God blesses those who are living holy lives.
Genesis(93) (Part of the Origins(91) series)
by Marc Webb(59) on July 4, 2021 (Sunday Morning(291))
Have you ever thought that the stories of the Bible would make for good headlines? The first chapters of Genesis show humanity on such a rollercoaster ride that I truly wonder what the first hearers would have thought. Imagine with me the following headlines ripped from the pages of the Bible: in Genesis 1, we see of highs, “The Creation of the World” and “Man Created in the Image of God.” And in Genesis 2, “Man and Woman = One Flesh” and “The First Marriage.” Then in Genesis 3 we see the lows of, “The Fruit of the Forbidden Tree is Eaten” and “Kicked Out of Paradise.” Then we see highs again as “God Gives Them Clothes” and in Genesis 4, “The Blessing Continues, Part 1” as Eve gives birth to Cain and Abel. But the lows come quickly as “Brother Kills Brother” and “Sin Abounds.” And those are quickly followed by the highs of “Seth Is Born” and “People Call on the Name of the Lord.” In Genesis 5, we see the ominous “And Then He Died” but we also see “The Righteous Ones”, Enoch, Methusaleh and Noah, who will bring comfort, rest and relief. In Genesis 6, we again see the lows in “God is Starting Over” and “The Lord Regrets He Ever Made Us.” And later in Genesis 6, we see that God will save a remnant as “Noah’s Building a What?” and in Genesis 7 and 8, there’s the “Storm of the Century.” At the end of Genesis 8 and the beginning of Genesis 9 we see highs of “On Dry Land”, “Pleasing Worship”, and “The Blessing Continues, Part 2.” The first hearers might now be thinking that the hard times are behind Noah and his family and things can only go up from here. But as we come to this morning’s headlines, “Fallen Hero” and “Humanity Exposed” we will see that man’s sinful nature rears its ugly head again. The blessing that God pronounced on Adam and Eve and on Noah is still intact but so also is man’s sinfulness that started in the Garden. But again the rollercoaster ride that is humanity’s history continues and by the end of our passage this morning we will see a curse and we will see a blessing. Two of Noah’s sons will show that their father’s righteousness and holiness has been passed down to them. And because they have emulated their father they will be blessed which brings us to our big idea that “God blesses those who are living holy lives.” We will see what blessings Noah’s sons receive and also what blessings the Bible promises to us today when we live a daily holy life in obedience to God and his son, Jesus.
Before we dive into our scripture this morning let’s begin by dedicating to God this time and this opportunity to study His Word. Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word, the Bible. Thank you that we can read and study it. Thank you that it tells us how to live holy lives set apart to do your will. I pray that you would open our hearts and minds to what you want to say to each of us this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
There are two points this morning. The first point is, “Family Tragedy” and it is found in Genesis 9:18-23. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
This is the final section of the Flood toledot. The flood story is set in between references to Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The sons are first mentioned in Genesis 5:32, again in Genesis 6:10, in Genesis 7:13 and finally here in Genesis 9. This links them back to the genealogy of Adam and to before, during and after the Flood. The focus is shifting from Noah to his three sons.
We are given two new pieces of information that were not mentioned before. First, Ham is the father of Canaan. This is evidence that the blessing of procreation God reintroduced after the flood is already at work. The mention of Canaan is also important as it introduces the first hearers to a major character in the lives of the Israelites later in the OT. Second, the three sons of Noah will be the ones whom all peoples will come from that are scattered over all the earth. One of the reasons God saved Noah and his sons from the flood was so that the blessing would be passed down to all future generations.
Next we are introduced to a family’s tragedy. Noah is called a “man of the soil” or “ground.” The ground has been significant in the early chapters of Genesis. Man is created from the ground and the ground is cursed because of man’s sin. The ground endures the punishment of the flood and has survived. Noah and his sons have also survived the flood and are given a second chance along with the ground. Noah’s livelihood is linked to the ground from which the blessing of food and drink has come from. Noah has come from a long line of farmers including Adam, Cain and his father Lamech. Noah, as a second Adam, seems to be fulfilling the original purpose of humanity in the garden. As a farmer Noah proceeds to plant a vineyard. Commentators are split about if Noah was the first person to ever plant a vineyard and make wine. If so, they would contend that Noah probably didn’t know what effects wine would have on his body. But there is evidence that vineyards and the making of wine came before the flood. We can surmise that Noah knew exactly what he was doing when he grew and picked the grapes, pressed them and waited for the juice to ferment.
