Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places Lesson 4

Lesson 4 | October 2, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

Psalm 45[1]

Psalm 45 is “a contemplation of the sons of Korah” addressed to the “Chief Musician.”  It is “set to ‘The lilies’.”

The superscription of Psalm 45 further identifies it as “a song of loves.”  This is connected to the wedding theme of the psalm.  In the psalm, the marriage of an idealized King is portrayed.[2]  It is typical to view Psalm 45 as “a royal psalm [that] functioned as a wedding song at the occasion of the wedding of a royal couple.”[3]

Our chief concern, however, is not with the use that may have been made of this psalm as it was originally composed in isolation from other psalms, but with the use it is given in its new context in the Psalter.  This is connected with the remarkable use made of Psalm 45 in the New Testament.

As it relates to its immediate context in the Psalter, Psalm 45 is the answer to the cry for redemption that concludes Psalm 44: “Arise for our help, and redeem us for Your mercies sake” (Psalm 44:26).[4]  In Psalm 45, the Divine King arises to defeat the enemy.  (See Psalm 45:3-6.)

The messianic connection of Psalm 45 with the New Testament may be seen by comparing verses 6-7 with Hebrews 1:8-9:

 

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions (Psalm 45:6-7).

But to the Son He says:  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Hebrews 1:8-19).

The writer of Hebrews, in a discussion of the superiority of Jesus Christ to the angels, appeals to Psalm 45:6-7 to demonstrate both the deity and humanity of the Son.  The angels are inferior to Him.  They are not Sons of God in the sense that the Messiah is.  (See Hebrews 1:4-5.)  They worship the Son.  (See Hebrews 1:6.)  They are serving spirits.  (See Hebrews 1:7.)  The Son, on the other hand, is identified as the God and Lord Who created all things.  (See Hebrews 1:8, 10-12.)

Since the New Testament reads Psalm 45:6-7 as being about the Messiah, and since the Person addressed in these verses is the subject of the entire psalm, we should read the entire psalm as being about Him in some way.

Following the superscription, Psalm 45 begins, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (verse 1).  The words translated “a good theme” (dabar tov) mean literally, “a good word.”  In view of the messianic connection between this psalm and the New Testament, it may be appropriate to read “a good word” as a reference to the gospel message.  The gospel is, by definition, “good news.”  The same letter that connects Psalm 45 with the Messiah, Hebrews, identifies New Testament believers as those who have “tasted the good word of God” (Hebrews 6:5).  Since the theme of Psalm 45 is “the King” (verse 1), and since the King is God (verse 6), it seems reasonable to understand the psalm as a poetic description of events surrounding the proclamation of the gospel message.  (The contrastive connection with Psalm 44 is remarkable.  Psalm 44, a psalm of national lament, cries for the Lord to awaken and redeem the people.  Psalm 45 declares the means of this redemption; it is the “good word.”)

The King, the Messiah, is “fairer than the sons of men” (verse 2a).  As the “Son of man,” He is the most excellent of all men.[5]  Grace “is poured upon” His lips (verse 2b).  When Jesus ministered in Nazareth, the people marveled “at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22).  John wrote that “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  The Messiah is eternally blessed of God (verse 2c).

The Messiah, identified as the “Mighty One” prepares for battle against His enemies by girding His sword upon His thigh (verse 3a).  The word translated “Mighty One” (gibbor) may be compared with Isaiah 9:6, where the Messiah is identified as the “Mighty God” (’el gibbor).  The Messiah is girded not only with a sword, but also with glory and majesty (verse 3b).[6]  (See Jude 25.)

In His majesty, the Messiah is pictured as a conquering King on a steed, riding “prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness” (verse 4a).  In other words, His military campaign will succeed because He is characterized by truth, humility, and righteousness.  A parallel may be seen in Revelation 19:11: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”  (See also Revelation 19:12-16.)  In the New Testament, humility is connected with faithfulness.  (Compare Micah 6:8 with Matthew 23:23.)

