President Barack Obama has grayer hair than he used to have. I was watching his speech at the memorial service of the Tuscon, Arizona shooting with my temporary roommates and we all remarked on it. It would be interesting to watch the transformation by watching all of his weekly addresses sequentially in fast forward.
This speech, however, caught my attention in a certain way. I know most presidents reference God in their speeches, pray, and say “God bless America.” President Obama has been no different, but today he seemed much more forward about it. Not only was he liberal in his mentions toward God, but it seemed a large portion of the speech was devoted to preaching the second greatest commandment, summarized as “love people.” My favorite quote from today was this:
“We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved – and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.”
None of the worldly pleasures matter, just love. Let me quote that again, “what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved”.
Two passages from the Old Testament were also quoted, one from Psalm 46 and another from Job 30.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”
– Psalm 46:4 & 5
I found this to be a very odd and enigmatic Scripture choice. It is rather esoteric. Because of that I decided to do a little digging, so I read the entire Psalm: God is our safety in hard times, and there will be bad times, but we need not be afraid. God is with us. Take note, He is in control.
I’m not a biblical scholar, but through a brief exploration of some study resources I was able to understand these two verses more. Through trying and difficult times God’s grace is still with His people. He is with them and will not leave.
The mere fact that this passage is poetic and not direct seems to imply more than a shallow understanding and usage of Scripture. President Obama and his script writers could easily have used the more blunt verse one, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Instead they chose depth. Perhaps they were also choosing something that wouldn’t seem so insensitive to those who only days ago lost loved ones, but I’m sure there are many other sensitive and more widely known passages that would have fit. Instead, there is one that sounds like his audience knows the Bible well. And for those who don’t, it makes you look a little further, explore a little more. I like that.
And so while the president is quoting scripture to us, maybe I will quote to him in return, in hope that it becomes true of him.
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”
– Proverbs 16:31