The Shame of Abuse: How Jesus Christ Rolls Away Our Shame
Joshua 5:9 ESV And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
Shame is a subject that we all need to devote considerable effort to study and understand, especially in regard to how it is working its evil in us. And yet I am finding that it is also a subject that we want to avoid. But avoiding any “hurtful way in us” is never a good idea. To do so is like denying cancer that the doctor shows us in there.
This past Sunday I preached a sermon on the 5th chapter of Joshua, and I specifically zeroed in on verse nine, quoted above. This verse really struck me as I prepared the sermon and thought about what “the reproach of Egypt” was for the Israelites. One of the most glorious aspects of the gospel is contained in this verse: that in Jesus Christ, God has “rolled away” our shame. To the extent that we understand this, we will thrive. To the degree that we miss it, we will continue to be (very unnecessarily) in bondage to shame.
The reproach of Egypt concerned the history of the Israelites. They had been nothings to the Egyptians — slaves, Hebrew foreigners. Once the Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” came to power, the Jews were abused horribly and oppressed with hard, hard labor. Any complaint on their part was met with royal contempt and their lot just grew worse. Try to imagine being a slave and in such a condition. For centuries! Your entire identity and heritage would be one of shame and reproach.
And then, after the first generation of disobedient Israelites had all perished in the wilderness, a success story finally appears. The new leader Joshua oversees a believing band of spies whose efforts are blessed, and they come back with a good report. The Lord re-establishes His covenant with them through a renewal of the sign of that covenant — circumcision, and then the Passover is observed. The Lord had caused the dread and fear of the Israelites to sweep over the fearsome inhabitants of Canaan and Jericho was about to go down after a miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (a repeat of the Red Sea crossing).
And then comes this remarkable pronouncement: “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” They even named the place for it; “Gilgal” means “rolling.” And what was rolled away? The reproach/shame of Egypt.
I suggest to you that through abuse, we have all been shamed. Everyone has been shamed in this sinful world, and all of us have shamed others (as Sandra Wilson puts it, “Hurt People Hurt People”). But abusers are masters at shaming their victims, convincing them that they are worthless in the sight of everyone else. Being verbally abused for years, being the victim of emotional and psychological evil, being sexually abused …. and the list goes on…. instills intense shame in a person. Add to the mix the fact that we all enter this world as sinners and have plenty of history to be ashamed of at our own hands, and you have a paralyzing load of shame to pack around.
Jesus Christ endured “shame and scoffing rude,” as the hymn writer put it. “In our place condemned He stood.” Have you ever thought about this aspect of the cross of Christ? Why was it necessary for him to be mocked and humiliated in the hours leading up to the crucifixion? Why was He stripped naked and why the crowds of mockers taunting Him? If His mission was to come and die, then why didn’t He just die? There are lots of reasons because the cross was a remarkably complex event in which many prophecies were fulfilled and Old Testament types (symbols) were brought to pass. But I think that another reason for the time frame was that on the cross and even leading up to it, Jesus Christ was mocked and scorned for us. He did indeed bear our shame. He took our reproaches.
Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
I recommend to you that Jesus Christ makes this very same pronouncement to us today as He made to Joshua and the Israelites so long ago. “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” That is to say, when we come to faith and repentance in Christ, all of the old load of shame is rolled off of our backs. Because that person we used to be has died and a new creation has been raised up. We are not what we used to be and we are no longer slaves to Satan. We are adopted as sons of God, made heirs of all that heaven can offer, objects of God’s love, free of all condemnation….and the list goes on.
Jesus Christ is the remedy for shame. Even as we suffer as Christians, He remains the remedy for shame. He is in the business of rolling away that old sense of worthlessness. And so it is a great error if we turn to other means in efforts to deal with our shame. None of those old self-made, self-protective mechanisms (perfectionism, isolationism, etc) can work. But if we will simply turn to God’s Word and carefully listen to what He says about who we are in Christ, and believe it — we will find the reproach of Egypt being rolled right off of our shoulders. It is not a one-time fight. We are going to have to battle and rebuke the shaming words and actions of the world, the devil, and of our own sinful flesh every day. But the remedy is always the same and it always works. Jesus Christ has borne our shame and rolled it all away. Minnie Steele had it right (1908) –
I remember when my burdens rolled away;
I had carried them for years, night and day.
When I sought the blessèd Lord,
And I took Him at His word,
Then at once all my burdens rolled away.
I remember when my burdens rolled away;
That I feared would never leave, night or day.
Jesus showed to me the loss,
So I left them at the cross;
I was glad when my burdens rolled away.
I remember when my burdens rolled away,
That had hindered me for years, night and day.
As I sought the throne of grace,
Just a glimpse of Jesus’ face,
And I knew that my burdens could not stay.
I am singing since my burdens rolled away;
There’s a song within my heart night and day.
I am living for my King,
And with joy I shout and sing:
“Hallelujah, all my burdens rolled away!”