The “right hand” metaphor is connected with the military imagery (verse 4b).  The “right hand” symbolizes military strength, and the phrase could be translated, “Then your right hand will accomplish mighty acts!”[7]  (Compare with Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; 19:15.)

The military imagery continues in verse 5: “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.”  (Compare with Revelation 19:15; I Corinthians 15:24-25.)  This picks up and continues the theme of the Messiah’s conquest of those who rebel against Him.  (See Psalm 2:7-9; 110:1-2, 5-6.)

The use of verses 6-7 in Hebrews 1:8-9 indicates that Psalm 45 has definite messianic content.  According to the writer of Hebrews, the words of verses 6-7 are “to the Son” (Hebrews 1:8).  The words “Your throne … is forever and ever” reflect the promise of the Davidic Covenant.  God promised David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  … And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever” (II Samuel 7:12-13, 16).  As it related to David’s purely human descendant, Solomon, there was an additional promise and warning: “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.  If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.  But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (II Samuel 7:14-15).  If David’s descendants through Solomon were unfaithful to God, they would be punished, but their disobedience would not invalidate the covenant God made with David.  (See Psalm 89:20-37.)  Wickedness among Solomon’s descendants reached a low point with Coniah, also known as Jeconiah.  He was so wicked that his removal from the throne was the beginning of the Babylonian captivity of Judah.  Jeremiah declared, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah’” (Jeremiah 22:30).  This precipitated Israel abiding “many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim” (Hosea 3:4).  But for Israel to be without a king was not to be a permanent situation: “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king.  They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5).

The ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant would come through a human descendant of David: “The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body’” (Psalm 132:11).  But how could this be, in view of Coniah’s unfaithfulness and the fact that none of his descendants would continue the Solomonic lineage from David?

The precise fulfillment of God’s promise to David came through the incarnation, wherein the virgin Mary conceived and brought forth the Son of God, who was at the same time the Son of David.  (See Luke 1:31-35.)  Mary was a descendant of David through David’s son Nathan, not through Solomon.  (See Luke 3:23-31.[8])  Joseph was a descendant of David through Solomon.  Thus, Jesus’ legal claim to David’s throne came through His legal father, Joseph.  If Joseph had been Jesus’ physical father, Jesus would not have qualified to sit on David’s throne due to Coniah’s defilement.  But this defilement was avoided because Mary was also David’s descendant, but through Nathan.  God’s promise to David that the Messiah would descend physically from him to sit on his throne was thus fulfilled.  (See Acts 2:29-31.)

As it was originally written in isolation from the Psalter, Psalm 45 may have been a royal psalm functioning as a wedding song at a royal wedding.[9]  But as it is included in the Psalter, in its new messianic context, it functions to declare the deity of the Messiah and the eternality of His throne.  Verse 6 identifies the Son, the One on the throne, as Elohim.  His rule is characterized by righteousness.

Verse 7, however, declares that the Divine King is somehow human: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”  First, this Divine King has “companions” (habar).  Habar indicates a real equality of some kind.[10]  As quoted in Hebrews 1:9, the Greek metochous also indicates a real sharing, partaking, partnership, participation, and fellowship.  The context in Hebrews indicates that the Messiah’s companions are human beings; since He is human, He stands in solidarity with humanity.[11]  Second, God is the God of this Divine King.  In order for this to be true, the Divine King must be not only divine, but also human.

The Messiah is “anointed … with the oil of gladness more than” His companions (verse 7b).  All of Israel’s merely human kings were anointed, but the anointing of the Divine-human King exceeded their anointing.  (Compare I Samuel 16:1, 13 with Luke 4:16-21.)

At verse 8, the psalm turns to a discussion of the preparations for the wedding of the King and His bride.  The King’s garments “are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia” (verse 8).  The phrase translated “out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad” could be translated “from the luxurious palaces comes the music of stringed instruments that makes you happy.”[12]

Verse 9 addresses the members of the wedding party that include the bride, the queen, and her attendants.  The queen’s adornment includes “gold from Ophir.”  Ophir was known as the source of fine gold.[13]  In conjunction with its messianic theme, this should be compared to Revelation 19:7-9.

