The other day this was an entry of a Face Book “Friend.”
Car in front of me had a bumper sticker on it. It read: “Pray for Obama. Psalm 109:8.” When I got home I opened my bible to the scripture and read it and started laughing. Psalm 109:8 –“Let his days be few and brief; [a]nd let others step forward to replace him.” At last–I can voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Let us bow our heads and pray. LOVE IT!!
Not surprised by my friend’s political proclivities, I have heard them before, my concern is the citation of Psalm109. However, and because the application of the Psalm and verse cited is not how I understand the context of the Psalm, I needed to respond.
In the comment section I wrote, “This is an abuse and misuse of Scripture.” Notice there is no comment on the political messaage of the bumper sticker nor of the political persuasion of the author of the Face Book item. My comment reflected only on the inappropriate use of Scripture.
Psalm 109 is a Psalm of David in which he complains bitterly about his adversaries and what they are saying about him.
In the first three verses of the Psalm the situation is set up (this is the New Revised Standard Version):
To the leader. OfDavid. A Psalm.
Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
People are openly hostile to David and fabricating stories about him such as, he was not born in Israel, he is really a Philistine, and they are suggesting that he does not love his country. Further, the fabricator spread the rumor that he is really an idolater or at least someone who is not pure in faith.
In return for my love they accuse me,
even while I make prayer for them.
So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
Now, here is the part that is taken out of context in the aforementioned bumper sticker. It actually begins at verse six. Notice this is what David is telling us what his adversaries are saying about him:
They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand on his right.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
David, in this prayer to God, is ravaged by the angry words used against him. His enemies want his children to be orphaned and his family line to end with him. Further, David tells God his adversaries want his wife and children to be turned out to be beggars on the street.
Could it be that in quoting Psalm 109 verse 8 on the bumper sticker the person advocating the verse’s outcome wants more than political victory; he or she wants the destruction of the President and the end of true representative government. Of course not, but the vitriolic voices behind that bumper sticker worry me.
You may ask, “How do you jump to that conclusion?”
Reaching that conclusion is difficult. First, I know so many likeable people who are openly contempuous of the President and find joy in the interpretation of the Scripture as it is cited on the bumper sticker. They tell me that it is not enough to end the President’s term by voting him out office in 2012 but that they hope some calamity comes to him so he will not even finish his term. None of them threaten anything; they know that is not only improper, it is illegal.
So much of David’s lament could be said by the President. For example, in verse 14 of the Psalm we read of David reporting what his adversaries are saying about him.
[“]May the iniquity of his father be remembered before
and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be before the LORD continually,
and may his memory be cut off from the earth.
For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted to their death.[“]
The reporting of the words used against David come to an end and he continues his lament with the hope that all that evil will be reversed and applied to his accusers and adversaries. Then David remembers that God rewards faithfulness with faithfulness. David sings,
But you, O LORD my Lord,
act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is pierced within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.
On reading those verses I think more of Jesus than I do of David or the President. Jesus is the one who is poor and needy and whose heart is pierced within him. Jesus is the one who is put aside daily, even by those who claim to be his disciples. Jesus is the one who is suffering and who is put to scorn. Every time people wish harm or falsely accuse another, or misuse and abuse the Scriptures I think of Jesus being crucified again and again. The love manifested in his sacrifice of his own being is reduced to bumper sticker slogans and political rant.
Instead of using Psalm 109:8 as a prayer verse as the bumper sticker writer’s story suggests, we should look to David for more appropriate prayer verses.
In the balance of Psalm 109 David sees God as the source of truth. The rumors and the curses flung about to undermine the elected leadership of the people (or in David’s case ordained by God) cannot be truth; they are not of God.
Help me, O LORD my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O LORD, have done it.
Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame; may your servant be glad.
May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who would condemn them to death.
I do not know how our President prays, or even if he does, but I will offer David’s prayer for him instead of putting a hateful bumper sticker citing some obscure verse from the Psalms on my car.