Psalm 71, the psalm for Tuesday in Holy Week, is a prayer that begins with a faithful person’s appeal to God to be delivered from shame: “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed” (v.1). What is shame here?
The Bible comes from an honor/shame culture. Biblical scholar Bruce Malina writes this about the honor culture: “honor stands for a person’s rightful place in society, his or her social standing… The purpose of honor is to serve as a sort of social rating which entitles a person to interact in specific ways with his or her equals, superiors, and subordinates, according to the prescribed cultural cues of the society…Ascribed honor befalls or happens to a person passively through birth, family connections, or endowment by notable persons of power.” Therefore, in an honor culture shame is not our modern psychological understanding of internalized guilt, but the loss of value and discrediting that comes to those who don’t play by the social norms of the dominant culture.
In the context of Holy Week, this Psalm is a prayer of Jesus and a prayer for those who follow his way. It is a prayer for those who, like Jesus, don’t play by the values of the dominant culture and will therefore be devalued by that culture. A prayer that might go something like this:
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
Never let me be ashamed or embarrassed.
When others ridicule and make fun of me for walking your way:
The way of loving enemies,
The way of loving neighbors—no exceptions,
The way of forgiving others 70 times 7;
When others shame me for my “foolish behavior”—remind me that you honor me.
Deliver me from hurtful words that break my heart.
For you, O Lord, have been speaking to me since I was born.
You are the one who determines my worth.
You are my hope.
Do not forget about me and discard me.
For I am surrounded by people who make fun of me.
And worst of all they tell me that you have abandoned me.
Whenever anything goes wrong, they say “I told you so. God doesn’t care about you. If he did your life wouldn’t be such a mess.”
To hell with them.
I put my trust in You.
You are my refuge and my strength, and I know you will never forsake me.
Therefore, I am going to sing your praises all day long,
Therefore, I am going to tell everyone about your mighty deeds.
Therefore, I am going to proclaim your love and faithfulness.
Therefore, I am going to follow your way—come what may—until the day I di