1. Introduction

This article considers some examples of how people may become ashamed of their faith in God. There are many examples in the Bible where faithful people are persecuted by the wicked. The prosperity of the wicked is a source of shame for the believer. The first section considers the situation of King David, and then this is connected with faith in the New Testament. Finally, the example of Moses is given, which emphasises our weakness for wanting “someone else” to confront the shame with faith.

2. King David's Troubles

One of the great spiritual leader of the ancient nation of Israel was King David. He was the third natural king of Israel, and ruled in the period about 1000BC. Under his rule, and through the power of God, Israel was established as a major national power. Through the previous period of the Judges, they had been a fragmented people, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes, but David led them to God as a nation.

The historical accounts of Samuel and Chronicles detail the life and acts of David from a largely objective viewpoint. Many of the Psalms, however, detail David's thoughts and daily concerns. These chapters record a great diversity of emotions, from elation to almost despair and give an insight into the thoughts of one of the great leaders. In Acts, it is recorded that,

Acts 13:22: God gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.' 23. "From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior -- Jesus -- NKJV

Lack of Evidence

Some of the more disturbing Psalms are those where there is a plea to God for help. Throughout the Psalms, among the varity of authors, the phrase “save me” is used about 18 times. One example is Psalm 69:

Psalm 69:1.: Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2. I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me. 3. I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God. 4. Those who hate me without a cause Are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it. 5. O God, You know my foolishness; And my sins are not hidden from You. 6. Let not those who wait for You, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me; Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel. 7. Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Shame has covered my face. NKJV

In this passage, the overriding emotion is David calling for God to save him from his then present state. Just like Jeremiah's physical plight trapped in mud, David saw himself being flooded over with water, “I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me.” Despite this feeling, however, David is clear about God's position. Many people would take this persecution as a sign that their god was false or incapable, but this was not the case with David.

The evidence for the existance and power of the true God was simply not there at the time for David. The wicked, and his destroyers, were being prosperous, yet he was suffering. So instead of there being signs and evidence of the truth of God, there was evidence to the contrary.

Psalm 69 is really quite depressing, and a concern for the faithful. It is like the climax of a book or movie, where everything is going wrong. The forces of good and truth are being overpowered by the forces of darkness and evil. In verse 7, David said, “Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Shame has covered my face.” So David saw himself as suffering shame for God's sake.

Persecution

Historically, people have associated persecution and shame on a large scale with the displeasure of the gods, or of the God. This is illustrated in the book of Job. Much of the continuing argument is about the reason for Job's predicament, and what that said about his righteousness. After the distress came on him, he first of Job's friends to speak was Eliphaz the Temanite. His comment connected the cause of Job's problems with his actions.

Job 4:7.: "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? 8. Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same. 9. By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of His anger they are consumed. NKJV

But just as Job had suffered, so David had suffered. In either case, the suffering was not directly linked to the iniquity of the sufferer.

Typically David is seen as a great leader, and because he was great, he was successful. It is true that he was successful, but this passage in the Psalms shows that his success was only for part of his life. Not only was it part of his life in the sense of time, but also in the type of success. For a long time, he suffered the persecution of Saul, and conflict with the Philistines. Not only that, but even in the peak of his reign, he still had enemies, and still had concerns.

Perhaps the real greatness in David was not his conquests and the size of his kingdom, but rather his trust in God despite his hardships. Psalm 25 reflects David's trust and hope.

Psalm 25:1.: A Psalm of David. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. NKJV

Instead of himself being shamed, his hope was that the treacherous people would be ashamed by the actions of God. Furthermore, David trusted that God would deliver him.

Not only David, but Jesus also promised that the persecuted would yet receive a blessing. During the sermon on the mount, he showed that persecution for the sake of righteousness could be expected, and that this persecution would have an end.

Matt 5:10.: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. NKJV

In this passage, Jesus considers that those who are persecuted are “blessed”. David endured persecution during the earlier part of his life, particularly at the hands of King Saul, but later in his life he was blessed to some extent. He was freed from Saul, and given rest from his enemies --- so eventually he was blessed.

The blessing mentioned by Jesus, however, is a greater blessing. Rather than just being given peace and prosperity for a few years, they are offered the kingdom of God. David, too, was promised, and looked for the greater blessing. Notice, however, that David still sought for peace and rest from his enemies. The words of psalm 25 show that he felt in need of help for the present time.

Psalm 25:1.: A Psalm of David. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. NKJV

3. Handling Shame

King David implored, “let no one who waits on You be ashamed”. It is true that defeat and ridicule at the hands of the enemy brings shame. It is as true in a spiritual battle as it is in a physical battle. Not only is the shame itself a concern, but there is the concern from the risk of becoming ashamed. It is this risk of being ashamed that has the potential of holding people back from trusting in God.

