Trust and shame
I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,
Nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,
But shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
- Psalm 25:2-3
In the psalms we discover expressions of trust linked with cries for deliverance. God’s people trust him and at the same time face opposition, hardship, and enemies. In today’s passage, David affirms his trust in the Lord and makes a passionate request for protection from shame.
David lived in a shame/honor culture. Jackson Wu says honor-shame cultures orient around four key ideas: people, praise, power and practicality. We see these four elements of honor and shame playing out in this passage, starting with “people.”
For David, trusting God had more to do with their relationship than with an affirmation of abstract ideas (“people”). David’s reputation and God’s reputation were at stake when David was opposed by these enemies (“praise”). David trusted that God could protect him (“power”). David expected his decision to trust the Lord to have real-world implications for both himself and his opponents (“practicality”).
Three times in today’s passage David mentions shame. He doesn’t want to lose face, to be embarrassed, to be taken down a notch. David doesn’t want to be rejected, cast aside, or kicked out of his community. He doesn’t want to have to hide his face. He doesn’t want his trust in the Lord to amount to nothing.
Shame comes for all of us. Beware the man who feels no shame! Shame can spark transformation and can pull us toward right relationships. Shame can open us to repentance. As David says, God has a purpose for shame. But shame can cripple. Shame can manipulate. Shame can wound. Shame, like fire, can have destructive potential if it escapes its safe place.
David declares with great courage and confidence that “No one who hopes in [the Lord] will ever be put to shame.” Those who trust in the Lord have a secure relationship with him. The Lord renders the ultimate and only valid judgement on our value. The Lord triumphs and works for ultimate justice in the cosmos. The Lord loves us and, by his beautiful and costly involvement in our lives, showers us with tremendous honor.
Where in your life are you struggling with shame?
Is this shame giving you an invitation to repent of some wrong-doing and re-engage in relationship with God and other people? If so, ask God to show you a wise next step to take.
Is this shame the work of those who are “treacherous without cause”? If so, ask God to protect you, to protect your relationship, and to protect your reputation.
Both of these scenarios give us opportunities to trust God.