I don’t know if you see the moral dichotomy that exists within our culture as I do, but it’s been on stark display everywhere as of late. For the last 30 years we’ve lived in a relativistic society that has frowned upon any person who’d dare make an absolute moral judgment.
Anytime a Christian leader boldly spoke out against the blatant immorality or dangerous trends within politics, media, or the Hollywood community they were quickly silenced by an avalanche of accusations of judgmentalism, bigotry, intolerance, etc. Dare to even speak to the societal dangers of pornography and you were promptly ousted from the town square.
The irony is how quickly this all changed… Just 20 years ago the mob told us no one had the right to judge what two consenting adults did in the privacy of the Oval Office. Then last June this same group celebrated the death of Porn King Hugh Hefner. But today this same choir has zero problems attempting to destroy a President over an alleged affair with a porn star that happened some 10 years ago. They absolutely changed their tune!
A man everyone knew to be a womanizer (like so many of the Presidents before him) was elected for his policy ideas and not moral standing by none other than Christians! You’d think we’d been celebrated as finally becoming progressive? For me the irony of all ironies is Jimmy Kimmel lecturing anyone about morality when he came to fame via “The Man Show!”
Not only is the moral outrage seemingly selective, but the approach brutal. Today, the same accusation that Christians are judgmental and unloving can be levied at the media punditry.
Let me give you an example… According to a recent study an astounding 50% of American adults have sexted and/or presently contain compromising sexual content on their phones. What’s even crazier is that 16% have actually sent sexual content to a complete stranger!
And while I’m sure you have seen news stories defending people’s privacy and right to exchange sexual content without fearing prejudice, you have probably not seen journalistic presentations of the moral dangers of sexting and how it can destroy a person’s life…
Unless it just so happens the man who’s sexting pictures are leaked online, has the last name Weiner, actually goes by the alias Carlos Danger, and in addition to being politically active in N.Y. just so happened to be married to then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s most trusted adviser Huma Abedin.
If you remember the Anthony Weiner scandal you’ll recall there being two fazes to it. Though in May of 2017 Mr. Weiner ended up pleading guilty to sending an obscene image to a minor - which landed him in jail for 21 months, the story of Anthony’s Weiner originally broke back in June 2011 when he was forced to resign from Congress after a photo made the rounds.
And the coverage was savage. From Twitter, the major networks, to talk radio, the news cycle was dominated by this story. Don’t get me wrong… Because of the high profile nature of the people involved I’m not saying this wasn’t newsworthy, however what really irritated me was the glee in which the story was reported by virtual everyone in the amoral media.
Personally, I was struck by the fact there was absolutely zero public concern for the embarrassment his actions caused his wife, will later in life cause his young son when he googles his last name, the destruction of his marriage, and the severe damage this particular sexual proclivity is inflicting in the life of a man who undoubtedly has a serious problem.
It grieves me that not only has our nightly newscast come to look more like an episode of Jerry Springer than serious journalism, the truth is compassion has gone out of style.
Now before we become indignant I’m afraid to say the institutional church can be equally ferocious and in many ways operate in a similar dichotomy. Aside from the more public spectacles that occur when a high profile pastor is exposed for having some type of moral failure, I have personally seen the local assembly of the church be equally merciless.
How heavy handed the church can be to those who’ve been divorced or are presently living in a failing marriage… How quickly the church castigates those who fall into sexual sin or are struggling with the taboo of same-sex attraction… How fast the church judges the woman who’s had an abortion or the single mom who’s had a child out of wedlock…
How immediate the church is in blaming the parents who’s children have gone wayward or how the church openly ostracize those within her ranks who fail to conform to their version of orthodoxy (who drink, vote Democrat, or watch Game of Thrones). The reality is that there tends to be very little difference in how the church handles our own Carlos Dangers.
It’s a sad inditement, but Christians are one of the few groups of people who tend to eat their wounded! Today, how many people are no longer in our ranks because the church executed them? How many are no longer serving in ministry because the church lynched them in the public square and now refuses to give a second chance? How many refugees sit outside the church today because we’ve built a wall to keep out the diseased?
