In the book of Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve were created perfect. In them was no moral defect and therefore no cause for shame. This is demonstrated by the fact that they were naked. Their nakedness was an expression of their innocence. It was similar to the way a child is now. Children don’t normally demonstrate shame until they grow older. They, like Adam and Eve, express this innocence in the fact that they feel no shame being naked. Often, to the embarrassment of their parents, young children will seek to free themselves from clothing to enjoy good weather on a nice day—sometimes in a public place. Most parents have at least one story like this. Their freedom from any kind of shame demonstrates their innocence.
Of course, we know that when we grow to the point when our minds are developed enough, we begin to make decisions against our own conscience. It is at this point that shame begins to be a part of our lives. This is demonstrated in Adam and Eve’s felt need to cover themselves after they sinned. Shame came when they did what they knew was wrong. They sought to cover themselves with fig leaves.
Unfortunately, shame is a normal part of life because we live in a sinful world. Ultimately, Christ has come to take away our shame, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t deal with shame from time to time.
The truth is, it isn’t always a bad thing to feel shame. Shame is an appropriate emotion in the process of dealing with sin. If we first do not feel shame for our sin, we can’t move on to repentance and, ultimately, to forgiveness.
In the time when Jeremiah prophesied to Israel, before the Babylonian captivity, God was graciously reaching out to His people so that they might turn from their sin and avoid the terrible judgment that was to come. However, at the same time that Jeremiah was preaching, false prophets also spread their message, a message which was quite different from Jeremiah’s. Jeremiah’s message was one of doom and gloom–if the people would not repent. The false prophets preached “peace, peace!,’ when there was no peace.
Jeremiah would stand up and say, “Listen all you people, the Lord is not pleased with your evil ways. He is bringing great and horrible judgment! Turn from your ways and seek the Lord! Repent and forsake your sin! He will forgive your sin and heal the land!” In other words, “Be ashamed.”
The false prophets were proclaiming: “Don’t listen to the negative doom and gloom. You are perfect just the way you are. Didn’t God make you? Did He not make you the way that you are? Be yourself! Be true to yourself! God accepts you and approves of you. All your days will be in peace. Live your lives and be happy.” In other words, “No need to feel any shame.”
The message from false prophets is easy on the ears, conducive to temporal comfort, and affirming to whatever ever life one may want to live. So, the people chose to listen to the false prophets.
This is what the Lord says about them:
“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, nor did they blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; in the time of their punishment they shall be cast down,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 8:12
Notice that God faults them for not being ashamed, for not blushing. They should have been embarrassed over their sin, but they weren’t. They should have felt bad about the things that they did, but they didn’t. And for that reason, God was forced to bring about judgment. Indeed, the Babylonians came, destroyed the city, the temple, killed many, and carried off the rest to Babylon. Only the poorest few were left in the ruins.
The truth is that the false prophets didn’t prevent shame from coming, they only delayed it and caused it to be more severe. Many of the people were literally stripped naked, put in chains, and forced to trek north to Babylon. If only they had embraced shame sooner. Then the Lord would have forgiven their sin, and like Adam & Eve, He would have covered their shame.
Ultimately, God does not want us to live in shame. Shame should only be a stepping stone towards forgiveness. When God sees His people humble themselves, and drop their heads in shame, He is moved in His deepest parts. He runs to rescue the lowly, He swoops in to lift up the down-trodden.
The prodigal son, who was covered in shame, came broken unto his father’s house. What did the father do? Did he look down his nose and say, “I told you so?” No! He ran towards his son, embraced him, put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet, and clothed him with a clean and beautiful robe, covering his shame. And he said, “Here is my son!”
And what about the tax-collector? He was the one that had become a traitor to his own people because of love for money–a dirty dealer, one that takes advantage of his own people for personal gain. What did he do? The Pharisee lifted his head proudly, but not him. He beat his chest and wouldn’t even dare to lift his head for his shame. He said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Which man did Jesus say was accepted by God? I can tell you that it was not the Pharisee! It was the tax-collector who went home justified.
The story of the Cross is a simple one. We are sinners–guilty and shameful (whether we realize it or not). But God, because of His great love for us, even though we were dead in our sins, provided a great salvation for us.
Jesus came to bear our shame. Death on a Roman cross was a shameful way to die. Those that died in such a way hung on display for all to mock and jeer. Of course, we know that Jesus did nothing to deserve such a death. He was the only sinless man who ever lived. He was the only good man there ever was. The only fault any could find in Him would be concerning the law of His God (Daniel 6:5). He couldn’t deny that he was the King of the Jews, nor that He was the Son of the Blessed. So they took that innocent Man and subjected Him to the shame of the Cross. Yet it wasn’t those who crucified Him that had power over Him, for He said, “I have power to lay my life down and take it up again,” and “Do you think I cannot summon more than twelve legions of angels?” He laid His life down as a substitute–His life for ours. He died so we could live; He took the shame so we could be covered; He suffered reproach and rejections so we could be accepted in the beloved. What a wonderful Savior!
Those who trust in Him have no more reason for shame. Just as Adam & Eve were covered in skins, so we are covered with the righteousness of Christ. That is, Christ’s goodness, His innocence and perfection, has been credited to those who believe.
No person who is in Christ has anymore cause for shame. God no longer sees the sin of him who repents and believes. He sees robes of white, robes washed in the blood of Christ, made white as snow.
It is for this reason that there are no naked people in heaven. Our shame is deserved, for we have all sinned against God. Never again will we be innocent in ourselves. No person can erase their own shame. No person can take away their own guilt. You won’t find people in heaven that arrive by their own merit or in their own innocence. Even the children are clothed in white. Only those to whom Jesus blood has been applied will enter. Only those who have received forgiveness will find their way. Thank God, that in Christ, it is all freely available to us!
“Who are these arrayed in white robes..? These are the ones who [have] washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” – Revelation 7:1
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