Genesis 9:18-28 An enduring legacy begins with righteous leadership

Genesis 9:18-28

Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.
20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. 

24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.
27 “May God enlarge Japheth,
And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.”
28 Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died.

Background

Post flood, Noah plants a vineyard and becomes farmer and wine maker. As his name implies, he has brought much rest and comfort to man by his art of viniculture. Unfortunately, his ill disciplined lifestyle and unrestrained indulgence in wine has lent occasion for Ham to sin. It is safe to presumed that Noah has to some extent contributed to Ham’s moral decadence. Today’s devotion teaches us that an enduring legacy begins with righteous leadership. The moral landscape of future generations are dependent on the morality of the current generation. Therefore, leaders and parents must do their utmost to be exemplary in all that they say and do.

Observation

Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent..

The land that produces subsistence food supplies through human toil and labour now produces wine bringing cheer and comfort to their hearts. This fulfils the hope of Lamech who names his son Noah, which means “rest” and comfortUnfortunately, what is human advancement in growing grapes and making wine is perverted by human depravity. The text describes Noah as having drunk from the wine, becoming shamelessly intoxicated. Drunkenness biblically and historically has never been cast in a good light and has always been a portent of trouble and tragedy. David in a bid of getting Uriah to go into his wife gets him drunk. The daughters of Lot makes their father drunk in order to commit incest. Old Testament culture in more than one occasion portrays nakedness in connection with drunkenness (see Habakkuk 2:15, Lamentations 4:21). In this case, Noah, in his drunkenness exposes himself giving occasion for Ham to sin. Wine can bring comfort and delight, when drunk in moderation. But debauchery and sorrow when consumed in excess and fleshly addiction.

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.

Ham takes advantage of his father’s state of undress and “saw” (רָאָה, raah) which is to look at searchingly as opposed to an accidental glimpse. In short, voyeurism is committed by Ham in utter disrespect for his father. It is Ham’s attempt to dominate, to put his father to shame by telling his brothers to participate in his homosexual shenanigan. His brothers, knowing the seriousness of Ham’s offence make every effort to avoid looking at their father’s nakedness by walking backwards and covering him with a garment. The text makes detailed mention of the brother’s upright character and fidelity towards their father, “their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.” 

When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.

The text provides clues as to what may have transpired before and after the incident. “He knew what his youngest son had done to him” suggests a crime that goes beyond mere looking is committed. As Noah’s state of undress is attributed to his drunkenness, it will have been unreasoning of him to penalise anyone who may have seen his nakedness in passing. The curse that is delivered on Ham’s descendants attests to the fact that something singularly repulsive and inhumanly immoral has been done that deprives Noah of his dignity.

Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brothers.

Why does Noah curse Canaan, his grandson for Ham’s misdeed? One can surmise that either Canaan is in cahoots with Ham in the crime against Noah or the matter has escalated into a full blown family feud. Canaan has presumably inherited Ham’s moral decadence to warrant such treatment from Noah. Therefore, Canaan and his descendants suffer the curse not due to Ham’s sin but because they themselves behave like Ham. It is because of their own transgressions that they are cursed. Technically speaking, Noah’s prayer is more of an acknowledgment of the current moral condition and an extrapolation into the future as a opposed to a curse. Curses do not follow ethnicity but moral decadence. In the case of Rahab, the Canaanite, she and her family are accepted as part of the covenant people of Israel because of her faith in God (Joshua 6:25). In the same breathe, the Israelites are rejected by God because of their sin when He gives them into the hands of their enemies (2 Kings 17:20).

Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.

As an explicit endorsement of Shem as the righteous lineage who will gain victory over Satan, the Lord identifies Himself as the “God of Shem”.  As the seed of the righteous passes from Seth to Shem and Japheth, the seed of the Serpent as it descents from Cain will perpetuate through the Canaanites. Ham’s descendants in addition to the Canaanites include Egypt, Philistia, Assyria and Babylon, all bitter enemies of Israel. The curse predestines the Canaanites to abject slavery to his brother’s descendants. The Lord enlarges Japheth’s descendants as they spread out into the coastlands and Greece and they will rule Canaan together with Shem’s descendants.

Truth

As a rule… people trust what they see, not what they hear.

Leaders and parents are primed to influence the next generation for good or for evil. Noah’s drunkenness has given occasion for his son, Ham to do evil reaping dire consequences for himself and his descendants. The moral landscape of future generations are dependent on the spirituality of the current generation. Therefore, leaders and parents must do their utmost to be exemplary in all that they say and do. It is not uncommon for people in authority to demand their charges to obey the rules while cutting themselves lots of slack. Without question, Noah’s unhealthy indulgences have laid in Ham a foothold for evil and occasion for sin. I have seen parents teach their children to be courageous in facing life’s challenges while being addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have seen bosses talk about unity and a common vision while taking a lion’s share of the profit for themselves. There are pastors who preaches about living the simplicity of Christ while being hopelessly entrapped in the quest for fame and power.

It does not matter what Noah professes to be or what he teaches, his actions attest to his own emptiness and subtle debauchery. People trust what they see, not what they hear. The apostle Paul says, “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” Romans 2:13. Therefore, leaders must not depend on their personality or inherent authority to command respect from the people. The first foundation for success is credibility and respect. And respect is granted to us when people see righteousness displayed through our lives. A leader, minister or parent who does not do what he teaches casts a dark shadow over the church and God’s word. Here are some visible traits of a credible leader,

a.  He is humble in admitting to his mistakes and need for change.
b.  He is not glib with his tongue and every word he says is true.
c.  He must correct himself first before attempting to teach others.
d.  He must remember to always take good care of his own family and parents.
e.  He must exercise mercy over justice by forgiving those who have done wrong.
f.  He must not be given to addictions like wine, gambling or excessive indulgence in his “hobbies”. 

Religion does not guarantee blessings or the destruction of curses.

Canaan is accursed even though he is a descendant of the righteous Noah and worships the same God. As discussed, he is cursed because he is morally depraved just like his father, Ham is. Herein ascertains the fact that religion or pedigree does not contribute to a person’s blessedness or wretchedness. If that being the case, what then is the benefit of being a believer and raising up children according to the ways of God? Religion and proper upbringing of children are requisites to a blessed life, but by no means they are the guarantee of it. It remains for people who having received the word of truth allow their hearts to be transformed by the Spirit.

Many churchgoers suppose by the confession of their mouths seals their blessed destiny. Jesus rebukes the Jews, the “Christians” of His days,

You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
‘This people honors ME with their lips,
But their heart is far away from ME.
‘But in vain do they worship ME,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Matthew 15:7-11

Jesus later adds that they are a plant which will be uprooted because they speak lies with their mouths and their hearts are far away from God. Theirs is a confession without true repentance and religion without morality. True religion does not consist of an accurate understanding of the word alone, but more importantly a righteous lifestyle and a right posture towards God. Having said, the evidence of blessedness is purity and charity towards the marginalised.

Application

As a parent or leader, are you the same person in public and in private? Do your spouse, siblings and children consider you a righteous person? The apostle James says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1. Perhaps it is time to take a reality check. Talk to God, ask your spouse or someone who knows you well what is that one thing that needed urgent change. Work on it and take another reality check three months later.

Dear Lord, thank you for revealing to me my shortcomings. Create in me a clean heart and a renewed spirit. I am determined to live out the truth that I have been professing. Use me to be an inspiration of love and truth and a model that truly reflects Christ. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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