Jesus Creed

PrayforOb.jpgI have been paying some attention to the bumper sticker, sound-byte that says “Pray for Obama” with a Bible verse attached: Psalm 109:8.

It’s a long Psalm, and most who read this on the back of someone’s car won’t know what Psalm 109 means, and many will think the person is simply a Christian who wants to have others pray for our President. But, a look at that Psalm creates a brooding if not depressing mood of something at work that deserves our concern. (After the jump I post the whole Psalm.)
The psalm is an imprecatory psalm, one of those psalms in our Bible that emerge from the depths of human misery and the cry to God for justice. Yes, these prayers pray for the defeat of one’s enemies. But there’s something in this psalm that makes me shudder what these Christians are suggesting:

Psalm 109 is addressed to God about the enemies of David. In other words, it is about those who despise the work of God through King David. It is about those who oppose King David, God’s anointed leader of Israel (who had his own faults, not the least of which were pride, a messy family life, adultery and murder). David turns to God to tell God what he feels.

David says his enemies return hate for love (his love for them). Are those “praying for Obama” also loving Obama (their apparent enemy)?
Then what is implicit in this sad bumper sticker is that v. 8 is applied to Obama: “May his days be few! May another take his job!” The verses are surrounded by even worse imprecations about family and that his wife might be widow. 
Here’s the sad and tragic irony: interpreters today (Goldingay, Alter) agree that vv. 6-19 are the words of the opponents, the accusers, the enemies of God’s king (David) and not the words of the man of God! I have italicized those words. In other words, these folks have clipped — probably reading the psalm mistakenly — words from the opponents of God and used for themselves.
It is probably the case that many see this bumper sticker, open the Bible to Psalm 109 and either shout “Yes!” or should “How awful!” but I wonder how many have read the Psalm carefully enough to see what it really said. If they do, they may discover they have aligned themselves with those who oppose God.
May God in his grace be merciful to each of us.

109:1 O God whom I praise, do not ignore me!

109:2 For they say cruel and deceptive things to me;

they lie to me.

109:3 They surround me and say hateful things;

they attack me for no reason.

109:4 They repay my love with accusations,

but I continue to pray.

109:5 They repay me evil for good,

and hate for love.

109:6 Appoint an evil man to testify against him!

May an accuser stand at his right side!

109:7 When he is judged, he will be found guilty!

Then his prayer will be regarded as sinful.

109:8 May his days be few!

May another take his job!

109:9 May his children be fatherless,

and his wife a widow!

109:10 May his children roam around begging,

asking for handouts as they leave their ruined home!

109:11 May the creditor seize all he owns!

May strangers loot his property!

109:12 May no one show him kindness!

May no one have compassion on his fatherless children!

109:13 May his descendants be cut off!

May the memory of them be wiped out by the time the next generation arrives!

109:14 May his ancestors’ sins be remembered by the Lord!

May his mother’s sin not be forgotten!

109:15 May the Lord be constantly aware of them,

and cut off the memory of his children from the earth!

109:16 For he never bothered to show kindness;

he harassed the oppressed and needy,

and killed the disheartened.

109:17 He loved to curse others, so those curses have come upon him.

He had no desire to b
less anyone, so he has experienced no blessings.

109:18 He made cursing a way of life,

so curses poured into his stomach like water

and seeped into his bones like oil.

109:19 May a curse attach itself to him, like a garment one puts on,

or a belt one wears continually!

109:20 May the Lord repay my accusers in this way,

those who say evil things about me!

109:21 O sovereign Lord,

intervene on my behalf for the sake of your reputation!

Because your loyal love is good, deliver me!

109:22 For I am oppressed and needy,

and my heart beats violently within me.

109:23 I am fading away like a shadow at the end of the day;

I am shaken off like a locust.

109:24 I am so starved my knees shake;

I have turned into skin and bones.

109:25 I am disdained by them.

When they see me, they shake their heads.

109:26 Help me, O Lord my God!

Because you are faithful to me, deliver me!

109:27 Then they will realize this is your work,

and that you, Lord, have accomplished it.

109:28 They curse, but you will bless.

When they attack, they will be humiliated,

but your servant will rejoice.

109:29 My accusers will be covered with shame,

and draped in humiliation as if it were a robe.

109:30 I will thank the Lord profusely,

in the middle of a crowd I will praise him,

109:31 because he stands at the right hand of the needy,

to deliver him from those who threaten his life.

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