Welcome to a wedding! And not just any wedding – a Royal Wedding. Surrounded by colorful pageantry and larger-than-life drama this text invites into a wedding celebration. People seem to be drawn to royal weddings. Recently the marriage of England’s Prince Harry and American commoner Meghan Markle captured the attention of the world. Every kind of media available was actively portraying or discussing this royal match. Prince Harry’s appearance and character were considered at length. It was the bride, however, who drew the most attention. As a commoner, an American, and a bi-racial woman she brought fresh attention and energy to the royal match and the wedding itself. How would she fit? What did she bring? What could we expect from her as a princess? All these provocative questions, and more, were explored at length – because there is something special about a royal wedding.
In this text, however, the appeal of witnessing – and participating in – this royal wedding celebration is recalling the attributes of the royal groom. More than an entertaining media topic, the prospect of the royal groom carries heightened significance. The character and attributes of the king – as a man and a husband – are important to us because they describe the king. That is, they are descriptions of the ruler and lord. Who he is and how he relates to his bride are indicators to us of what his subjects may expect from him.
While we are not citizens of an ancient middle-eastern kingdom these descriptors matter to us. This is because the groom in the Psalm represents more to us than recalling an ancient monarch. As we are invited into this royal celebration we are being drawn into a celebration of God’s relationship with us – and what that means to us and for us.
In the Bible, one of the important images used to portray the relationship of God to his people is marriage. There is something significant about the marriage relationship that reveals the character of God – and our place in this story – in a unique way. This should not be surprising, given the design that God created for human society. The marital relation of a man and a woman is part of the divine story from the opening scenes.
In Hosea the relation of God to his people is painfully portrayed in marital language. God is the faithful husband who has been betrayed by an unfaithful wife/people. In this tragic narrative we are enabled to see God’s broken heart and deep passionate and enduring love for his people despite their unfaithfulness. God chooses this relationship to reveal himself – and us – in a powerful way.
In our text for today we are invited to see God’s revelation of himself in a more celebratory setting. In the person of the King the character of God is portrayed. These may be idealized virtues when we apply them to the contemporary royal groom, but they are fully realized in the royal groom who gives himself to us. The Psalmist is moved to spontaneous praise,
prompted by his consideration of the king before him. (vs.1) His spontaneous responsive echoes the songwriter who similarly declares “My heart is stirred whene’er I think of Jesus!” As he recites the qualities of his king he is moved to joy at the thought that this is his king. For us, the message moves beyond whatever royal groom originally heard these lines to our royal “groom” – Christ.
The Psalm declares “your lips have been anointed with grace.” (vs.2) How sweet and healing are the words of Jesus to us. His words are mercy. His tone ever-gentle. When we hear his voice it is like a refreshing balm that soothes our sorrow and refreshes us.
His throne – the reality of his rule – will last forever. (vs.6-7a) Not subject to periodic elections, shifts in political or military encounters, or social shifts, our king’s rule is enduring. We can depend on that. And the character of that persistent rule is justice and righteousness. Isaiah would later echo this refrain.
For to us a child is born,
To us a child is given,
And the government will be upon his shoulders,
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne,
Upholding and establishing it
With justice and righteousness
From that time on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord almighty
will accomplish this.
It is not a surprise, then, that this king is surrounded by beauty, joy, and gladness. (vs.7b-9) How could it be otherwise! “Daughters of kings” are drawn to him and he adorns his royal bride in precious gold. Winsome and generous, he draws us into the celebration of joy and gladness and to himself.
This spontaneous and effusive celebration of the royal groom is moved, not only by the extraordinary qualities of this groom but in the realization that we are his bride. We, the followers of Jesus, the members together of his Church, have been chosen by this groom – our Christ. He has given himself to, and for, us. The blessings of his character and life have been bestowed – no, lavished – upon us.
Let the instruments play, let the dance begin. Let us lift our voices in song and joyful celebration. For this is our royal groom. This Christ, who takes us as his own.
Professor, Olivet Nazarene University