Psalm 45 is a wedding song that ultimately celebrates a king and his bride. Like Song of Solomon, the king in question could be King Solomon, here preparing to marry the princess of Egypt. But again, the power of the psalm can be found in the focus of the king’s character. Who the king is on the inside is what shows on the outside. These early verses of Psalm 45 are about a type of physical beauty mediated through a beautiful heart that is concerned with the things of God: righteousness, truth, equity. Have you ever met a person who just seems to radiate with the spirit of God? There is something about them that naturally draws you toward them, and regardless of your normal standards of judging beauty you find them lovely to behold. That is usually someone with a genuine heart for God.
In verses 1-2 we see that because of the way the king’s heart turns toward God, not only are his words pleasing to God, but his physical appearance is affected by his focus on a “goodly theme.” The king is considered the “most handsome of men” because the “grace [of God] is poured upon your lips.” It’s important to note that both God and the king are working here. The king chooses to focus his heart toward God. It is an act of will. And from that focus, the king can offer words that lead to life. When he describes his tongue like a pen of a ready writer, we should remember that a ready and skillful writer selects words after much consideration, choosing what is fitting and appropriate to the desired result. For a person with a heart fixed on God, the desired result is to foster life and love, truth and joy, righteousness and equity. God delights in our efforts, regardless of our imperfections. When we truly set our hearts on the things of God, there’s a visible testimony of beauty in our lives.
God, make my tongue like a ready writer. May I be thoughtful with my words, choosing to speak life and love into the world. Amen.
The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.
Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into scripture in a different way than other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
Read Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
Read James 1:17-27. When do you find yourself as merely a “hearer” of the word and not a “doer”? What motivates you to act on God’s word?
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. What human traditions or rituals do you tend to make too important?
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