The fear of shame or public humiliation has frequently controlled people’s lives. It can be the fear of one’s actions becoming known, a sin revealed. At other times it may involve not living up to the expectations of others or one’s own. A broken promise can turn in to shame and broken relationships. Shame has led to life changing, even life taking, abuse and now we are far more aware of self abuse arising from a sense of shame. Shame can feel like a place that is impossible to escape from or survive. How we need a God who understands and brings about restoration at times like these even if it is our actions that take us to the place of shame. David twice utters the prayer in Psalm 31, ‘Let me never/not be put to shame.’ vv1,17
In Jesus we have a God who has experienced dreadful public shaming even though, in fact because, he was sinless. As we read David’s cry to the Lord for mercy vv 9-13 we can say it was like that for Jesus but worse. Because of his enemies he became an object of contempt and dread even to his closest friends and family, stripped naked, beaten to near death, ridiculed, nailed to a cross and publicly taunted whilst in great pain until he died. The crowds who had just days before hailed him as a hero now conspired against him and plotted to take his life. It was in those last moments that Jesus used David’s words, ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ v5 He did not go on as far as we know and add David’s words, ‘deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.’ v5 But that was what he did, trusting in a faithful Father to restore him through resurrection for his name’s sake.
The grounds for David’s appeal was for the Lord’s ‘name’s sake,’ v3 referring to God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7.8-11 that he would cut off David’s enemies. Similarly, we can also appeal to God’s promises however deep our feelings of despair. David does not pretend that his sin has not contributed to his situation v10 but this does not prevent him from appealing to the character of God. God is righteous, v1 a rock and a fortress, v3 a redeemer, v5 abundant in goodness, v19 and preserves the faithful. v23
At the end of the psalm David has passed through the trial and praised God for his mercy. From his experience he urges others to trust in the Lord. ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.’ In God, through Jesus, we can find complete acceptance.
‘No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame’ – Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman