Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sermon: Psalm 45 The Wedding Singer

When we normally think of the Psalms, you probably think of David, the shepherd king. Among the many books in my study, there’s a huge set of books written by Spurgeon called ‘The Treasury of David.’ But when you look more closely, you discover that only about half (72) are from David’s pen. Some have no author; there are some one hit wonders from Heman, Ethan and Moses. Solomon has a couple, Asaph has a few, and some come from the Sons of Korah.

The Sons of Korah might sound like a flute band. They were actually Levites, part of the praise group in the temple. The leaders of worship as the Old Testament people of God gathered together. Led by the Spirit, they composed some Psalms, and over the summer, we’ll be joining with them to praise our God.

This morning, the day after a wedding, we find ourselves with a wedding psalm. It’s a love song, but not as we know it. So in a wedding venue, with wedding flowers, we listen in as the wedding singer strikes up. It’s a pleasing theme, as he sings out of the overflow of his heart. He’s singing for his king, and he wants us to join in as well. One of our teachers at school used to get us to copy down some notes he would dictate from a book. His catchphrase was ‘pens at the ready’ - and that’s the image the singer gives us. ‘My tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.’ He’s raring to go. Is your tongue ready to sing? [For perhaps the only time ever in church, why don’t you stick out your tongue to warm it up!]

We all know how weddings work. You need a man and a woman. And if you think about the way it works out in church, the groom arrives first. He’s already here, waiting on the bride to arrive (hopefully not too late!). That’s the same structure that we find in the psalm. From verses 2-9 there’s a portrait of the groom, and the rest of the psalm shows us the bride.

So let’s look at the groom. The singer rejoices in the king as he stands waiting for his bride. ‘You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you for ever.’

This is a victorious king, a mighty one, with a sword which shows splendour and majesty. A king who rides out for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness. A king who defeats any enemies. A king who is respected and admired.

In a world of pain and fear and injustice, how we need a king like this! In the week when a plane is shot out of the sky; when Israel and Palestine continue to fight; when Christians in Mosul in Iraq are marked for destruction; when Parliament discusses enabling assisted suicide; when every day we hear of assaults and thefts and violence. Oh how we need this king riding out for truth and meekness and righteousness!

The wedding singer says that he has this wonderful king. Now you might have thought that the king sounds too good to be true. Maybe he’s only saying these things because he’s paid by the king. It’s his job to make the king sound good. Is this all just a bit of positive PR, a bit of spin at the heart of government?

You would nearly think it with what he goes on to say in verse 6. Look at it with me. ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever. The sceptre of your kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.’ He’s singing to the king, he’s addressing the king - and now does he turn to God and praise God for his everlasting kingdom? That’s what we want to think. Surely the wedding singer wouldn’t go so far as to call the king ‘God’? Surely that’s blasphemous. Solomon or whichever of the kings of Judah may have been great, but they weren’t God.

Yet that’s exactly what the singer, led by the Spirit, is saying. Look how verse 7 follows on. Your throne, O God... Therefore God, your God, has anointed you...

The king is described as God, who has a your God. So what’s going on here? As the singer sings of what’s going on in front of him, it’s as if he is also seeing beyond these events to their fulfilment.

You sometimes hear of childhood sweethearts who met on the first day of P1 and through primary school played at weddings. Twenty years later, they are getting married for real. Well here, the wedding singer sees the ‘real’ wedding as he watches the king of Judah get married. It’s a picture of where the whole of history is going - a wedding, between the king who is God and his bride.

The king is the anointed one (the Messiah). The most handsome of the sons of men who is truly God, the Son of God. Over in the New Testament, the writer to the Hebrews picks up these verses to show just who Jesus is, and why Jesus is better. These verses are all about Jesus, the conquering king; the one who rides for truth and meekness and righteousness; the one whose throne is for ever and ever. Jesus, the king, the royal bridegroom who stands to receive his bride.

In verse 10, the singer speaks to the bride, the queen. Here is the way to come to the king. Forget what lies behind; bow to him. See how wonderfully she is attired - there’s always a great fascination about what the bride was wearing - here there is no expense spared - robes interwoven with gold; many-coloured robes.

She is brought with joy and gladness into the palace of the king. He brings her in, she finds her place beside him. The marriage has begun. And immediately, the future is bright. Look at how the psalm closes. There will be sons, princes in all the earth. But even more, the name of the king will be remembered.

When we were clearing out granny’s house, we discovered old wedding photos none of us knew were there. To see granny and granda on their wedding day was great. Photos can last a long time. But even longer lasting is this song, this psalm. The wedding singer has recorded that special day so that thousands of years later we can see what he saw.

How much more, then, the fulfilment of that day. The royal wedding to come, when Jesus is united fully and finally with his bride the church. ‘I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.’

The best wedding ever is still to come. You can be involved in it - not just as a wedding singer; not even as a guest. You can be involved as the bride, the people of God, the church. The praise of Jesus, our God and our King, will resound for ever and ever. So why not come today, turn from all that’s past. Forget what’s behind and bow to the king.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Church on Sunday 20th July 2014.

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