In the psalm just read we have a description of a royal wedding. And of course a royal wedding would be quite the affair—impressive any way you might consider it. But we have to learn to see this as a covenant psalm, meaning that it encompasses more than just the royal couple described.
We can see this plainly in that this psalm is quoted in the book of Hebrews, and applied to Christ—”Your throne, Oh, God, is forever.” So we know that the psalm is messianic on the explicit testimony of the New Testament. This means that the ancient royal wedding found its antitype in the royal wedding of Christ and the Church. But the apostle Paul also tells us that every marriage, every union between a man and a woman, is a type of Christ and the Church. But this means, in its turn, that every wedding is a royal wedding.
We may not have thought this explicitly, but we seem to know it implicitly. In the Eastern Church, it is part of the wedding ceremony to provide crowns for the couple, in testimony of this fact. That is not something we do, but consider how we conduct weddings. Our desire to decorate everything, from the hall to the cake, to wear our best clothes, to conduct a formal liturgical ceremony that is both solemn and joyful—all this testifies to our awareness that something significant is going on.
And it is. This is a coronation. “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones” (Prov. 12:4). If a virtuous woman is a crown to a husband, then the moment when he receives that crown must be a coronation.
There are levels to this that are well past our comprehension. It means, among other things, that the Church is the crown of Christ. We, aware of our own sinfulness, are hard pressed to imagine how that could possibly be. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He through His love made us lovely. The white dress that the Church wears at her wedding is all of grace. But the fact that it is grace does not make it impotent. What God imputes in justification He also accomplishes in sanctification, and the ultimate wedding day, the day of consummation, will be a day when the bride is presented to Christ, and the bride will be without spot or wrinkle, or any such blemish.
Michael, you have courted Kathryn, and you have asked for her hand. It has been given to you. Now that you have been given the object of your pursuit, the day has finally come when you may begin your pursuit. Because the courtship is completed, the courtship may now begin.
Throughout the book of Proverbs, men are told to pursue wisdom, and wisdom is presented as a woman. Wisdom is feminine, and must be courted with that in mind. Folly is also feminine, and her seductions and blandishments must be avoided with detestation. Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly are the only two possibilities. Either houses, estates, and cultivated gardens on the one hand, or road houses, brothels, and various other juke joint dives on the other.
Now consider what Proverbs tells you to do.
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” (Prov. 4:7-9).
Just as a virtuous wife is a crown, so wisdom is a crown. And they are both a crown on the same principles—for the same reason. So what it says about wisdom here applies to your treatment of your wife, for the various reasons we have been considering. Exalt her, and she will promote you. Embrace her, and she will bring honor to you. Exalt her and embrace her, and what will she do? She will be an ornament of grace for your head. She will deliver to you a crown of glory. She will be a crown of glory.
I am not talking about a fawning idolatry of her, or a patronizing affection for a “sidekick.” The apostle Peter tells husbands to dwell with their wives with knowledge, honoring them as the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). This command to honor is not a perverse requirement, as though God were requiring us to honor an unreliable, weaker companion who lets us down time after time. It is not that kind of weakness. This is a gospel paradox, not a perverse rejection of integrity. A priceless vase may be a less sturdy container than a Tupperware bin. It may be weaker in that sense, but that is no reason to put the Tupperware bin in a place of honor on the mantle.
To return to our image, a crown is weaker than a king, and yet it is the strength of the crown that is the strength of the king. Therefore the king honors that which is weaker than he is, and he honors it because it is his strength.
And so Kathryn, there is a real mystery here. You are the one who crowns Michael. This means that you make him a king. But you do not make him a king in the way subjects make a king, or in the way territory makes a king. You make him a king the way a crown makes a king.
A king honors the crown, and the crown honors the king. There is a gospel mystery here—our Lord was especially fond of this kind of paradox. He would say things like this: the first will be last and the last first, and that the one that would have the preeminence needed to become the servant of all. This is a comparable situation. You are being given the subordinate place of supreme honor. What kind of sense does that make?
We live in an egalitarian age, an age which sees every form of subordination or submission as a kind of degradation. It is therefore customary for me to think carefully about my use of the word submission in a wedding ceremony—were there any radical feminists who were invited to the wedding and so on? The temptation is to think that radical feminists are the ones who need to have this kind of thing explained to them. But it would be closer to the truth to say that conservative Christians need to hear these things again and again, and it is because we have not lived in accordance with the Scriptures on these issues that we even have radical feminists to begin with.
Kathryn, you are being summoned today to submit to a very great honor. We should all know what it is like to have to submit to a promotion. Men do not just submit to tyrants, muggers, jailers, and so on. We must also submit to glory. As a Christian wife, you are receiving a very great honor—an honor that Michael is called to exalt and embrace. As Caspian had to submit to the honor of being made king, so you are being called to submit to a life of growing in glory, and being the glory of another. It is your glory that it is not your glory. It is his glory that it is not his glory.
If you both grasp at glory, when you look in your hands you will find nothing there. As you both bestow glory on the other, the more you give away, the more you will have. Blessed be the name of our triune God, through whom this sort of thing is made possible. We are made in His image, and because He is this way, we can be this way.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.