Psalm 45 should be read and understood as speaking figuratively about a wedding between the divine Messiah-King and His people.
Many Biblical scholars consider the scene at Mount Sinai to be a proposal — and the rest of Scripture as a record of God’s relationship with his people.
Two months after the rescue from Egypt, God leads his people to Mount Sinai. Speaking to Moses from the mountain, God tells him that out of all of the peoples on the earth, God wants to make a covenant with the Israelites. He wants them to be his special treasure, his people who follow him and his ways. The people unanimously agree — they will be his.
For two days, the people prepare themselves — clothes scrubbed, faces washed. The Most Holy God is going to speak to them. There is no room for impurity in the presence of the perfect.
On the morning of the third day, their knees knock as lightning strikes. Thunder claps. A loud trumpet blasts. Mount Sinai can hardly handle God’s glory as it violently shudders. God comes down in fire, and thick smoke billows.
In the midst of the thundering skies and the trembling knees, the Holy One speaks. God gives the people his holy ways — the Ten Commandments, commands about how to live. Overwhelmed by God’s power and presence, the people beg Moses to speak to God so they don’t have to. The Holy One is overwhelming.
Exodus 20:1-6 (NKJV)1 And God spoke all these words, saying:2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.3 You shall have no other gods before Me.4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The marriage takes place at conversion
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NKJV)1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly--and indeed you do bear with me.2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted--you may well put up with it!
Psalm 45 presents a vision of a king who would “ride forth victoriously” and defeat the nations.
Psalm 45:4-5 GNT Ride on in majesty to victory for the defense of truth and justice! Your strength will win you great victories! Your arrows are sharp, they pierce the hearts of your enemies; nations fall down at your feet.
This king is described in lofty terms:
Psalm 45:6 GNT The kingdom that God has given you will last forever and ever. You rule over your people with justice;
This description goes beyond any historical king of Israel and is a vision of a future Messiah.
Psalm 45 describes a bride being led into the presence of this exalted king.
Psalm 45:13-15 GNT The princess is in the palace—how beautiful she is! Her gown is made of gold thread. In her colorful gown she is led to the king, followed by her bridesmaids, and they also are brought to him. With joy and gladness they come and enter the king's palace.
This psalm looked to a time of future hope for God’s people. The bride described here is a figurative representation of someone who longed to come into God’s presence with “joy”
Psalm 43:3-4 GNT Send your light and your truth; may they lead me and bring me back to Zion, your sacred hill, and to your Temple, where you live. Then I will go to your altar, O God; you are the source of my happiness. I will play my harp and sing praise to you, O God, my God.
This fits with the regular Old Testament image of God’s relationship with Israel as a marriage.
Jeremiah 2:1-2 GNT The Lord told me to proclaim this message to everyone in Jerusalem. “I remember how faithful you were when you were young, how you loved me when we were first married; you followed me through the desert, through a land that had not been planted.
Jeremiah 31:31-32 GNT The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep that covenant.
Isaiah 54:5 GNT Your Creator will be like a husband to you— the Lord Almighty is his name. The holy God of Israel will save you— he is the ruler of all the world.
Hosea 2:16-20 GNT Then once again she will call me her husband—she will no longer call me her Baal. I will never let her speak the name of Baal again. At that time I will make a covenant with all the wild animals and birds, so that they will not harm my people. I will also remove all weapons of war from the land, all swords and bows, and will let my people live in peace and safety. Israel, I will make you my wife; I will be true and faithful; I will show you constant love and mercy and make you mine forever. I will keep my promise and make you mine, and you will acknowledge me as Lord .
This psalm encourages us to reflect upon our future hope. We have a great wedding feast to anticipate when the Lord will declare, “I am making everything new!”
Revelation 21:5 GNT Then the one who sits on the throne said, “And now I make all things new!” He also said to me, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.”