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Starting Over

Date: Mar. 11, 2018

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Genesis 9:18-10:32

Key Verse: Genesis 9:20-21

“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.”

Robert Goddard was a man who knew failure. He was born on October 5, 1882 and was very interested in science fr0m a very young age. One day, he convinced himself that he could make diamonds from graphite and tried to do so in the attic. He set off an explosion that had a girl screaming for her life and Goddard’s parents discouraged him from trying to make diamonds. As Goddard grew up, he became interested in rockets, and is the first person to use liquid fuel in a rocket. He created gyros for stabilization and fuel pumps to get the rocket moving. Goddard dreamed of space flight, but none of his experiments were astoundingly successful. The highest one of his rockets ever went was 9000 feet. He had eyes on the moon and the knowledge to get there, but his efforts always fell short. The launch of the first liquid-fuel rocket shot to 41 feet in altitude for 2.5 seconds and crashed in a cabbage patch, 184 feet away. He was heavily criticized during his life, with the media mocking him. One newspaper had a headline after one of his launches, “Moon Rocket Misses Target by 238,799 ½ miles”. Goddard was a visionary whose prototypes were always flawed, but he never called them failures. Instead they were “valuable negative information”. He was right on the nose about so many things in regard to rocketry, but he could never get them to work properly, but he used those failures as an opportunity to learn from his mistakes, and eventually, others would take up his research and prove him right. We see something similar in Genesis. God created the heavens and the earth, but then sin entered in and the perfect creation became corrupted. God, then decided to wipe it all out in a flood, wash the whole world clean and start over with Noah and his family. The flood became valuable negative information, but not for God, but for humanity who would question the Lord, and it give us insight into why God’s plan for the removal of sin is the perfect plan.

As we have been hearing about the past few weeks, the world was a very wicked place, filled with violence and selfishness. God was grieved that he made people and decided to wipe them all out, except Noah and his family. God had Noah build and ark to keep the remnant of creation safe, while floodwaters filled the earth. After about a year inside the ark, Noah, his family and all the animals came out of the ark and God promised to never flood the whole world again. God would never wipe out humanity again. Now, did God promise this because he had solved the sin issue. He killed all the sinners. Surely, that would solve everything, right? Unfortunately, sin runs much deeper than that. Instead, God promises not to destroy the world to wipe out sin, because killing all the bad people doesn’t work, but there is very valuable negative information.

Our passage today starts out, “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.” (9:18-19) The passage begins by talking about the sons of Noah. These men would become the fathers of the new humanity, but there is an interesting note here. The passage mentions that Ham was the father of Canaan. This seems kind of odd and it is mentioned a few times in the passage. The significance behind it is not something prophetic, but something that the author of Genesis is doing to connect Ham and Canaan to his audience, the Israelites. Remember, it is believed that the author of Genesis is Moses and the book was written during the wandering of the desert. The Israelites were supposed to be on their way to conquer the land of Canaan, but they became afraid of the Canaanites, so God had them wander the wilderness to strengthen them as a nation. Moses is making this connection because the Canaanites were a very sinful people, and that sin would go back to even Canaan’s father Ham, which we will see.

The passage continues in the next verse, “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.” (9:20) Noah, like Adam was a man of the soil and when things had settled down some after flood, he planted a vineyard. Noah took the time to cultivate the soil and planted a treat for himself. Noah made some wine and it is the first time in the Bible that wine is mentioned. Now, some take this to mean that Noah invented wine after the flood. However, it is more likely that wine was made before the flood as well and Noah learned how to do it from other people.

Unfortunately, Noah had a little trouble with his wine. “When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” (9:21) Noah had some of his wine and came across a mathematical equation. Now, hear me out. That equation is the inverse relationship between the amount of alcohol and the amount of clothes. Noah found out that the more alcohol you drink, in this case wine, the less clothes you are likely to keep on. You see, Noah got drunk and naked. He lay uncovered in the tent. Now, you might be thinking that whatever Noah did in the privacy of his own tent is his own business, but a private sin is still a sin before God. From a human perspective, it is kind of sad. Noah was the best of humanity. The rest of the world was terribly sinful, but Noah walked with God. God chose Noah to be the father of a new humanity while the dreadfully sinful would be wiped out in the flood. Yet, here is Noah, not too long after the flood, getting drunk and naked. Now, drinking wine is not a sin, but getting drunk is. For all his goodness, Noah was still a man. He was still human and still susceptible to sin. Noah was by no means perfect, but the sinfulness of man is harder to destroy than merely wiping out all the people and keeping the rest. Noah’s sin is particularly troubling for the Israelites, the audience of Genesis. To the Israelites, nakedness is a terrible sin and very shameful, so Noah’s drunken nakedness was something that would be reprehensible to Jews. It was a particularly bad thing.

