2 Kings of People: Blessed and Cursed (Genesis 9:18-10:32)

What an interesting passage: Drunkenness, nakedness, peeping toms, gossips and future predictions.  Who says the Bible is boring?  In fact just those words should be enough to cause any “moral” do-gooder to blush and wonder if this is really a book that little children should be reading?  Honestly, how many of us would hand over a book with a review that incorporated those terms and tell them to read it and enjoy it?  How many of us would let our children pick up a movie and watch it if those were the words Siskel and Ebert used to describe it? Honestly, have you ever considered that the Bible is not a safe book.  It is full of stories of rape, war, revenge, infanticide, genocide, idolatrous worship, murder, thievery, lying, and today – drunkenness, nakedness, peeping toms, gossip and future predictions.  So why do we read this book and give it to our children?  We read the Bible because it is a book about human shortfalls and God’s gracious salvation.  Last time we preached from Genesis we heard about some of God’s miraculous saving acts by the ark through the flood.  And today we are going to find out what happened after the flood, and my hope is to talk about the spiritual truths revealed in this story, and I will get there, but first, I would like to talk about some of the moral aspects of the story, for that is one of the other reasons we read the book and allow our children to read it.  We want their life to be shaped by it and for them to learn how to live and not live.

 

As the story opens up, we are reminded that salvation has just occurred for these people.  Noah and his three sons and their wives have just exited the Ark and lived through the judgment of God.  In fact, Moses goes out of his way to reiterate that all of humanity had been destroyed and that all human cultures are descended from Noah, just as all people were previously descended from Adam.  There is a worldview at work here that Moses expects the Israelites to believe:  The root of Adam’s disobedience is still alive and well.  Sin affects everything!

 

These 8 people begin living again.  They are populating the world and establishing homes, fields and flocks and Noah decides to get into the fine wine business. [BRING BOTTLE]  He builds a vineyard and processes the fruit into wine.  Wine itself isn’t evil, for the Scriptures declare repeatedly that with every offering some wine is to be given. (Num. 15:5) With each lamb (or ram or bull) for the burnt offering or the sacrifice, prepare a quarter ( or 1/3 or ½) of a hin of wine as a drink offering.

 

In fact, God even tells the Israelites that it is okay to buy and consume strong drink as part of their celebration of the tithe. (Deut. 14:26) Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. Noah’s actions in building a vineyard and fermenting the grapes weren’t wrong, for as the psalms declare (Psa. 104:14-15) He [God] makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.  The vine is a sign of blessing; God even likens Israel to his cherished vineyard in Isaiah (5:1-7) and Jesus does the same thing in his parable of vineyard and the watchtower (Mark 12:1-9).

 

The problem is that Noah gets drunk and his drunkenness leads him to fall asleep completely exposed.  Drunkenness, or the abuse of alcohol is always wrong. The wise teacher of the Proverbs declares (Prov. 23:20-21) Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.  But aside from the obvious tolls that drunkenness takes on society and productivity, the modern danger it creates to those who operate vehicles and machinery and even the physical effects of liver cirrhosis and other alcohol-abuse related illnesses, the scriptures go on to declare the worship hindrance that insobriety brings. Worship and service in the temple are always incompatible and prohibited. (Lev. 10:9) You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.

 

Insobriety causes the mind to slow down, the inhibitions to be lowered and the ability to discern to be impaired and so it was entirely incompatible with the life of a priest on duty in the temple, for the things he engaged in were sacred and important.  And as we see with Noah, his drunkenness led him to be naked in a manner that others could look upon.  Noah is an example of the folly of alcohol and how it can take even a man of high stature, one who (Gen. 6:9) Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God and turn them into a laughing-stock among men.

 

But the story doesn’t stop there.  One of Noah’s sons, Ham, peeks in on his father and starts to make fun of him. First, what is he thinking poking his head into somebody’s tent?  That is like walking up to someone’s bedroom window and peering through to see what is happening, but more than that he gossips about it.  He goes and tells his brothers what he saw.  Gossiping is a great sin, for it seeks to demean another in a variety of people’s eyes.  It ruins a reputation and destroys relationships.  Trust is broken when gossip occurs.  Ham not only took pleasure in his father’s sin, but he wanted to expose it for everyone to see and laugh at.  What a sign of a wicked person.

