Psalms

There are a myriad of references to shame in the Psalms and it would take too long to examine these here. However, one theme which we have not addressed in biblical references is that of being seen as shameful by God. Shame in our own eyes, shame in the eyes of our community have been recurring themes, but ‘shamed by God’ has not. Robin Stockitt points to references in the Psalms that show that biblical writers can define shame in terms of divine abandonment. He provides some examples:

Psalm 89: “‘You have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one. You have renounced the covenant with your servant and have defiled (shamed) his crown in the dust. … You have cut short the days of his youth, you have covered him with a mantle of shame.” (Ps. 89:38f,45). The king was not guilty or lacking in obedience. “The king had placed his trust in YHWH but had appeared foolish. It looked as if his trust had been misplaced. As Bechtel puts it, ‘both the violation of trust and the reversal of expectation caused shame.'” (Stockitt: pp114-115.)

Psalm 25: 1-3: ‘To you O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I have trust, let me not be shamed.” In this and other Psalms the psalmist explicitly and publicly puts “his trust in YHWH, therby exposing him to the risk of being taunted or mocked by others less devout than himself. He therefore cries to the Lord that he would not suffer humiliation and shame in the eyes of his adversaries.” (Stockitt: p115.)

Psalm 35: 4, 26: “The corollary of this is that the one who has been shamed asks that the Lord would vindicate his faith by shaming his opponents … Here God is the subject of the act of shaming, suggesting that God’s shaming is connected to both his judgement and to a sense of disclosure. By shaming the opponents of the Psalmist, God is making plain their deceit and hypocrisy for all to see. The psalmist is not so much demanding revenge but that the falsehood of his enemies be recognised as falsehood. God’s active role in shaming can be seen also in the NT where the same collection of meanings is evident. … [see 1 Cor.1:27]. Here God is seen to be exposing the false wisdom and strength of those who do not know him. He is judging the hardness of their hearts by shaming them.” (Stockitt: p115.)

He comments finally that “shame in the biblical material does not have the primary meaning of private individual embarrassment that it has come to mean in the present day. Rather, shame has the sense of being in a place or location where there is a loss of honour, recognition and dignity. It is experienced in the public domain, it is corporate in its mechanisms and it is potentially devastating in its consequences.” He too sees shame as having a capacity to destroy our very being. (Stockitt: p115.)

References:

Please see the bibliography on this site.

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