For Shame

A devotion of Psalm 83.

Eve after the fall, by Rodin.

1 O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.

2 See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads.

When we walk in shame, we experience God as remaining silent, as turning a deaf ear to our plight, as standing aloof. We experience our enemies as growling like wild dogs that are closing in, and our foes as rearing their heads. Shame is an enemy of God. Shame is an enemy of God’s children. But it is a powerful tool in their lives that he uses to bring them back to his heart.

3 With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.

4 “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

5 With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you—

6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites,

7 Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre.

8 Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants.

9 Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,

10 who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground.

11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,

12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”

 Verses 9-12 are the backdrop of Israel’s national hero Gideon. We meet Gideon in Judges hiding in a cave against their dreaded enemies. Israel has been reduced to a weak band of cowering folks. Yet the angel of God greeted him, “Greetings, mighty warrior!” Gideon was perplexed by this greeting. It made no sense to a fearful, oppressed man. It seemed the enemy was having a heyday and God’s people were hiding in caves, attempting to live their lives there. You can read the amazing stories cited above in Judges 4, 6, 7 and 8. Note that the Israelites had experienced all this because of their rebellion against God, who had handed them over to their enemies for a lesson in humility and the fear of the Lord.

13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.

14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,

15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm.

Yahwe is not stagnant, even when we can’t sense him. He is incredibly able to pursue and overtake his enemies. There is no wood that this fire cannot burn!

16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name.

Asaph may be reflecting Israel’s personal experience of shame upon their enemies. When we walk in rebellion and arrogance against God, we demonstrate that we have no fear of him. He does not abide that, especially in his children. He hurtles all proud men to a place of humility, using humiliation if necessary. Shame is an important emotion that we should experience when we have done shameful things.

Humanism has a vendetta against shame. It focuses on toxic shame which keeps us mired in hopelessness and worthlessness, calling us bad people for having done bad things. It neglects the very important concept of productive shame. Indeed, people who are shameless in the face of having done bad things are  pathological. If we don’t experience shame when we err, we have a problem. It is a gift of God informing us that we have done wrong and need to right it.

The problem occurs when we consider this stepping stone to repentance as a camping spot or even a foundation to build upon. When we experience this powerful emotion, we are to run to God and to others to make things right. He wired us that way. All attempts to hide what we have done will result in distance between us and him and between us and others. Healing will not happen till we expose works of darkness.

Photo by Rachel Claire on

God makes a wonderful promise if we do that: “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light,” Eph. 4:12, 13. As we expose our works of darkness, they become a light for someone else in darkness! That is the power of confession. That is my sole reason for writing Napping in Delilah’s Lap ( Read more about this exciting concept in chapter 24, The Purpose of Shame. Doing the hard, hard work of confession is a formidable agent of healing not only for you but for others.

17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.

18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—

    that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

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Let the light in, beloved. As you do so, you’ll find incredible freedom from shackles that bind you.

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