Could it be that the American church hasn’t faced open persecution from the enemy because we’re doing a good job slaughtering our own sheep? That the wolf has no need to pick off the weak because the herd is all to quick to plate up the meal for him?
Let’s be real for a minute… The truth is many of you may have stumbled into the doors of our church because you were ushered out the doors of another. Now that’s not to say you were asked or forced to leave, but if you were honest you knew it was time for a change because it was abundantly clear you were no longer welcomed where you were.
Because of your DUI, the fact you’ve been divorce, committed adultery, had a child out of wedlock, smoke cigarettes or hook-a, challenged the doctrinal norm, or heaven forbid said something moronic on Facebook you knew beyond the chances of getting involved in a ministry role being nil there would always be a stigma you’d never be able to escape.
It’s almost as though every time you went to church you felt like people saw you as Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown… This cloud of controversy following you everywhere you went.
With these things in mind, this morning we’re going to examine what I believe to be one of the most fascinating stories in the entire book of Genesis because it addresses this very topic of how we’re called to handle the person in our tent who’s made a mistake. As far as approaching the text… We’re going to first unpack what exactly happened before we then look at two very different reactions.
Genesis 9:18-29, “Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him.
Then he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.’ Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.”
Our story begins with an interesting scene… We’re told, “Noah planted a vineyard… drank of the wine and was drunk.” Literally, the word “drunk” means Noah became intoxicated.
Please understand, regardless of you’re theological position on alcohol, we should agree there is a clear and undeniable prohibition against drunkenness in the Scriptures. Getting sloshed is wrong. Getting hammered or blow up is indefensible. It’s a sin.
There is no question Noah made a mistake. That said… The purpose of this story and the reason it’s included in the Genesis record really has nothing to do with what Noah did and instead has everything to do with what was done to Noah. The purpose of the story was to explain why it was that Canaan was cursed and Shem and Japheth blessed.
Notice what happened after Noah “drank of the wine and was drunk.” We’re told he “became uncovered in his tent.” In the original language a better translation for “became uncovered” would be “to be uncovered.” Though the text doesn’t specifically say how this happened, it would appear from Noah’s reaction this “uncovering” was not accidental.
Consider that when “Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him… he cursed” (not Ham), but instead Ham’s son “Canaan.” In order to know what “had been done to him” it’s important we first determine the identity of this “younger son.”
In the Hebrew this phrase translated “younger son” is “ben qatan.” While the phrase is often translated in Scripture as “younger” its more literal meaning is “small.” If you take into account that Ham was in actuality the middle son of Noah (“Shem, Ham, and Japheth”) and that Canaan may have been the first of Noah’s grandchildren (he’s the first mentioned), it’s not outside the realm of possibility that upon awaking from his drunken slumber Noah was keenly aware of what Canaan (Ham’s son) had done to him.
While there is no doubt Ham failed to handle this situation in an appropriate way (which we’ll address in a minute), the implications of Canaan being cursed by Noah instead of his father Ham implies this young man was the instigator of the initial “uncovering” of his grandfather.
And don’t think this was just innocent fun as if he were playing a joke… Judging by Noah’s swift reaction it seems something nefarious and perverse had occurred. The key clue to this point is the use of these two words “uncovering” and “nakedness.” Keep in mind, whatever happened in that tent Noah was immediately aware of when he woke.
In describing the wickedness of incestual perversions in the Law God would say in Leviticus 18:6-8, “None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father's nakedness.”
Once again the point of this passage was to explain that something happened to Noah so wicked that he would immediately curse Canaan and all of his subsequent generations.
Sadly, upon discovering what had happened to Noah, the text then informs us that Canaan’s father Ham also acted in a deplorable and shameful way. We read, “And Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.” This word “saw” implies Ham stood in the tent gawking and staring at his father before telling his brothers.
