I was reading Ezekiel yesterday and came across a stunning statement about a positive place for shame in our lives. Ezekiel is prophesying about the future restoration of God’s people after a long period of judgment:
62 “Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63 in order that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord God declares. –Ezekiel 16:62-63
We often don’t think about shame as having a positive role in our lives. In fact, we are often told that feelings of shame undermine emotional health and well-being. And yet here we have the Lord saying that after these sinners have been forgiven, they must remember their former sins and be ashamed of them. Why? So that they will never be arrogant again. John Taylor explains the meaning well:
When God forgives our sins, he also forgets them (Isa. 43:25). But the sinner can never completely forget: Paul remembered that he had persecuted the church (1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:13); John Newton remembered his slave-trading days. The value of such memory is that it keeps a man back from pride. Not even the justified sinner should forget that he has a past of which he is right to be ashamed.1
It may seem counterintuitive, but this text does in fact teach that it is right to be ashamed of what we were and still would be apart from grace. It means that we should never think more highly of ourselves than we ought. If there is a stitch of goodness in us, we cannot take any credit for it. It is all of grace. Nor can we Lord our own spiritual “achievements” over others. We have no one and nothing to boast in but the Lord alone (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Cor. 1:28). The whole purpose of God in choosing weak and despised vessels is so that He might remove any grounds for anyone to boast in their own characteristics and achievements. And there is good news in this for you. Because God chose to do it that way, it’s okay if you’re a nobody.
You don’t have to make yourself into a powerful or an influential person in order to be used by God. You don’t have to have any twitter followers. You don’t have to have any likes on Instagram. You don’t have to look the part. God chooses to save those who are weak and despised in the world, and he does so on purpose. Which means he saved you on purpose.
If you come to this blog post feeling weak, overlooked, not powerful, not influential, rejoice! You have the smell of heaven on you. It has always been God’s plan to bring someone just like you into the kingdom so that he can exalt his own power and work through you. So we have no reasons for boasting in ourselves, but every reason to boast in God.
I am reminded of the lyrics of an old song by Steven Curtis Chapman:
Remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone
1 John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 22, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1969), 142.