The King in Psalm 45
John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
v. 1 The Subject
The writer's introduction emanates from the heart, the seat of the affections and the centre of the being: a heart that is now full to overflowing ('bubbling up', 'gushing'). It is when occupied with the King that the heart is full. How important that our hearts should be occupied with and constrained by love for Christ.
The theme of his speech is a 'good matter', a product, perhaps poetry or song, touching the King. This is not a single speech, nor an isolated comment. This is the continuous theme of conversation, his occupation, JND. The tongue is ready and willing to be used in the praise of the King. It is the pen awaiting another's hand to guide it to write. The word for 'ready' signifies the skill and diligence of the one who is the writer. The Holy Spirit is active in taking of the things of Christ and revealing them to us as well as in aiding the utterances of our hearts.
v. 2 The Sovereign, His Moral Glory
The mention of His personal beauty is both to attest His noble nature and also to suggest that this outward attractiveness comes as a result of His intrinsic qualities. 'Thou art fairer than the sons of Adam'. This is a comparison, but what is really stated is that the King is incomparable. In all things He is pre-eminent. Fairer by far!
'Grace is poured into thy lips' is translated by some as 'upon thy lips'. Compare Proverbs 22. 11; Luke 4. 22; John 7. 46. What a contrast with what is said of humanity in Romans 3. 13! Grace is only mentioned twice in the Psalms and on both occasions it refers to the Lord, Ps. 45. 2 and 84. 11. Notice too that grace is 'poured'. This suggests profusion; grace is never wanting from the words of the Saviour even in the presentation of truth, because it is an integral part of His character, John 1. 14.
'God hath blessed thee forever'. Some would see the divine blessing as being evidenced in the qualities described in the first part of the verse. Could it not rather be suggested that the blessing of God is consequent upon the perfect character, words, and walk of the Lord? We notice that the blessing is eternal. There can be, and will be no retraction of the blessing because His character never changes.
v. 3 The Sword, His Official Glory
The grace upon the lips gives place to the girded sword upon the thigh. The Lord is seen coming to execute judgment, His qualities are seen not as abstract but as practical assets. Verse 5 shows that there are enemies, but in terms of the battle He is great David's greater son, the powerful and valiant warrior. Then we read 'With thy glory and thy majesty ('thy majesty and thy splendour', JND). In the Psalms these are the attributes of deity, see Ps. 2. 21. 5; 96. 6; 104. 1; 145. 5. In verse 4 His majesty is displayed in the triumphant progress of the King in battle. He pushes forward 'forcing a way irresistibly through the ranks of the enemy'.
His actions are in keeping with His honour and majesty. He fights 'in the cause of truth, meekness, and rightousness', (Belief). In the battles of men the first casualties are truth, meekness, and righteousness', cf. Isa. 59. 14. Here is one who fights with these qualities central to His cause; they are constant attributes of this King. Truth is trustworthiness and verity. Meekness is the cause of the meek or oppressed being a characteristic of the people of God, Ps. 37. 11. Cf also Zeph. 2. 3 and 1 Tim. 6. 11. Righteousness is natural, moral and legal rectitude. This is the only occasion when these three attributes are brought together in scripture.
The right hand is the hand of power, compare Ex. 15. 6, 12; Pss 17. 7; 18. 35; 21. 8; 44. 3. Literally, it 'shall point out or show terrible things'. This phrase indicates the awesomeness of the power of God as demonstrated in the actions of the divine King.
The arrow is a symbol of speed in its flight and directness in reaching its target, cf. Zech. 9. 14. Such weapons are not carnal but spiritual, cf. Heb. 4. 12.
