Psalm 45 records the wedding of a king and his bride. After the introduction in verse 1, we read about the king in verses 2 to 9; and then we read about his bride in verses 10 to 15; and then we have the conclusion in verses 16 and 17.
Now, when I read about this king and his bride, I’m reminded of the beginning of the Bible, because in the beginning of the Bible, we read how the Lord God presented Adam with his wife; and both of them were to rule over the creation as king and queen. After all, didn’t the Lord say, after he made man, male and female, in his own image:
Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creatures that moves on the ground.
So, they were to subdue or rule over the earth. And they were to rule over all the other creatures God had made. God was the supreme king, the king over all. But Adam and Eve — and all their descendants after them — were to rule the world on his behalf.
However, when Satan — their enemy — came into the Garden of Eden, Adam failed to drive him out; and so Adam gave Satan the opportunity to tempt Eve so that she and Adam sinned against the Lord by taking the forbidden fruit. And the good world which God had created was spoiled; and instead of receiving God’s blessing, and everlasting life in the presence of God, they received God’s curse so that from that time forward, their life and the life of their descendants would be hard and difficult and it would end in death.
So, Adam and Eve were to rule the earth on God’s behalf. But because Adam did not drive the serpent away, everything was spoiled and sin and death came into the world.
But then, in Psalm 45, we read about a glorious king who is blessed forever and who rides forth victoriously to pierce the heart of his enemies and who will rule for ever and for ever. And we read about his bride, who is all-glorious and who is dressed with gold and embroidered garments and who is brought before the king to live with him in his palace.
Who is this great king and who is his all-glorious bride? Well, the king is not David or Solomon or Rehoboam or any of the other kings of Judah or Israel which we read about in the Old Testament. The great king of Psalm 45 is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who rules and reigns over all from his throne in heaven. And the reason I can say that with confidence is because the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quotes verses 6 and 7 of this psalm and applies them to the Lord Jesus. In Hebrews chapter 1, the writer is contrasting the glory of God’s Son with the angels; and whereas the angels are ministering spirits, sent here and there and everywhere to serve God’s people, the Son is seated on a throne and has been set above his companions. So, the angels are to serve, whereas the Son is to rule. And by quoting from Psalm 45 with reference to the Lord Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews is making clear to us that Psalm 45 is about the Lord Jesus. He’s the great king.
And so, who is his bride? Well, his bride is the church. Isn’t that what Paul tells us in Ephesians 5? In that section of his letter where he was writing about the duties of husbands and wives, he described the church as Christ’s bride; and he tells us how the Lord Jesus gave himself up for the church to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word in order to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Still today we talk about a radiant bride, who has dressed herself in her new wedding dress, which is spotless and perfect; and she’s done everything she can to get herself ready for her wedding day; and she’s radiant with happiness, because the day she’s been waiting for and preparing for has come at last. And so, the Lord is preparing his church for the great day when the church, his radiant bride, will be presented before him in the new and better world to come.
In Revelation 19, we read about the wedding supper of the Lamb. The Lamb is Jesus Christ who was slain for his people. And the day will come when his bride, his church, will be glorified in his presence and we’ll come before him to live with him forever. And, just as Adam and Eve were to rule over the first creation, so we will reign with Christ forever.
And so, the book of Hebrews tells us that the king in Psalm 45 is the Lord Jesus. And Paul in Ephesians and John in Revelation make clear to us that Christ’s bride is the church. And so, this Psalm — Psalm 45 — is about the Lord Jesus, our great king, and it’s about the church, which is his bride.
And so, let’s study it together.
