Expository Sermon on Psalm 45
Bellevue SDA Church 7/29/2017
©2017 by Maylan Schurch
(To hear the audio for this sermon, click the white triangular “play” button.)
Please open your Bibles to Psalm 45.
As most of you know, ever since January I’ve been encouraging us to read the Bible through following the Andrews Study Bible reading plan. If you have the Andrews Bible, you’ll find the plan on the two pages before page 1700. You can also find copies of the plan on the counter just beside stairway.
Why is it so important to read the Bible through? Because you and I need to fortify our minds with truth. And why is that so important? The front cover of the August issue of National Geographic gives a couple of answers.
The first one is the main topic of this issue – it’s called “The Space Issue.” Several articles talk about how we have been reaching for the moon, reaching for the stars, reaching out beyond this planet to discover what’s out there, maybe who’s out there. The Bible, of course, tells us Who is out there—our Creator. We don’t need to search out there for the origin of life. We know who He is already.
But the August National Geographic gives another reason we need to constantly deepen and strengthen our knowledge of the Bible. On the upper left of the front cover it announces that inside the issue is a feature on “self-styled messiahs.” If you open that section, you are introduced to five human beings who believe that they are Jesus the Messiah.
This first man lives in Brazil. Here is a picture of him sitting on a throne in front of a cross, and surrounded by several disciples, mostly women.
The next man lives in South Africa, and his name is Moses. But he is also known as the King of Kings, the Lord of lords, and Jesus.
Then comes a man named Vissarion, who is also known as “the Christ of Siberia.” He has at least 5000 followers who believe in him. Next comes Jesus of Kitwe, a taxi driver who lives in Zambia.
And finally we have Jesus Matayoshi, who lives in Tokyo. There’s a picture of him on top of a van preaching to whoever will listen. Unlike the other messiahs, he is dressed in a business suit. His plans are to bring about the end of days through a democratic political process, and that he will eventually become the United Nations Secretary-General, and at that point he will institute the will of God on earth.
What’s fairly bloodcurdling is that each of these self-styled messiahs has followers. And these messiahs are just human beings. And in Second Corinthians 11:14, Paul insists that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. What would happen to the minds of people who only have a vague understanding of the Bible when an overwhelmingly supernatural false Messiah suddenly shows up?
Anyway, we need to keep immersing ourselves in the Word of God. That’s why, pretty much every Sabbath I preach throughout this year, I’m basing my sermon on a passage which shows up in that week’s Bible reading. If you’re following this plan, you would have read Psalm 45 this past Thursday.
I was intrigued by this Psalm for a number of reasons. First, it contains the phrase “out of the ivory palaces” (verse eight) which is where we get the old gospel song we’ll be concluding this service with. Another reason Psalm 45 is interesting is that Hebrews chapter 1, when it’s talking about Jesus, reaches back into this Psalm and quotes part of verses six and seven. The New King James Version translators were so impressed with this that they went ahead and capitalized all the pronouns referring to the king in this Psalm, because they believe that it talks about Jesus all the way through.
But I think what was so refreshing to me about Psalm 45 is that it’s a wedding song. If you’re reading this from the Andrews Study Bible, the footnotes speculate that maybe this king was Solomon, and maybe this was a wedding song sung at his wedding. It does have a lot of allusions to the Song of Solomon.
But this is probably one of these Bible passages where both answers could be right. Hebrews chapter 1, verses eight and nine, definitely believe that part of this song is talking about the Savior.
And if you read through Psalm 45, you quickly discover that it is a love song, as a wedding song should be. In fact, that is part of its title. Some of the Psalms, like this one, have little introductions to them printed in smaller type in most Bibles. Those were actually in the Hebrew Scriptures. And sure enough, this is called “a song of love.”
So this is a love song. And if this Psalm is partly or mostly about Jesus, this is a love song to Him. I’ve been a pastor for more than 30 years, and I’ve done quite a few weddings. And almost always, a special love song is sung – a song that means a lot to the couple. And this Psalm 45 song is for a royal wedding. The King is getting married.
And probably pretty much every love song I’ve heard in a wedding mentions something lovable about someone. It’s no different in this wedding song. I can find at least three reasons that the king in this Psalm is lovable. There are probably many more reasons, but three is what we’ll have time for this morning.
