For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 4
From Gospel Translations
1 Samuel 28; 1 Corinthians 9; Ezekiel 7; Psalm 45
AT ONE LEVEL PSALM 45 is a royal wedding song. The opening verse affords a glimpse of the psalmist’s passions as he composes his lines (cf. similar introductions in 39:1-3; 49:1-4). The rest of the psalm is broken down into five sections.
The first (45:2-5) depicts the king’s majesty and stature. “Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty” (45:3)—and pursue truth, humility, and righteousness, even while displaying “awesome deeds” and military prowess (45:4-5). In the second (45:6-9), the psalmist reflects on the monarch’s person and state, and addresses him as God (45:6). The psalmist is not turning away from the monarch to address God. The next verse (45:7) proves he is still addressing the king, and is perfectly able to distinguish between the king as “God” and God himself: “therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions.” Thus the address of verse 6 is extravagant: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever”—in the first instance referring to a Davidic king, as the rest of the psalm demonstrates. In the third section the psalmist addresses the bride and encourages her lifelong allegiance (45:10-12). That entails “forgetting” her father’s house (the counterpart of Gen. 2:24), and focusing her affections and loyalty on her husband. The fourth briefly describes the bridal party (45:13-15) leading up to the wedding itself, the details signaling the importance of the occasion. Scripture never trivializes marriage, least of all the marriage of a Davidic king. In the fifth section (45:16-17), the psalmist returns to the king (the Hebrew pronouns are masculine). The focus is on the fruit of the marriage: heirs who displace their fathers. This demonstrates that the psalmist is thinking in terms of ordinary procreation and succession. This is not an oracular messianic psalm.
Nevertheless Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes 45:6-7 to prove Jesus’ essential superiority over mere angels. Only the Son is directly addressed as “God.” Why does the writer of Hebrews feel he can use Psalm 45 in this way? The surrounding verses show he has reflected long and hard on several passages and themes: 2 Samuel 7 (see vol. 1, meditation for September 12), which promises an eternal Davidic dynasty; several passages that link the Davidic king to God as his “son” (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 2—on which see meditation for August 4); an entire pattern or “typology” in which David is understood to be a shadow, a type, an adumbration of a still greater “David” to come. If Scripture (and thus God) addresses an early Davidic monarch as “God,” how much more deserving of this title is the ultimate David?