Every society has its own conception of the ideal ruler, the one against whom all others are judged. In America people idealize presidents according to the traits they appreciate most, whether Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Reagan. In the Roman Empire, every emperor was compared, favorably or unfavorably, to Augustus. For the Jews, David filled the role of the ideal king. However, when the sons of Korah penned Psalm 45, they introduced something unheard of in history—the ideal ruler who is yet to come. While the events of the day surely played into the wording of this psalm, it nevertheless points to something and Someone far greater. For in this psalm the sons of Korah point to the Messiah, the One anointed by God to rule on behalf of God. Where all previous kings had failed to live up to the standard of David, the Messiah would exceed that standard and raise the bar completely out of reach. Is it any wonder, then, that the psalmist embraces the theme with excitement and joy (Psa. 45:1)?
This ideal King speaks as a king (Psa. 45:2) and carries Himself as a king (Psa. 45:3a) with the majestic presence of a king (Psa. 45:3b). But more than this, His character avoids all the pitfalls of previous leaders and exceeds even the most virtuous of followers because “truth, humility, and righteousness” are mainstays of His heart (Psa. 45:4a). He guides the people through instruction (Psa. 45:4b) and leads them into battle (Psa. 45:5). He excels in everything required of a leader. But with this leader, there is something different even then. The psalm records, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Psa. 45:6-7). The ideal King is God Himself, ruling from a throne in eternity and ruling on the basis of righteousness rather than political power. He achieved this authority and place from divine appointment because of the character He showed in life. Thus, the ideal King is Jesus, God who became man, who rules based upon righteousness in a kingdom not of this world, having been granted authority from the Father because of the perfection of His life. This was a far different and far greater King than the Jews had imagined, yet they would be the first to enjoy its blessings (Psa. 45:8-16).
Today, we take all of this for granted. But how powerful is the testimony that the Holy Spirit provided centuries before the incarnation! The promise of an ideal Leader was something difficult to grasp in all its grandeur. As a result, the Jews reimagined Him in the image of David and missed the One who was the express image of God (Heb. 1:3). Jesus now rules from a heavenly throne, and righteousness is His standard (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 1:16-17). He welcomes all into His kingdom who submit to righteousness but rejects those who refuse the standard of heaven. He is thus worthy of all honor and praise, as the psalm closes, “I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever” (Psa. 45:17).