God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. (Psalm 45:7)
Psalm 45 is an answer. As it often works with individual psalms, its placements in the book as a whole infuses it with meaning. The previous psalm, is a call for divine redemption. It ends, in Psalm 44:26, “Rise up; come to help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”
Psalm 45 then steps in to answer this call. That answer, in short, says, “Let me tell you about a king.” But it’s not simply a report about an ordinary king; it is a lavish description of a king who occupies the throne of God. The psalmist gushes over the wonder of this king, incomparable to any other, and the magnificence of his wedding to a bride who bows before him.
The psalmist is using the power of metaphor. From where will our redemption come? Who will rise up to help us when we are, as Psalm 44:22 puts it, “being killed all day long, . . . regarded as sheep to be slaughtered”? The psalmist could have said something straightforward like God will send a king to rescue us. But that would leave too much wonder unseen. How will the invisible glory of this redemption be made visible?
In a love song, of course, about a groom and his bride at their wedding celebration.
God, Anointed by God
Verse 1 begins, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king.” This king, this groom, is the fairest of all. He’s the most handsome, the most blessed, the most triumphant. He rides out victoriously for the cause of meekness and righteousness. So not only is he a cut above all other kings; he is also a righteous king. He is a good king. This is a good man.
But he is not merely a man; he is also called God. Still speaking to this king, Psalm 45:6 says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.” And then — like when David says in Psalm 110, “The Lord says to my Lord” — we read, “God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Psalm 45:7). So the God who is king has a God who anoints him. How does that work? The psalmist calls him God — so how is he anointed by God?
He Died for His Bride
This is God the Father anointing God the Son, as the writer of Hebrews will tell us later in the New Testament. Straightforwardly, Hebrews 1:8 says Psalm 45 is God the Father talking about Jesus. “But of the Son,” we read, God says,
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom . . . (Hebrews 1:8–9)
This good man is God’s Messiah, the chosen one sent to rescue God’s people from their slavery and sin. Or, to continue the metaphor, this king is the valiant groom who conquers his enemies to get the girl. And he conquers not by sheer might, but by humility. For the cause of meekness and righteousness, he rode out victoriously by dragging his cross to the place of the Skull, where darkness fell, where this handsome king was so marred by sin’s torture that people turned their faces from him. The king to whom his bride would bow was first the king who bowed his head, and died for his bride. He ransomed her on the day that he died. Then he was buried. Then, three days later, he was raised. He ascended to heaven, took his seat on the throne, and began the celebration.
His bride, all glorious in her chamber, clothed in white, was rescued. She was his. We are his, to have and to hold from this day forward, forever and ever.