YEAR B: PENTECOST
(Sunday between August 28 and September 3)
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 45 appears to be a psalm for a royal wedding. The superscription lists it as a ‘love song’. For this reason, as well as the fact that it speaks of the king, the lectionary compilers have included it here in reference to Solomon who has been the subject of readings the last two weeks. The reference to the throne enduring forever also picks up the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 7 and then in Ps 89:28-37. The focus on beauty in the psalm is another reason for connecting it with the reading from the Song of Songs.
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.
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 points 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: Song of Songs 2:8-13
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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