Additionally, this word “told” doesn’t mean Ham informed Shem and Japheth, but rather he told them with a measure of delight and glee. In a sense, instead of reprimanding his son Canaan and immediately caring for his father Noah, Ham chose to make fun of his father’s nakedness. This situation and Canaan’s behavior was something he found funny.
Honestly, I think Noah gets a bad wrap for this story. I’ve heard people describe him in all kinds of condescending ways. I’ve heard people make the case alcohol tarnished his witness and life of obedience - that this was the one lasting stain on his perfect record.
And yet, I honestly don’t believe the way this story is portrayed is all that fair to Noah. All the passage says is that Noah was a farmer, planted a vineyard, and drank to much… Then the story immediately transitions to how he was subsequently taken advantage of.
While it’s true many use this story to emphasize how wrong Noah was by getting drunk in his tent, they overlook the reality the text (divinely inspired Scripture) doesn’t refer to his behavior as being wicked nor does it classify any of his activities as even being sinful. The truth is that Noah still possessed the moral authority to bless and curse his sons.
It’s true Noah made a mistake (and I can’t emphasize this enough - nothing good results when you find yourself Def-Con 1… We’re all called to be “sober-minded”), however, it should be pointed out that in Genesis 6 (a couple hundred years before this event) we’re told, “Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation; and walked with God.”
What shouldn’t be overlooked (and few pastors mention this) is that even in light of Noah’s lapse in judgment God’s grace in his life remained unshakable… His favor immovable… His pleasure in Noah sure… And Noah’s righteousness secure in the eyes of God!
In his commentary on Noah C.H. Mackintosh writes, “Divine grace had covered all his sins, and clothed his person with a spotless robe of righteousness. Though Noah exposed his nakedness, God did not see it, for He looks not at him in the weakness of his own condition, but in the full power of divine and everlasting righteousness.” WOW!!!
I want you to know this morning that if you’re a follower of Jesus and you’ve blown it in some way this past week - It’s ok! God is not ashamed of you. He's not disappointed in you. The truth is that when God looks upon you He still sees Jesus’ righteousness covering! It’s ok!
Never forget this amazing reality - God’s grace exists because you’re insufficient. When you blow it all you’ve done is demonstrate the unchanging truth that you need more of Jesus! The question isn’t how God sees a person who’s failed. The question is how are we going to see them. And that’s what makes this story so deeply applicable.
What made Ham’s actions so egregious was that in the moment he wasn’t seeing his father Noah the way God did! Ham handled this situation poorly because he saw his father’s nakedness rather than looking beyond to see his father’s righteousness. Ham’s focus was on Noah’s shortcomings instead of his right-standing with God. And as a result he handled this situation contrary to the way God would have wanted him.
Understand… It’s impossible for any of us or the church at large to handle those who’ve made a mistake in our tent if we’re not willing to view that person the way God does. In order to handle such a person in a Godly way we must be willing to look beyond a person’s shame and remember their righteousness before God in Jesus.
In contrast to Ham’s approach, look at how Shem and Japheth deal with the situation. Not only do they refuse to join in Ham’s ridicule and mockery of their dad, but we’re told they “took a garment, laid it on their shoulders, went backward and covered the nakedness of their father… Their faces turned away” so as “not see their father’s nakedness.”
Shem and Japheth refused to gloat or judge their father’s situation choosing rather to lovingly “cover the nakedness of their father.” This doesn’t mean they were willingly ignorant of what had happened or were turning a blind eye. Instead, what’s being described here are two sons who decided to handle their “down in the dumps dad” with grace.
Because Shem and Japheth refused to see their father in any other way than God did, notice how they handled the situation… Since Noah was covered by the righteousness of God, they practically returned their hung out father to such a place of covering.
How interesting that in 1 Peter 4:8 the beloved Apostle would write, “And above all things have fervent love for one another” only to then quote from Proverbs 10:12 “for love will cover a multitude of sins.” Friend, this is what grace does. Because grace fundamentally exists in the presence of failure, grace will always seek to cover the sins of another!
