Weddings can be beautiful and meaningful events. Friends and family gather, happiness and love are expressed, promises and prayers are offered. Even on the surface, they are celebratory and significant.
But the beauty and meaning of a wedding runs deeper than many understand. From a biblical perspective, a wedding, and the marriage that follows it, is hugely significant and symbolic.
A husband may pursue his wife like God pursues his people. A man and a woman exchange vows, voluntarily entering into a covenant not unlike how God obligates himself covenantally. Rings are exchanged that represent and remind their wearers of the oaths they’ve taken, similar to how God uses a rainbow to point to his promise. The absolute fidelity that should characterize a marriage reflects the unwavering faithfulness of God to his people. The love that defines a marriage is to be of the divine sort, a self-giving and sacrificial love, the love that prompted God to send his Son.
So, yes, weddings and marriages can be beautiful and meaningful events—love, commitment, family, and all the rest. But when we look deeper, when we understand what’s really going on when two become one flesh, there’s even more to celebrate and to anticipate.
On the surface, Psalm 45 is a song commemorating a royal wedding, celebrating the love between a king and queen. And that’s a wonderful thing. But, as we’ll see, the beauty of this psalm runs deeper than that.
ONE THE SURFACE: CELEBRATING A MARRIAGE
The song opens with the psalmist joyfully dedicating his whole self—his heart, tongue, and skill—to celebrating the king on the day of his wedding. [45:1] And the song closes with its ultimate purpose: the unbounded glory of the king. [45:16–17] The psalmist is telling his king that he wants all the world, for all time, to know and love him.
Now, we need to remind ourselves that this king is the king of Israel. More specifically, it’s the king in the line of David, indicated by the words, “God has blessed You forever” (45:2b). This is a nod to the covenant God made with David, ensuring that one of David’s descendants would forever sit on David’s throne, shepherding God’s people with God’s authority as God’s representative. [Ps 89:3–4] It’s true that “God has blessed [the davidic king] forever” and for the psalmist to want the world to know it is to want what God wants.
Now, back to the top of the psalm and let’s notice the character of the king being celebrated. [45:2a–b] With what sounds like overstated flattery, the psalmist declares that the king is the most incredible human ever who speaks with a grace poured upon his lips from God himself.
Verse 6 states again that the king’s reign will be one of everlasting “uprightness.” Not only is this king beautiful and gracious, he’s just. [45:7] This is a good king, one who loves God and whom God loves, elevated above everyone else. Verse 8 describes the king’s wedding garments, perfumed and beautiful, and the music that accompanies him and celebrates him as he deserves to be celebrated. I think it’s safe to say that the psalmist is a fan of the king of Israel.
Generally speaking, on someone’s wedding day good things are said about them. “He’s so kind.” “She’s so strong.” “It just seems right that two beautiful people—inside and out—would find each other, doesn’t it?” The joy and optimism of the event inspires joy and optimism of speech about the participants. And, on the occasion of the king’s wedding, his character is being praised.
But it isn’t only his character—it’s his campaign as well. In other words, it’s not just who he is but it’s what he’s done that should be celebrated [45:3–4b] This ruler isn’t just a pretty face, a puppet king for Yahweh with nothing to do but shake hands and kiss babies. He’s the commander-in-chief, a “warrior” (45:3a) who draws his sword for the sake of “truth and meekness and righteousness” (45:4b). He’s not only good, he’s a champion for good.
[45:4c–5] God’s enemies are his enemies, and this king rides out to oppose them, putting himself in danger in the process. He risks much and is rewarded much, the exploits of his “right hand” teach what “awesome” deeds of courage and victory look like (45:4c).
This reminds me of a gushing best-man speech at a wedding, one that knowingly expresses with great emotion all that the groom has meant to him, what they’ve been through together, what he admires about him, and what he thinks he deserves going forward.
Have you ever adored someone like this? So much so that, knowing what you know about them and their life, who they are and what they’ve done, you’d relish the opportunity to brag about them.
