Psalm 45 – Cupid and the Reaper

Bible opened to Psalm 45 with Endangered Species dark chocolate with cacao nibs

Today’s passage: Psalm 45

Today’s chocolate: Endangered Species dark chocolate with cacao nibs

The sons of Korah are at it again with a song celebrating the king’s marriage. Imagine, for a moment, that you are getting married, and instead of picking out an existing song to be played at your wedding, you decide that no other song in existence will do. A new love song will have to be written to commemorate the occasion. What will be the theme of your song? What will it sound like?

Will it talk about shooting your foes with arrows?

Because that’s what this psalm does. At the line “Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, in Your splendor and Your majesty!” (3), we get our first clue that this isn’t going to be a modern romantic ode. The God who has blessed the king is called to prepare for battle! The sons of Korah go on: “Your arrows are sharp; the peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies” (5). It’s the big day, the beautiful bride is dressed in her finest gold-embroidered wedding gown, and here’s a song with the omnipotent Creator of the universe himself lodging fatal shots in the hearts of the king’s opponents. And, as a 21st-century reader, your immediate reaction may well be “What is wrong with these backwards bronze-age savages?”

But the thing about being a king in ancient Israel is that you have to protect your people. Other nations want to take your territory, or they want to assert the deities of their tribe over against the one true God whom you worship, or they might attack your kingdom for any number of other reasons. So you go to bat for your people, and you pray that your God goes to bat for you. I’m not suggesting that Israel was never the aggressor, or that their battles with neighboring nations were always justified, but if you’re anything like me, you’re fortunate enough to live far from the threat of violence. I don’t know what it’s like to be a king at war; thank God for that.

The sudden intrusion of battle into this song of love, however, raises a question that I’ll leave you with: when is it okay to kill? Or, in light of the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), what sort of killing (if any) does not fall under the prohibition on murder? Is there ever a time that it is right to take the life of another human being? Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

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