I Address My Verses to the King – Psalm 45:1

I Address My Verses to the King - Psalm 45:1

All believers have an impulse to address their distress and exhilaration to God, their maker, sustainer, redeemer, life-giver, afflicter, comforter, succor, and eternal home. Both the Psalms and the prophets are filled with these kinds of approaches to the triune God.

In considering the use of a perverse and evil people as an instrument of holy justice, Habakkuk addressed God with a reminder of His character and the apparent incongruity between His plan and His person: “Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?… You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why… are you silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”

The Psalmist, less perplexed and more settled on the unchangeable lovingkindness of God, says “Your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (57:10) and again, in light of crushing providences, “You have made your people see hard things” (60:3). But even in the midst of the astonishing and ineffable unity of God as the effective determiner of both these kinds of experiences, His people issue the as yet unquenched cry, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (63:1). In that same spirit, Augustine’s Confessions (AD 398) is a thirteen book address with God as the audience in an effort to unpack the inexhaustible assertion, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

Anselm (1033-1109) addressed himself in preparation for setting himself in front of God to address Him. “Now then little man, for a short while fly from your business… Make a little time for God, and rest for a while in Him. Enter into the chamber of your mind, shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek Him, and when you have shut the door, seek Him. Speak now, O my whole heart, speak now to God.” In that speaking to God, Anselm delivered the ontological argument for God’s infinitely excellent Being, in three parts: “Now we believe that thou are a being than which none greater can be thought.” As the second element of this prayerful philosophy, Anselm confessed, “Therefore thou are just, truthful, blessed, and whatever it is better to be than not to be.” The third stage of Being Anselm confessed to God as “And so, O Lord, thou art not simply that than which a greater cannot be thought; rather, thou art something greater than can be thought.”

As we contemplate the God under whose providence we live, and from whose grace we have received salvation, and before whose glory we shall be transformed, perhaps we should take time, like the company of worshippers in Revelation 4, 5, 15, 16, 19, to address Him with reverent and chastened honesty about the meagerness of our understanding, the hopes of our increased perceptions of and joyful conformity to His perfections, and submissive awe-inspired worship as we recite all we know of His holy purpose and character. I share with you one of my own attempts at going aside to address the Savior in His person and work:

Jesus, all God is thou art, unchanging truth and righteousness,
Word of God who cannot lie, true Hope that scatters sin’s distress.
Nothing is you have not made, and nothing stands without your will.
Pow’r eternal, view our dust, and though we fade renew us still.

Jesus, all man is thou art, of David’s flesh and Israel’s kin,
Born of woman, Son of Man, like us except the flaw of sin.
In your state of condescension all our struggles you have known,
As a servant, as forsaken, yet for joy now at God’s throne.

Jesus, all man needs thou art—a righteous one, no end of days,
God now seen, glory beheld, yet fire that turns away our gaze.
Peerless wisdom! Through your blood God struck your soul with no restraint.
Love undying, slay our death; uphold us so we will not faint.

Jesus, all that God requires flows from thy passion through God’s love.
Wrath avenged, now reconciled both things below and things above.
He now gives us gifts through thee, those blessings rich with heaven’s smell.
Through thee captives are set free, for you have crushed the gates of hell.

Jesus, can a sinner trace the lines of mercy through God’s wrath?
In seeking and expressing grace, alone you walked the death-filled path.
Jesus, now at God’s right hand, your pleas for us know no restraint.
Come with glory, claim your band of sinners now made glorious saints.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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