And the psalmist tells us in verse 1 that his own heart is stirred by a noble theme. The noble theme which he’s been thinking about and which has stirred up his heart and which has moved him to recite this psalm is the theme of the king and his bride. And it’s all been bubbling away inside his heart, like water boiling in a saucepan, until at last it overflows and comes out of his heart in the form of this psalm. And he likens his tongue to a pen. Just as a skilful writer is able to take a pen and write down his thoughts, so he’s about to use his tongue to recite the words of this psalm and to make his thoughts heard. So, he’s excited by this theme. His heart is stirred up within him as he thinks about the king and his bride and their marriage. And he’s been moved to compose this psalm in their honour.
Verses 2 to 9
And he writes, first of all, about the great king. And he describes the king as the most excellent of men. Other English translations say that he is the most handsome of men. So, the psalmist is referring to his appearance; and he’s saying that the appearance of the king is striking. His appearance is impressive. He stands out from other men so that if you saw him in a room filled with other men, he would stand out above the rest and you’d know straightaway that there was something special about him. Now, we’re told in Isaiah 53 that the Lord Jesus had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him and there was nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah is saying he wasn’t handsome. But the psalmist is using the imagery of his day to convey to us something of the glory of this king. By describing him as the most excellent of men, or as the most handsome of men, he’s conveying to us that this king is greater than all other men.
And he then refers to the king’s lips which have been anointed with grace. When he refers to his lips, he’s referring to his speech and the things he says. So, his words are gracious. They’re full of grace and kindness. And certainly, when we read the gospels, we read the gracious and kind words which the Lord spoke to those who came to him, humbly and confessing their need. He sent away his enemies and those who did not believe in him. But he graciously welcomed those who came to him for help and he dealt with them with kindness.
And the psalmist adds that the Lord has blessed the king forever. Unlike Adam who received God’s curse, because of his disobedience, this king is blessed by God forever and lives forever in heavenly glory.
In verses 3 to 5 the psalmist praises this great king because he’s mighty and powerful and able to overcome his enemies. Whereas Adam did not drive away the serpent, this great king is able to drive away and destroy all his enemies.
The psalmist calls on the king to gird himself with his sword. So, strap your sword on to your side, ready for battle. He refers to the king as ‘mighty one’, which means he’s mighty and brave, a true hero. And he calls on the king to cloth himself with splendour and majesty. He’s again referring to the king’s appearance, which is majestic and glorious. When the Lord Jesus was on the earth, his true glory was normally hidden from view, so that he looked no different from an ordinary man. However, there was that time which John tells us about in his gospel, when the soldiers came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lord went out to them and asked them who they wanted. They replied: ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ And when he answered them and said ‘I am he’, John tells us that they drew back and fell to the ground. There was something about him at that time which made them collapse before him. And, of course, John in the book of Revelation describes the Lord Jesus as he is now, risen from the dead and ascended to heaven and his appearance in the book of Revelation is always majestic and awesome and terrifying. In fact, when John first saw the Lord Jesus in the book of Revelation, he tells us that he, John, fell down, as though dead, because he was overwhelmed by the appearance of the Lord, whose face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance and his eyes were like blazing fire and his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace.
But back to the psalm, and the psalmist calls on the great king to ride forth victoriously. So, he’s depicted as a conquering king, who will gain the victory over his enemies. However, he’s not a tyrant. He’s not a wicked king. Look: he rides forth victoriously on behalf of truth and humility and righteousness. So, his cause is a just cause and for the sake of truth and humility and righteousness, he will ride forth to defeat all who are false and proud and unrighteous. And the psalmist calls on him at the end of verse 4 to let his right hand display awesome deeds. So, let us see your power as you perform great and mighty deeds. Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of your enemies and let the nations fall beneath your feet. In Revelation 19, where John sees the wedding supper of the Lamb, he also saw the Lord Jesus as a rider on a horse. The rider was Faithful and True; and with justice he judges and makes war; and he struck down the nations and he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. It was a vision to foretell how the Lord Jesus will come as a mighty warrior to destroy those in every nation who refused to believe in him or to yield their lives to him, but who lived in rebellion and unbelief. And the day is coming when the Lord Jesus, this great king, will come to punish them for their wickedness, because instead of being true, they were false, instead of being humble, they were proud, instead of doing what is right, they only did what is wrong. And the psalmist anticipates all of this in Psalm 45 and in the description of this great, victorious king who will triumph over his enemies.
