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By: Winston Smith
Biblically speaking, glory and shame are two things that couldn’t be more different. Shame is about defilement. We feel shame because of things we’ve done or had done to us that make us feel dirty, worthless, and afraid. Our instinct in shame is to cover up and hide. We beg not to be looked upon let alone touched. Glory, on the other hand, is about what is beautiful, good, and noble. Glorious things are proclaimed, shouted from rooftops, a cause for celebration. Glorious things are the things that beg to be spoken of and looked upon because they are so magnificent. But to the shamed, the glorious is off limits. The shamed don’t want to be seen by anyone, much less the glorious. Remember Isaiah’s experience of the Lord’s glory in the Temple? “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is 6:5). For the shamed and defiled to come in contact with the glorious seems to promise certain death. So how does God’s glory offer hope for the shamed?
Psalm 72 offers a startling perspective on God’s glory. On the one hand, it is all about glory. It is a psalm of ecstatic praise for Israel’s coming king, the Messiah. Here are a few glimpses of his glory: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! . . . May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” (vss.8-11). “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (v.17). As we now know, this is a picture of Jesus in the grandeur and glory of his kingdom rule. Again, it is a picture of glory, but is it good news for the shamed?
It is. Notice three key verses at the heart of the psalm. “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight” (Ps.72:12-14). Amazing. Not only is Christ’s glory not opposed to his people’s shame, his mercy and kindness on the shamed is one of the key features of his glory. He wants to be known as a king who sees the shamed, reaches out and touches them, lifts them up and cares for them. That is his glory. Remember, this is a psalm. These aren’t simply inspired private musings; these are words meant to be sung out and proclaimed in the midst of God’s people in worship. These are words meant to be accompanied by the trumpet blast and the sound of tambourines! This is good news that should make our hearts leap and burst into song! And every time we stand and sing these words or words like them in worship we offer him praise for his glory and assurances to one another that Jesus’ glory is good news for all of us who know shame.