Psalm 119 - Yodh (Dealing With Shame)
Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.
I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.
May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.
May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.
May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.
The feeling of the Psalmist is reflected in Vs. 77-80, “Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts. May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes. May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.”
He was feeling very low and asked God for compassion so that he may live. Have you felt so down that you needed kindness from people just to survive? If we are in God’s church, then probably not, because we will always have God’s compassion. But if we are thinking of leaving God, then we may find ourselves in that situation.
The Psalmist had been wronged for no cause and he asked God that he “may not be put to shame”. There were two steps to the allegations from his accuser; someone wronged him and it was without cause. To wrong someone is to treat someone in an unfair and unacceptable manner.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6 NIV)
We have to be careful whenever we bring up a question or comment against anyone’s behaviour or character. The tongue corrupts the whole body (which can mean the church too). The wronging of someone not only damages the person’s morale, but also corrupts his view of his accuser(s).
The Psalmist had not only been wronged, it was done without any cause. There was no reason for that allegation. Do we have good reasons for the comments we want to bring up to others? If it is not to the benefit of the person, then let’s not do it. Hurts caused through negative conversations may last a lifetime.
It is those who are “arrogant” that wrong others “without cause”. I know I can become an accuser of people because of my straightforward nature, and in my arrogance (when I think I know best).
The shame the Psalmist described was so bad that he felt he might not survive it. There was no one else to show him compassion. It is really sad if we can’t find anyone amongst our friends who can show us compassion. In our small groups at Church, do we show love and kindness to each other or do we subtly devour each other? God is compassion. We will see God’s compassion when we show compassion for one another.
A person in shame may feel: I am a bad person and do not deserve love. I will never get this right because I am a loser. We tell ourselves such negative stories when we feel shamed and hurt, especially by people close to us. The Psalmist ended this section of his psalm saying, “May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.” He felt that his dedication to God’s words is the solution to his shame. There was nothing else he could do to improve his situation. He couldn’t correct those wrongs through endless arguments with accusers who may think they have justification or the right to their opinions. The solution can only come from God, as God can change people’s heart and maturity.
God doesn’t want us to continue feeling our past hurts because God is our Abba, our daddy. He loves us, but there is probably nothing much God can do about how we feel since we control our feelings. He does offer us compassion through his people. This is what I need to learn, to have the compassion of God. I need to understand the hurts of people around me and practice compassion so I may reduce their hurts. I am not a naturally compassionate person, I am too straightforward and can cause harm to people if I don’t watch my intention carefully.
As this psalm could have been written by David, let’s look at one incident where he was put to shame by one whom he loved, his wife Michal.
As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart... When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord's people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23 NIV)
In the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 15:29, Michal “despised him in her heart”. Michal did not have any children, as punishment for how she treated David. In those days, it was considered a shame if a woman could not have children.
While feeling the shame, the Psalmist acknowledged God as his maker and “asked for understanding to learn your (God’s) commands”. Understanding God’s words will lessen the pain we suffer. We live in a sinful world, and we too are sinners. There will be hurts we cannot avoid, because we are all arrogant. We contribute to the hurts and shames of others too.
The Psalmist desired others who fear God to rejoice when they see him and turn to him; and so he prayed, “Those who fear you (God) rejoice when they see me” (vs. 74) and “those who fear you (God) turn to me (vs. 79)”. Why was the Psalmist looking out for others who fear God to be with him? He was asking God to send him people with compassion. Those who fear God, will show compassion to him.
In writing “... your (God’s) laws are righteous”, the Psalmist reflects that his affliction was good for him, and it was given because God is faithful. Why is that so? When someone we know or even love is the one who afflicts us, it teaches us to put our trust in God more than we do in people. It breaks us from the illusion we have of the world so that we may truly find the meaning of our life and pursue righteousness.
The “unfailing love” of God will be our comfort. Even if no one else loves us, God’s unfailing love is enough to comfort us.
God is compassion, and He is incredibly kind to us, He will heal our wounds. We need to have faith to understand God’s compassion. If not, our shame only gets worse when we start believing in the accusations. Compassion for us will come from God and disciples who have learnt God’s compassion.
The Psalmist asked for “the arrogant (to) be put to shame”. That doesn’t include only people who are against us, but ourselves too, if we are arrogant. Just as God is righteous and faithful to bring afflictions to us if that is required for our good, God is also faithful in bringing shame to us if we need that to know God. In Michal’s case, she might learn the shame from God’s discipline and repent.
Let’s learn to show compassion to one another so we can see God in our lives.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.