The psalmist loves his king, and not just because he was picked by God, installed by God, and blessed by God, but because he resembles God and acts like God. And, to the psalmist, that’s worthy of celebration.
Now, let’s shift our attention to the other side of the relationship and to the bride. [45:9] This is an A-list wedding with the daughters of other kings in attendance. But their beauty and importance pale in the light of the queen, dressed in the finest of gold.
For this queen, the psalmist has some marriage advice, a reminder about her commitment to the king. [45:10–11] She’s to make her husband the primary object of her affection. Don’t look back; look forward. This is the old call to “leave and cleave,” rooted in Genesis 2. Leave your family of origin and cleave to your spouse, become one flesh, something new.
In my experience, many marital struggles are rooted in the failure of one or both individuals to do one or both of those things. To not fully leave a former family is to steal from the new family. To not cleave—that is, give yourself and attach yourself to your spouse—is likewise to hold back a necessary ingredient of a godly marriage. Both failures are detrimental.
The psalmist is advising this queen to commit to her husband, who, in this case, also happens to be her king, no doubt an interesting home dynamic. And the psalmist is confident she will because, like her groom, the bride’s character is impressive. She’s a woman of such reputation that other nations bring her lavish gifts. [45:12] They want you to like them, to bless them.
[45:13–15] The queen is honourable, beautiful, praiseworthy, and glorious, she leaves her family and moves toward her husband, “led to the king,” “led forth,” and “enter[s] into the king’s palace.”
And what happens when a davidic king of godly character and action marries a queen of godly character and commitment? [45:16–17] What happens is that the whole world is filled with the king’s children, the king’s reputation, the king’s rule, and the king’s character.
You can see that this is a song written to celebrate a marriage and the two godly people involved in the marriage. It’s a beautiful thing. In this case, it’s a nation-blessing event. It’s worthy of celebration, admiration, and, to a degree, emulation.
DIGGING DEEPER: ANTICIPATING A MARRIAGE
But the beauty of this psalm runs deeper than that. Whether it was Solomon or someone else, this song was written to rightly celebrate the wedding of a son of David. But, what’s interesting, is that the king is never actually named. So, who is he? Let’s do some detective work.
What we do know is that this king is more beautiful than all others (45:2a), he fights for justice and righteousness (45:3–4b), he teaches awesome things (45:4c), and defeats those who oppose him (45:5).
We also know that God has blessed this king “forever” (45:2c) and that he deserves thanksgiving “forever and ever” (45:17). The psalmist also calls the king “God” in verse 6: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Now, it’s true this word, Elohim, is used several ways in the Bible but never is an individual called “God” without some word of restriction added. [E.g., Ex 7:1] This king, however, is just called “God.”
The king’s attributes of “splendour” and “majesty” (45:3b), are only used together in the Psalms to describe Yahweh. [96:6; 104:1] The king of Psalm 45, we’re told, promotes “truth” and “righteousness” (45:4b, 7a). That’s what Yahweh does in the psalms (e.g., 33:5). This king is praised for his “uprightness” (45:6b). Guess who else is praised for that throughout the psalter—Yahweh (e.g. 67:4; 99:4). Doesn’t it seem like there’s something deeper going on here?
Let’s keep going. We’re told this king secures great military victory. But in the surrounding Psalms, we’re told that human attempts at victory are futile. [44:3, 6; 46:10]
Psalm 44:8 says to God “We will give thanks to Your name forever.” Psalm 45 ends by telling the king, “The peoples will give You thanks forever and ever.” Oh, and by the way, “your name” is used 36 times in the Psalms, the 35 outside of Psalm 45 all clearly refer to God’s name. So, who do you think this is pointing to?
If you didn’t follow most of that, follow this: it sure seems like the davidic king being addressed in Psalm 45 is, in some way, divine.
And yet, at the same time, he appears human and distinct from God. “You are fairer than the sons of men” (45:2a), “God has blessed you forever” (45:2c), and “Therefore, God, your God, will anoint you” (45:7).
