Today’s Psalm—a song of praise to a human king—is pretty challenging to the modern
ear. I nearly laughed at the elaborate fawning over the king’s appearance (“you are the
most handsome of men”) and definitely bristled at the patriarchal language (“the
princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is
led to the king”). Ewww.
J. Clinton McCann’s commentary in the New Interpreter’s Bible prods me (a little bit)
past those initial reactions:
“It would be possible to dismiss Psalm 45 as a relic of the ancient Near Eastern ideology
of kingship or as a piece of Israelite or Judean political propaganda. Indeed, if its
portrayal of women is taken as a criterion, Psalm 45 should be dismissed. But it seems
that the psalm was preserved as Scripture, because it has the potential to facilitate
theological reflection about the nature of legitimate political authority. Such reflection is
crucial, especially…in the light of the persistent human tendency to be fascinated with
powerful people, be they royalty or politicians or even self-appointed dictators.”
Often now in our liturgy, we use the word “kin-dom” to think about the “kingdom of
God” less as a “top-down monarchy” and instead “a more horizontal structure of
power in which everyone is a beloved child of God” (to use the words of Prof. Deborah
Krause from Eden Theological Seminary).
What does kin-dom look like? How is it different from “kingdom”? How can we, as a
church, work together to build the inclusive kin-dom of God?
1 My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue
is like the pen of a ready scribe.
2 You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has
blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your glory and majesty.
4 In your majesty ride on victoriously for the cause of truth and to defend the right; let
your right hand teach you dread deeds.
5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.
6 Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of
7 you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed
you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces
stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the
queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;
12 the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people
13 with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven
14 in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions,
15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
16 In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in
all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will
praise you forever and ever.