Though I am reading through the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles on my reading plan, I find my thoughts are more and more drawn to the Psalms. They are such a combination of truth and beauty, of serious human experience, and deep theological truth. Today my reading took me through Psalm 25, and I found myself stuck there for a considerable amount of time.
I found verse 3 particularly captivating:
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
(Psalm 25:3 ESV)
We don’t use the idea of shame in our culture much nowadays. One of the major meanings that biblical “shame” conveys is the shame and disappointment suffered by those who had confidence in something or someone who failed to deliver for them. In this case, none who WAIT for the Lord will ever be put to shame. That is, no one who trust the Lord with ever be disappointed. God always delivers what he promises, he never fails, and is never late. Notice that we are passively active in this instance. We are called to wait for the Lord, not to work for the Lord. I’m not saying that we do not offer our lives in worshipful service to God, but that our service is not what prompts God to act on our behalf. When things look their bleakest, God asks us to wait for him, trusting in his care, and he guarantees that his people will never experience the shame of having in trusted in God and been let down.
Please don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to say that God’s people always come out on top in this life. Some of God’s people have great triumphs in this life like Daniel being rescued from the den of the lions. Others, like Elijah, are sawed in two. Elijah died horribly (according to tradition), but I tell you that he was not put to shame. His hope was for another world. His joy was to experience the full presence of God, and he was certainly never disappointed.
This calls for patience on the part of God’s people. Waiting is not something most of us do well. I can get huffy if there are three people in from of me in the line at the grocery story. My sanctification is sorely tried in the two minutes it takes to heat up my soup in the microwave. Andrew Shaver does not like to wait! Thankfully, by God’s grace, he called me to himself and put a new heart in me with new desires and new attitudes. This Andrew can wait. He hopes to see the face of God. He is eager to see all the wrong things in this world made right. And he will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that he will not be disappointed when all is said and doen. The wait will be totally worth it because God always delivers.
The second half of this verse talks about those who will be ashamed: those who are “wantonly treacherous” – (no that doesn’t mean people who make poisonous Chinese appetizers). Here, the psalmist shows the end result of all those who, rather than waiting on the Lord, decide to take matters into their own hands in order to achieve their satisfaction. They lie and cheat and manipulate in order to get their way. They tread over others on the way to the top thinking there will be no ultimate accounting for their behavior. In the end, they will be the most disappointed people who ever lived. Not only will the things they pursue be unable to grant them perfect temporal satisfaction, but they will also one day stand before the living God, and all the things they trusted in will be long gone. Everything they invested their life in will be cause for nothing but shame and eternal disappointment and agony.
The promise that those who “wait” or “trust” in the Lord with never be put to shame is one of my favorites in all of scripture. It helps maintain a future focus, and offers comfort that God will some day make everything right by the glory of his coming. On a level even closer to my heart, I know that I have done many incredibly shameful things in my life. God would be perfectly within his rights to put me to utter shame in his presence except for one thing and one thing only. On the cross Jesus bore my shame. He who had never done a shameful thing in his life, willfully took on my shame, my sin, my villainy, and he bore the full punishment which I deserved. Because of his unfailing love, my shame is now buried in the depths of the sea, and God has put up a “no-fishing” sign. It can’t be brought back up.
I thank God that I now have the divine privilege of waiting on him, with the sure knowledge that as I do this, I will never be disappointed. Praise God!