Rev. Spriensma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
This might seem like the line for an employee let go from his job in our depressed economy, or for a lawyer whose case got thrown out of court. But rather this is the recent story reported in Timemagazine (Jan. 5, 2009) of President Bush when he went to Bagdad. Unlike the time when, in 2003, elated Iraqis in Firdos Square rained their loafers and boots on a fallen statue of Saddam Hussein, now it was President George W. Bush who had to duck flying footwear at a 2008 Bagdad press conference in the last official visit of his term.
Time magazine author Boby Ghosh writes, “In many Eastern cultures, hurling a shoe at someone is a grave insult. Iraqi TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi’s decision to fling his size 10 shoe made him an instant hero to many, although some noted that it broke Arab rules of hospitality, not to mention the journalist’s code of objectivity. But the sentiment behind the shoe leather was widely shared: Iraq may have more of a future now than it did under Saddam, but Iraqis are never going to be grateful for having been invaded.” At home, the pelting of the President led to more merriment than anger. This was the plight of his Administration in its final days: unpopular at home and unloved even by those for whom it expended American blood and treasure to free from tyranny. We might say that our past President got the boot in more ways than one.
In Newsweek magazine this past week, Dhiaa al-Saadi, lawyer for Muntazer al-Zaidi, is quoted as asking the court, “Have you ever heard of anyone being killed by a shoe?” The lawyer was arguing that al-Zaidi should face the lighter charge of insulting a visiting head of state, which comes with a maximum two-year jail sentence, rather than assault against a foreign head of state, which could result in fifteen years.
I want to comment on that question: “Have you heard of anyone being killed by a shoe?”
We read twice in the Psalms of the throwing or casting of the shoe (Psalm 60 and Psalm 108), and each time that the Psalm in question would be read, members of our family would break out in giggles over the phrase. What did the psalmist have in mind? Psalm 60 is a Psalm of complaint. Has the Lord cast His people off? The Lord had shown His people hard things, and caused them to drink the wine of astonishment! It is a prayer that the Lord would turn again to His people to deliver them. And in answer to the complaint, the Lord declares that He is jealous for His people and faithful to them. He will deliver and save them and crush His and their enemies. The Psalm ends with the cry of God’s people, “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.” Psalm 108 is a song of confidence. The psalmist’s heart is fixed (full of trust and confidence in his God). The psalmist will sing and give praise to God among his own people and among the nations for God’s mercy. The psalmist has this confidence because his God has spoken and His Word is unbroken! His people will be delivered and His enemies will be broken. God has not cast off His people but goes forth with His people. God is their help. Again God’s people sing, “Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.”
The shoe is a symbol of legal possession. It is an object of treading down and oppressing; it signifies metaphorically that a man is weak and incapable of defending himself against oppression. In the case of an Iraqi reporter throwing a shoe at our President, it is a gesture of hatred and contempt, but really an empty gesture. No, I have not heard of a shoe killing a person. But now let us go to God’s declaration, “over Edom will I cast out my shoe.” This is not an empty phrase. The Edomites were the descendants of reprobate Esau. They hated and despised God’s people, seeking their destruction. God has not cast off His people, but in His faithfulness and great mercy God says that their enemies shall become His slaves and that they are fallen under His feet. “I will walk through Edom and subdue it.” Not empty words. God through His anointed King David completely subjected the Edomites.
“God has spoken in his holiness” (Ps. 60:7). This forever precludes the possibility of His failing to fulfill his Word. We can rely upon it. God’s Word is as good as His oath. David’s victory over the Edomites, in which twenty thousand fell, is a type of the victory of Christ, God’s anointed, over all His and the church’s enemies. They may rant and threaten and hurt, but God says in his holiness, “Over Edom will I cast my shoe.” And this is no harmless threat. “Have you ever heard of anyone being killed by a shoe?” Yes, with confidence we can say of all God’s and our enemies, “they got the boot.” That trampling of His enemies took place at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the perfection of this will take place when Jesus Christ comes again in glory and judges all the inhabitants of the land, and says to His and our enemies, “Depart ye workers of iniquity” (Matt. 7:23). “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
The times that we live in look dark. God’s enemies oppress His church and try to silence her. Wickedness abounds. But we will not despair, but will sing a song. A song of confidence. As the devil got the boot out of heaven, so all those who are the enemies of God and His church will get the boot.