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Archive for the ‘Honor/Shame’ Category

Both Muslims and Christians call Jesus Christ the word of God (كَلِمَةٍ ٱللَّهَ ). As I was reading in the Psalms (Zabur) this morning I was reminded of Al Imran 45 (3:45) from the Qur’an. In both verses we see God honoring or exalting his word.

Psalm 138:2
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

Al Imran 45
Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;

إِذْ قَالَتِ ٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةُ يَٰمَرْيَمُ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُبَشِّرُكِ بِكَلِمَةٍ مِّنْهُ ٱسْمُهُ ٱلْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَجِيهًا فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا وَٱلْءَاخِرَةِ وَمِنَ ٱلْمُقَرَّبِينَ

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I completed the series on Honor and Shame in the Psalms a few weeks ago. The posts were slightly edited sections of a larger paper I had written, which I am now posting as a whole. Please use it and share it freely with anyone you think might be interested.

Honor and Shame in the Psalter

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Psalm 89 closes book three of the Psalter. It begins with a reminder, “You have said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: “I will establish your offspring forever; and build your throne for all generations”’” (Psalm 89:3-4). God had made a covenant with David to keep his offspring on the throne of Israel. And the God who made this promise is no ordinary god like those of the peoples surrounding them. “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him” (Psalm 89:6-7)? He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth.

It is by God’s favor that “our horn is exalted” (Psalm 89:18). The honor of Israel lies in the hands of almighty God. And he has honored them by lifting up David and making him king over his people so that they would be triumphant over their enemies. God’s promise to the king is, “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted . . . And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:24, 26). God had promised that David’s “offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me” (Psalm 89:36).

Yet the reality at the time of this psalm was that God had cast them away, indeed, God was “full of wrath against [his] anointed (Psalm 89:38). God had “defiled [the king’s] crown in the dust” so that “he has become the scorn of his neighbors” (Psalm 89:39, 41). The psalmist cried out, “You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame” (Psalm 89:45). The Davidic king is no longer dominant in the land. He has been carried away and it seems that God has totally cast him off.

“How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire” (Psalm 89:45)? This is the burning question. How long will God hide and Israel be full of shame? “Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked, and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations, with which your enemies mock, O Lord, with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed” (Psalm 89:50-51). The end of book three in the Psalter is not promising. The king God had set on the throne had been covered with shame and thus the whole nation was put to shame.

But the good news comes in book four as we see the shift from the Davidic king to YHWH himself. God is the true king. We are to seek our refuge in God as our king. The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will be blessed (Psalm 91:1). Satan himself sees Psalm 91 as a reference to the Messiah when he quotes verses 11-12 to Jesus at his temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Note how God intends to honor this one who takes shelter in him, “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (Psalm 91:15).

The shift in book four of the Psalter means to point us to God as the only one who can be the true Davidic King, the true Messiah who is able to deliver us from our enemies and keep us from being put to shame. In Jesus Christ we see how this comes together for he “was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4). He is the one in whom dwells the whole fullness of deity bodily (Colossians 2:9).

We come to see that we need more than a Messiah, one who is anointed by God to save his people. We need God himself. And this is exactly what he gives us in Jesus Christ.

The Psalms make clear that shame belongs to those who turn away from God and seek vain idols. We see how God himself will put idolaters to shame. And we see that those who seek their refuge in God will not be put to shame. They will be exalted and brought near to him in relationship. The honor of creation will be restored and even enhanced as they dwell in his holy sanctuary, near to the one who is worthy of most honor.

Yet we also see that the path to honor is a path of shame. Ultimately it is our enemies who are put to shame, but this happens through the shame-bearing of the Messiah, God’s promised king who is nothing less than God himself. God’s honor is at stake in the salvation of his people. Thus he acts with great wisdom and might to remove the shame of his people so that they might be with him, relishing his glory forever and ever.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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A little 8 year girl was raped. Her attackers were four boys aged 14, 13, 10 and 9. My mind cannot begin to get around the horror of this violence.

