May His Days Be Few

or Timeless Truth is a Tree


“Let his days be few, and let another take his office.” Psalm 109:8

The imprecatory Psalms seem to contradict the instruction of Christ to love our enemies. Ben Myers recently noted a campaign to pray for President Obama, to pray Psalm 109:8, that is:

Apparently some Southern Baptist pastors have been using Psalm 109:8 as a prayer for Obama’s death: “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” This even inspired a line of creepy bumper stickers and T-shirts that read “Pray for Obama.”

 One of these pastors says: “You’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children, and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things. Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.”

I replied:

Yes, these guys are nuts, but…

Modern Christians fail to understand the need for imprecatory prayer. When leaders do evil, praying for God’s judgment is what we are called to do. That is our ministry. We are Spirit-filled elders with access to the true throneroom. When we pray, in unity, it changes history. 

We are to obey those in power, and we are also to leave vengeance to God. Praying for judgment upon a leader with bloodlust of any kind (whether murdering civilians overseas or slaughtering the unborn) is godly ministry. Bombing abortion clinics is not. 

These bumper sticker guys, despite the gimmick, and the attitude Hauerwas describes, are correct. But what action would Hauerwas advocate? To withhold such judgment is to hand your culture over to Satan. Biblically, there is such a thing as good death. It is a judicial death to be carried out by the state. [1]

When you actually read the offending psalm, it seems like these politically incorrect gents picked the least offensive verse. Its context appears to make matters even worse.

One commenter quoted Scot McKnight with a possible resolution:

“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! … In other words, these folks have clipped — probably reading the psalm mistakenly — words from the opponents of God and used for themselves.”

This is a possibility. The accusers are plural, yet the curses are invoked upon a single man. Moreover, they are Covenant curses for crimes against God’s Law. We know David did not commit these crimes. Like Satan the arch accuser, like Job’s accusers, and like those who accused Jesus, the crimes for which they invoke the curses are slanderous lies.

But even this theory backfires against those who doubt the lawfulness of imprecatory prayer, for after recounting the curses, David says:

“Let this be the Lord’s reward to my accusers, and to those who speak evil against my person.”

David might not have been the one who spoke the curses, but he did ask that these same curses would fall upon his accusers. This is exactly what happened to Jesus’ accusers. The Covenant curses fell and they were wiped off the face of the earth. The great Accuser was thrown down “like lightning” and replaced with the Advocate.

“I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth;
Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.
For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor,
To save him from those who condemn him.

So, after some thought, it seems like both sides might have this psalm wrong. It is not a psalm about vengeance but about vindication. Just as Paul waited for the Day of the Lord in AD70 to reveal who were the true “sons of God” (ie. the Christians or the Jews/Judaisers), David waited for the Lord’s judgment to reveal his innocence. We know that he was vindicated against his enemies. Even the ones he failed to destroy were eliminated wisely and efficiently by his Covenant-successor, Solomon.

But then, what are we to do with this song?

The best conclusion might be that, like all of the Old Testament, application takes wisdom. Not all of the Bible is “timeless.” Much of it actually is contextual. That sort of “Greek” thinking leads not only to this wooden quoting of single verses to put on T-shirts and bumper stickers, but to things like the Jews’ manufactured Oral Law or the idolising of creeds and traditions. It leaves no room for growth. James Jordan writes:

“The Jews and the Circumcision rightly said that God had given the Law and that the old arrangement was good. That’s true: It was good as long as we were children. But now we must move on toward adulthood. This movement into the future was what is rejected by the Jews and the Circumcision. For them, all time was the same, and there is no progress in history. They had become philosophers, treating the Law as a timeless ideal instead of as rules for children in their home.

This is how all paganism thinks. For them, time and change are evils. The writings of Mircea Eliade explore this hostility to time in depth. The pagan will admit to eternal cycles, but not to any real progress or maturation in history and biography. It is for this reason that pagans never grow up. They never progress beyond childhood and adolescence. Any missionary will tell you this, that the heathen are just like children. Greek philosophy and literature also never progresses beyond adolescence and Homer’s two great poems are about adolescents. Stuck in the time before marriage, the Greeks became homosexuals. Because this hostility to God’s plan is part of our sinful nature, we find that the Church repeatedly falls into the same way of thinking…

While it is true that a major sin is to cling to the past, to the old way, and not embrace the new birth and the new marriage, it is also possible to move into a new future that is a false future. Think of adolescence. Our very bodies impel us toward a new relationship with a member of the opposite sex. It is possible to enter a sinful future by having sex without marrying first, to seize forbidden fruit. It is possible to leave home in a rebellious way.

