If you emphasize honor and shame, does this mean
that you need to minimize the theme of “judgment” in the Bible? Absolutely not.
Unfortunately, some people have that impression.
They seem to think that judgment is a legal idea and so unrelated to honor and
shame. In this post, I will show you a number of passages that show how the
Bible describes judgment in terms of honor-shame.
Shame of Judgment
Everything a person can say about judgment from a
traditional perspective can be communicated by using honor-shame.
Daniel 12:2 is quite direct:
many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to
everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Likewise, Daniel 9:8 adds,
us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our
fathers, because we have sinned against you.
The psalmist pleads for God to judge his enemies.
It is especially interesting to observe the purpose for God’s
judgment. Psalm 83:16–18 says,
their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD. Let
them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that
they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High
over all the earth.
God gets glory when he puts his enemies to shame
(cf. Exod 7:4–5; Eze 32:9–15)
Biblically speaking, “judgment” referred to more
than the punishment of bad people. It routinely speaks about how God sets a
situation right and rescues His people. We see this two-fold emphasis in Psalm
75:7, which says:
is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.
Through judgment, God honors one side and shames
Consider how the Scripture describes salvation.
Biblical writers announce that God’s people will be saved from shame. In
Zeph 3:11, we read
that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have
rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly
exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.
In Romans 10:11 (and in Rom 9:33), Paul draws from
Isa 28:16 saying, “Everyone who believes in him will
not be put to shame” (cf. Rom 5:5).
The Shame of
What about passages like Rom 6:23, which say that
the “wages of sin is death”?
Death is the ultimate shame.
Death exposes our vulnerabilities, our weakness and
limitation. We are not sovereign over ourselves. None but Jesus are able to
Consider Jeremiah 51:47–51. Notice how death and
destruction are described in terms of shame.
behold, the days are coming when I will punish the images of
Babylon; her whole land shall be put to shame, and all her
slain shall fall in the midst of her. Then the heavens and the
earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon, for
the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, declares the
Lord. Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have
fallen the slain of all the earth. “You who have escaped from the
sword, go, do not stand still! Remember the Lord from far
away, and let Jerusalem come into your mind: “We are put to
shame, for we have heard reproach; dishonor has covered our face, for
foreigners have come into the holy places of the Lord’s house.”
wants to “lose face.” The fear of shame drives
people’s behavior as does the desire for honor. Both in the Bible and in world
cultures, people use honor and shame to discuss the most significant issues in
life and theology, including judgment and reward.