Keep in mind, this idea of “covering” is in direct contrast to exposing or laying bear. We might say the opposite of “covering” would be to “hang someone out to dry” or like Ham to place a person’s shame and shortcomings on display for all to see. I hope you know how you handle someone else’s shame reveals a lot about your own heart!
May I ask… How do you handle knowledge of another person’s sin? Do you tell others and gossip about it? Do you inwardly gloat and delight in their failure? Does another’s shortcomings stir within you a greater sense of moral superiority? Do you stand in judgment? Or by grace do you seek to cover them? Do you seek to restore them to their right position?
In Galatians 6:1-3 Paul would exhort the “brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Here’s why it’s so important you seek to cover another even when that person doesn’t deserve it (and note Noah was sound asleep the entire time this was all taking place)… Jesus covered your sins even when you didn’t deserve it! This entire idea of covering sin is fundamental to the heart and greater mission of Christ!
Romans 4:5-8, “But to him who believes on Jesus who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: (Paul quotes from Psalms 32) ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’” (Note: “Impute” means “to take into account.”)
To this point I have found (and maybe you can relate) that it’s so hard to walk in the newness of life Jesus died to provide when there are people constantly reminding you of your old life! People who are so quick to remind you of your former shortcomings and mistakes… So quick to hold your past over your future. Sad to say this is often the very reason people who stumble are so quick to leave a church. They need a fresh start.
And personally, as a pastor, I find this tragic! I pray Calvary316 is a community of believers who don’t stand in judgment of one another, but instead use such instances to cover by encouraging the fallen to walk and enjoy the newness of life found in Christ Jesus!
I pray we’re more interested in seeing each other not as we once were (sinners), but as the people God is presently making us into… You are not naked… You are forgiven, redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice, covered by the blood, made new through His Spirit! I pray we are a church who, even when we stumble and fall, are quick to lovingly cover and deeply care.
Consider that because of Ham’s attitude to his father’s failing his successive generations were cursed, while Shem and Japheth’s would receive a blessing. On a side note I think when a church grows legalistic and forgets to see people the way God does the blessing of God is removed. Shem and Japheth were blessed because they modeled the heart of God!
I can hear some of you thinking, “Zach, are you saying we should turn a blind eye to sin - that God wants us to cover up sin as opposed to calling it out publicly? Seriously, shouldn’t sin be exposed so that it can be confronted?” If you’re thinking this I want you to know as kindly as I can put it… You don’t understand grace and have completely missed the point.
I want to close by turning to John 8:3-11 when we read of an almost identical situation as what we find here in Genesis 9. We read, “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’”
Understand, our text makes no excuses that this women was indeed caught in adultery. Whether she had been set up or acted willingly she had committed a serious sin… A sin the religious establishment (the do-gooders) was ready to stone her for in the public square.
And yet, notice how incredibly different Jesus handles this adulterous women. Jesus was moved with compassion, covered her, and demonstrated grace! Jesus defended her, forgave her, helped her back to her feet empowering her to “go and sin no more.” The religious establishment cared only what she had do. Jesus cared who’d she become.
Christian, please know how you handle another person’s sin says much about you. Are you more like the religious moralist quick to stone another in blatant hypocrisy or are you like Jesus? How radically different Jesus would have addressed the Anthony Weiner situation.
In closing I have found that those who think Christian’s caught in sin must be publicly called to account and the consequences severe hold such a position because they believe a healthy measure of shame serves as a deterrent. And yet, if these religious men had stoned this women, would she have been able to “go and sin no more?” Hardly! She’d be dead!
You see what enabled this woman to move forward in victory was not greater condemnation - shame or ridicule, but the fact Jesus was willing to cover her! In like manner, both Shem and Japheth were blessed because they understood, unlike Ham, that for Noah to move forward from his indiscretion he needed to be reminded he was righteously covered.
Because they were willing to see their father as God saw him, they were therefore able to treat him as God desired. May the same be said of the way the people we handle the fallen, the weak, the screw up, the Carlos Danger with our tent. May we see people as Jesus sees them so we can treat them as Jesus would! For “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
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