Bread – Conduct

February 12, 2010

Readings for Friday, February 12 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Gen. 24:1-27; Heb. 12:3-11; John 7:1-13
    Psalms 69, 73

"May those who hope in You not be disgraced because of me."  Ps. 69:6

The context of this statement by David is one of utter despair.  He describes his condition both before and after this prayer as being in water "up to my neck," (v. 1), in "deep waters (v. 2), "worn out calling for help" (v. 3), with failing eyesight (v. 3), where people hate him "without reason" (v. 4), a stranger to his family (v. 8), where his faith is mocked (vs. 9-12), "in trouble" (v. 17), with a "broken heart" (v. 20), and helpless (v. 20).

In other words, when David said these words, he wasn’t feeling too swell.

Built into the middle of his anxiousness about his condition is David’s concern that his bad situation not turn into something which "disgraces" other believers.  The Hebrew word translated here (bǔwsh – Strong’s # 954) means to be ashamed, to be confounded, to be disappointed, to deceive – "The idea of shame at the hands of an utter defeat pervade the mood." [Lexical Aids to the Old Testament, Key Word Study Bible (NASB) (Ed. Zodhiates 1990)].

What about David’s personal situation could cause an embarrassment, a shame, a disgrace to someone else?  Certainly not because David is depressed, or out of work, or ill, or devastated by the loss of a loved one?  The reason for David’s despair is not the cause of my shame or yours either, for that matter.

However, what David does in response to his terrible situation can do one of two things – it can bring blessing to those bystanders who look on, or it can be disgrace, embarrassment, shame "at the hands of utter defeat."

Notice who it brings shame to – not just third party bystanders, not just the public, but a particular group of people – those people who "hope in You."  Who are the people who "hope in God?"  Back then it was his fellow trusting and believing Jews; today, it is anyone who trusts and believes in Jesus Christ.

So to update and paraphrase David’s prayer, we could say "May Christians not be put to shame because of what I do in response to my circumstances."

Just as Bible teachers bear a terrible burden to rightly teach the Word of God on pain of misleading those who hear the teaching, so we as Christians bear a terrible burden in this life to so handle ourselves and our circumstances so that we do not bring shame upon our fellow Christians.

What an incredible concept; what an incredible prayer!  The person next to us in traffic cuts in front of us and then throws on his brakes.  How much would our natural response change if we said the prayer "May other Christians not be disgraced because of me," before we responded?  We are sick and don’t feel well.  How would our natural response change if we recognized that, if we are not careful, how we respond will bring shame to our fellow Christians?

What to me is most interesting about this verse is that God writing through David does not want us to focus on the shame which David may bring upon himself, but the shame that David can bring upon others.  The prayer is not a selfish prayer – it is a selfless prayer.  David is not focused in this prayer on his condition or his reaction, but the effect his reaction may have on other believers.

Does our conduct as Christians, in the worse of circumstances as well as the best, bring disgrace upon our friends who are also Christians?  Unfortunately for me and I daresay for anyone reading this, the answer to this question is too often "yes."

Perhaps we would be more able to say "no" to this question if we remembered that how we react and what we do not only reflects on us but on Christians and on the very Christ whom we worship.  Perhaps we would be more able to say "no" to this question if we asked the Holy Spirit for strength and wisdom to persevere, to respond in love, and to conduct ourselves as members of the "holy priesthood."

Perhaps we would be more able to say "no" to this question if, in all circumstances, we prayed "May those who hope in You not be disgraced because of me."

There is a statement which can be said upon getting out of bed in the morning which I heard a long time ago – "Rise up like a lion in the service of the Lord."  It seems appropriate to add to this, "and my those who hope in Your not be disgraced because of me."  Amen.


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