The queen seems to be from a foreign country; she is urged to forget her own people and her father’s house (verse 10).[14]  This may be intended to foreshadow the fact that the Messiah’s bride would not be characterized by a prescribed ethnicity.  (See Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.)  If this is the case, the bride is not exclusively Jewish.  Thus, it is not the nation of Israel.

The King will “greatly desire” His bride’s beauty.  But He is more than her husband; He is her Lord, and she is to worship Him (verse 11).  This “strongly suggests that she is to be taken as a figure of the congregation’s faithful trust in the King.”[15]

The facts that the “daughter of Tyre will come with a gift” and that the “rich among the people will seek” the bride’s favor (verse 12) evoke prophecies found elsewhere concerning the universal homage that will be paid to the Messiah and thus to His royal court.  (See Isaiah 60:3; Zechariah 14:16-17; Revelation 21:24-26.)

The queen’s beautiful clothing is described in verses 13-14a.  This may be compared with Revelation 19:7-8.[16]

The queen’s companions, the members of the wedding party who accompany her, are brought before the King “with gladness and rejoicing” (verses 14b-15).  These may be the wise virgins to whom Jesus referred in Matthew 25:1-13.  They may also be in view in Revelation 19:9 as those who “are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Where the Messiah’s human ancestors have previously reigned, His sons will share in His reign as princes (verse 16).  (See Romans 5:17; II Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6.)

The Messiah’s name will “be remembered in all generations” and the people shall praise Him forever and ever (verse 17).

 

The videos and study guides for this class can be accessed at http://www.danielsegraves.com/blog.

[1] This lesson is from Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms: Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2007), 159-166.

[2] See John H. Sailhamer, NIV Compact Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 324.

[3] Willem A. VanGemeren, in Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 343.

[4] See Sailhamer, 324.

[5] The NIV translates the phrase, “You are the most excellent of men.”

[6] See VanGemeren, 345.

[7] http://www.bible.org/cgi-bin/netbible.pl#note_14.

[8] Luke records Jesus’ physical descent through Mary; Matthew records his legal descent through Joseph.  Joseph’s father was Jacob.  (See Matthew 1:16.)  Joseph was Mary’s husband, but he was not the physical father of Jesus.  The words “of whom” (ex hes) require Jesus to be born of Mary, but not of Joseph.  Hes is the feminine singular pronoun.  Luke’s genealogy from Abraham to David is identical to Matthew’s genealogy from Abraham to David.  (Compare Matthew 1:2-6 with Luke 3:31-34.)  The difference between the genealogies begins with David’s descendant.  In Matthew, it is Solomon (Matthew 1:6).  In Luke, it is Nathan (Luke 3:31).  In Luke, the father of Joseph is not Jacob, but Heli (Luke 3:23).  It was customary in Jewish genealogies not to list the mother as the final ancestor, but the father.  Luke points out that Jesus was only “supposed” to be the son of Joseph (Luke 3:23).  Heli was Joseph’s father-in-law.

[9] VanGemeren, 343.

[10] See the use of habar in Exodus 36:10; 39:4; Psalm 119:63; Proverbs 28:24.  See the use of various forms of metochous in Luke 5:7 and II Corinthians 6:14.

[11] See comments on Hebrews 1:9 in Segraves, Hebrew: Better Things, vol. 1, 52-53.

[12] http://www.bible.org/cgi-bin/netbible.pl#note_26

[13] See I Kings 9:28; 10:11; 22:48; I Chronicles 29:4; II Chronicles 8:18; 9:10; Job 22:24; 28:16; Isaiah 13:12.

[14] See VanGemeren, 347.

[15] Sailhamer, 324.

[16] The word translated “white” (lampros) by the KJV includes within its range of meaning “shining, brilliant, splendid, magnificent.”