When Noah was angry at his son Ham, why did declare a curse upon Canaan, his grandson?
There are several answers to this question. Doctor Luther says that the Holy Spirit, speaking through Noah, was so angry at Ham that he would not say his name. So He calls Ham by the name of his son. Or perhaps the most severe way to punish Ham in this life is to see his child and future generations cursed. Certainly Canaan and many others of Hamís descendants continued in the same kind of disobedience and contempt that Ham had for Noah.
What is that contempt? Ham told his brothers that Noah was lying drunk and naked in his tent. This seems at first glance to be a small sin, if even a sin at all. But it is most worthy of condemnation. This was not only gossiping to attack someoneís reputation, it was all the more serious a sin because Noah was his father.
Ham was no young man here. He was, at minimum, 100 years old. So this was no young boy giggling at the weakness of his father and telling others. This is a mature man who wants to spread a bad report about his father. Add to this that Noah was the priestly head of the church, small as it was in those days.
There was much more behind Hamís gossip to his brothers. We know the nature of man. We do not like to submit to authority. We like to look at the weaknesses of rulers and accentuate the negative. Even as little children, we do not want to submit to parents, but instead want to pass judgment on them, and reject their commands if we feel we know better.
Such prideful rebellion was in Ham. He should have overlooked the sin of his father, or found a way to cover it up. The brothers are a good example here, who literally covered up their fatherís nakedness, and even looked away as they did so. They did not want to lay eyes upon their fatherís shame. That is proper respect.
But Ham was nurturing disrespect in his heart for his father. Perhaps he thought that he could have done all that Noah had done, building the ark and preserving the family and animals. Surely Ham thought that he was a much more upright and godly man than his father. Although he may have kept these and other such thoughts to himself for years, eventually Ham found excuse to point out the sin of his father. The drunkenness and nakedness of Noah caused the rebellious son to spread the news that Noah was corrupt.
As with the other authorities God has established in the world, when we nitpick them and hold them in contempt, we are really attacking God who is behind authorities. That is not to say that we must approve of everything that every authority ever does. Parents have more than their share of odd behaviors and weaknesses and outright sins. How much more government, and perhaps I should also mention spiritual fathers. If you look hard enough, you will find reasons to despise any authority.
But God wants us to treat authorities with honor. He wants us to turn a blind eye, as much as we can, to the oddities and shortcomings of those He has placed over us. We are to respect them, even when we think of reasons why we should not.
Behind our constant desire to expose the shamefulness of authorities is original sin. Inside of us is a wellspring of brackish, nasty sludge water that is quite capable of creating an overwhelming flood.
Original sin is revealed in Hamís behavior. His disrespect for his father is not an isolated slip of weakness, but a deep and recurring contempt. As original sin creates pride and self-righteousness in all men, so it had its way with Ham.
This is what the Lord was talking about when He said, ďThe intention of manís heart is evil from his youth.Ē This rebellious sin that is even in the youngest children is most grave, worthy of cursing the whole earth, as He did with the Great Flood.
So was it too serious to curse Hamís descendants because of his rebellion? Not at all. Surely God intended the curse to lead some of Hamís line to repent and turn back to Him, as a few did. Yet so many did not. Hamís descendants became wicked nations: the Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, to name a few. For the most part, these nations turned away from the true God and turned upon His people to persecute them.
On the other hand, Noah by the Holy Spirit said, ďBlessed be the Lord, the God of Shem.Ē Why bless the Lord instead of Shem? This is actually the greatest blessing Noah could give to Shem. For the Lord was to come from Shemís line. From the Semites, that is, children of Shem, Abraham came, from whom eventually Christ came. God in human flesh is a Semites. Although He is from eternity, He is from Shem. What greater honor could be given than to say that your descendant would be God in human flesh? None at all.
