Psalm 45 appears to be a psalm for a royal wedding. The superscription lists it as a ‘love song’. For this reason, the lectionary compilers have included it here alongside the story of seeking a wife for Isaac. The focus on beauty is also consistent with the emphasis on Rebekah’s fairness and other qualities, as is the fact that the portion of the psalm set for today addresses the queen for the most part.
An unknown singer addresses the psalm first to the king (vv. 1-9), turning then to the queen (vv. 10-15), and returning to the king (vv. 16-17). The whole psalm is in praise of the king. He is victorious in battle (vv. 4-5) and exercises justice and equity (vv. 6-7a). He has been anointed by God (v. 7). It ends with possibly God replying through the psalmist that he will establish the king’s line and cause his name to be celebrated forever with praise from the people (vv. 16-17). It is clear from v. 6 that this praise for the earthly king is only made possible by and is a reflection of praise for the divine king.
Verses 10-15, addressed to the queen, have several aspects which echo the Genesis passage. The queen has to leave her people and become part of her husband’s family (v. 10), the servant of Abraham has come bearing gifts (cf. v.12), and the queen is a virgin (v. 14).
It may seem out of place to modern ears to concentrate in a psalm on the beauty of two human individuals, even royal ones. We are so used to beauty being exploited in cheap ways within our world with its advertising and the pursuit of celebrity status. But we ought to be mindful in reading the psalm that the beauty of the king and his bride ultimately point back to a divine beauty beyond description. Moreover, that beauty is not just defined by physical appearance but relates to equity, righteousness, joy or gladness, truth and wisdom. In such company beauty is both redefined and understood afresh.
Suggestions for use of the psalm in worship:
Verses 6-7 can be used either as a call to worship or a call to confession:
Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.Old Testament reading: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;
you love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness.
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