The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


Praise Messiah

Seeing our special someone in the lyrics.

by Russell Rathbun

Psalm Reading:  Psalm 45

For Sunday, Sept. 2 , 2012—Ordinary 22

How helpful is it to believe in a story which perpetually promises that God will make everything better in the future?

Sing it, Boys!

Hey, we have another great hit by the Sons of Korah; this one is a love song, written for the royal wedding of a certain King of Israel and his bride from Tyre. Sing it, boys.

Or maybe it is not written for an actual king. There is much debate about whether this is a occasional praise song for a specific king or if this is a metaphorical king, but as with any good pop song lyrics, they can sound like they’re talking about anyone or more specifically our special someone.

Messianic Psalm?

The writer of Hebrews quotes the Psalm in the first chapter, applying the lyrics to Jesus. In the opening of the letter the author constructs an argument as to why Jesus is greater than the angels and is actually the Son of God.

Many Biblical interpreters have taken their cue from the epistle quote and read Psalm 45, itself, as a messianic hymn. Verses 6 and 7 are often referenced to make the case, “Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever. Your royal sceptre is a sceptre of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you.”

It does sound like the author is praising a God-like king. Maybe I get that impression from the writer referring to the king as God!

Handsome Stranger

While it is common among other ancient peoples to deify their kings; it is unheard of in the Hebrew Bible. This has led some rabbis in the history of interpretation to also read this as a messianic Psalm.

From either a Christian perspective reading Jesus back into the Psalm or rabbis seeing it as praise for a future messiah, the sentiment is the same—an anointed one who is powerful and just, not to mention very handsome, will come in the future to establish his rule and make everything all right.

The messianic hope for Israel envisioned a savior that would establish justice and return restore the nation. The Christian claims that the savior has already come to redeem the world, but that he will come back to really establish justice and redeem the world completely.

The Hardest Question

Messianic hope always leaves me a little with a little pause. Maybe it is the hardest pause.

From an outside perspective, one might ask, if Christians believe that the savior will come and redeem the world, but also that the savior already came once, why didn’t he redeem the world then? How helpful is it to believe in a story that always promises that God will make everything better in the future?

I prefer a faith story that tells me about transformation right now.

Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.


  1. Sarah Weisiger says:

    So I am reading your thoughts here and it occurs to me as I read the other (omitted) lectionary bits from this week, isn’t it the case that our “bright hope for tomorrow” is linked to how we are in the now? Sure, Christians tend to speak more easily about the “joy that will come in the morning,” but Scripture is also a great deal about the path we are treading now. I guess where I am going with this is the observation that the “transformation” you are interested in isn’t apart from future redemption–it is the way we get there. I like this passage with James, and his exhortation to put some meat behind our declamations of faith.

  2. Aaron Miller says:

    Great question really got me thinking! If this is a question of redemption then I guess we must ask what “redemption” is. As you stated in your comparison of Israel’s messiah and the Christian Messiah these can be different. Is it the hope that we will have blue skies, nothing bad will happen, that our lives will be filled with…I don’t know… happiness? Or is redemption something spiritual like the salvation of our souls… connection with God and the “joy” that we are supposed to feel from that? I admit that I would like the two to be connected because while I feel peace and “joy” because of spiritual salvation…life is hard sometimes and I want some good things or redemption to happen now. I like to think that the hope of physical redemption and the knowledge of spiritual redemption do in fact effect the now… daily life can be noisy at times and I forget this but I believe it to be true all the same.

How do you read?