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September 30th, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Psalm 119:6 Not Be Put to Shame

Today we look at the sixth verse of the “Aleph” section of Psalm 119. As we look more and more closely we start to see a flow of thought. I will include the first six verses so we can see that flow better:

(1) Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
(2) Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
(3) who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
(4) You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
(5) Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
(6) Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

Shame and guilt are similar yet different. Shame we may think of as the personal feeling we have as a result of incurring real guilt. But shame is complicated. Sometimes we feel shame when we shouldn’t, and sometimes we don’t feel shame when we should.

We may feel shame toward other people. We may feel shame toward God.

If as a child I defy my parents and do something really bad I would and should feel shame, whether or not I am caught. Shame may cause us to avoid confession. Shame may keep us from dealing with real moral guilt. Even when we confess the wrong we have done we feel a level of shame. We feel shame when we have let down people we love and respect and honor. Shame is closely related to embarrassment, but not as selfish. We feel shame when we know we have let someone we love down.

Needless to say that in a moral climate that tries to deny the existence of real moral guilt, shame is almost always an emotion we try to rid people of. But sometimes shame is totally appropriate, and can be dealt with not by avoidance but by confession and forgiveness. The shamed person is in great need of mercy, for shame can come to cover the heart like a black cloud.

The Psalmist in Psalm 119 deeply believes in YHWH the God if Israel, that he is really, and really there, and that he has revealed His will for us in his torah, his precepts, his testimonies, and now in this verse in his commandments.

He has revealed the way of blessedness generally speaking in the first three verses. He affirms directly God’s right to order his ways in verse four. In verse five, knowing his own heart and propensities as he does, he cries out for help in being faithful and steadfast.

He knows that in being diligent and steadfast in keeping YHWH’s torah, he will not be put to shame.

When we know God as a personal being, our Creator and Lord, we know that sin is personal. It is a violation of our Master’s will for us. In violating it we incur real moral guilt, and if we love God with all our heart standing before Him with real guilt will create much shame.

Appropriate shame is a good thing not a bad thing. It is an emotion that can be abused or used by one person over another, but that does not make it bad inherently.

Adam and Eve, after they had sinned against God, hid from him. They knew guilt, fear, and shame.

Guilt and shame are inevitable, even for the most obedient follower of YHWH. We will sin, and if our heart is right, our sin will cause shame, and rather than run and hide we will trust in the Lord Jesus and take our sin and shame straight to Him, as it says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

How often does the simmer turn to passages like Psalm 51 to find comfort in times of sin and shame before the Lord. Praise Him that we have an advocate, and a way back to fellowship and peace before him. Praise God that Jesus carried our shame on the Cross of Calvary.

Let me ask you: would it not be better to have our eyes fixed on God’s commandments and our way kept diligent and steadfast so that we would not be put to shame before Him? I think that God thinks so. I know I think so. Shame before God, though it may end in acknowledgment of His tender mercies, is painful, and can be tormenting as we avoid His presence and try to have our sin and eat it too.

But for the true child of God that evasive game only lasts for a while, and then he or she is back in the place of David in Psalm 38. If you have ever tried to hold out in unrepentant sin you will be able to relate directly to Psalm 38. Eventually the shame and guilt are overwhelming.

Culturally we see that the way to avoid guilt and shame before God is to deny its reality, to ridicule the very idea of it as something from the dark ages. When a person’s conscience is no longer impacted by guilt or shame, they become shameless in their attitude and behavior. The road to perdition is paved in guilt denial.

One of the strongest weapons the Christian has, especially against the enemy of our souls, is a clean conscience. Our accuser will use guilt and shame not to take us to the Lord but away from the Lord, and would render us useless for the kingdom.

No, when we sin we go to God and seek his mercies. But better yet is not to sin! And we are less likely to sin when our gaze is fixed on God’s commandments.

When a person sin they close their Bibles, block out the word that comes to mind, and puts God’s commandments as far away as west is from east. Why?

Because… “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Trying to hide from the searching gaze of the Word is like a child thinking he is hiding because he can’t see you, even though you can see him.

Again, better to keep our gaze upon the Word of God since we cannot really hide from its gaze.

And so, verse six continues the prayer – the cry – of verse five. “Oh that…” How we need our God’s help just to keep our gaze upon His word, so we would keep it, and not be put to shame.

In the end we love God and we want to please Him and do as He desires. And we need Him to help us do that.

Joel

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