Romans

Paul could see the issue in shame when he wrote to the Romans. In the first chapter of Romans, he spoke of his preaching.

Rom 1:15: So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." NKJV

He was very quick to point out that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”. Given the writings of Paul, this is no surprise, but it emphasises that people could be ashamed of it.

A great example of this type of shame can be seen in Peter at the time of the crucifixion. Before the event Peter and the other disciples were confident and supportive of Jesus. They claimed that they were ready to die for him:

Matt 26:30.: Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." 34. Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." 35. Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And so said all the disciples. NKJV

History shows that, for better or worse, they failed. Once the movement had started to condemn Jesus, his followers were in jeopardy. It was no longer healthy to be a follower of Christ. At a minimum, you would suffer shame at the defeat of your leader, and at worst you could suffer the same fate. Against this context, Peter is reluctant to admit association with Jesus. During the trial, he denies this association.

Matt 26:73.: ...those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." 74. Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. NKJV

As Jesus had predicted, the prophecy had come true:

Matt 26:31: ...'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' NKJV

This was perhaps a situation where the temptation to deny Jesus was very great, but these were also very great men. It shows that there is a very real risk of allowing shame and fear to get in the way of trust in God.

In Romans 1, Paul also connected this idea to the Old Testament quotation “The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Paul claimed that it was his faith that kept him from being ashamed. Perhaps more correctly, he knew that gospel was not something to be ashamed of, through his faith. The reason why it was not shameful is that it is the power of God to salvation.

Rom 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." NKJV

If it were not really the power of God to salvation, then it perhaps could be something to be ashamed of. In other words, people could justifiable think you were foolish in believing the following the gospel, if the power of God were not in it. It could be a really silly thing, if it were not for that one thing. The truth, power, and salvation are in the Gospel - and for that reason we should not be ashamed of it.

Faith

Paul linked the concept of endurance to faith, quoting the Habakkuk passage. The writer to the Hebrews also builds on the Habakkuk message, talking about faith. In this case, the faith is linked to endurance:

Heb 10:35.: Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37. "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." NKJV

So here we have confidence, endurance, and faith. It is saying that:

“Casting away confidence”, and “drawing back from faith” here refer to very similar concepts, and both require endurance. It was this endurance that was displayed in David and in Job. The book of James confirms this for the case of Job. In chapter 5, he speaks of the endurance of the prophets:

James 5:10.: My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord -- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. NKJV

In this case, James was recommending these experiences as examples to the followers of Jesus. It was to show that suffering and the need for patience were to be expected. Indeed he alludes to the blessing for those people who do endure.

After introducing faith in chapter 10 of Hebrews, the writer the devoted the entire eleventh chapter to examples of faith. After speaking of the faith of people such as Abel, Noah and Abraham, the statment is made that their faith appeared to be in vain.

Hebrews 11:13.: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. NKJV

This statement was possibly referring directly to Abraham and his family, but it is also applicable to the faithful before, and after him. Specifically, they had died without receiving the promises that they had received. Their great actions had been motivated by their faith in these promises, yet they never received them. Not only that, but each of these people had seen that the prior faithful had not received these promises.

This raises the question of what visual evidence they used to maintain their faith. It is very difficult to have faith in something if you have not been given any evidence to suggest that it is true.

The subsequent verses form an explanation for this anomoly:

Heb 11:13. : These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. NKJV

The reason for their faith was that they could seen the promises from “afar off”. They knew that the promises were not for that time, and were content to wait for them. They were content to wait, because they knew that what the promises offered was a future that was much better than the present day of their time.

Outdated Evidence

As in many other psalms, in psalm 68 there is a reference to the mighty acts of God. In the context, David refers to these acts as evidence of the power of God.

Psalm 68:4.: Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him. ... 7. O God, when You went out before Your people, When You marched through the wilderness, Selah 8. The earth shook; The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. NKJV

These examples show that there had been evidence for God. This evidence, however, in part stretched right back to the time of Moses and the release from the Egyptians. Even at the time of David, the exodus was considered one of the great works of God. However, it had been a long time ago. Even though it was only a few books ago in the Bible, it had been hundreds of years between the Exodus from Egypt and the time of David. In terms of provability those events were possibly no closer to them at the time than they are to us now.

4. The Faith of Moses

One specific example of the faithful is Moses. He is listed in Hebrews 11, along with others of the faithful

Heb 11:24.: By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25. choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26. esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. NKJV

The Burning Bush

The most visible evidence of the faith of Moses was to be the extraction of the Israelites from Egypt. This all started when he saw an odd sight.