Perhaps as shocking for Westerners is that the family apparently didn’t see her primarily as a victim, but as one who marred the family honor. Yet, for many people in the world the family’s reaction was not shocking, but normal and expected. In some parts of the world the family would not only shun her; they would kill her. They would do it for the family’s honor, which is why we refer to such murders as honor killings.

I’ve been reading a helpful book called Honor: A History by James Bowman. Here is the way he puts this reaction:

In honor cultures, a woman’s honor normally belongs to her husband or father, and the dishonor of any sexual contact outside marriage, whether consensual or otherwise, falls upon him exactly alike, since it shows him up before the world as a man incapable of either controlling or protecting her. Dishonor is more like a fatal disease than a moral failing. It requires constant vigilance and even then can strike anyone at any time. And its only end can be death.

This is such a hopeless and tragic view of shame. Many in the West will emphasize to this little girl that she was not at fault for what happened. They will help her not feel guilty. This is true, important and crucial. But will they be able to help her not feel so dirty? Will they be able to deal with the shame?

This is one more reason I love the One who bears our shame and makes us clean. “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (1 Peter 2:6).

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We know that Jesus Christ endured great shame as he was crucified on the cross. And yet because of his willingness to endure the cross he was exalted to the position of greatest honor in the universe—the right hand of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11). On the cross Jesus not only bore our guilt, but he also took upon himself our shame. He was willingly stripped, mocked, beaten, and crucified among criminals. Imagine the shame of hanging naked among common criminals waiting for death as those below hurl insults.

Jesus Christ tells us that the whole Old Testament is a book about him (see Luke 24:25-27, 44-47). When reading the Psalms we remember that we are reading a book that is ultimately about Jesus the Messiah. This is not difficult when we read psalms that are explicitly quoted by New Testament authors who apply them to Jesus. Many psalms are messianic psalms that speak in part to what David or the original author was experiencing, but ultimately they find their fulfillment in the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. What is remarkable is that in many of these messianic psalms we see the promise of one who will willingly bear the shame of God’s people so that they might be honored by being brought near to God.

Psalm 22 begins with these familiar words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Jesus spoke them while hanging on the cross – Matthew 27:46)? David had felt pushed away from God—forsaken. For the King of Israel to be forsaken of God is incredibly shameful. He is the one anointed to be king by God himself and yet he was forsaken. David knew that his fathers trusted in God and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:5) and so he cried out, for he was nothing more than a worm, scorned and despised (v. 6), and mocked by all (v.7-8). In his cries for deliverance he had confidence of God’s salvation, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (Psalm 22:24). There is hope of not being put to shame, for God does listen to the afflicted, to the shamed who cry out to him.

There are many verses in this psalm that are either quoted directly or alluded to in the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ’s suffering and death (v. 1 being the most notable). Certainly we ought not to interpret this psalm solely as a prediction of Christ’s death; we must see it in the context of David’s life and suffering as well, not to mention the way in which it would have given encouragement to the people of God before Jesus came. However, at the same time, we truly do need to see this as being fulfilled in Christ. He is the one crying out, who has felt forsaken. He is the one being put to shame and in quoting the opening verse of this psalm on the cross, he is also the one who is pointing towards a future hope. “I will tell of your name to my brothers in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Psalm 25:22).

In Psalm 69 David is concerned about not only his own honor, but the honor of all who hope in God. This psalm is also looking forward to Jesus.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who see you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s son. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me (Psalm 69:6-9).

This text is quite clearly speaking of Jesus for John quotes the beginning of verse 9 in John 2:17 and Paul quotes the latter part of verse 9 in Romans 15:3. It is on Jesus that our reproaches have fallen and this text makes clear the reason he bears this reproach. It is for God’s sake. It is not an accident, but a willing bearing of another’s shame in order that they may not be put to shame.