Unfortunately, sin didn’t stop at Noah. “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside.” (9:22) Again, it is mentioned that Ham was the father of Canaan. This is again to connect Ham’s sin to that of the future Canaanites. Somehow, Ham found his dad passed out and naked. Now, he could have been discreet about what he saw, but instead, Ham went outside and broadcast his father’s sin to his brothers. It was almost as if Ham had taken some pleasure in telling on his father, kind of like how some people find pleasure and satisfaction in the fall of other people. “Ha! He wasn’t such a good person after all!” Ham was like a troll that loved to prove people wrong. He was giddy at the prospect that his father sinned because he thought it made him feel better about his own situation.

When Shem and Japheth heard about their father, they went into the tent backwards and placed a covering over their dad. Unlike Ham, who broadcast his father’s sin, Shem and Japheth chose to help out their father and cover up his sin. They made sure that their faces were turned so as to not see their father’s nakedness. Unlike Ham, they respected their father and wanted the best for him.

When Noah woke up and learned what had happened, he was upset at his youngest son Ham and said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (9:25) Now, this is interesting. Ham is the one who sinned against Noah, but Noah is pronouncing a curse on Canaan, Ham’s son. Why would Noah punish Canaan instead of Ham? Why curse the son of the offender and not the offender? Well, I don’t think that Noah is actually calling a curse down on Canaan. Instead, Noah is prophesying the future. Canaan’s sin would be so great that the Canaanite people would be brought low and become slaves. In the course of time, when the Israelites were conquering the land of Canaan, the Gibeonites, a Canaanite clan, were spared destruction because they were made slaves to the Israelites. Again, I don’t believe that Noah is punishing the son of Ham for the sins of Ham. Instead, Noah was being prophetic and saw the fate of Canaan in the distant future.

After his words about Canaan, Noah continued to prophesy, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” (9:26-27) Again, I say that this is prophetic because both Shem and Japheth covered the sin of their father, but Shem is given greater honor. The Lord is praised because of Shem. The Lord is called the God of Shem. The people of Israel would come from Shem and Noah was acknowledging that the line of Shem would be chosen for God’s purpose. Japheth would receive some honor, but the Semites would be special to God’s story. It is also interesting to note that Noah doesn’t call Shem or Japheth blessed, but he praises God. Noah recognizes that the good in Shem and Japheth does not originate in them, but in God and he praises God for it.

At the end of chapter 9, we see the final words about Noah. “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.” (9:28-29) Noah was blessed to live man more years after the flood and he saw multiple generations that could come from him. He lived 350 more years to the old age of 950 years. He wasn’t the oldest person to ever live, but he was the longest living person since the flood. No one after him would ever live as long as Noah. Like the genealogy that are in chapter 5, Noah receives words that are similar to his ancestors, “and then he died”. For all his goodness and his walking with God, Noah died like any person. He wasn’t perfect, and the pattern of the world continued after the flood.

As we get to chapter 10, we see the post-flood world thriving. Chapter 10 is called the Table of Nations because, in it, we see the beginnings of many nations. “This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.” (10:1) Noah’s sons has sons themselves. Now, I am not going to go into every name in the list, but I will go over a few of the highlights. The first brother to be mentioned is Japheth. He is mentioned first because, in the story of Israel, the Japhethites play the smallest role. Japheth had seven sons and his sons eventually settled in the north of the Middle East region. The Japhethites would settle modern Europe, Russia and Turkey.

The next son of Noah to get the spotlight is Ham. In Ham’s account, we see a number of people that would become antagonists to the Israelites. In the immediate sons of Ham, we see Egypt and Canaan, both of which would become enemies of Israel, especially in the time of Moses. The Israelites had left Egypt, where they were slaves and were heading to the land of Canaan where they would eventually take over. In the middle of the account of the Hamites, there is one person with a bit of detail. “Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.” (10:8-12) Here we have the story of Nimrod, and, yes, you can laugh. Nimrod was a mighty hunter, who established a kingdom with many cities that would become important in history. If you look at the cities on the list, we find Babylon and Nineveh, again two cities that would play an important role in the future of the Israelite people. Nineveh would become the capital of Assyria, which would eventually conquer the northern kingdom and Babylon would conquer Assyria and Judah, the southern kingdom. It is even believed that Nimrod may have been the builder of the Tower of Babel, or at least inspired the tower.

We also notice a number of Israel’s enemies in the list of Canaanites and the sons of Egypt. Many of these peoples would become a thorn in the side of Israel for centuries to come, but it is interesting to note, that for all the sin of Ham and the antagonism that the Hamites would have toward the Semites, God still loved them and blessed them to prosper. The Hamites were numerous and they in Africa and the Middle East. They were never considered a cursed people, but they were blessed by human standards. They had mighty kingdoms come from them, kingdoms that would shape the world, but kingdoms that were far from God.