So as I read this Psalm, I can say “Lord, I love you because –“ and I can find at least three responses. In fact, I can see the first reason even before we get to verse one. It comes in that little phrase “A song of love.”
So here is sermon point one if you’re taking notes.
Lord, I love You because You included a wedding song among the Psalms.
I don’t know about you, but before this week I had no clue that Psalm 45 was a wedding song. I just hadn’t focused on it that closely. From reading it in past years, I remembered reading “out of the ivory palaces,” and I remember coming across the verses which would later be quoted in Hebrews.
I like it that there’s a wedding song in the Psalms. Most of the Psalms were written by David, and most of them were full of danger or temporary despair, about how he was being persecuted by his enemies, and hoping God would help him, and finally discovering God was with him even in tough times. And those are important Psalms to read and cherish.
But here is a wedding song, included here as part of holy Scripture. So what do I do with this? How should I respond to this evidence of Jesus’ love?
Well, I need to remember how important marriage was to Jesus. Back in the Garden of Eden, it was probably Jesus Himself who created Adam and Eve, and who approved of Genesis 2:24, which says, “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” In Matthew 19:5, Jesus quotes this very verse.
So if marriage is important to Jesus, what do I need to do? First, if I am married, I need to take special care of my marriage. 10 or 11 days ago was the 40th anniversary of when I met Shelley for the first time, at the airport in Lincoln, Nebraska. We have both thanked God often that we found each other, and every year I believe our marriage has gotten better and better.
If you’re not married, and are hoping and preparing for marriage, pray earnestly and often. Be careful and lay a good groundwork for a solid marriage. Listen to each other, and be mutually humble. My favorite of Stephen Covey’s “seven habits of highly effective people” is the one that says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Now let’s find a second reason to love our Savior in this Psalm. This is going to be a really surprising one, I think. Let’s look at it.
Psalm 45:1 – 7 [NKJV]: To the Chief Musician. Set to Contemplation of the Sons of Korah. A Song of Love. My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever. Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, With Your glory and Your majesty. And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; The peoples fall under You. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
What’s another reason to love Jesus our King?
Lord, I love You not only because You included a wedding song among the Psalms, but I love you because your wedding costume includes combat gear.
I don’t think anybody I have ever married has been armed while the ceremony was happening. If they were, they didn’t tell me. Most wedding songs nowadays wish the couple happiness and peace and joy, not combat. Yet here we have this King, who seems to be divine according to everything that spoken of Him, being urged to buckle on a sword.
This week, the president and the government announced that they are going to increase efforts to target a very vicious gang known as MS-13. According to news reports I read, this gang seems to have violence as its main goal. And it’s an international gang, which means that people from Central America who flee north to escape the gangs there are liable to meet up with the same organization here, and get trapped back into it. It’s a very complicated situation, especially when you mix it with the deportation of illegal immigrants.
Chances are, somebody who has been exposed to this kind of terror is actually delighted to hear that King Jesus is wearing a sword. Whenever I see a policeman, I glance at his or her pistol, and that makes me feel good. I have never owned a pistol or any other kind of gun except a BB gun as a child, but I’m glad the police are armed.
And the fact that this Psalm 45 king is armed shows that He is willing to battle for me. After all, Heaven shows up with a sword quite a few times in the Bible. In Genesis 3:24, an angel with a sword guards the gates of Eden, so that there would be no immortal sinners.
In Numbers 22:23, an angel raises a sword to get the prophet Balaam’s attention while he was riding on his donkey. In Joshua 5:13, another angel – who was probably Jesus himself – appears to Joshua just before the Hebrews cross the Jordan to capture Jericho. This heavenly combat gear showed Joshua that God was truly ready to fight for His people.
In Gideon’s famous battle, his men carried no swords at all—just pottery pitchers and torches. They trusted in “the sword of the Lord.”
In Ephesians 6:17 we learn that even the gentle Holy Spirit uses combat gear, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. In Hebrews 4:12 we learn that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. And of course in Revelation, we see some dramatic depictions of Jesus with a sharp sword emerging from His mouth.
So, if I’m not exactly comfortable with a combative Jesus, I have probably not suffered the kind of oppression which would make me hunger for someone to powerfully release me from it.
