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 (Psalm 45:6–7)
The Gracious King
The inscription of Psalm 45 is interesting and very instructive: “A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love.” The “sons of Korah” were Levites who were in charge of “service of song” in the temple (1 Chr. 6:22, 31), they also wrote several of the Psalms. This fact is amazing because their ancestor Korah, had been involved in a rebellion against Moses in the wilderness. The judgment of Jehovah upon Korah and his goods was swift: he was swallowed up by the earth (Num. 16:27, 31–32). But an amazing thing happened—his sons were spared, “Notwithstanding, the sons of Korah were spared” (Num. 26:11). They were the objects of the sovereign grace of God and their descendants became worshippers in the temple. It has been said that “the knowledge and acknowledgement of grace produces obedience and worship.” When we have known God’s grace, not just theoretically or doctrinally, but subjectively in our own experience, there will be true worship. This is true whether coming to God as sinners or being restored as failing saints. “Grace teaches us…” is still true today as it was then (Tit. 2:11–12). The sons of Korah were certainly prime examples of this.
The circumstantial writing of the Psalm was the marriage of the king of Israel. Of course, the Holy Spirit takes us well beyond the marriage of a failing David or Solomon1 and brings the spiritual spotlight upon a greater king—the Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a “love song” about the King, and the king of Judah must be a shadow or typical reflection of the true King of the Jews.
The Psalmist’s heart was “welling forth” that which he had “composed” concerning the King (v. 1 DBY).2 With his tongue as “the pen of a ready writer” he describes the King with these words: “You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever” (v. 2). When Messiah was on the earth people would marvel “at the words of grace” which came out of His mouth (Lk. 4:22). Even His enemies were constrained to say, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (Jn. 7:46). He was indeed “fairer than the sons of men.” People marveled because He spoke as “one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mt. 7:29); at the same time, however, He spoke with such a winsomeness that the common people and even children gathered around Him to hear His words.
The Warrior King
The Psalmist also wrote of the King’s prowess in war (v. 3–5): for He will gird on “the sword” and His enemies will “fall” before Him (cp. Rev 19:11). Some Christians spiritualize3 this and deny that the Lord Jesus will literally return in such a fashion; but the Bible is very clear, Christ will return in great power and glory. For example, Paul told the Thessalonian Christians “the Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Th. 1:7–8). Many more verses with a similar theme could be quoted. It is better to trust the Word of God than our own reasonings or religious doctrinal prejudices. We believe the Bible teaches a literal premillennial coming of Christ (with the “blessed hope” of the Rapture for believers). We are premillennial because there must be a “judgment of the living,” a gathering out of the Son of Man’s “field’ the “things that offend” before He shines forth in the kingdom age (Mt. 13:41–43). God says what He means and means what He says—we believe that it is of utmost importance to understand these prophecies in a literal sense.
The Divine King
The most wonderful thing revealed to us in this Psalm is that the King it presents is also God! I’m referring to the text that I’ve quoted at the head of the Psalm (vv. 6–7). By itself, we would not think them remarkable verses, simply a statement that God had anointed His King because of the King’s righteousness, He ruled with a scepter of righteousness. If it were not for the Holy Spirit’s commentary on these verses in the New Testament we might have read them and passed them by.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Holy Spirit applies these verses to Christ.4. In contrasting the Son of God to the angels He declares, But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” (Heb. 1:8). Messiah is greater than the angels—He is a Divine Person! Can anything be more wonderful or striking than this? And here, in contrast with Psalm 2, it is Christ’s Eternal Sonship which is being referred to.
As Man in the world, Christ “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” and because of these moral features as Man, He has been given a place above His “companions” (v. 7). This “anointed” and exalted Man has “companions,” who “are all of one” with Him, and who are also called His “brethren” (Heb. 2:11). This can be seen for example in the Lord’s words to Mary Magdalene following His resurrection, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, My God and Your God” (Jn. 20:17).5 He calls us His “brethren” and links us with Himself but He maintains the distinction between us and Him. This is lovely and is as it should be.
Marvelous grace that His saints are brought into such an association with Himself! Yet, we must never forget, He is also “above” His companions because of the intrinsic greatness of His Person.
1, It is not entirely certain which king is being referred to here but older writers and conservative commentaries state it was Solomon. It is certain that it is not David as the Korahites and their temple service was not fully functional until after the time of David. It is conjectured that it was the marriage of Solomon to one of his many wives.
2. The NET Bible has: “My heart is stirred by a beautiful song. I say I have composed this special song for the king.”
3. For example, the “sword” here are the words of Christ and He is “conquering” sinners with grace. Such an interpretation. The allegorizing of the Old Testament prophets is “delusive alchemy” — William Kelly in the Lectures Introductory to the Study of the Minor Prophets page 165.
4. Strictly speaking (as with all the Psalms we are looking at in this series) the fact that these verses are quoted in the New Testament are what constitute Psalm 45 as “messianic,” in the theological sense of the term.
5. Christ does not say: “I ascend to our Father and our God.”