After drinking the wine that he made Noah became drunk and laid uncovered inside his tent. Noah’s drunkenness is not excused or condemned here but it would have been disgraceful to be in that condition. This is the first of two incidents in Genesis that include drunkenness and both result in sin. I can’t imagine that Noah being drunk would have made God happy and just because he doesn’t address it doesn’t mean it's ok. We are reminded of what God said before blessing Noah and his sons: that man is evil from childhood. Wenham says, “The humanity that begins with Noah fully parallels the humanity that preceded the flood.” Noah is still human and humanity is still sinful. The flood has not wiped sin out. I think it is interesting that this story comes on the heels of blessing and covenant. We always need to be careful of Satan’s attacks especially right after a God moment in our lives. He will try to steal our joy every chance he gets.
We also see that Noah is lying uncovered which would have increased his disgrace in the eyes of the first hearers. The Bible talks in various places about drinking to excess and the problems that could arise. Here alcohol has caused Noah to become drunk and he has exposed himself and that is a disgrace not only to himself, but also to his family. Lastly, we see that Noah was inside his tent. This is important because it would have been something else entirely if he was drunk and naked outside in public. We see a parallel here in that when Adam and Eve sinned they knew they were naked and Noah in his sin and disgraceful condition became naked.
Next we see what Ham does when confronted with his father’s nakedness. Ham somehow sees his father lying uncovered inside his tent meaning he may have gone into his father’s tent without permission. This act would have shown a clear disrespect for his father. The word for saw implies “he gazed or he took a long look. It seems he had a certain satisfaction at seeing his father in his shameful condition. Once he had noticed his father uncovered, the proper thing for Ham to do should have been to quietly cover him up. But there was something in the character of Ham that caused him to not do that and instead go outside and tell his brothers about what he saw. Literally, the text means that he told his brothers with “delight.” He seemed to have enjoyed his father’s shame and the embarrassment it would cause. He may have relished the opportunity to gossip about “righteous” Noah. Ham shows blatant disrespect for his father again and again. We are again reminded that Ham is the father of Canaan and it would have alerted the first hearers to pay special attention. Ham shows his true character as he finds his brothers and gossips about his father’s indiscretion. He was probably making fun of his father and was trying to get his brothers to join in the fun of looking at his father’s nakedness as well. We notice a couple principles here. One, God’s desire is for us to show respect to our parents. Two, God’s desire is that we do not gossip about the sins of others. We need to be careful not to revel in the other’s sin because we are all sinful creatures.
What Ham does reminds us of Eve in the garden. She saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye. Eve ate of the fruit and then gave some to Adam who sinned as well by eating it. Ham saw his father’s nakedness, made fun of it, and tried to entice his brothers to sin as well but his brothers refused to be tempted and even did something about their father’s condition. We need to be careful of what we allow our eyes to see. We can easily be tempted to sin by what we allow ourselves to look at. With our eyes we are tempted to lust, covet, etc. In Job 31, we see these words from Job. “I have made a covenant with mine eyes to not look lustfully upon a young woman” and “my heart has been led by my eyes.” Job understood that what he allowed his eyes to see could cause him to sin. He covenanted with his eyes to not let them look upon another with lust and, in doing so, keep his sinful desires at bay. We live holy lives by controlling what our eyes look at and not allowing those temptations to become sin “lived out” in our actions. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to live a life of holiness by controlling what my eyes are allowed to see.
After being confronted with Ham’s disrespect we see the decency that his brothers, Shem and Japheth have for their father’s condition. They did not fall into the same temptation that Ham did. Scripture says they took a garment and laid it across their shoulders and walked backward and covered their father’s nakedness. They showed decency in covering their father but they also went above and beyond to not even look at him in his disgraceful condition and be tempted by what they saw. They made sure that their faces were turned the other way. Shem and Japheth countered the sin of Noah by covering the “uncovered” and countered the sin of Ham by not seeing what Ham “saw.” This reminds us of God covering Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned and found that they were naked. We need to remember we are all sinful people and the shame of our sin requires a covering just as Noah’s did and Jesus Christ is the only one that can cover our sin and shame.
