Israel’s Honor and Shame (Part 3)

Israel’s Honor and Shame (Part 3) December 1, 2015

grass in crack images

Honor and shame permeate the story of Israel. Although God chose this particular people to bless the world, they forsook that honor and became shameful themselves. See Part I and Part II.

In this post, we consider how God promises Israel that He would restore honor and remove shame.

The hope of the glory of Israel

Amid the laments of many prophets, God gives hope. He will restore Israel’s honor. Yet, we should carefully note why God takes away the shame of his people.

Ezekiel 20:44 is one example among others:

And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God. (cf. vv. 9, 14, 22; Ezek 36:22, 23, 32)

Did you see that? God is fundamentally concerned with His “face” (i.e. the honor of His name).

What should be Israel’s response to her disgraceful ways?

The first is confession. God says,

Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Eze 36:32)

Second, they are to pray. Jeremiah demonstrates a prayer that understands that God’s honor is at stake,

Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. (Jer 14:21)

God restores honor

Yet, this is not the end of the story. When God’s people have this proper sense of shame (i.e. knowing what is right and wrong), then they will find their honor restored.

A number of passages speak of Israel’s future hope in terms of honor and shame.

In Zephaniah 3:18–20, we read,

I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the LORD.

Joel reiterates a similar idea, though stated negatively:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. (Joel 2:25–27)

Not coincidentally, Paul quotes Joel 2:32 in Rom 10:13, “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Given the prior context in Joel 2 and in Rom 9:33, 10:11, we see clearly what it is that people are saved from –– namely, shame.

God is willing to call Israel “my glory.”

I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.” (Isa 46:13 ESV)

Colossians-1-27Why has “glory” left the church?

As I’ve recounted in the past few posts, Israel’s journey and transformation are amazing and radical. God’s people are brought from shame through honor and dishonor until they find true glory in Christ, the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Sadly, however, this is not the typical way people speak of Israel’s story.

Too often, the Old Testament is practically regarded as useful for little more than providing material for sermon illustrations or perhaps interesting background to the New Testament. Few people ever seriously incorporate Israel’s story into their gospel presentations.

Of course, some people make much of Israel, . . . too much in fact. Some types of dispensational theology verge on this mistake. In effect, Israel becomes more than God’s means of blessing the world; Israel instead seems to become an end itself, parallel to the Gentile church.

The story of Israel is a story about honor and shame. More precisely, it tells how God honors Himself and His people despite their shame.

A collective story

For many people, the corporate story of Israel, told from the perspective of honor and shame, will make far more sense to them than those presentations that speak of an individual stands in the dock before a judge. We need not deny the individual aspect of the story in order to affirm the corporate dimension.

However, we should pay attention to the way God reveals Himself. He seeks to bless the nations. He did this through the creation of a particular nation, Israel, through whom the king of all nations would come.

The story of salvation concerns the honor and shame of this king––Jesus Christ.

He willingly “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2). This is not incidental for Heb 2:10 adds,

…it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Heb 2:10 ESV)

Therefore, we rejoice to hear Jesus’ prayer to the Father,

The glory that you have given me I have given to them… (John 17:22).

As I’ve explained elsewhere, the church has a blind spot when it comes to honor & shame. Look what we miss when our eyes are closed to this pervasive theme. We not only miss so much of the Old Testament; we also lose perspective on the glory of Christ in bringing about our salvation.

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