I had asked John and Hope if there was anything in particular they wanted me to talk on for the homily, and when John wrote me back earlier this week he said (and I quote) “feel free to just wing it on the homily.” Which after some consideration, I decided not to do, but which I do consider a pretty open invitation. So I thought I would pick what some might consider the most offensive verse from your scripture reading.
This is Psalm 45:11: “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.”
Psalm 45 is a wedding song, a wedding poem. In addition to all the other signs of antiquity: swords and sharp arrows dripping with blood, and garments woven with gold, perfumed with myrrh and aloes and cassia, the poem descends into what many moderns feel is another artifact of the past: stereotypes of men and women: he will desire your beauty, and he is your lord, worship him.
Now, let us be clear at the outset that there are plenty of ways to get this wrong. Just because you hold that two plus two is four does not mean that you approve of all the kids in the class who wrote two plus two equals five or six or even three. Just because you’re doing the same math problem as them, doesn’t mean you agree with their wrong answers. Just because you believe that a woman is created by God to be beautiful, and a man was created to be strong doesn’t mean you agree with all the wrong ways people do the math. That doesn’t follow at all.
But we can dispatch with a couple of the more common wrong answers quickly, and so we might as well. First off, to say that woman’s glory is her beauty is not to objectify a woman or turn her into merely something to look at. This is because the Bible is equally clear that a woman’s beauty begins on the inside. 1 Peter 3 says that a wife’s adorning is to not primarily be on the outside but first and foremost on the inside: the hidden man of the heart, which is not corruptible, the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price (1 Pet. 3:4). In the surrounding context, we learn that this inner beauty is full of courage, wisdom, and fearlessness. But we are not Gnostics either. We do not believe that God created these bodies as mere bags of skin and water in order to carry our brains around in them. The Bible teaches that a woman’s body is part of her beauty. Her long hair is for a glory and a covering. A husband is to delight continually in his wife, particularly her breasts, and if you’ve ever read the Song of Solomon, there’s plenty more, but this is a family event.
So when a godly man desires a godly woman’s beauty, he desires that uncorruptible inner beauty that trusts in the Lord and is wise, courageous, and fearless, all of which overflows in an beautifully adorned life. And by God’s design this is a godly woman’s power. We do not deny that God created women for power and authority and rule. We only deny that the world’s way of empowering women does anything of the sort. The Bible teaches that a woman rules from her home, from the dinner table, from the marriage bed in obedience to her God.
But what the world cannot understand is how that power can exist, or perhaps we ought to say co-exist, just to make them mad. They cannot understand or refuse to understand how that kind of feminine power can co-exist with a masculine power and authority that plays with swords and arrows and goes into battle and rules with strength his entire life, including his home, his family, and yes, even his wife.
Again, we can quickly dispatch with wrong answers: to say that a man is lord of his home and lord of his wife does not mean that he is the absolute dictator of his home or wife, like our Federal government currently thinks it is. We believe in delegated and limited authority in every area of life because we believe that no mere human being can be trusted with absolute authority. The only human being we ascribe all authority and power to is Jesus Christ, and that is because He is fully God and fully man. He is perfect and holy and just and good. No other man (or woman) is perfect, and therefore, no other man or woman can be trusted with absolute authority and power.
But this does not mean that you can somehow escape having authority and hierarchy in this world. The communist fantasy of the abolishment of authority is just that: a fantasy, a myth, and every serious attempt to establish that socialist utopia has resulted in some people with all the power crushing those they claimed they were setting free. So rather than lying about such things, the Bible simple lays out the limits. A husband has true authority in his home and over his wife, but it is limited by God’s word. And it is specifically limited by the model of Christ. The husband’s authority is only for loving his wife like Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for her. A husband is lord as he dies to himself and leads his wife to become more holy. A husband is lord as he provides for the material and spiritual needs of his wife and her children and protects them in the process. This is true lordship, but it is a bloody lordship, a sacrificial lordship. It is not always what his wife wants or thinks she needs, but it is truly for her good, for her flourishing, for her fruitfulness and blessing because it is under the jealous oversight of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is watching closely how His servant lords lead and love His beloved daughters.
Hope, my charge to you is to become even more of what you are today: lovely. First and foremost, pursue the kind of beauty that can never be taken away from you, the kind of beauty that never fades, the beauty that comes from knowing Christ. Rest in Christ and fear no man. Rest in Christ and serve your man, your husband, your family with courage and wisdom. Adorn your life, your home, your bed, your body with that beauty. It is your glory and power, and your husband greatly desires it. He is your lord: honor him, respect him greatly. But do not forget that you are a daughter of the King, and so do it all with great joy, great dignity. You are a lady of the realm.
John, my charge to you is to gird your sword upon your thigh and so become even more of what you are today: strong. In Psalm 19 it says that all of creation proclaims the glory of God, and it’s like a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing as a strong man to run a race. The metaphors are all piled on top of each other, but part of the image is the joyful strength of a bridegroom. It has taken strength to get to this point, and God is blessing you today with a wife. You have run hard, and you have won this part of the race. You have won Hope. But first and foremost, you must pursue the kind of strength that can never be taken away from you, the kind of strength that never fades, the strength that comes from knowing Christ. Christ was strong for you in dying for your sins, so that you might lay your life down for Hope. Remember that Christ conquered by taking responsibility for sins he did not commit in order to set us free. So too, you are being called today to take responsibility for Hope in order to set her free. You are being crowned today. You are becoming a lord today, but remember that you must be a lord who bleeds, a lord who sacrifices, a lord who imitates Our Lord Jesus, who died to make His bride whole.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.