Psalm 45 is called in its title “A Song of Loves.” Parts of the Psalm are clearly talking about a human royal wedding, yet there is much more than just a human wedding in view.
A Human Wedding
9 Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;
11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
12 And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour.
13 The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.
14 She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.
This Psalm portrays a royal wedding, probably the wedding of Solomon. Details like the “daughter of Tyre” and “the virgins her companions” show that this is an actual wedding taking place, in which a king marries a princess, a “king’s daughter” — just as Solomon married the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh (I Kings 3:1). It is a scene of joy, splendour, of wealth and beauty, but it is a human scene.
A Divine Picture
3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.
6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
In verses 3-5, we have language which could refer to a human king, but verses 6-7 go beyond the human bridegroom to One who is greater. Verses six and seven are quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9, and attributed to the Lord Jesus Christ. That the Lord is still in view, even through the description of the human scene, is made clear by the last verse of the Psalm, for it speaks of one who will be praised forever:
I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.
The Psalm, then, is one of many passages in Scripture portraying human marriage as a picture of God’s love for His people. As a bride is called to leave her family and her home to go with the husband who has promised to love her, so our Lord calls us to forsake all else and follow Him, rejoicing in His love for us.
This inspired poem blends the human picture and the divine truth, in one verse referring to human love and marriage, in another to God’s majesty and love. It is a mistake to think this Psalm is talking about either a human wedding or God’s spiritual love — it is talking of both. Since marriage is a picture of God’s spiritual love, any passage talking about a God-blessed marriage is also a passage about God’s spiritual love.
A Husband’s Desire
So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
In this Psalm which uses marriage as a picture of our Lord and His relationship to His people, a husband’s desire for his wife’s beauty is given a central place. It is an important part of the picture, or illustration.
A husband’s desire for his wife is one of the strongest human desires God made. This verse speaks of “great” desire, but there would be no strong desire if there were not great pleasure. God did not have to make these human feelings so strong, nor did He do so accidentally. It was part of His plan, for a purpose — it teaches us of His love. By telling us this is a picture of His love, and then giving such a strong desire for, and such pleasure in, temporal marital intimacy, He gives a glimpse of how much He wants and delights in eternal spiritual union and fellowship with His people.
“For He is Thy Lord”
A godly husband may be tempted by lust for others, but he puts such temptations far from him, for he has no right to stir those desires. He turns his affections and desires to his wife, and so will “greatly desire” her alone, by right — “for he is thy lord,” the head of the wife (see also I Peter 3:6 and Ephesians 5:23). This illustrates our Lord’s spiritual love for His people — they are His by creation and by purchase, and He has the right to greatly desire their fellowship, that spiritual unity which He purchased by His own blood.
“And Worship Thou Him”
Our society mocks a husband’s desire for his wife’s beauty, treats it as a joke or even as an unclean thing. It teaches a wife to disrespect her husband’s God-given desire and his right to focus it on her. The world encourages men to behave irresponsibly and despicably towards women, and then pushes the lie that all men are the same. They seek to twist a woman’s view of her husband, to teach her that his wish for intimacy is selfish, and not really any different from the many forms of perversion which the world loves to exalt.
This should not surprise us, for people mock and dishonour our Lord. They do not want to give Him the worship that is the only fitting response to His love. They mock His love rather than accept it. Thus, they also degrade, and encourage wives not to esteem, this God-given illustration of His love. All the world’s schemes to fracture and mar marital intimacy are simply more symptoms of a heart which refuses to worship our Lord. Yet, a godly wife in honouring her husband’s desire finds pleasure and joy, and thus illustrates the joy of giving worship to our great and loving God.
Here in Psalm 45:11, we see a key role for pleasure in marital intimacy. The husband’s desire for (and pleasure in) his wife’s beauty is a wonderful thing which God uses to illustrate His relationship with His people. The pleasure God gives is a teacher, telling us of His delight in spiritual fellowship and the joy of honouring His love.
God delights in giving His children many kinds of pleasure, but we cannot adopt the world’s worship of pleasure. To the world, pleasure is the ultimate goal of physical intimacy, and this idolatry of pleasure leads to errors and perversions of God’s plan. An antidote to this poisonous idolatry is to recognise that pleasure is not its own purpose — rather, pleasure is given to accomplish several purposes. One of those purposes is to illustrate and teach aspects of God’s love.