Exodus 3:1.: Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." NKJV

He saw a bush that was burning, but yet it seemed to keep burning, without affecting the bush. This must have been something he had not seen before, and truly evidence that something great was happening. Perhaps, though, it was not as significant to him as it might be to us. Now, with a body of scientific knowledge and global communications, it is generally well known what is “normal” and what is not. At that time, people would more commonly see things that they had not come across before.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting sight, and attracted Moses' attention. The simple words “I will now turn aside and see this great sight”, give no indication of the significance that moment was to have, both to Moses himself, and the Israelites.

The next event for Moses was a voice from the bush, and when this voice claimed its identity, Moses was afraid of what was happening,

Exodus 3:6.: Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father -- the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. NKJV

At this point, it would have been a truly unique experience for Moses, but he was not happy about it, he was afraid. He could see the greatness of God, and knew he was in the hands of a greater being. The simple experience of this event would be great evidence to the truth and power of this God.

The Plan

God then outlined his plan, and the reason for his appearance:

Exodus 3:7.: And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8. "So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, NKJV

At that point, Moses would be thinking that this was a great thing. He knew of the oppression of the Egyptians over his countrymen. Indeed he had been exiled for acting against this oppression. It would have been a great comfort to him to hear those words. It had similar implications to him that promises of the future kingdom have had to later followers of God. An example of this is Isaiah 2:

Isa 2:1.: The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. ... 4. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. NKJV

In this passage, there is a promise of the rulership of God in his own Kingdom. Two great desires of the world are promised: righteous leadership, and world peace. Just as Moses would have thought “this is great”, so also, there are people of our time who say “this is great” about such promises.

Someone Else

In Exodus, after revealing his plan to release the Israelites from bondage, God continues with the details:

Exodus 3:9.: "Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10. "Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." NKJV

Moses would have listened in agreement and hope with these words, right up until the point where he said “I will send you”. At this point, the message changed from a description of good future, to a description of responsibility. Moses could have thought that it would be great if someone would do that --- but him?

Exodus 3:11.: But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" NKJV

Moses is likely to have felt that it would be good if he could have done that, but he didn't see how he could do it. He was not a great person, and he was far more comfortable doing what he knew. He didn't know how to approach Pharaoh, and couldn't see how he could have any influence if he did. God was quick to supply the solution to these problems:

Exodus 3:12.: So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." NKJV

In this verse, God was saying that it was the power of God that would make it possible. It would be the same power that caused the bush to burn that would work with Pharaoh. In Corinthians, Paul suggests that the situation is similar in more moden times. In this case it referred to the men working for God through preaching. Paul was making it clear that it was really God that would make the impact.

1 Cor 3:6.: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. NKJV

Just as the persuasion of Pharaoh would require the power of God, so the persuasion to Christ would require the power of God. Another way of seeing this is that in both cases God, though his power, made the job achievable by normal people.

Moses recognised God's assertion, and he could not refute it without denying God's power. Knowing that he would need to know it, he then asked for God's name. During the time taken to ask and answer this question, the doubt in Moses' mind formed another question,

Exodus 4:1.: Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.' " NKJV

God answered this question by giving him three signs. That avenue of escape had been blocked. He then cast doubt on his own ability, even though God had said that he would be with him,

Exocus 4:10.: Then Moses said to the LORD, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." NKJV

God quickly answered this question, by again stating that he had the power to overcome this problem, and that he would be with Moses to show him what to say. But even after answering all of his concerns, Moses still has doubt,

Exodus 4:13.: But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send." NKJV

It was as if he acknowledged that all of the objections were answered, but he still didn't want to do it. It was as if he was lacking in faith or enthusaism --- an this was one of the great faithful mentioned in Hebrews 11. The NIV translation of this verse makes Moses sound even more in a pathetic state,

Exodus 4:13.: But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." NIV

This is probably very typical of human emotion. If there is something difficult, uncertain, or perceived to be dangerous, it is always better if someone else does it. The real problem is that there aren't really any “elses” in the world. To themselves, everyone is a someone, not a someone else.

Faith

In the case of Moses, he eventually went and appeared before Pharaoh. There were really two things that meant he eventually went. One was his own faith, and tht other was that God provided for him where he was weak. To every objection that Moses raised, God had an answer. Moses was still required to do the work, and demonstrate his faith --- but God did provide when it was necessary.

In a similar manner, Abraham had faith in this. When he was called to offer his son, he went to do this willingly, but said,

Genesis 22:8.: And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together. NKJV

This was certainly true in a greater sense, when God provided his Son. John the Baptist spoke of this Lamb,

John 1:29.: ... John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! NKJV

So this again was a case of God providing the way, where men were unable. Indeed it is this provision that gives a great hope and promise:

Romans 8:3.: For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, NKJV

Romans 6:22.: But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. NKJV