And look now at verses 6 and 7, which were quoted by the writer to the Hebrews. The psalmist is speaking to the king and he refers to him as ‘God’. Do you see that? Some commentators who are reluctant to apply this psalm to the Lord Jesus suggest that since the kings of Israel ruled on behalf of God, then they could be referred to as God from time to time. However, since we know that the psalm is about the Lord Jesus, then it’s not strange for the king to be called God, because this great and mighty king is God. And look: his kingdom will last forever. Do you remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 of the statue made up of different materials which was knocked to the ground and crushed. And it represented the kingdoms and nations of the world which are destined to perish. But then there was the rock, cut from a mountain, but not by human hands, which grew and grew until it filled the earth. And Daniel explained that the rock symbolised Christ’s kingdom which will fill the earth and which will endure forever. And so, when the Lord Jesus was due to be born, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her son will be given a throne and he will reign forever because his kingdom will never end. Though he died, and was buried, he was raised from the dead to live and to reign forever.
And he will reign with justice, because look at the second line of verse 6: a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of his kingdom. That means he will always do what is right. And look at verse 7: he loves righteousness and hates wickedness. By nature, we love what is wicked and wrong and sinful, but the Lord Jesus, the great king, hates what is sinful and he loves only what is right and good. And God, his God, has set him above his companions by anointing him with the oil of joy. Well, isn’t this a mysterious verse? Isn’t it mysterious? — because the psalmist is saying that God has set God above his companions. What would the Old Testament believers have made of this verse? They did not know the doctrine of the Trinity, because God only revealed it in the days of the New Testament when God the Father sent God the Son into the world as one of us. And so, we can read this verse today and understand that it’s about God the Father who exalted God the Son at his resurrection and ascension. But what did the Old Testament believers make of it? We don’t know, but the psalmist, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nevertheless wrote that God has exalted this great king above his companions and has anointed him with the oil of joy. He means that this great king is covered in joy. And do you know when the Lord Jesus will be covered in joy? He’ll be covered in joy on his wedding day, when the church, which is his bride, will be presented before him in the new and better world to come. On that day, when his people are brought into the place he has prepared for them, then he will be overwhelmed with joy, because everything he worked for will be finally completed and his people will be with him forever in glory.
And the psalmist describes the wedding day in verses 8 and 9. He’ll be dressed for the occasion, with robes that are fragrant. And the palace will be adorned with ivory. And there will be music which will make the king glad. And daughters of kings will be there as guests and his bride will be at his right hand, dressed in gold. Again, the psalmist is using the imagery of his day to convey the glory of that day, when the church will be presented to Christ, the King in glory.
Verses 10 to 15
All our attention up to now has been focussed on the king. But in verses 10 to 15, the psalmist addresses the bride. And the first thing he tells her is to forget her people and her father’s house. She’s to forget them in the sense that when a couple are married, they leave their parents to be united with one another in one flesh. So, forget your family in order to be united wholeheartedly and unreservedly to your husband. And the psalmist tells the bride that the king is enthralled by her beauty. He’s besotted by her. The psalmist is conveying to us the king’s love for his bride. And we know better than the psalmist did the depth of Christ’s love for his people and the lengths he would go for his church, because he loved his bride so much that he left the glory of heaven above and he came down to earth in order to seek her and to save her with his own blood which he shed on the cross. The Lord Jesus loved his people so much that he gave up his life to set us free from the condemnation we deserve; and with his blood he has washed and cleansed us from every stain of sin and he’s freed us from our guilt and shame so that we can be presented before him as a radiant bride, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish. And since the king loves his bride, the psalmist calls on the bride to honour the king, because he is our Lord. And you should honour the Lord Jesus. You should honour him by trusting in him as the only Saviour of the world and as your Saviour. You should honour him, because only those who trust in him will be added to his church and will be admitted to the glory to come in the new and better world to come. Those who never believed in him and who remain his enemies will be sent away from his presence to be punished forever when he comes again; but those who believed in him will be brought into the joy of his presence when he comes.
