Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Beauty of the King (Psalm 45:1-2)

The composer
The unknown author of the psalm was compelled to write thus song. This is obvious from the first verse. We should note that it is a song of love, coming from his heart. In the first verse, he explains what he is doing, which is writing a song for the temple choirs to sing. He tells them that it is a song about a king. What king is that, people would ask. Is it about David, the great king who has united the nation? No, it is not. Is it about God, the king of Israel. Yes and no, because the king is divine, but his kingdom has not come yet. So his song is a prophecy of the Messiah.

Psalm 45 is all about Jesus. In order to understand the psalm, we need to see the viewpoint of the composer. The time is the occasion when God blessed Jesus forever (v. 2), which is a reference to his exaltation when he ascended to heaven and was invited by the Father to sit on the heavenly throne. The previous lines in verse 2 look back to what Jesus was like before his exaltation. Subsequent verses look forward to what will happen after his exaltation, and we will look at them in subsequent weeks. There are three post-exaltation activities mentioned: (1) his warfare, (2) his reward and (3) his wedding, and we will think about them in coming weeks.

So as we join the psalmist at his viewpoint of the exaltation and look back at two features mentioned by him: (1) The character of Jesus and (2) the words of Jesus.

The character of Jesus
The author says that Jesus, before he was exalted, was the most handsome of men. What does the composer have in mind? We recall that Isaiah predicted that the appearance of the Messiah would not look impressive – he would be like a root out of dry ground and have no form or comeliness. We know that the real author of Isaiah 53 and of Psalm 45 is the Holy Spirit, so there will a similarity of emphasis in what he led each human writer to say. So the reference to the beauty of Jesus in Psalm 45 is not to an external impression that people may have had by glancing at him.

Instead the author is looking at the beauty of the character of Jesus. It is a beauty that is greater than all others, which points to something unique that he possesses. The big difference between Jesus and everyone else is that he was sinless. This is an attraction that no one else on earth possesses. He never sinned in thought, word or deed. Now we know that there are two kinds of sin – we call them sins of omission and sins of co-mission. The first occurs when we fall short of God’s requirements and the second occurs when we go beyond what God requires. Jesus never did either type. Instead he always did, said or thought correctly. This means that he was totally balanced, with a continual desire to love his Father and to love his neighbour.

Moreover, the fact that Jesus received a reward from the Father points to another aspect of his beauty, which was that he functioned as a servant fulfilling an essential task. We know from elsewhere in the Bible that Jesus was the Father’s servant commissioned by him to provide the way of salvation, which he did by living a perfect life and dying an atoning death. Everywhere he was the Father’s servant, constantly having this twofold task in view. He never deviated from performing the Father’s will, even when he came near to the moment when he would go to the cross.

The content of his words
The psalmist observes that one reason for the king being blessed by the Father is because of his speech. It was said on one occasion, and said by agents of those who opposed him, that ‘never man spoke like this man’. We are also told that the common people heard him gladly and others wondered at the amazing words that he spoke. A lot of what Jesus said has been recorded in the Gospels and it is not possible for us to think about most of it at present.  But I would like us to think briefly about several of his sayings to help us see why he was so fair. 

We can commence with what he said in the temple when he was twelve years old. The story he is well-known. He had stayed behind after his family had left the city. His purpose in doing so was to discuss with the temple scholars passages from the Old Testament. Some time later his mother came to the temple and asked him what he was doing. His reply was that she should have known that he would be engaged in his Father’s business. There he is as a twelve-year-old focussed on the work of salvation. And surely we should say that he is superior to all other twelve-year-olds. Indeed he is far superior to the scholars.

Another statement that Jesus said which is amazing is his promise that whoever comes to him he will never cast away. When we think of the range of sinners that are covered in his words we should regard him as very attractive. Great sinners and lesser sinners, old sinners and young sinners, rich sinners and poor sinners, all are welcome. Of course, they have to come to him, which means that they have to approach him, communicate with him, about their sins and turn to him in repentance.

A third saying of Jesus that we can focus on briefly was said when he promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. When he made that promise, Jesus described the Holy Spirit as ‘another Comforter’, which indicates that Jesus also regarded himself as a Comforter. In the Greek language, there are two words that can be translated as ‘another’: one means ‘the same kind’ and the other means ‘of a different kind’. Jesus uses the first option when he describes the Spirit – when he comes, he will act in exactly the same way as Jesus would if he was physically present. This is one reason why Jesus said to the disciples that it would be to their advantage if he left them. If he stayed, he could only be in one place at a time, but when the Spirit came, his ministry would be as if Jesus was wherever each of his disciples was.

A fourth wonderful saying to think about at the moment was made when he was on the cross. As we know, there are seven sayings on the cross and each of them is amazing and gives incredible insight into the heart of Jesus. We see his love when he prayed for the soldiers who crucified him and we see the depth of the darkness to which he descended when he cried about being forsaken. The saying I want to mention just now is the sixth one when Jesus cried, ‘It is finished.’ This is a reminder that the cross for Jesus was an activity and an achievement. He had been given the activity, the work, the task, by the Father to perform, and that role was for him to carry our sins away and to pay the penalty we had incurred for them. This activity he completed and it truly is an amazing achievement, the greatest achievement ever, even by his standards as the Creator and Upholder of the universe. Every other action he could do with a word, but this one involved much more. Nevertheless, he completed it. Sometimes we finish a difficult job, and even if we have done it well we know that it is not perfect. Jesus’ work on the cross was perfect and admirable and will be the focus of thought for eternity.

A fifth gracious saying we can consider is what he said to his disciples on the day he rose from the dead. They had gathered together in an upper room but they had locked the door for fear of the authorities. Yet they had heard that he was risen from the dead from the women, from Peter, and from the two whom he walked with to Emmaus. He appeared in their midst and perhaps they imagined that he had come to punish them for their cowardice and treachery at the time of his arrest. Whatever they imagined, what they heard was a statement of grace, ‘Peace to you.’ There was no anger in his heart. Only the desire to do them good in a spiritual sense. He wanted them to understand the reality of the resurrection which he did by showing them his wounds from the cross. The words that he spoke on that occasion he says to us now and informs us that he wants us to have his peace.

Because of such words of substance, the Father has blessed him forever. Jesus never had shallow words. Instead he spoke words of salvation and they are recorded for our benefit in the Bible. His words outline his journey to the moment when he became so handsome as he stands glorified in heaven. Our hope is that one day we will see that beauty and be affected by it for ever. And we know that he will still have wonderful things to say.


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