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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

July 1, 2015

Genesis 9:18-29

  1. Verses 18-21. Beware of failure after great victory (9:18-21). Noah's three sons are listed again (”Shem and Ham and Japheth”) because the narrative is now especially concerned with them. Then we come to a parenthetical clause in 9:18b. Moses writes,”...and Ham was the father of Canaan.” This phrase was not haphazardly thrown in. On the contrary, it has great relevance because it anticipates the rest of the story. Verse 19 states that the whole earth was populated from Noah's three sons. They are carrying out God’s commission to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth," 9:1. Everything seems to be going along just fine when all of a sudden in 9:20-21 Noah gets drunk. He then planted a vineyard and made some fine wine. Surprisingly, the Bible speaks a whole lot about alcohol. The word "wine” occurs over 200 times in our English translations.

    1. Even more surprisingly to some of you is the fact that the Bible holds alcohol in high regard. The following list provides the biblical basis for alcohol. Wine is viewed as one of God's gifts to humankind (Ps 104:15). Every burnt offering and peace offering was accompanied by a libation of wine (Num 15:5-10). Moses implies that it is a good thing to drink wine and strong drink to the Lord (Deut 14:26). Joy in the Lord is compared to the abundance of wine (Ps 4:7). Honoring the Lord with one's wealth is rewarded with the blessings of abundant stores of wine (Prov 3:9-10). Love is compared to wine repeatedly in the Song of Songs, as though good wine were similarly sweet (1:2, 4; 4:10; 7:9). One of the symbols for Israel was the vine (Isa 5:1-7; Mark 12:1-11). Wine is symbolic of great blessing (Isa 25:6). The lack of wine is viewed as a judgment from God (Jer 48:33; Lam 2:12; Hos 2:9; Joel 1:10; Hag 2:16); and, conversely, its provision is viewed as a blessing from the Lord (cf. Gen 27:28; Deut 7:13; 11:14; Joel 2:19, 24; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14). Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (John 2:9-10). Jesus drank wine (Matthew 11:18-19; 15:11; Luke 7:33-35). Jesus used wine in the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). Paul tells Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake (1 Tim 5:23; cf. Prov 31:6).

    2. But the Bible also warns about the dangers of wine. The following list demonstrates this. Nazirites were to abstain from all alcohol and wine (Num 6:3-4). Priests were forbidden to drink prior to officiating in the sanctuary, lest they die (Lev 10:9). In Proverbs 20:1 we are told that ”Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise." Drinking too much wine was dangerous to people and offensive to God (Prov 21:17; 23:20-21, 29-35; Isa 5:22). Drunkenness was especially reprehensible when it led to self-exposure (Hab 2:15; Lam 4:21). The exposure of one's nakedness was not only publicly demeaning but also incompatible with the presence of the living God (Exod 20:26; Deut 23:12-14). The Bible does speak very harshly about becoming enslaved to alcohol or allowing it to control a person, especially to the point of drunkenness (Eph 5:18; cf. Deut 21:20; Eccl 10:17; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Rom 13:13; 1 Cor 5:11; 1 Pet 4:3).

  2. Now back to our story. After Noah became drunk he "uncovered himself inside his tent." The Hebrew word translated "uncovered" (galah) means "to be disgracefully exposed.” Noah is lying in his own room sprawled out naked on the floor or possibly on his sleeping area. The writer is drawing our attention back to the first few chapters of Genesis. In 2:8, God planted a garden for man to enjoy. Here, Noah plants a vineyard (9:20). Moses also establishes parallels between Noah's disgrace (he took of the fruit of his orchard and became naked) and that of Adam and Eve (who took of the fruit of the garden and saw that they were naked). In pointing out the similarities of Noah and Adam, the writer wants to show us that even after being saved from the flood, man's enjoyment of God's good gifts could not be sustained. Noah, like Adam, sinned, and the effects of that sin were to be felt in the generations of sons and daughters to follow. As in Genesis 3, the effect of Noah's sin is seen in his "nakedness" (9:22; cf. 2:25; 3:7).

  3. When Noah and his family were introduced for the first time, Moses wrote, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9). In the New Testament, Noah was called a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet 2:5). He is also included in the hall of faith of Hebrews 11. Noah was a great man of God. If Noah can sin, anyone can sin. This includes you and me. But the point of this story and the whole of Genesis is not merely that anyone can fall but that everybody does (Rom 3:10-12).