We notice that more is said about what Shem and Japheth did than what Ham did. That is because we are to focus on the actions of Shem and Japheth more. They covered their father’s shame, honoring him by not looking at his nakedness and by not gossiping about it to others. These are the actions of people who knew what was right and did what was right. When we are loving people the way Jesus loves, we do not go around exposing their sin and encouraging others to make fun of them. That is not the way of holiness. Shem and Japheth had seen their father’s faith in the Lord as he built an ark not knowing what rain probably even was. They had watched their father’s obedience as he did everything God commanded him. They learned about the worship of the Lord as they saw Noah build an altar and sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord on it. They had learned from their father how to live a holy life and now have exhibited the kind of behavior necessary to do the same. This brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to live a life of holiness by knowing what is right (found in God’s Word) and by doing what is right.
Our second point this morning is called “Family Prophecy” and is found in Genesis 9:24-29. Follow along as I read those verses. “When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.
When Noah wakes up from being drunk he discovers what his youngest son has done to him. Noah may have heard the rumblings of family members outside or maybe he went to his oldest son, Japheth, and asked how he had been covered up. The result is, that when Noah, who has not spoken in the entire narrative of his life in the Bible, finally speaks, his first words are a curse on his grandson, Canaan. The word “curse” is only used here once, so this is probably more a prophecy by Noah about his grandson. It took the form of request to God asking him to fulfill what Noah had said. This would have been different from a prophecy spoken by God but still would have carried weight. Wenham says, “Though it is not stated Noah’s words evidently have divine authority and affect the future.”
Why did Noah curse Canaan and not Ham? We need to go back to Ham’s sin. Ham showed a blatant disrespect for his father. This would have been a very serious matter in Noah’s time and later in Israel as well. The punishment for insulting or disrespecting your parents could have been death. Disrespecting parents was not just a crime against them but against God in showing contempt for those he put in authority over you. One of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and mother.” Respect for parents was paramount. When we disrespect our parents we start to see the downfall of the family itself. Satan has been attacking the family already. Adam and Eve’s relationship would have been strained because of their sin. Cain kills his brother Abel and we’ve seen the ungodliness passed down from Cain through his family to Lamech, who had multiple wives and boasted of killing someone. Satan again attacks the family as Ham is infected with contempt and disrespect for his father. And it brings a curse on his family, his son and the generations to follow. Our families are being destroyed by sin which is why it is so important that we live holy lives so our families will see it, can emulate it and pass it onto the next generation who will be blessed by God. BIG IDEA
Cursing a person’s son would have had the same effect as cursing the father because it would be cursing his future line. Noah has seen something in the character of his son that disturbed him. Ham’s character was not formed in that instant but had been forming his entire life. Noah notices this and realizes that those character traits will be passed down to Ham’s son, Canaan. In fact, Canaan would become the father of the Canaanite people who were wicked and sexually immoral. Their wickedness and immorality was the reason why God gave their lands over to the Israelites. The Israelite hearers would have understood why Noah cursed Canaan. They would have seen firsthand the evil and wickedness of the people who lived in the Promised Land before they did. Noah’s curse/prophecy represented God’s punishment of the sins of the Canaanite people which Ham exemplified.
The curse on Canaan was enslavement. He would be the lowest of slaves to his brothers. The enslavement to his brothers is mentioned a total of three times by Noah. Wenham says, “This threefold repetition of the curse makes it unusually emphatic: there can be no doubt about its fulfillment.” Most commentators believe that this curse was fulfilled as the Israelites displaced the Canaanites from the Promised Land and eventually enslaved them during King David’s reign. The enslavement to Japheth is harder to historically explain. Through this incident, God is warning the Jewish people not to compromise with the Canaanite way of life. They would need to destroy anything and everything that would tempt them to sin as the Canaanites did. Lastly, the curse Noah speaks on Canaan did not have anything to do with race. The Canaanites were not racially different from the Israelites or the other people they lived among.
Next, we see Noah turn from cursing to blessing. Notice that Noah doesn’t bless Shem or Japheth. He blesses the Lord, the God of Shem. This the first time that God is referred to as the God of an individual in the Bible. Noah’s reference to the Lord means he was not a vengeful individual who was out of fellowship with God. Noah recognizes that any blessing that Shem receives will come from the Lord. It reminds us that just as we’ve seen all throughout the narrative of Noah, that it is God who is the main character of the story. It is all about God and not about man at all. Noah blesses God and asks that God bless Shem and Japheth for their actions in showing dignity to him.
