August 26, 2021
New River District
A Noble Theme
1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme
Psalm 45 (NIV)
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
2 You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.
5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
6 Your throne, O God,[c] will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
9 Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
12 The city of Tyre will come with a gift,[d]
people of wealth will seek your favor.
13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
15 Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.
16 Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
you will make them princes throughout the land.
17 I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.
DevotionPsalm 45 is a wedding song. The superscription at the top tells us so. If you want to try to play it at home, you should know that it is a maskil written by the Sons of Korah to be performed to the tune of “Lilies.” If you don’t know what any of that means, you’re not alone. Anyone who claims they do is just really confident in their guess. What we can say with certainty is that Psalm 45 is a wedding song.
It was written for the occasion of a royal wedding. The Psalmist extols the virtues of the King and gives advice to the bride who is becoming Queen. You can imagine it being performed at the great feast that followed the marriage ceremony in the palace. But to which King and Queen was this Psalm written?
Anyone who claims to know is just really confident in their guess. There are some clues, though. First, absent from this royal Psalm is any mention of David, Zion, Jerusalem, or the Temple. God is also never referred to as the LORD. These are pretty good indications that the Psalm originated in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In verse 12, it is also revealed that the Princess, who is soon to be Queen, is from Tyre. What Northern King was married to a Queen from Tyre? Many Biblical scholars believe Psalm 45 was composed for the wedding of Ahab and Jezebel. Yes - that Ahab, and that Jezebel.
Once read in this light, Psalm 45 drips with irony and dark foreshadowing. It also makes sense of a puzzling, if not alarming, detail in verse 6. The Psalmist is in the middle of praising the King for his justice and his military prowess, and then says: “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” Wait a minute, did the Psalmist refer to the King as “God?” If so, this is the only time in the entire Bible that this happens. Sometimes the King is referred to as a “son of God,” but never “God!” Some translations skirt this problem by massaging the Hebrew to make it read something like: “Your throne, like that of God’s, will last forever.” But that’s not the plain meaning of the Hebrew. Did the Psalmist slip up? Has there been a transmission error? Or in Israel, during the time of Ahab, did the kings refer to themselves as gods and demand others do the same? It’s not difficult to imagine, is it? A worldly King like Ahab, who has a taste for foreign gods and exotic women, might want to be referred to as a deity the way the Kings of neighboring countries were.
The wedding of Ahab and Jezebel was probably an exciting time for Israel. The people were probably full of idealism and hope for the future. You can hear it in the Psalmist’s voice as he praises the young King who he says will, “ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility, and justice.” If only that turned out to be true. Ahab would grow to hate truth-tellers so much that he would have the prophets of the LORD persecuted and killed. He would make Elijah his personal enemy. It’s hard to describe a man who built himself an ivory palace as humble.
As for the cause of justice, when the commoner Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to the King, Ahab framed him for blasphemy, had him executed, and seized the vineyard. The Psalmist may have hoped and believed all these things to be true, maybe they were in the beginning, but in the end, Ahab did not live up to the promise of that day.
Neither did Jezebel. The Psalmist advises the new Queen: “Forget your people and your father’s house.” Had Jezebel heeded those words, her story might have turned out differently. But to her great shame, she brought the worship of Baal with her from Tyre. Under her influence, a temple and altar to Baal was set up in the capitol city of Samaria. She brought in all the prophets of Baal and persecuted the LORD’s messengers. Her wickedness sealed her gruesome fate. She was flung from a tower in the middle of a violent coup. As a different King once wrote, “Pride comes before the fall.”
Of course, the Psalmist knew none of this as he sang to the young couple on their wedding day. He was simply offering a gift suitable for the occasion. It’s hard not to hear with sorrow the final words of his song: “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you forever and ever.” The name of Ahab and Jezebel are remembered. Some 3000 years later their story is still told, but they are not praised. They could have been. Ahab could have been spoken of in the same way as David, Hezekiah, or Josiah— Kings who for all their faults did love truth, humility, and justice! Partnering with Elijah, Ahab could have led a revival in Israel that prevented the Assyrian invasion. He could have, but he didn’t. He was too interested in being flattered as a deity to be a man after God’s own heart.
When I was starting out in the world, an old-timer told me something wise. He said, “You youngsters sigh and say, ‘Oh the things I may someday be.’ We old folk sigh and say, ‘Oh the things I could have been.’” The good news is that if you’re reading this, your story isn’t written yet. You can still live into the promise of who God has called you to be. You can still repent of your pride and humble yourself before God. Your story is still being written. Others may claim that it’s already written. They may claim to know how it turns out; but, only God knows. Everyone else is just really confident in their guess.