 

Isn’t that what gossips do – Take pleasure in your sin and demean you in the eyes of others?  Ham is a man who should have known better. According to John Calvin, he had just left the “sanctuary of God” the ark, which rescued him from judgment, and now he was acting vilely instead of gracefully?  How many of us have gone forth from church after hearing the gospel proclaimed only to engage in similar ungodly behaviors – gossiping in a parking lot about another, sharing confidential information with others in the name of “inviting people to pray” or taking prayer requests uttered in Friendship, a small group, etc. and going to get more information about it. Or sometimes we act like Ham by treating people poorly by our words or actions.  Ham should serve as a warning to us: Such behavior is incompatible with the life of the redeemed.

 

As Christians we should never revel in another’s sin, but instead we should mourn it and do everything in our power to bring about repentance instead of public humiliation.  That is why the gospel instructs us to visit the erring brother first alone, then with other and finally to bring it before the entire church (Matt 18).  Do we love our fellow Christians and non-Christians enough that we are willing to privately deal with their sin and allow them to deal with our sin while not exposing them to public ridicule and disgrace until the last resort?  These are good questions to ponder?

 

But that brings us to Noah’s response.  Some believe he acted rashly and that his cursing of his grandson was out of order.  I do not believe that.  Noah is viewed as a prophet in the Scriptures, (2Pet. 2:5) [God] protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; Noah is responding in a prophetic style, declaring what the result of a man’s life will bring upon succeeding generations when he finds pleasure in sin, dishonoring parents and relishing a warped view of life.  Noah is proclaiming that just as Ham dishonored his father, so Canaan, Ham’s son, will be dishonored as well.  The old adage, the fruit falls close to the tree, is true.  This is appropriate prophetic punishment and declaration.

 

Now you may wonder why only one son, Canaan is singled out, but the truth be told, all of Ham’s descendants bear the curse.  For all of ham’s offspring become progressively more degenerate.  From Ham comes the Babylonians, Akkadians, the people of Shinar (where the tower of Babel comes into play) and also the Philistines.  Each of these cultures perfected idolatry, harlotry, and cruelty.  From this there are a variety of moral lessons we can learn – temperance should be practiced, poking our noses into other people’s affairs is unwise, gossiping about others is in poor taste, reveling in another’s sin and its consequences is evil – but that is to assume that the best the OT can offer us is a moral guidebook, something akin to Aesop’s fables.

 

But we know that isn’t true. While all these lessons are true and should be garnered from a story like this, there is another set of truths that are important and valuable to the people of God.  We must ask, how or what does this passage teach us about Jesus or the gospel story?  How does it advance the ministry of reconciliation declared by Christ?  The Bible is the word of God. (2Tim. 3:16-17) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  Even more, (Eph. 1:13) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

 

For this let’s shift our focus a bit and think in larger, more global and general terms.  In our passage, there are 3 lines of people described.  There are the descendants of Ham, Shem & Japheth.  Two of these lines are blessed and one of them is cursed.  All three lines of people had experienced the temporal salvation of God in the ark, all three lines had seen the great hand of God bring judgment down upon the earth and yet, one of these lines is cursed for their failure to live into the blessings of God.  Unfortunately, there are some who come from the line of Noah, who have tasted of the goodness of God’s salvation and who have yet turned away to wickedness and debauchery.  These are men and women who may have grown up in the body of Christ but then turned their back on the gospel and gone other ways.  Or they may be people who are still in the church, but whose life is not representative of a life of grace and mercy.  They are filled with dissension and hatred, anger and back biting, gossip and slander.  They know the truth of God’s word, but they refuse to live into it.

 

Whoever or wherever we find these cursed people, they are like Ham and his son Canaan who revel in sin.  They enjoy looking upon it and talking about it, especially if it is someone else’s sin they can bring into the light.  They are corrupt people separate from God spiritually, even though they may know all about God’s wrath and judgment and his miraculous salvation, they don’t think any of it applies to them personally.