Next, we get to the Semites. These people would become the line that God would choose to be his chosen people. It is through the Semites that the people of Israel would come and the salvation of all people. Right off the bat, the passage mentions that Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber. Eber is where we get the name Hebrews, which, again leads to the Jews. The passage says, “Shem whose older brother was Japheth”, but there is a footnote in our translation that states that Shem is the older brother of Japheth and other translations also take Shem as the oldest. The Semites would go to populate the Middle East, into Arabia and modern-day Iraq, Iran and the southern portion of the Caspian Sea. All three brothers became multiple nations and spread over the earth. Before the flood, people seemed to remain localized to one area, but after the flood, the spread out and became nations. In this table of nations, we see God’s blessing spread to all humanity. Every single one of them was a sinner, but we can see God’s plan of grace and mercy play out in all these nations.

Like I mentioned before, God’s plan of wiping out the whole world and starting over with the best of humanity was ineffective, from our point of view. To us, it looks like God failed when sin took over the world. It also looks like God’s plan to start over was also doomed to failure, but both of these things were never meant to succeed. God never intended for the flood and destruction of all things to be the solution. In many ways, that is our solution to things, we burn it down and start from scratch. God did these things to show us that they wouldn’t work. They were valuable negative information. Sometimes, we look at the world and wonder why God just doesn’t wipe out all the evil people and keep the good ones, but here we see that doesn’t work. God killed everyone on the planet except for one righteous man, but even that righteous man was filled with sin and he became drunk and naked. We are all sinners, if God were to wipe out all the evil people, we would either all be gone or those that are left would just begin the cycle of sin all over again. We are infected by sin and are sinners to the core. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It is in our nature. So, it looks like God’s plan is a failure and that sin is too strong, but that plan was doomed to fail, so that we could know how much of a failure that is.

This isn’t the only time that God has a plan that is doomed to fail, just to show us what will not work. Years ago, we did a study on 1 Samuel and in that book, the people of Israel were demanding a king to be like the other people. God was their king, but the people wanted a human king. God let them have one and warned them that it wouldn’t turn out the way they wanted. The king would turn selfish and take from them, and lo and behold, that is just what happened. The Lord let them have a king, and it ended in failure. God showed his people that he was the only one who could lead them. God has no personal agenda, he has his people in his heart and is willing to do anything to make them better and defend them.

There is proof that the flood was never intended to be the solution to sin. This isn’t something that I am making up. Just after the first sin, in chapter 3, God is cursing the serpent that started it all. God says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) An offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent while the serpent would strike at the offspring. This offspring is Jesus, and he is the solution to sin. Jesus is God’s son, who came to this earth as a man to take away the sin of the world. Jesus would become the one righteous man who would not be the progenitor of a new humanity but would take our very sin upon himself to purify us from sin. Instead of wiping us out to get rid of sin. Jesus gets rid of sin to redeem us to a new life. It is not an easy matter and it would involve Jesus being broken for us and even die for us. God promised that he would never again destroy the world, but instead he chose to destroy his son. Jesus died on the cross, the most painful type of death possible, in order to bring us back to God.

Jesus was always God’s plan, because only Jesus is perfect. Only Jesus could heal us. His perfection could make us perfect. Despite all sin that fills our world, God shows his grace and mercy to us because the plan is perfection through Jesus. Starting over does not work. What that means for us is that we have a chance to change and go back to God because of Jesus. Until the day we die, we have countless opportunities to repent of our sins and turn back to God. But what this also means is that we need to accept that God’s plan is the best plan there is. We need to be living with his grace in our hearts. Even our worst enemies fall under God’s plan of grace. There was a man named Saul who lived around the time of Jesus and afterwards. He was a zealous Jew who became the number one antagonist for the new Christians. We rounded believers up and had them thrown into jail and even killed. He was the worst enemy that Christians had seen. I am certain that a number of people prayed that something bad would happen to him. People probably prayed for Saul to die, but God’s plan was different. God, instead, chose Saul to be in instrument. The Lord called Saul while he was on one of his murder trips, and he became a believer. Not only did Saul become a believer, but he became Paul, one of the closest men to God and possibly the greatest Christian to ever live. God’s plan was better than what we could fathom.

We would be very proud to think that any of our ideas are better that what God has planned. Sometimes, God indulges us by going along with our ideas, but he does that just to show us that those plans won’t work. He allows us to fail so that we will learn to trust in his own plans and ideas. Only God’s plans succeed. He can see so much more than we can. He can even see into the hearts of people. He can see that wiping out all the bad people and keeping the good ones is not a workable plan. He knows that even the good people are filled with the same sin and evil and the bad people. He’s done it once before and sin just spread out from that one good man and filled the earth again. But God’s plan is to have Jesus take away our sin by taking our punishment for our sins on the cross. He died so we could live. He had grace, so we could have life. Jesus didn’t stay dead, but overcame death to bring us back into the presence of God and bring us home.

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Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
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    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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