Others set this phrase 'the peoples fall under thee' in between the sharpening of the King's arrows and their finding the mark. The scene is of a King pressing forward with unstoppable force and riding over the corpses of His enemies, cf. Rev. 19. 17 - 20. The arrows strike their fatal blow at the very life source, the heart. They are awesome in their effectiveness, almost as if each shaft were individually named. The enemies have no power at all before Him, and in no time the conflict is settled.
v. 6, 7. The Sceptre, His Regal Glory
The victory complete, the King returns to the throne. This is a separate and distinct throne that is His personally. It also emphasises the deity of the King. The problems of interpretation that have arisen in this verse seem to stem from a desire to find an historical context of primary application. The primary application is lifted out of the realm of speculation by Hebrews 1. 8, T.E. Wilson.
As the one who occupies the throne is God it is not surprising to know that His throne is eternal. The kingdoms of men will pass away but His rule is without end, as is His blessing from God in verse 2.
His sceptre, the symbol of sovereign rule or royal authority, is characterized by righteousness (uprightness, JND: or equality, RV), for this is an essential characteristic of deity and therefore emphasizes the truth of the first part of the verse, cf. Psa. 11. 7; 35. 24; 48. 10; 67. 4; 71. 19; 89. 14.
The phrase 'thou lovest rightousness' shows us His fitness to govern, his moral suitability for the throne. Coupled with v. 4 it also shows us that He fights for what He believes in and for that which is very much in His affections - natural, moral, and legal righteousness. He regards wickedness or iniquity as His enemy.
These characteristics and consequent conformity to the will of God find their reward from God. The anointing could be taken as His consecration to office as King, cf. Ps. 89. 20 or Ps. 92. 10, or as separate occasion of joy and rejoicing, cf. Isa. 61. 3. It is 'the oil of gladness' which describes it as bringing joy and rejoicing. The anointing distinguishes Him from His fellows or companions (JND) and thus establishes His preeminence. His fellows are variously understood to be His disciples (JND), or the other occupants of the throne (other commentators), cf. Ps. 89. 27.
vv. 8 and 9 The Spices, His Personal Glory
'All His garments' signifies every garment or the saturation of the whole of his garments. JND takes the thought further by suggesting that these spices are the garments. This is the bridegroom arrayed for the marriage and the external garments reflect something of the character of the person they adorn.
Myrrh was associated with the Lord in His birth, Matt. 2. 11, and in His death, Jn. 19. 39 with aloes. Myrrh is described as sweet smelling. Aloes is the product of a tree and is described in the parable of Balaam in Num. 24. 6. These two are among the 'chief spices', Song of Songs 4. 14. The significance of the cassia is more difficult to determine as it only occurs here. From the Song of Songs it is obvious that all were adornments befitting a bridegroom and all the more so when considering their previous associations with the Lord.
'Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made thee glad', RV and JND. He comes out of the ivory palaces with a 'symphony of stringed instruments', T.E. Wilson. How fitting that the harmony of music should accompany Him. This is the probable significance of the Psalms' heading 'upon Shoshannim'.
'King's daughters' were the attendants. There are various interpretations as to the significance of these attendants (largely thought to be the Gentile nations) but their standing is often neglected. They were the King's daughters and honourable women. Their character must be befitting the one on whom they attend.
Who is the queen? JND states his view, 'I apprehend that the queen is Jerusalem'. J.G. Bellett and A.G. Clarke agree. The word translated queen is interesting, in that it does not denote someone who is a queen in her own right but someone who has been constituted queen by marriage. It occurs only here and Neh. 2. 6. Hence, some have suggested that the queen is the Church, as this seems to concur with Rev. 19-20. However the queen is associated with the King. The church's relationship is always with the Lord, and Saviour. Whoever is being addressed in prophetic terms, she stands on the right hand in the position of favour and honour.
Ophir was renowned for its purity and hence its precious gold cf. Job. 28. 16. It was appropriate that this gold should be used by Solomon in the building of the Temple. The adornment of the Queen is not her own but rather that which has been given to her. So it will be with all who will stand in the presence of the King. It is important we recognise that the adornment of the queen is not to attract to herself. Her adornments are but fitting attributes of one associated with the King. Similarly, the identity of the queen is of far less significance than that of the one who we can clearly recognize as the King - for attention is always directed to Him, v. 11. 'For He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him.'