A slogan has recently become popularized by many in the world of “Christendom,” no doubt from conservative Evangelicals: “Pray for Obama. Psalm 109:8.” Many have re-posted this statement or have spoken approvingly of this statement– even some within the church.
This is a dangerous trend for many reasons. Regardless of your opinion of President Obama and his policies, we have no right supporting this statement or the insinuations of this statement based in its context.
This is the verse in question:
Let his days be few; And let another take his office (Psalm 109:8).
To many, this seems like a harmless statement indicating disapproval: they do not like Obama, and they would like to see him lose in the next election.
But this statement is anything but harmless, especially when considered in context. This is the full context of that verse:
Set thou a wicked man over him; And let an adversary stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him come forth guilty; And let his prayer be turned into sin. Let his days be few; And let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow. Let his children be vagabonds, and beg; And let them seek their bread out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; And let strangers make spoil of his labor. Let there be none to extend kindness unto him; Neither let there be any to have pity on his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; In the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; And let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the LORD continually, That he may cut off the memory of them from the earth (Psalm 109:6-15).
This psalm is an imprecatory psalm of David in which David petitions God for the destruction, desolation, and death of the wicked and deceitful people who have conspired against him. The Apostle Peter teaches us that this is also a prophecy of Judas Iscariot, his wicked deeds, and his end, and serves as the justification for casting lots to fill the position of Apostle that he vacated (cf. Acts 1:15-26).
Therefore, in context, Psalm 109:8 refers to a ruler who is “wicked” and who deserves to be killed and made desolate for what he has done. The call goes out in verse 9 to let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
There is no sense in trying to argue the relative “righteousness” or “wickedness” of Obama or his predecessors since so many believers seem to be content to justify the actions of the presidents on “their” side and excoriate the presidents on the “other” side– it should be enough to note that all of our presidents have had their strengths and weaknesses, moments of success and failure, and are sinful men like the rest of us (Romans 3:23).
Yet regardless of how you feel about Obama, there is never any justification for making any sort of appeal that could be interpreted to demand or desire his death. There is no Biblical way to associate such an attitude with the clear demands of the Christian toward the governing authorities:
Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God…Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1, 7).
Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:13-17).
We cannot respect and honor authority figures and at the same time cite Bible verses that, in context, demand their execution and desecration. There have already been enough threats against the life of our President, and Christians have no business fanning that flame, however consciously or unconsciously they do so.
I hasten to add that this is not a “liberal” issue or a “conservative” issue. It would have been just as wrong and inappropriate to have said in 2001-2009, “Pray for Bush. Psalm 109:8.” It is never appropriate to connect any ruler of our people with this passage!
It is appropriate and necessary to pray for Obama, but that is based in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, not Psalm 109:8:
I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
President Barack Obama is our lawfully elected ruler, and whether we like it or not, we must respect him and his office, just as Bush deserved respect along with his office in the past. As Christians, we ought not say anything that can be interpreted as encouraging or approving the death of our ruler. Our focus should instead be on how to promote the Gospel and to further the Kingdom in the midst of these difficult times for our country!