The psalmist refers to the Daughter of Tyre and men of wealth who come with their gifts. Again, he’s using the imagery of his day to describe the joy of that day when we’ll come into Christ’s presence in eternity and we’ll be given honour and glory forever. And in verses 13 to 15 the psalmist describes the beauty of the bride. She is all-glorious and her gown is interwoven with gold and she’s wearing embroidered garments. This conveys to us the moral purity of the church in glory, because Christ shed his blood to cleanse us of our sin and his Spirit is at work to sanctify us and to make us holy and, when we come into his presence, we’ll be glorified so that we will sin no more. But in Revelation 19, where we read about the marriage supper of the Lamb, we’re told that the white linen garments which the bride was wearing stand for the righteous acts of the saints. In that case, the clothes the bride is wearing in Psalm 45 may well symbolise the good deeds we’re meant to perform as believers and the obedience we give to our Saviour as we live our lives for him and his glory. So, not only must you honour the Lord by believing in him, but you must honour him by living your life for him, so that your whole life will be like a gold and embroidered garment, which is beautiful to behold.
And in verse 15 the psalmist anticipates the day when the church, Christ’s bride, will be led with joy and gladness into the king’s palace to be with him forever in glory. And what a glorious day it will be and a day of joy and gladness, when Christ will be united with his people, for whom he died, and we will be united with him, our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Right now, we are separated from him, because he’s in heaven and we’re on the earth. But we love him, don’t we? We love him and want to be with him to thank him for what he has done for us and to give him the glory and honour he deserves. We want to see him with our own eyes and be with him in that new and better world to come. And so, when the time of our engagement will finally be over, and we’ll be united with him in glory, what a day it will be, a day of joy and gladness, which will never ever end.
Verses 16 and 17
The psalm ends in verses 16 and 17 with the psalmist using the imagery of his day to describe our future glory. So, he looks forward to children being born to the married couple who will reign with them as princes. And he anticipates how the king’s name will never be forgotten and the nations will praise him forever. He’s saying much the same as the Apostle John says in the book of Revelation, where he speaks about the future glory of the church, united with Christ in the new world to come. And the church will comprise people from every nation and they will rule with him forever over the new heavens and earth and the name of the Lord Jesus will be praised forever and forever.
Right now, the church seems small and weak and it’s harassed by the Devil with all his wicked schemes by which he persecutes the church and tries to lead it astray with false doctrines and false practices. And the church is despised by an unbelieving world which thinks we’re foolish for living for Christ our King and for paying attention to God’s word. And the church is far from being without stain or wrinkle or blemish-free, because it’s made up of sinners who sin against the Lord continually and who sin against one another. And so, we fall out with one another and we hurt one another and we are impatience with one another and often we behave no differently from our unbelieving neighbours. The church today seems small and weak and frail and vulnerable and covered in shame. And yet how marvellous. How marvellous. Christ our King loved us and he came down from heaven to seek us and to save us by his blood, shed on the cross. And, from his throne in heaven, he watches over his people and he’s patient with us when we sin and he keeps us by his power. And he has promised to come again one day, as a mighty warrior, to defeat his enemies who did not believe in him and to fetch his bride and to bring her into his presence where we will be glorified and made perfect forever. And forever and forever we will live with him.
That’s our future. That’s what we’re waiting for, as a bride waits for her wedding day. And so, you must believe in him, otherwise you’ll be sent out of his presence when he comes. You must believe in him. And you must persevere through every trial and trouble, all the while waiting for that day when he comes to fetch his bride.