Last time we read all of Ezekiel 16.
It’s a stunning picture of the redemption of Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem.
And yet, it does involve a lot of shame and shaming, apparently at the hands of God.
In verse 37, God says he will cause Jerusalem’s former lovers to uncover her “nakedness.”
In verse 63, God appears to “shame her” in a very different sort of way.
What is Shame? Does God shame people? He sure seems to do so in Ezekiel 16.
Take a minute to ponder your “nakedness,” “ervah” in Hebrew, your private parts.
How do you feel: embarrassed, excited, guilty, hopeful, confused?
Well, that’s how the Bible seems to define shame.
“The man and his wife were both naked and unashamed.” Then they ate something, then they knew something, then they covered something, hid themselves from God and each other. That thing they were feeling is called “shame.”
Twenty-one years ago, my mom and my daughter Elizabeth were helping my five-year-old son Coleman get dressed. He insisted that they leave. My mother said, “Coleman, we don’t need to leave.” “But you’ll see my private parts,” he protested. Ten-year-old, know-it-all Elizabeth said, “Coleman, we used to change your diapers, and we saw your private parts all the time.” Incredulous, Coleman shot back, “Yeah, Elizabeth, but that’s different! That was before I knew I had ‘em!”
Does God want my son Coleman to know that he has them?
Did God want Adam and Eve to know that they had them?
(That knowledge has resulted in some pain and shame.)
In the beginning and at the end, and in the sanctuary of our own soul—at the edge of time and eternity, we encounter a man on a tree in a garden.
The man on the tree is the Good in flesh and the Life.
If we take his life on the tree, we gain knowledge—dead knowledge—of Good and evil; it feels like shame.
If we receive him, who offers himself to us on the tree, we gain life and are known by the Good; it feels like something else.
The man on the tree is the “eschatos,” last or ultimate, Adam.
Humanity is the ultimate Eve.
What’s wrong with humanity?
On the Sixth Day of Creation—before The Fall, before God split the Adam making male and female—Adam was alone. And God says, “It is not good that the Adam—humanity—is alone. I will make a helper fit for Adam.”
Eve is not Adam’s helper. And that first Adam is not Eve’s helper. All of Scripture makes it clear that God is our helper. And Adam can’t find his helper… although his helper is with him in a paradise garden. Something is seriously wrong with Adam.
Adam doesn’t seek God, so doesn’t know God, and doesn’t love God.
How could he? God is Good, and Adam doesn’t have knowledge of Good or evil.
How would Adam or Eve know that God is Good or that His Word is Good?
In the middle of the Garden, God had planted a tree that works like two, or two trees in one spot that look just the same. On that tree is our Helper…about to be made fit for us, his bride.
Shame is an awareness that we need help.
We are each ashamed of those places in which we need help.
Salvation is getting help from our helper.
Sin is trying to get help from the wrong helpers, or the right helper in the wrong way.
We obviously lack faith in our Helper.
We’ve taken the advice of a snake: “You don’t need help; help yourself.”
That’s what we do when we take knowledge to justify ourselves and so, feel proud… and more alone—that is “not good,” that is evil.
That’s what Jerusalem did (and we are Jerusalem) when we take the life of Christ in a garden, on a tree called the cross.
The growing knowledge of that fact is why we feel shame.
But here’s some Good News: There is now one person with whom Coleman is willing to share his private parts, and one person willing to share those parts with him, my new daughter in-law Natalie. She’s actually attracted to his place of shame, and he is utterly attracted to hers. And when they share those places of shame, they do not experience this “communion of shame” as shame, but ecstasy. And it gets even better: Something may result from this communion of shame, and if it does, I will call that something my grandbaby. (Awesome!)
But some of you just shut down.
Maybe you want what Coleman has, but it hasn’t happened. Or maybe you want it, but in a different way. Or maybe you had it and lost it and hate that I’d even bring it up. Or maybe you were violated, and now it just is too much to bear. Maybe you’ve lost faith that Love is Good and that the Good is Life. And so you turn to other helpers, and it only results in more shame and this growing conviction that if God saw you and that place, he would utterly despise you.
But here’s the Good News: God is attracted to you in “that place,” like a young man is attracted to his bride in her place of shame. I’m saying that he finds your lonely, battered, broken, and empty heart to be profoundly sexy. And when you offer it to other lovers, his heart is lonely, battered, broken, and empty for you. It’s his heart that’s hanging on that tree.
It’s not about “genitals.” They are a sacramental representation of that place in which you need help. It’s about the empty place in your being, where you feel non-being, where you feel shame. Your Helper is God’s Judgment; he is your faith in Love, your Life, your “Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption.”
Your Helper completes you, but he will not rape you. And so he romances you, that you would surrender to Love, surrender your shame, and bear the fruit that is Life.
In Isaiah 54, God says to Jerusalem, “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; …For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married… Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; …for you will forget the shame of your youth… For your Maker is your husband, …the God of the whole earth he is called.”
So, does God shame us? Well, he takes us to places where our defenses crumble, and we can no longer help ourselves.
In the middle of Ezekiel 16, Babylonians breach the walls of Jerusalem, but she still won’t surrender her shame to the One who is Love.
At the end of Ezekiel 16, he tells her, “Then you will be ashamed, when I atone for you for all that you have done.”
He will not rape us; but have we raped him?
He was crucified naked. And it wasn’t sexy. We did it to shame him.
“For the Joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame.”
What was the joy set before him? It was communion with you in the sanctuary of the Eternal Covenant of Grace.