Shame avoidance (Psalm 119:6)

“Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments” (Psa. 119:6 NRSV).

Psalm 119 is the longest prayer in Scripture.  The psalmist addresses God directly.  The word “your” appears 212 times in 176 verses in the ESV translation (in Hebrew possessive pronouns are usually added as a suffix to the end of the noun being possessed).  Throughout the prayer, the psalmist speaks of blessings that come upon a person focused on God and God’s word.  The blessing of verse 6 focuses on shame avoidance.

(The English word, “Then” at the beginning of the verse comes from the Hebrew word, ‘az, which begins with the Hebrew letter, Aleph otherwise it couldn’t fit into this Aleph section of the psalm.)

In the previous verse, the psalmist wished for help in being steadfast to keep God’s statutes.  Now the results of that wish are revealed.  A fixation on God’s commandments prevents shame.  It’s hard to know exactly what the psalmist’s shame involved, but for those of us who are familiar with shame, we can guess.  Public humiliation, embarrassment, brutal defeat in a competitive context, having your book ripped to shreds in the blogosphere (speaking hypothetically, of course).  (I avoid shame by using a spell-checker–just found out that I had misspelled “embarrassment”–apparently many bloggers and emailers  don’t share my spell-shame-a-phobia.)

Now you might decide that this verse doesn’t really apply to you.  If you don’t mind shame, you don’t need to focus on God’s words.  If you enjoy utter humiliation, then don’t worry about God’s commands.  Ah, but if you’re trying to avoid those things, fix your eyes on God and God’s laws.  Sounds like good advice.  Blogging through Psalm 119, one verse each Sunday, is one way for me to stay focused on God and his words.  I hope you come along for the ride (only 170 more verses).

What do you do to avoid shame? 

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