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There are multiple interpretations to Psalm 45. Some see it has a historical wedding song for a king. But the author of Hebrews quotes verses 6 & 7 as describing Jesus. Hebrews chapter 1 is laying out an argument for why Jesus, the Son, is superior to the angels and in part of that argument quotes:
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;Hebrews 1:8-9
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
Taking Hebrews as our guide, we will read Psalm 45 as a depiction of the marriage between Jesus and the Church.
The metaphor of Jesus marrying the Church is not unique to Psalm 45. We also see it in Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 5:31-32, John 3:29, Mark 2:19, Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:9-10, and 2 Corinthians 11:2-4.
I love the metaphor of a wedding to depict Jesus’ love for us and our love and commitment to him. There’s cultural imagery in verse 10 as the bride is told to forget her people and her father’s house. While this is foreign to our weddings today, in the Old Testament this would have symbolized a bride leaving her father’s idols behind and being solely committed to Israel’s God, Yahweh. This is a profound reminder to us as we enter into our marriage with Jesus that he requires us to leave our other gods behind. He requires us to leave our other lovers behind as well and commit our hearts solely to him. Idolatry in the Old Testament seems more tangible than it does today as we picture little gold or wooden dolls that people worshiped. When we picture ancient idolatry in this way, we do so dismissively. On one hand, thinking it would have been easy to leave such obvious counterfeits behind and on the other hand, overconfidently think we don’t have any such idols in our lives. But what made idolatry so alluring is that everyone was doing it. The social pressures were beyond simply conforming to culture, they were the very waters a fish was born into. Idolatry was so engrained into the minds and cultures of the ancient near east, we literally can’t get our minds wrapped around it today. We can’t transport ourselves back to the first and second millennium B.C. to see and feel how idolatry would have felt. What we can’t get our heads around is how highly offensive, and even absurd, it would have been to reject a cultural idol. And how shunned we’d be by our friends and family if we did so.
Today our idols may be more subjective than a wooden doll, but they certainly are there. Idols are things we put ahead of God. Luke 12:16-21 tells a parable of a man who had a larger harvest than he knew what to do with. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store all his grain. God kills him that very night! Verse 21 tells us “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Technically, this parable gives an out that you can build up bigger barns if you are also rich toward God, but if we are honest we’d have to admit: 1. What does “rich toward God” look like and mean? (we’re not going to all agree on that), 2. This parable certainly has something to do with hoarding wealth being an idol, and 3. It flies in the face of our modern Western values. Let’s say you were so convicted by this Scripture you made it your crusade to go around the United States telling people to stop building bigger houses and barns and storage units and 401K’s to hoard all their wealth.
There’s a lot more we could discuss about greed, but I write this here just to start getting you a little uncomfortable. Maybe even a little upset. Because that’s the edges of a beginning of what it would have felt like in the ancient world to be told to renounce your idols and to worship Yahweh only. Or in the first century to leave the Jewish or pagan religion of your family and spiritually marry this man Jesus, while professing that he is God in the flesh.
Psalm 45 is a bit mysterious and breaks the format of the rest of the psalms. Let’s use Hebrews 1:8-9 as our guide and let this psalm remind us of the beautiful, romantic love that Jesus has for each of us, and the love and commitment we have pledged back to Jesus.
Jesus’ throne will last forever and ever!
Let’s remember his scepter of justice and that he loves righteousness. Let’s align our lives to love the same things Jesus loves.
Let’s leave our father’s house and be solely committed to Jesus’ kingdom and ways of living.
Invitation to reflection:
Prayer for the day: Jesus thank you for desiring me to be your bride. Thank you for seeking me out and pursuing me. Thank you for loving me with a deep, romantic love. Help me to be filled with this love so that I don’t need to seek out its empty substitute in the many idols I chase. I repent of my idolatry. Thank you for your healing and forgiveness. You are my king and I give you my allegiance.
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