Most of us are from the line of Japheth, of whom it is said that God would enlarge him and let him dwell in the tents of Shem. The Gentiles upon whom God shines His grace would be the beneficiaries of the greatest Son of Shem. Even we Gentiles benefit eternally from the work of the Messiah, even if He is not our blood relative.
But what do we do? We have the same sinful heart as Ham. How can we stop our sin from going out of control?
That is not really the right question. Yes, we should want to avoid harboring rebellion in our heart, because that nurtured seed of evil creates all kinds of serious sins. But the way to curb it is to look away from ourselves to find wisdom and holiness. We should not follow Hamís thoughts, in which he imagined that he was the wisest and most pious man on the earth. Instead, we should see ourselves as the sinners we are. Far from nitpicking others to see where they fall short, we should examine our life and conduct to find where we fall short.
We should be more like Noah, who knew that he was a sinner. When he woke from his drunken binge, he was surely ashamed. We might try to excuse his behavior because he might not have realized what alcohol would do, although that seems unlikely. We might say that he had been through horrific times, witnessing the destruction of nearly 100% of life on the earth. This would surely cause deep depression in any man. Finding some relief in alcohol would be a natural thing to do.
But let us not excuse Noah to much. He sinned. He overindulged to the point of unconsciousness. Although Ham was out of line in what he did, Noah was not guiltless.
Yet we know that Noah was a man of repentance. He had faith, which necessarily means that he did not trust his own righteousness. Thus he found favor with God, for the Lord is not pleased with those who are wise and holy in their own eyes. He is pleased with those who humbly seek His mercy.
So we see Noah offer animal sacrifices after the Flood. This sacrifice was either an expression of his gratitude for Godís gracious salvation from death, or it was a sacrifice to atone for the sins of Noah and his family. Likely, the sacrifice was both. The humble heart of Noah was seen in his thankfulness for grace and seeking forgiveness.
Of course, the animals in themselves could not give forgiveness. There is no magical quality in animalís blood that causes sins to disappear from Godís record. No, sacrifices gave forgiveness because Noah in faith trusted the promises of God. Perhaps Noah recalled the animal skins God made to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned. Perhaps he recalled that the Seed of woman would have his heel crushed by the serpent. In any case, Noahís believed that God wanted to show grace to Noah.
God gave abundant evidence to Noah that it was so. He said, ďThe rainbow is My promise and covenant that I shall not destroy the earth again with a flood.Ē
He also provided for the defense of man against violence. From now on, whoever would shed the blood of man, by man would his blood be shed. That is, God instituted capital punishment so that the wickedness of man would be curbed by government. This also is for our benefit.
God also said, ďYou may now eat from the animals that live on the earth.Ē This great gift to mankind showed that He wanted us to have plenty of food of many kinds.
But not meat with the blood in it because the life is in the blood. This is a set up move by God, so to speak. In the future, blood would become crucial. To Moses He said, ďPut the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of your house, and death will pass over you.Ē The life in that blood would save the Israelites in Egypt.
Blood would be used in sacrifices, sometimes sprinkled on people, sometimes on the altar. Without blood, there would be no covenant, no forgiveness.
All this leads to the most important shedding of blood on Calvary. The Lamb of God poured out His lifeblood for all men, from Adam to Noah, and even for us. The precious life in the Blood of God gives life to us, unless we reject the Blood.
The life of God is in the Blood of God, given on this altar. We receive His life, given for forgiveness and life. This does not violate the command to Noah, that we should not eat flesh with blood in it. For one thing, the Body and Blood of Christ are received separately, so there is no flesh with the blood in it on this altar. For another thing, the Blood is given in a mysterious way, not in a crude, physical way. And the Giver of the gift is God, who instructed us to ďDo this.Ē Shall we disobey God when He holds out His gracious hand to give eternal gifts?
But if we are like Ham, we will turn down our noses upon Godís gifts. In our own pride, we will think we need no blood, no sacrifice, no gifts.
The Lord keep us instead in repentance and faith, always desiring His gifts that we receive from His Son.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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