So what does Jesus do battle against with his sword? We can probably get a clue by looking at the verse which immediately follows one which mentions His sword. Let’s start with verse three.
Verses 3 – 4: Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, With Your glory and Your majesty. And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness . . . .
Notice that? Truth, humility, and righteousness. From the beginning of sin, Jesus has done battle to preserve these three things.
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus as the “truth” does battle with the devil, whom He called “the father of lies.”
Jesus was humble, and has always done battle with the opposite of humility, which is pride. Over and over, the Bible says that the Lord casts down the proud and exalts the humble. The proud, self-centered Pharisee praying in the temple was not forgiven, whereas the humble, penitent tax collector was.
Jesus is righteous, and does battle with the wicked. When He returns, Revelation 6 says that the wicked will wail for rocks and mountains to hide them from His face. It will be the glory of His presence that their sinfulness will find so intolerable.
So what should I do, now that I know this? I need to find out whatever evil that makes Jesus draw His sword, and run from that evil. Since Jesus is a champion of truth, I need to tell the truth. Since Jesus is a champion of humility, I need to humbly pray that I will become more humble. Since Jesus is a champion of righteousness, I need to pray with David in the last two verses of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Now let’s take a look at one more reason to love Jesus here in this Psalm 45 wedding song. And now, finally, we get to meet the bride. Again, I’m not sure whether this was indeed a Psalm written for Solomon and his bride, and that later Bible people saw echoes of the Messiah in part of this Psalm. But at this point, starting with verse 10, the writer of the Psalm addresses the woman who is to marry the King.
Verses 10 – 11: Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear; Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
More recent translations say “bow to him” rather than “worship him.” If this song was originally written to celebrate a human royal wedding, then naturally the bride would not literally worship the man she was marrying. But Psalm 45 does refer to Jesus, partly or mostly, and to that extent, the “daughter” represents you and me. So let’s listen to what this inspired Psalm writer says to the bride-to-be.
“Forget your own people, and your father’s house,” says the last part of verse 10. This seems rather brutal, but it’s probably meant to be emphatic to make a point. Jesus said we should be willing to leave father and mother if that’s what it takes to follow Him. But He simply meant that the closer we come to Jesus, the better able we will be able to reflect Jesus back to our families, to show them up close what their Creator and Savior looks like and acts like.
I know that my parents probably felt a bittersweet feeling when their firstborn son got married. But even though I left them to be with Shelley, Shelley became an important part of the family, and both of my parents loved her dearly. They were happy that she took me away from them, because now she was a part of them.
Let’s lay down the third sermon point here. What’s another reason to love Jesus?
Lord, I love You not only because You included a wedding song among the Psalms, and because your wedding costume includes combat gear. I also love You because You call me to be Yours completely.
Again and again, Jesus makes it very clear that if we want to follow Him, He must take top priority in our lives. And again, it is only so that He can live within us and love others through us.
So what can I do, now that I know this?
One thing I can do is to answer one of Jesus’ most fervent prayers—the prayer He prayed for you. Turn to John chapter 17.
John 17 happens just a few hours before Jesus is arrested. In less than 24 hours He will be hanging on the cross. John 17 is one long prayer Jesus prays. The first part of the prayer is for His friends who are going to be experiencing the next few hours with Him. But then He widens His prayer to include you in me. Let’s listen as Jesus prays for us right here in this room:
John 17:20 – 26: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
So how should I respond to Jesus’ love? I should answer the prayer that He prayed here. He prayed that you and I and He and the Heavenly Father would be totally unified, that we should be one.
So how do I answer that prayer? It’s not something that I can do on my own. As Jesus told Nicodemus in John three, we need to let the Holy Spirit bring new birth to us. That’s why reading chapters like John 17 and John 3 and Psalm 45 is so important. The Holy Spirit inspired these words, and can touch our hearts with them in a supernatural way.
So what I would do is to simply pray and say, “Lord, work within me so that I can be an answer to Your earnest prayer about me.”
Which you like to do that? Would you like to pray that prayer in your own private way? Raise your hand if you’d like to do that.
Many years ago someone was reading through this Psalm and saw the phrase “out of the ivory palaces,” and wrote a gospel song about it. It is a song that tells about the love of Jesus which made Him leave heaven’s ivory palaces and come to this world of woe. That’s our closing song.