The Messianic Psalms - Psalm 45: The Coming King
Daniel Rudge, Bracknell, England
Psalm 45 is ‘a song of loves’ celebrating the marriage of a king to a princess. The oldest tradition suggests that the psalmist wrote the song for Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter and was traditionally sung at the wedding feast, 1 Kgs. 3. 1; 7. 8. Be that as it may, but one greater than Solomon is presented in this psalm. He is more than a mere man, and more than a mere king; He is God, v. 6. Perowne remarks, ‘The outward glory of Solomon was but a type and a foreshadowing of a better glory to be revealed. Israel’s true king was not David or Solomon, but One of whom they, at best, were only faint and transient images’.1 Spurgeon also comments, ‘Some see in this psalm only Solomon; they are short-sighted. Some see Solomon and Christ; they are cross-eyed. Well-focussed spiritual eyes see Jesus only’.2
Thus, the psalm concerns Christ in the glory of His future manifestation in connection with His earthly people, Israel. Note the use of shoshannim in the inscription; a possible reference to the particular tune to accompany the psalm. Shoshannim means ‘concerning the lilies’, a flower which not only symbolizes Israel but also stands as an emblem of purity, Hos. 14. 5. It was a flower of the spring and is highly suggestive of a new beginning for the nation in the millennial glory of a future day.
The contemplation of the Psalmist, v. 1
The Psalmist has been meditating on the king. It has affected his whole being. His heart is moved by a delightful subject; he is bursting up like a fountain and boiling over as a saucepan. He can hardly contain the meditation that his mind has ‘made’ through careful, focused effort and activity. As a skilled or experienced scribe would pour out the written word, so the tongue of this psalmist is ready to overflow in eloquent spoken word – hence the content of the psalm. Can this be said of us as we gather at the Lord’s Supper? Is our careful contemplation of Him throughout the week positively bursting forth from our lips? Part of our responsibilities as holy priests is to offer up the sacrifice of praise to God continually, Heb. 13. 15. It is a most shameful thing if we have nothing to offer God in remembrance and worship of His Son. The meditation will need to be ‘made’ during the week, but there is no greater subject on which to ponder.
The character of the King, vv. 2-9
His attraction, v. 2. The king is ‘fairer than the children of men’. The Hebrew is difficult to translate but literally reads ‘beautiful, beautiful’. This king is beyond compare. Christ, as one who has become man, is the Man that transcends all the children of men for moral beauty. ‘Grace’ is only mentioned twice in the entire psalter. In Psalm 84 verse 11, grace is given from the Lord. Here, grace is inherent; being poured into the lips of the Lord Jesus from within – not without! He is the personification of grace, Titus 2. 11. The word ‘poured’, is to cast as a mould. The lips of Christ gave grace its very form and shape – one is reminded of the gracious words that continually poured forth from His mouth,
Luke 4. 22.
His advent, vv. 3-5. Christ is envisaged as the Mighty One coming forth to conquer and establish His kingdom, cp. Isa. 9. 6. As the ‘Mighty’ One, He is a person of exemplary and exceptional strength – far greater than Gideon, the mighty man of valour, and Boaz, the mighty man of wealth. This Mighty One comes with ‘sword’, clothed in the brilliance of divine glory and majesty. He rides in triumph on behalf of truth, meekness and righteousness, destroying His enemies with great power and strength. All is reminiscent of the second advent, cp. Rev. 19. 11-21.
