[upon/at] thy right hand [did stand/stands] the queen [in/wearing jewelry made with] gold [of/from] Ophir.
The king was desirable and luxurious
So, the king's clothing is perfumed with various scents. And he's associated with palaces decked in ivory – that perhaps even music is coming from these beautiful luxurious palaces just for him and his wedding day - making him glad.
And those aren't the only signs of luxury and richness for this king. He has all sorts of noble women attending him in his court.
But the crowning jewel is his queen. And she herself is bejeweled with gold from a place known for its gold – Ophir.
Jesus is desirable and luxurious
And I suppose if we're extending this to Christ, then perhaps this points to the richness in heaven that he left in order to become poor so that he could make us spiritually rich. It's like the hymn goes - "out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe – only his great eternal love made my Savior go."
And he came for his queen – his bride – the Church. And in this life we're poor in numerous ways. And yet, spiritually we are rich. And when we're with him – not wearing gold maybe – but walking on streets of gold – we will be appreciating the riches given to us by our King forever.
An appeal to the princess on behalf of the king
Now, with the mention of the queen in verse 9, the psalmist goes on in verses 10-12 to appeal directly to the princess – who is soon to be the queen – on behalf of the King.
10 [Hearken/Listen], O [daughter/princess], [and consider/give attention/observe],
and [incline thine ear/pay attention]; [what does she need to hear?...]
forget also thine [own people/homeland],
and thy [father's house/family];
11 [So shall/Then will] the king [greatly desire/be attracted by] thy beauty: [why should she leave what she knows and do the king's will?...]
[for/because/after all] he is thy [Lord/master];
[and worship thou/bow down to/submit to] him.
12 And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift;
even the rich among the people shall [intreat/seek] thy favour.
The princess should leave all and embrace the king
So, this princess who is soon-to-be-married to this king is encouraged to leave and cleave to borrow from Genesis. And actually, there in Genesis, the order is for the man to leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Here it's reversed. The bride-to-be is encouraged to leave all else behind and join herself in marriage to this all-desirable king.
And if she does that – if she leaves what she knew in order to marry this man, the king would desire her beauty. He himself is the fairest – according to verse 2. But he will see and desire her fairness that is a match for his.
And if she has difficulty leaving what she knows in this life to join the king, she needs to remember that he's the ruler of this domain. He is her king. She would do well to submit to him.
And if she does, even foreigners from the wealthiest of places – Tyre in this case – will be there to welcome and congratulate her on making the right decision.
The Church should leave all and embrace Jesus
So, let's apply this to the Church's relationship to Christ our King.
Christ won't have competition for our affections. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. You and I as the Bride of Christ must leave what we've known and belong to our great King alone.
And you might think sometimes that we're the only ones who are benefiting from our relationship to Christ and that he himself is fairly ambivalent about it. But he told us that as the Father loved him, he loves us. He has prepared a place for us so that we can be with him forever. He laid down his life for us because we are his friends. He loves us and desires to be with us forever and to see his glory.
And do any of us struggle to be wholly Christ's? Are we tempted to be lured back to our old way of life like the Hebrews were to whom the book of Hebrews was written?
If so, we need to remember that Christ is our Lord – our master. He has all power on earth and in heaven. Everything – including us – belongs to him. So, let's act like that's the case – because it is.
And can you imagine on that day when we reign with Christ in the Millennium and all nations are serving our King? Surely, we will have these foreign nations there with us, bringing their gifts.
Praising the princess to the King
Now, the psalmist turns back to the King and – as if the King needs any encouragement in this area – the psalmist praises the princess back to the King. Just like the psalmist praised the King to the princess, now he does the reverse of that in verses 13-15.
13 The [king's daughter is/princess looks] [all glorious within/absolutely magnificent] [i.e., within her bridal chamber…]:
her clothing is [of wrought/interwoven with/trimmed with] gold.
14 She shall be [brought/escorted] unto the king in [raiment of needlework/embroidered work/embroidered robes]:
the [virgins/maidens of honor] her [companions/attendants] that follow her [shall be brought unto/are led before] thee [<-- Where I get that this is addressed to the king…].
15 [With gladness and rejoicing/Bubbling with joy] shall they [be brought/be led forth/walk in procession]:
they shall enter into the [king's/royal] palace.
The princess was elaborately arrayed
And so, regarding the bride-to-be of the ancient Davidic king, this is speaking of how elaborate her outfit is as she’s ready to join the king in marriage. And not just her outfit – but her attendants are elaborate in terms of their number and their enthusiasm. And so, these things are praised about this woman to the king.
The Church is elaborately arrayed
And for the Bride of Christ, this again points to our adornment on that day when we’re finally united to Christ our King. Our garments will be bright and clean – they’ll be our righteous acts. We will have no spot or wrinkle or anything like that.
And as for our attendants on that great day, we know that all creation groans and suffers pains until the resurrection of our bodies and our being fully united – face-to-face – to our King. Don’t you suppose that all creation will be ready observers of this future and imminent event?
The continuation of the King’s rule and reputation
And lastly, the psalmist declares the continuation of the King’s rule and reputation in verses 16 and 17.
16 [Instead/In place] of thy fathers shall be thy children, [to carry on the dynasty…]
whom thou mayest make princes [in all/throughout] the [earth/land].
17 I will [make thy name to be remembered/proclaim your greatness] [in all generations/through the coming years]:
therefore shall the [people/peoples/nations] [praise/give thanks to] thee for ever and ever.
The king will continue his reign
And so, for the ancient Davidic king – here the psalmist is looking forward to the fruit of his upcoming marriage - children to take his place and rule in his stead.
And the psalmist promises to make this man’s name be remembered in all generations. But isn’t it interesting that we don’t know the exact identity of this King? Is it David? Is it Solomon? Or Rehoboam? Or…? We don’t know his name.
Jesus will continue his reign
And yet, we know the name of Jesus – still to this day. The world knows his name. And the Church praises him to this day. And it’s the Church that is made-up of so many “people” or “Gentiles” that praise our King forever and ever.
Because the truth of the matter is that we will reign with him. We’ll be made princes in all the earth when our King comes to reign and have his wedding procession and wedding supper with us.
And what a day that will be. And it will most surely come when our Lord the King comes in his beauty.
So, that’s Psalm 45. A hymn for a historical wedding procession. And a hymn that is unmistakably Messianic and pointing us to that future day when the Church – in the words of the song – “eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face.” Looking not at the glory that will just absolutely surround us at that point, but on our King of grace.