Those who put their hope in Jesus the Messiah will not be put to shame. Our shame is removed and we are given the honor of being sons and daughters of God. This comes through the loving bearing of our shame by Jesus Christ. He endured the worst kind of shame on the cross. Yet the worth of his death and resurrection show us just how honorable he truly is.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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In western society we most often associate salvation with the forgiveness of our sins—the removal of our guilt and restoration of our innocence. This is certainly a true and important aspect of salvation, but it fails to recognize all that the Gospel accomplishes in our lives. We say yes and amen to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” But then we pass right over texts like 1 Peter 2:6-7, “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe.”

This is certainly not the perspective of the psalmists. Repeatedly they cry out that they not be put to shame, but that God deliver them. “In you [God] our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (Psalm 22:4-5). The deliverance that we so long for is intimately tied up in not being put to shame! “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). This is the hope for those who wait on the Lord. This is the hope for those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 25 is a beautiful example of God’s salvation working to free us from the guilt of sin as well as its shame. David begins, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me” (Psalm 25:1-2). Then he also says, “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions . . . for your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt for it is great” (Psalm 25:7, 11).

David is concerned with both guilt and shame. It is especially interesting to note what he says after he has asked God to pardon his guilt in verse 11. He speaks of the man who fears the Lord and then tells us what blessings await him—all of them have to do with being honored! “His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant” (Psalm 25:13-14).

Then he comes back to his need for forgiveness in verse 18, “Consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive all my sins.” Yet, even in this verse he speaks of affliction and trouble, which most certainly are concerned, at least in part, with shame. So he cries out again in verse 20, “Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”

David properly understood his need. He knew that he needed deliverance from both guilt and shame. And he knew that only God could accomplish it. Our hope is that as we take refuge in God he removes our sin and our shame. Our hope lies in the fact that “though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6). In our humble leaning on God rather than ourselves, God shows us his regard. This is in contrast to his relationship with the haughty whom “he knows from afar.” Honor and shame are tied into relationship. The haughty who think they have honor are removed from relationship with God, while the lowly, who recognize their lack of honor before God, are brought near to him. The lowly rejoice for “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

The sons of Korah sum it up best, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (Psalm 84:11-12). It is God who bestows favor and honor and therefore the one who trusts in him is truly blessed.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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As noted in Part 5 the honor of the king is enhanced because his enemies are shamed. They are the ones who are disgraced while he is the one lifted up and exalted. We see this refrain throughout the psalms of David as he asks God to rescue him and put his enemies to shame. “O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous” (Psalm 25:2-3). “Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me” (Psalm 35:4)!

The path of honor often goes through the shame of our enemies. We often miss this idea when we think about issues such as deliverance and salvation. In order to be delivered from our enemies, our enemies must be made powerless; they must be defeated. Our deliverance requires their defeat. So, too, when it comes to honor. Our honor must come through the shame of another—both the shame of our enemy (ultimately Satan who was defeated and thus shamed at the cross) and the shame of our Lord, Jesus Christ.[1]

Often David was in serious trouble and his enemies surrounded him with boasting. Part of the fear of being shamed is that if the shame came from following God then others who sought to follow God would also be put to shame. We see this in Psalm 69:6, “Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.” So David’s prayers of vindication were both for his sake and for the sake of the faith of those who follow God.

Indeed, they are prayers for the sake of God’s honor, for in shaming one who takes refuge in God one also shames God himself. This is why God must act. He must rise up for the sake of his name. David cries out in Psalm 109:

Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it! Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad! May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak! With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death (Psalm 109:26-31).

David cries out for help and salvation. His heart is for his enemies to see that the Lord is on his side, acting on his behalf. He asks for his accusers to be clothed with dishonor. “Shame those who are shaming me!” Yet notice what immediately follows this. “With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng” (v. 30). The result of his deliverance is praise, not to himself, but to God. When God’s people are being shamed and God rises up to act by shaming the shamers, he is acting so that he not only honors his people, but so that he also honors himself. This is what lies behind Psalm 50:15, “[C]all upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”


[1] This would not be true if sin had never entered the world, but with a world of sin—which needs to be punished and put to shame—being honored implies another being put to shame.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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Showing honor

Ray Ortlund:

Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

Here is a competition where we can rightly fight for first place in line: in honoring one another. Not just tolerating one another, but honoring one another.