We see this phenomenon in a very striking way in the New Testament history. The fact is that what we call the Old Testament was not complete, for the completion awaited the New Testament writings. In the Restoration era, the Jews became wonderfully enamoured with the Bible and studied it constantly. At some deep level of their psyche they became conscious that it was incomplete. But then they jumped the gun and created their own new testament, their own completion of the Bible. This was the demonic Oral Law tradition that Jesus fought, which was eventually written down as the Mishnah and is commented upon in the Talmuds. Thus, they were impelled forward, but they refused to remain patient.

This false future was really no future at all. The Oral Law is not a new kingdom, but a perversion of the old. The Law of God was taken as timeless truths, as an Ideal, on the model of Greek philosophy, and then turned in upon itself to generate new laws in order to create a perfect, static timeless order, a Jewish version of Plato’s Republic and Laws. Thus, the Oral Law provided nothing new at all, but rather reflected a complete rejection of time and history.” [2]

The Bible is anchored in history for a people growing from childhood to maturity. New situations and applications arise to make us use our noggins (as the Jews were forced to do after the exile). But the Bible also makes clear what is obsolete and what is not, like any good parent. The Covenant under which David lived is not the New Covenant, although the latter grew out of the former. The New Covenant, like the Restoration Covenant, calls for greater maturity than its predecessor. Things aren’t quite as cut-and-dried once we are out of school; there’s no longer any truant officer to harass us if we don’t attend lectures.

However, this factor certainly leaves the Scriptures open to abuse from both sides, not just the hardliners. Both sides use isolated Bible verses as simplistic slogans. For the fuzzy-thinking liberal theologian, the gradual revelation of truth is a handy excuse to make “obsolete” the very delineations and categories inherent in the created order (ie. male and female)– the ones that offend their modern sensibilities, anyway. That is not honest exegesis. [3] It is not wisdom, either. They invoke the Covenant curses upon themselves, twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction. Being a biblical Covenant, even the New Covenant has both blessings and curses. This has more to do with those within the church than those without.

Timeless truth is a tree. The trunk is not the branch is not the fruit, yet they are all parts of the whole. President Obama is not the king of Israel, nor his accuser, but just as the Jews were priests within Ezekiel’s Jew-Gentile Temple, Christians are a royal priesthood in a New Jerusalem that is gradually conquering the world. When a Gentile empire turned bad, God eventually replaced it. We live in a situation that is similar and yet even wider in its scope. Our “oikoumene” is global. Governing it by prayer requires the wisdom found only in Christ. We no longer have to draw lots. We have the Spirit of God.

Any leader who rejects the lordship of Christ (by his actions and policies) is an enemy of Christ and His people. This is the reign of Christ and we are required to pray for those whom He has put in government. We blindly follow neither the sycophants of the left or the right. Our goal is the vindication of Jesus Christ and His gospel. If this means asking God to bring the slanderous curses of unrepentant murderers down upon their own heads, so be it. God’s judgment is exactly that—a judgment. He chooses between the goats with wisdom beyond our understanding. It is God’s call. Jacob’s Pharaoh was converted. Moses’ Pharaoh was hardened. In both cases, the people of God were vindicated. [4]

If the slanderers repent, we sing with the angels and welcome them into the holy city. If they harden their hearts, we also sing. We sing like the firstfruits church sang over the destruction of the Jezebel-city who twice let the blood of innocents run freely in her streets.

So, pray for President Obama with the wisdom of greater Solomon, Christ. Pray that both His love and His truth would be vindicated.


[1] See Good Death – 7 and Dashing Her Little Ones.
[2] Excerpts from James B. Jordan, From Bread to Wine, Toward a More Biblical Liturgical Theology. Booklet available from
[3] See Timeless Truths?
[4] We could also mention the contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Also, the book of Esther contains one of my favourite examples of God’s people praying for a leader.

Share Button

3 Responses to “May His Days Be Few”