Monday, November 12, 2012

Psalms: Don't miss the title

Psalms are a favourite book. Dip in anywhere, right? Or perhaps read it as a coherent book, a gospel book...  With a few pointers from good friends the Psalms have started to turn everything upside down for me.

Psalm 45 begins like this:
 "According to Lilies; A Maskil of the Sons of Korah; A love song." 
It's easy to skip the title, but a while back I had my attention drawn to them and it's changed the way I read Psalms.
  • Lilies (shoshannim)- probably a reference to the tune, but a reminder that this is a song for Spring time. It's a song around the time of the festival of Passover. Salvation is in the air when you sing this song. Psalm 8 is "According to Gittith" - which means Winepress (big idea in the Bible!)
  • A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah are singers best known as the Resurrection Men. Korah had been judged and taken down to the grave in the book of Numbers, but his family lives beyond death. Maskil, usually left untranslated with a footnote "probably a musical or liturgical term" which isn't very helpful...  It might mean something like a song of contemplation or a song meant to instruct and teach people. 
  • A love song. Or a song of loves. This Psalm is commonly considered to be a wedding song - from the rest of it's content. Telling the story, as it does, of a divine marriage - between God and his bride. It's spoken of as "The Song of Songs in miniature." Andrew Bonar says, this is a song "Of the beloved."
And so, the song goes:
 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. (Psalm 45:1 ESV)
Bubbling over, boiling over with verses "to the king". A song that is attributed to the Bible as not just the song of the Sons of Korah, but as the word of God the Father concerning his Son. This is a wedding song of Jesus. A jewel among the Psalms, nestled in the start of Book II of the Psalms, songs - that like the time of Lilies - that are replete with references and themes from the Book of Exodus (as Book I resonates with Genesis, and so on.)

Bonar tells us we have
"Earth taught by Heaven to sing heaven's infinite love to man. It is a prelude to the new Song. Every clause in it is melody, and every thought in it is sublimity; but it is just such as we might expect to be breathed forth when the theme on hand was - Messiah the Mighty One appearing as King and Bridegroom."
This Psalm tells the story - the story of the royal wedding, of Christ to his church, the defining story of the Universe. This story has ruined my life and its the best thing that ever happened to me.

See also: Probably a musical term (Mike Reeves) -- 12mins to change the way you read Psalms forever.