 

What is important in this story isn’t the natural descent so much as the heart of the people. And it is the heart of these Hamites that needs great work.  In fact, it is from the descendants of Ham that Israel’s greatest trials come.  They are the Philistines, the Hittites, the Jebusites, Amorites and Hivites (Gen 10:13-18).  These are the idolatrous nations that continually war with Israel and seek to draw them into false worship.  These are the people who oppress them in the judges and from whom they cry out for deliverance.

 

Similarly, as New Testament believers our greatest challenges often come from our own kinsmen who have fled the fold and rejected the truth of God’s Son.  Maybe it is a friend who has denounced the faith, maybe it is a son or daughter who gives pointed jabs concerning Jesus Christ, sin and salvation.  Maybe it is a coworker who no longer believes and makes fun of our belief.  And that is exactly what Jesus declared would happen, the blessed and the cursed would be at odds.

 

(Luke 12:51-53) Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

 

Salvation, blessing and cursing come not because we are born into a natural family, nor because we are distant relations to some spiritual person, rather the position of one’s standing before God is a result of a promise.  Paul is very clear that natural descent doesn’t matter rather it is election.  (Rom. 9:7) Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

 

And that brings us back to the other two lines: The lines of Shem and Japheth.  Both of these lines, instead of being cursed are recipients of a blessing. But the blessing is unique, for the one who is blessed is God himself.  Genesis 9:26 declares, Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem.  All blessing begins in God.  Anything good that we can declare or ascribe to another is from the hands of God and Noah understood this.  In this blessing, God is declared to be the God of Shem and from Shem we find the names of Abraham, David and ultimately Jesus Christ.

 

For the blessed people of God, there is a realization that all blessing originates from God through Christ, the Son.  He is the Son of the blessed one (Make 14:61-62).  In fact, Paul tells us (Eph. 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Salvation is from the hand of God through Christ, the forgiveness of sins comes by no other name than Jesus’, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a gift of the Father and the Son.  All of these blessings and countless others, like the promise to never leave us, to come back for us and take us to be with Jesus for eternity, the assurance that we will never be tempted beyond what we can bear and an escape will always be present and many more are all part of the blessing of living with God as our Lord.

 

But what is amazing is it isn’t just the line of Shem that is blessed, but the line of Japheth as well.  The blessing is extended to all who live in the tents of Shem (Gen 9:27).  Everyone who is connected and who takes their rest in the fullness of Shem – Jesus Christ – is a partaker of the divine blessing and call.  All who are part of Shem’s family line and dwell in his protection are blessed.  And based upon the listing of the nations that flow from these lines, this is a sizable contingent of the earth’s population, stretching across the globe that are going to enjoy God’s goodness.

 

In fact, the New Testament tells us that (Acts 2:9-11) Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” were present at Pentecost and were included into the blessings of the New Covenant

 

And that same truth continues to be proclaimed today.  So let me ask you?  Are you living in the light of Christ and enjoying his call?  Is your life reflective of the salvation Christ has brought to the world or are you acting like Ham?  The time is short, (Rom. 13:12-14) The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. [All of these things are reminiscent of Ham]  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…loving one another. Extending Grace to one another and truly being a people who seek to cover up the shame of sin with the gift of salvation.

 

Truly we can say, Blessed be the Lord, the God of Jesus Christ.  May God extend the territory of all who believe and may they dwell in the body of Christ.  And that is what we celebrate in Communion.  In Christ, the tent of God, we find a perfectly spotless lamb, without stain, sin, or blemish and His name is Jesus and his body is offered to us.  We are called to live in his tent and participate in his body and enjoy his blessing.  For Jesus said, this is my body given for you and this is my blood shed for you.  If you believe the gospel, and repent of your sin, despising the things of Ham in your life and looking to Christ to cleanse and make you right, then you are invited to join us in this celebration of blessing.

 

Outline:

Moral Lessons from Noah

Moral lessons from Ham

Noah’s appropriate punishment and prophetic proclamation

A Theological reading of the Passage

The Cursed

The Blessed

All blessing begins in God and comes through Christ

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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