So, this king being celebrated on his wedding day, is God and man, sharing God’s character but distinct from God at the same time, sitting on the throne of David as a Son of David, reigning forever and receiving everlasting thanksgiving and praise. Who might that be? This is the Messiah, the one promised to Israel and anticipated by Israel. He is the one who would come, riding the clouds of heaven, crush the Serpent’s head, and establish an everlasting kingdom over which he would reign perfectly and eternally. This is the one who will wipe every tear from every eye, render perfect judgment, and represent Yahweh perfectly on earth.
That is the Messiah that Israel was expecting when Jesus arrived and people called out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” The author of Hebrews confirms the identity of this king when he quotes Psalm 45 and applies it to Jesus Christ. [Heb 1:8–9]
Yes, every king of Israel, as God’s representative ruler on earth, was to embody all that was being celebrated in Psalm 45. Some did it better than others. But, ultimately, one Son of David would come and do it perfectly, and this psalm anticipates his arrival.
Now, if the king is the Messiah, who’s his bride, his beloved? It’s his people—Israel in particular but the people of God in general. God often refers to Israel as his wife. The Bible anticipates history nearing its conclusion with a marriage supper for Jesus. The church is called the Bride of Christ. God’s people are the bride.
And, as the bride, are we not to emulate the character of our king? Are we not called to adorn ourselves in beauty fit for a marriage such as we anticipate when we, at long last, see our groom face-to-face? Are we not to be brought to our king, desiring, like the psalmist, his praise and global renown?
And are we, the people of God today, like the people of God who first heard the words of Psalm 45, not to heed the advice of the psalmist and commit ourselves to our bridegroom, leaving the house of our fathers and cleaving ourselves to him? Of course, we are. Paul captures this well in Ephesians [5:25–32].
You see, this psalm is a song celebrating a royal wedding. Solomon, or whoever, was getting hitched and that blessed the nation. It was a reason to sing.
But there’s more going on than that. This psalm is a song anticipating a greater royal wedding, that of the perfect God-King, the Messiah, and his bride, his people, who leave all others that vie for their affections and attach themselves to him forever, spreading the fame of his name and filling the earth with his glory.
This is a call for God’s people to leave and cleave. Not just in our earthly marriages, but in our ultimate marriage. We celebrate the true love of our Beloved and anticipate a time in the future when we will experience that true love unimpeded. And, while we wait, we leave that which hinders our commitment to him who’s worthy of it all, we bow to our king, and we cleave ourselves to him.
Let’s pray Psalm 45 together now. Please bow with me.
Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts do overflow at this moment with a good theme—perhaps the best theme—and we turn our minds and voices to praise you now.
And you are surely beautiful beyond description, gracious in all you say and do, just in all you do. You fight fights for us that we cannot fight, you’ve won victories for us the likes of which we could not win without you. You wave the banner of truth, gentleness, and righteousness, and teach us your awesome ways by the power of your Spirit.
Lord Jesus, you are the promised Messiah, David’s heir, the anointed and coming king. We know, by faith, that you will reign over a perfect, endless kingdom, lifted high above all else. You are worthy of all of that. You are worthy of all celebration and praise and worship and adoration.
But we are not. We are none of those things that you are. We are sinners. And yet, in your great love and wisdom, you have rescued us from the penalty of our sin, are rescuing us from the power of sin, and will one day rescue us from the very presence of sin. And, int he meantime, you are making us, your people, to be a bride for yourself, pure and spotless, beautiful inside and out, worthy of spending eternity with you, our Saviour, our Lord, our King, and our Beloved.
Help us, Lord Jesus, to leave behind the calls of this world, the things and people and events that distract our hearts from you. Help us turn from that which is fading away to you who are everlasting light. Help us cleave to you, go to you, walk with you. Bring us to yourself, even today, we pray, that your world will be filled with your children who remember you, model you, thank you, and represent you.
For your glory, and your glory alone, we pray. Amen.
Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.