  4. The time when most Christians fall is on the heels of a great victory. Man's tendency is to ease up when the conflict lessens. If it happened to Noah, it could happen to you. Whenever you feel like things are going especially well, beware. Stay humble. The apostle Paul says, ”Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor 10:12). We are very vulnerable people. Every Christian is capable of committing even the most heinous of sins. This is why we so desperately require the accountability of a local church and a small group of believers.

  5. This account also serves as a reminder that it is possible for seasoned saints to stumble in the sunset years of their lives. Moses sinned late in his life by striking a rock and taking some of God's glory to Himself; as a result, he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. David sinned with Bathsheba when he was in his fifties. Solomon departed from the will of God when he was old. Past successes do not provide power for future victory. The Bible teaches again and again that godly people can be tripped up before the finish line. The Christian is not a super saint. He is an ordinary person saved by grace.

  6. Noah's sin illustrates that when we fall, we usually take someone else with us. There's no such thing as sinning alone. No man lives unto himself and no man dies unto himself—and no man sins unto himself.

  7. Verse 22-23. Beware of gloating over the misfortune of others. In 9:22, we read that “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.” Apparently Ham's gaze was not a mere harmless notice or an accidental glance. The verb "saw" has such force that some say it means “he gazed with satisfaction." After observing his father's nakedness, Ham told his brothers outside. The word “told” means “to boldly announce with delight.” Ham gloated over his father's shame. Ham's heart was intent on mocking his father and undermining his authority as a man of God. He did nothing to preserve his father’s dignity. To the contrary, Ham probably encouraged Shem and Japheth to go into the tent to see this spectacle for themselves. How do you respond to the sins and failings of others? With delight? With a sense of superiority? By spreading the story (see Prov 17:9; Gal 6:1-2)? The Lord wants us to grieve when other believers fall into sin. How people respond to the sin and embarrassment of others is an indication of their own character. Contrary to Ham, Shem and Japheth covered Noah's nakedness. They laid “a garment" across their shoulders. They walked in backward and covered Noah. They turned their faces from his nakedness. They honored their father and won the approval and blessing of God. The significance of the contrast between the actions of the sons is seen from the author's account of the fall in Genesis 3. In covering their father’s nakedness, Shem and Japheth were like Adam and Eve (3:7) and God (3:21) who did not look on man’s nakedness but covered it with coats of skin (cf. 2:25).They are a living illustration of 1 Peter 4:8.

  8. Verses 24-29. Beware of the long-term consequences of sin. Noah was no doubt ashamed of what he had done. He was also likely surprised to find himself covered with a garment. Naturally, he must have wondered what happened in the tent while he was asleep. The logical thing would be to speak to Japheth, his firstborn; and he and Shem must have told him what Ham had done. In response to what he learned, Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” Now this is bazaar. Who is “Canaan”? Canaan is the son of Ham, Noah’s grandson (9:18b). Why does the curse fall on Canaan? It seems that Noah is prophesying that Canaan is already cursed because he is Ham’s son. He is saying, Canaan, you are cursed because Ham is your dad. It is also a warning to Ham that his son is going to treat him like he treated his father. Ham dishonored Noah, and fatherhood in general, so Canaan is cursed by having Ham as his father. The story of history is pretty stunning: One day one son dishonored his dad; as a result, our society has been obliterated with rebellion. As the youngest son wrongs his father, so the curse will fall on his youngest son, who presumably inherits his moral decadence (Lev 18:3, Deut 9:3).

  9. Verses 9:26-27. Noah declares blessings and curses. Some of Noah's sons would continue a godly legacy and one son would begin a downward fall into sin. For Shem he would prosper. He had protected Noah and will find protection himself. The language is picturesque. Japheth lives in the tents of Shem. One person is pictured as taking shelter with another. Ham on the other hand would not be mentioned again, but one of his sons would, Canaan. His youngest son would struggle and find himself a servant to his uncles. This text use to be the subject of great controversy. This is the passage in scripture that racist refer to as the Curse of Ham. Of course, this curse if we can all it that, is not on Ham but his son, and not on all of his sons. Ham has several sons, one of which is Cush which we know is the name for people of Africa. Cush is not cursed at all, but his brother Canaan is and only him nor his descendants. Racists used to twist this passage and say that this was the justification for the enslavement of black people. A simple reading of the text would reveal that this is a gross misinterpretation of what is written like most racist ideas are.

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