Shame—Psalm 31

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are primarily personal songs, so I will look at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of Psalms.

Psalm 30 is really two songs which have been put together to contrast each other. When you look at the structure they both have a chiastic structure, described by as a literary device in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order. The first is about trusting in God and not being put to shame which is found in verses 1 to 6 and the second is about what happens if you believe those who wish to shame you which is found in the rest of the psalm. I have added a paragraph break to the text to reveal the structure.

Those of you who do not use screen readers please take a short time to look at the words on the image below. For screen reader uses there is an alt text.

A man, red face held in his hand, has words like unworthy, unforgivable, loathsome and no-good written on his clothing.
Shame Disgraceful Evil
Free image on Pixabay

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

31 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

31 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,
    but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
    especially to my neighbours,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
    those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
    I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
    terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
    as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!
17 O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
    for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
    let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
    which speak insolently against the righteous
    in pride and contempt.
19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
    which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
    in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
    from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
    from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the Lord,
    for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
    when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
    “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
    when I cried to you for help.
23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
    The Lord preserves the faithful
    but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

Psalm 31 ESVUK

Shame comes from looking at what other people think or say, it is an outside voice. It is not your voice, though you probably think it is.

The media are trying to shame the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Within a week of crowning Charles III as monarch of the UK and 14 other commonwealth realms, Archbishop Justin was speaking in the House of Lords, he said that the Illegal Migration Bill”could lead to the collapse of the international system that protects refugees.” In response government supporting media are looking for some way to counter that, so the amount of news time taken up has been out of proportion to the crime, he has been caught, last October, driving at 25 mph on a 20 mph area. The Archbishop has admitted the offence and has pleaded guilty.

How dare the leader of an international Christian denomination and member of the House of Lords criticise government policy? How dare he bring what the Bible says about welcoming strangers into politics? How dare he speak truth to power? Or to sum this all up: How dare Justin Welby do his job? We must find something to shame him! All they could find to shame Welby was a minor driving offence.

Shame can be a killer. It leads to all manner of self-destructive behaviors. Shame fuels itself, becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy. We live in a culture of shame, We feel shame so we do nothing then we achieve nothing which brings more shame. Shame grows where we do nothing to resist shame.

The problem of shame isn’t what was done to me or what I have been seen to do. The problem is what everything that was done to me did to me and it has become internalised. The things that hinder us from becoming who we are become our higher power, our idols, and our god and we believe that our shame has the right to name who we are. You are not that person.

We have a choice. We can let the God who loves us tell us who we are, forgive us, protect us and lead us or we can give in to the voices that shame us. It is as different as the verses at the centre of the two parts of Psalm 31. You can let God be your rock and fortress, or have a life spent with sorrow, and years with sighing. (v 3 and v 10).

Shame comes from looking at what other people think or say, it is an outside voice. Listen to the inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit instead. Shame is not the voice of God.

< Psalm 30 | Psalm 31 | Psalm 32 >
< Previous | Psalms of David | Next >

Tell me what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s