Every church should be a culture of honor. The gospel is all about honor replacing shame. Every Christian will be forever glorious with the glory of the risen Jesus: “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Let’s see one another not as we are now but as we will be then. Our future glory makes Romans 12:10 an obvious thing to do.

It is also rare. Romans 12:10 might be the most ignored Scripture in our churches today, which are too often cultures of shaming rather than cultures of honoring.

But who wouldn’t want to walk into church this next Sunday morning to a hero’s welcome? And why not? We may not be the greatest Christians in the world. But by God’s grace we didn’t go apostate in a whole week.

That’s worth celebrating.

HT: JT

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A king naturally holds a position of honor—he is the king. It is clear, however, in the Hebrew Bible that the honor of the king is entirely dependent upon God, for he is the one who chooses who is to be king. He is the one who chose Saul and gave him the kingdom (1 Samuel 10). When Saul disobeyed, God dishonored him and took the kingdom and gave it to another more honorable than Saul. David never forgot that the blessing of being king over God’s people was a gift of God.

O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever. His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him. For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved (Psalm 21:1-7).

It is God who gives the king his heart’s desire (v. 2). God is the one who sets a crown of fine gold upon his head (v. 3). God is the one who sets him up as king. It is through God’s salvation that the glory of the king is great, for God is the one who gives him splendor and majesty.

God will exalt his king over all his enemies and give him great glory. “I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.¹ His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine” (Psalm 132:17-18). The enemies of the king are shamed, but the king himself is honored with a shining crown.

God promised David that his descendants would reign over his people and that one would come whose kingdom would not end. “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:12-14).

In Psalm 2 we see that the Lord’s anointed (the Messiah) is to be greater than all the kings for they are commanded to “kiss the Son” (Psalm 2:11), that is, pay homage to him and honor him as the king who reigns over them. It is to the Messiah that God says, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:7-8). God’s king (the Messiah) was never to only rule over the tiny sliver of land in Palestine. He was (and is!) to rule the whole world.

We know that the Son of David, and thus the Son of God, is Jesus Christ.² He was declared the Son of God many times in the Injil: at his birth (Luke 1:32-33), his baptism (Matthew 3:17), his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and ultimately at his resurrection (Romans 1:3-4). He is the King of Kings, the one who has been given all authority in heaven and earth, the one who has been highly exalted and given a name above all names (Philippians 2:9-11). He is the one who fully triumphs over his enemies so that David says, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (Psalm 110:1).

What greater honor is there than sitting at the right hand of the LORD? What greater honor is there than having all your enemies disgraced before you so that they become the thing upon which you set your feet? As God’s king, the Messiah, our master Jesus is given the greatest honor.

1. The Hebrew word translated as “anointed” is māšîach (Messiah or Christ). It is the same root as the Arabic messiH.
2. Let me say again, as I have elsewhere, that the idea of God having sex with Mary to produce a child is blasphemy.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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Because of our sin we are enemies of God (see Romans 5:10) and we boast in our perceived greatness. “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 10:3-4). We have rebelled against the worthy one, the one worthy of all glory and honor. Such rebellion is shameful.

Sin brings shame. We feel the shame of our sin so we seek to cover ourselves as Adam and Eve did, believing that we can hide our sin. Yet before a holy God we are exposed and not only do we feel shame, we are put to shame. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods” (Psalm 97:6-7). The heavens make clear that God is glorious and yet we have all turned away so that none does good (Psalm 53:1). We have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:23). All who worship anyone other than God will be put to shame; they will be brought low and rejected by him, pushed out of his presence. “For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them” (Psalm 53:5).

This shaming of the wicked has a purpose; it is not an end in itself. “Let [God’s enemies] 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” (Psalm 83:17-18). The wicked are shamed so that they might know that only God is worthy of the honor they had sought for themselves. The wrath of God serves the glory of God.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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