Open shame belongs to us, O LORD, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.
In chapter nine of the book with his name on it, Daniel realizes that God had set down in the prophecies of those before him (Daniel) how long the captivity would last, Daniel does a bit of math and realizes that things should be winding down soon and the people returning to the land of Israel. So he does what all of the captives should be doing: a little prep work. He confesses the sins of the nation — as best he knows them — and recognizes the righteousness of God in following through on His promise to bring discipline to the Israelites when they were disobedient. The statement made in today’s verse is a truth at every level.
Open shame belongs to us … because we have sinned against You. It does not matter who I am or whether or not I believe what God said, sin brings shame along for the ride. There is a reason people are ashamed of our fornication and only speak of it with those who will apply the salve of their approbation to the pain of our shame. There is a reason that people are ashamed of adultery and seek to make some excuse that will justify their transgression. There is a reason we internally wince every time we tell a lie large enough to register on the calloused lie-detection portion of our souls. The reality of the matter is that w know God’s law — the Ten Commandments — is righteous and just and perfect. We recognize in it the standard. Let us leave out all the sturm und drang surrounding the ceremonial law and the rules for the priesthood and focus solely on the laws that most of the world can agree are good. No murder, no stealing, no adultery (i.e. all forms of extra-marital intercourse, including fornication and pornography), no lying, no coveting, and respect your elders. Most societies the world over have agreed that this set of rules applies. There have been exceptions and our modern society is quickly becoming one of those, but the rules that served as a foundation for the modern world are those. Add in the four rules about not having other gods, not making graven images, not taking God’s Name in vain, and remembering the Sabbath and you have a pretty complete set of governing principles for any society you might care to name. When we violate these rules, we are ashamed of ourselves. We know that we should be worshiping God, so we worship someone or something. We have our Man Crush Mondays and Woman Crush Wednesdays on social media. We have our American Idols (Could we be any more overt about that one?). In the end, we find ways to avoid worshiping the True and Living God and find others who will validate and encourage our transgression so we alleviate the sting of our shame. And we do the same with any Commandment we might name.
Open shame belongs to … our fathers, because we have sinned against You. It is not enough for us to transgress the Law ourselves, but we teach our children to do the same. Our fathers have not warned us against licentiousness, so we have taken license to do what we want to do, irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of the action. We then turn around and teach our children to do the same. Even if our words; our direct instruction to our children is to obey God’s Law, our indirect instruction; our actions teach another lesson entirely. Our fathers taught us wrong. We are teaching our children wrong. Lest it be thought that I exclude mothers from my thoughts, mothers are just as culpable as fathers. When I was getting my teaching credential, there were studies referenced that indicated that a child’s moral and ethical compass is formed by the age of three. Even in the most staunchly traditional home, that means that mothers are the ones laying the majority of the foundation. Fathers are not off the hook. Nor are mothers.
Open shame belongs to … our kings …because we have sinned against You. Those who rule us have not fared better. A cursory glance at American politics shows that we have jettisoned the injunctions against lying and coveting. We have transgressed the Law of God and are completely without excuse. Worse still is that we now deny our forefathers had any faith at all and shame their good examples by casting dispersion on their names.
This is a lot of heaviness with which to start the day, but the uptick is this: It can stop with me. My transgressions can be forgiven and I can start anew with God every moment, if need be. Open shame belongs to me for my wrongs, but God can wipe away my shame and renew me. My forebears may not have taught me everything in exactly the right way, but God can fix that and teach me what has been overlooked or taught wrong. For the record, my parents are not bad parents, but they are also not perfect and some lessons have had to be unlearned. Sadly, I imagine that the same will be true for my children. As for our leaders — the kings and princes mentioned — I can pray for them and, since I live in a society in which I can vote, I can turn the freedom to vote to good use and vote for those who have Godly values. If there is no such person for whom to vote, then it is perhaps best I vote for no one.
Open shame is mine when I am disobedient. So let me be obedient.