Theme: The King’s Victory and Wedding
In these lessons we have a description of a royal wedding, but which goes beyond that to point to the Lord Jesus Christ as our Messiah and Bridegroom.
Scripture: Psalm 45:1-17
The King’s military victories. Though expressed in graphic battle language, we must remember that the victories of Jesus during his lifetime and in this present age are not military conquests but victories won on behalf of “truth, humility and righteousness” (v. 4). This was the way Jesus triumphed during his earthly ministry. From a purely physical point of view Jesus’ enemies were victorious, since they succeeded in having him condemned and executed. But in terms of truth, humility and righteousness, Jesus won, since he upheld these characteristics in his person and conduct, even when he was being unjustly treated. This is the truth captured in the hymn “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty,” based on verse 4.
Christians must remember that their victories are to come in the same way, not by force or coercion. Whenever the church has succumbed to the use of force as a way of asserting Christian truth or values, as it did in the Middle Ages, it has lost the spiritual battle and has become like the world, adopting the very evils it is opposing.
To put it in other terms, the only sword we are to use is the sword of Jesus, which is the truth of the “word of God,” the Bible (Eph. 6:17).
The King’s wedding. The final verses of this section (vv. 8, 9) turn from the personal qualities and military victories of King Jesus to the wedding, which is the occasion for the psalm. Jesus is dressed in robes “fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia” and has come from “palaces adorned with ivory” (v. 8). This verse inspired the hymn “Out of the Ivory Palaces,” which describes Jesus entering this “world of woe” out of love for his espoused bride. The marriage, this long-anticipated event, is amplified in the New Testament as the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Verse 6 is an extraordinary verse that calls for special comment. It is extraordinary because it addresses the bridegroom of this wedding ode as God: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.” Then, in a manner which is puzzling to some, the next verse speaks of the groom as a man once again, saying, “Therefore, God, your God, has set you above your companions.” Naturally, there have been many attempts to side-step what is being said. For example, some take the word “God” as meaning “divine” and translate the phrase as “your divine throne.” Others say things like “Your throne is like God’s throne, eternal” and “Your throne is God’s forever and ever.” Thus, the Revised Standard Version has “your divine throne,” the New English Bible has “your throne is like God’s throne,” and other versions likewise try to avoid the clear meaning of the text.
It needs to be noted, however, that the ancient versions all support the Hebrew and that the New Testament takes this meaning as well when it applies verses 6 and 7 to Jesus in Hebrews 1:8, 9. As for these two verses, their words are incomprehensible unless they are understood to refer to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Only he can be called God and at the same time have the Father as his God.
Did the writer of this psalm understand what he was saying? It is hard to know how much the Old Testament writers understood the truths the Holy Spirit led them to put down. But J. J. Stewart Perowne is probably right when he concludes “that in the use of such language the psalmist was carried beyond himself, and that he was led to employ it by a twofold conviction in his mind, the conviction that God was the King of Israel, combined with the conviction that the Messiah, the true King, who was to be in reality what others were but in figure, was the son of David.”5
That the Septuagint translates these verses as the New International Version has them indicates that even the ancient Jewish translators regarded these words as referring to the Messiah.
How is the theme of the king’s military victories to be applied to Jesus?
Why is verse 6 said to be extraordinary? How does Hebrews 1 use it?
Application: When the Bible uses military language to describe the work of Christians, how is that to be understood?
5J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. l, p. 351. Original edition 1878-1879. For a fuller discussion of this point see Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983) pp. 336, 337; Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973), p. 172; and H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), pp. 360, 361.