His administration, vv. 6, 7. The administration of Christ is divine, for He is God. Some Bible scholars have done grave violence to the original here, re-translating as ‘The eternal and everlasting God has enthroned you’.3 Such a translation has a doctrinal agenda – the denial of the deity of Christ. In the words of Kidner, this verse ‘is an example of Old Testament language bursting its banks to demand a more than human fulfilment’.4 Hebrews chapter 1 verses 8 and 9, clearly confirm the verse as a direct confirmation of the deity of Christ – ‘Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne O God, is for ever and ever’. His rule will be with a straight [right] sceptre, i.e., a reign which actively promotes justice and opposes evil. He shall hold court ‘morning by morning’, removing the evildoers from the land, Ps. 101. 8. Therefore, God, His Father, has anointed Him with the ‘oil of gladness’; a figurative expression to describe the fulness of joy which will be His as He sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. His ‘fellows’ are those earthly companions in His kingdom – yet He is anointed above them.5 He exceeds all. ‘Grace may raise high its objects, whether heavenly or earthly: but in all things He must have the pre-eminence. Whatever grace may do He is still the Lord’.6
His apparel, v. 8. There is no word for ‘smell’ in the original and thus myrrh, aloes and cassia are His garments. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes with which to fragrance the linen burial clothes, but here we have the addition of cassia, John 19. 39. All is suggestive of the person and work of Christ. Cassia comes from a root word meaning ‘to bow’, reminding us of a birth and life characterized by humility. Myrrh was sweet to the smell but bitter to the taste, taking us in spirit to Calvary. Aloes produced a fragrance taken from a decomposed bough buried, then raised out of the ground. Whilst the Lord Jesus ‘saw no corruption’, nor could He, we are reminded of His burial and resurrection, Acts 13. 37. Thus, throughout the millennial reign, there shall ever be the sweet-smelling savour of Calvary upon His person.
His associates, v. 9. This king has a queen, but she is not a queen in her own right, rather a queen-consort by marriage. This writer is in agreement with various expositors such as Darby, Kelly and Fereday, when he says that the queen is a picture of restored, earthly Jerusalem – the city standing as representative of her people, the cleansed remnant of Israel. After all, the king shall come unto Jerusalem, a city which shall yet be ‘a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord’, Zech. 9. 9; Isa. 62. 3. She shall be called Hephzi-bah [my delight is in her], and Beulah [married one] – note Isaiah chapter 62, especially verse 5, ‘As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee’. She stands at the king’s right hand, the place of honour and power, dressed in the ‘gold of Ophir’, the choicest gold and fitting symbol of divine righteousness. Fereday remarks, ‘The Queen is here seen by His side, sharing His earthly glories, and such will Jerusalem be in the day that is approaching. We must not confound the Queen with the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. There are heavenly things, and there are earthly: the vision of John sets us in the heavens, our Psalm to the earth’.7
The counsel of the queen, vv. 10, 11
The psalmist now appears to offer some personal counsel to the queen as she awaits the groom to collect and lead her to the palace. In order to please her king, she must present a fitting character of beauty as one associated with Him. She was to abandon her own people and her father’s house, for old loyalties must not compete with the new. This king demands total allegiance. Again, there must be adoration [worship], for ‘He is thy Lord’. His word, and will must be obeyed – total authority. What a challenge to the believer today! The demands of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ are no less. The Christian has abandoned the old way of life and renders full allegiance, as bond slave, to the authority of their Lord.
The celebration of the court, vv. 12-15
As the queen, the ‘daughter of Tyre’ represents the people of a city. She is undoubtedly one of the ‘honourable women’ of verse 9. Tyre was the leading city of commerce and wealth and, in the millennial day, her people shall seek favour from the king by bringing a gift, Isa. 60. 11. The queen in her glorious clothing of interwoven gold, and raiment of colourful needlework is led from the bridal chamber [within, v. 13], to enter the king’s palace, accompanied by gladness and rejoicing. In such glorious finery, one is reminded of the robing room of the bride – namely the judgement seat of Christ. It is salutary to think that the saints are weaving today, by the righteous acts they are performing, an individual contribution to the collective adornment of the bride for the day of her marriage to Christ, Rev. 19. 8.
The final two verses appear to be a return to the contemplation of the psalmist, cp. v. 1. He expresses his assurance that the offspring of the queen [restored Israel] will act as ‘princes’, i.e., representatives of the king throughout the earth. Truly Israel shall be restored as a kingdom of priests, Isa. 61. 6. And the psalmist has a desire, that his composition might cause the praise of the king to endure for ever and ever. Truly it will!
1 J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, George Bell and Sons.
2 C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Hendrickson.
3 Peter C. Craigie, The Word Biblical Commentary series (Psalms 1-50, Volume 19), Thomas Nelson.
4 D. Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Volume 15): Psalms 1-72, Inter-Varsity Press.
5 Compare the use of ‘sons’ and ‘brethren’, Heb. 2. 10, 12.
6 W. W. Fereday, Psalm 45, http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/fereday/Trsry/Psalm_45.html.