What are these blessings Noah is asking for on their behalf? Shem receives the blessing of the firstborn as Noah asks for God to enrich him. We notice that Shem’s name is always mentioned first when the three sons are listed. This is another instance of God’s grace given to the second born as we have seen with Abel over Cain and will see with Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau. By calling the Lord, “the God of Shem”, Shem is identified in terms of his relationship to God. It also means that Shem’s line will be the elected line just as Seth’s line was and just as Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s will be. This is the line that Jesus Christ, the Messiah will come from. Noah is prophesying about Shem’s descendants just as he has about Ham’s.
Noah also asks for God to bless Japheth by enlarging his territory and allowing him to live in the tents of Shem. This blessing on Japheth to be enlarged has seemed to be fulfilled as his descendants were those who settled west and north of Israel which includes the Greek peoples and the Philistines. His descendants also reached as far as Asia Minor, Europe and finally to the Americas. In essence the descendants of Japheth are us, today. If you look at present-day maps, we see that descendants of Japheth have settled more land than Ham’s descendants who went to Africa and Shem’s descendants who settled in the Promised Land which is by far the smallest land area of the three.
Most commentators struggle to explain the blessing of Japheth “living in the tents of Shem.” It may mean that their descendants will live peacefully with each other. More likely it means that the God of Shem will be the God of Japheth as well. Japheth will benefit from the spiritual blessing of being united with Shem’s God. God was said to dwell or “pitch his tent” with his people the Israelites. God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting while they were in the wilderness and in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. In John 1:14a it says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Literally, Jesus (the Word) became a man and dwelled or “tented” among us. And now the Holy Spirit dwells within each person who is a Christ follower. This happened because it was Shem’s descendants, the Jewish people, that Jesus came from. And his Word was spread by his disciples to the Gentiles. Shem means “name.” The blessing of Shem is seen in the fact that God would reveal his saving Name to the world through him. God would use Shem’s descendants to bring Divine revelation and salvation through Jesus Christ to the world.
Lastly, we are again reminded of the genealogy of Adam found in Genesis 5 as we finish the Flood toledot. The ten generations that started with Adam are now finished and we will now embark on the next ten generations which will take us from Shem to Abraham and the covenant that God will make with him. Noah lived another 350 years after the flood and he lived a total of 950 years. We notice that the phrase “he fathered other sons and daughters” is missing. This makes it clear that all mankind after the flood has descended from Shem, Ham and Japheth. We also notice that just like all his ancestors before him except for Enoch, it says, “and then he died.” This phrase again reminds us of our humanity and our sin. Our humanity has been exposed time and time again and it will continue to be exposed but God’s blessing is also still alive and nothing will stop his blessing from being passed down until the end of time as we know it.
We’ve seen the blessings that Shem and Japheth received from living holy lives and we have seen those blessings being passed down to their descendants as well. As Christians we can receive blessings from God as well. In living a holy life, God wants to and does lavish more blessings on us than we can even imagine. Here are just a few of the blessings we receive when we are living a holy life. Psalm 15:1-2a says, “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous.” Holiness brings us intimacy with God and helps us to grow spiritually. 2 Peter 3:14 says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this (Jesus’ return), make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” Holiness brings us peace with God. 2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Holiness makes us useful and effective for God’s purposes. It is a blessing to be used by God for his purposes. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us of the fruit that we can have when we are living holy lives and listening to the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These fruits are evident when we are living holy lives. In fact we cannot do these things very well if we are not living holy lives.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “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.” The spiritual blessings we receive when we are living a holy life are sanctification, forgiveness, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gives us insight and power to do God’s will and eternal life with Jesus. There are so many more blessings we receive when we are living holy lives and we do not want to miss out on these blessings. Which brings us to our last next step on the back of your communication card which is to Live a life of holiness and receive the blessings that God has for me.
As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final song, let’s close in prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that we would strive to live holy lives set apart for your special purposes for each one of us. I pray that we would covenant with our eyes that we would keep them from seeing those things that would cause us to be tempted to sin. I pray that we would study your Word so that we would know the right way to live and then proceed to live the right way. I pray that as we live holy lives you would lavish your blessings upon us for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’s name, Amen.