Daily Distinctives, February 26, 2018 – Dangers of Drunkenness

So, I was what you might call a party animal in my BC (before Christ) Days. I am not proud of this, but I was doing keg stands and passing out in strange places long before my fraternity days in college. By the time I got to college, I had already damaged my character and liver enough to know that getting drunk is not a good thing. By the time I got to University, I had pretty much put away drunkenness altogether. Now, this does not mean that I gave up drinking alcoholic beverages altogether, I just stopped abusing the stuff and getting drunk. It was not until much later that I gave up alcohol completely, and only then for a season. When I was in leadership at my church, I did not touch a drop of alcohol, not because I couldn’t; my Christian liberties set me free from that kind of legalism, but I chose not to drink at all because I was ministering to youth. I did not want to be out on a date with my wife and having a glass of wine and one of my students see me drinking and think to themselves, “Cool. Mr. Nick drinks, I guess it is okay.” I did not want to be a stumbling block.

Now, I have friends who have stopped drinking altogether because they know their proclivities. To them taking even one drink would bring on a flood of alcohol equivalent to what we’ve studied in the last few chapters. They don’t drink at all because they know they can’t control themselves when they do. Nowadays, I like to drink a single beer, maybe two tops every once in a while, depending on my mood and what I am eating. But long gone are the days where I would shotgun beers and crush the cans on my forehead. I went from Animal House to School Mouse in the area of drinking. But, I understand the principle found in Ephesians 5:18-19

[Eph 5:18 NKJV] And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
[Eph 5:19 NKJV] speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

Believe me, I get it. It is a whole lot easier for some people to speak to others, to sing and have a melody in your heart when you have a few in you. The very nature of alcoholic beverages is that they lower your inhibitions, and give you a sense of security, albeit a false-sense. But in verse 18 the words, “in which is dissipation” is a clarifying term. Your translation may read differently, it might say, “wherein is excess (KJV)”, “which leads to debauchery (NIV),” or “because that will ruin your life (NLT).” I can’t tell you how many times I found myself in compromising situations because I had too much to drink. Again, I am not proud of this, but I speak from experience. This is why I don’t get drunk anymore. First of all, it always makes me feel horrible and unable to control myself. Second, it ruins my witness. Lastly, and most importantly, it displeases my LORD. So, if you ever have a drink with me in a social setting you won’t be surprised if I don’t knock them back like I used to.

Now, I share this with you because here in the book of Genesis we see some of the dangers of strong drink. When we get to Genesis 19:33, LORD willing, we will see this played out in a more egregious way. But let’s dig in and see what happens in our text today.

[Gen 9:18 NKJV] Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham [was] the father of Canaan.
[Gen 9:19 NKJV] These three [were] the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.

So, here we have the only men alive on the planet. It was up to them to populate the earth. Now, I have a few friends that in my circle that I know like brothers, and then I have an actual brother who is my sibling. When we get together we cut up and have fun, we joke and take jabs at one another. Boy’s will be boy’s right? Now I mention this because even though we cut up and have a good time, none of us forget that we have responsibilities to one another, and to our families. But it never fails, when we are gathered as a group, the first one who falls asleep is getting something stuck in his nose, or permanent marker wire-rimmed glasses drawn on their face! That’s just how we roll.

[Gen 9:20 NKJV] And Noah began [to be] a farmer, and he planted a vineyard.

Noah could have chosen any profession he wanted to. He chose to be a farmer. Though he had a lucrative career as a shipbuilder and an itinerant preacher, he opted to become a farmer. And as farmers do, he planted a vineyard.

[Gen 9:21 NKJV] Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.

The late great comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “One time, I saw this wino eating grapes. I said, “Dude, you have to wait!” LOL. All of that to say is that the grapes didn’t grow and overnight, nor did they ferment overnight. Noah must have had something in mind when he sat out to grow his vineyard. It is likely he anticipated the day when he could have some fresh wine from his labors. And it happened, when the time was right, that he enjoyed the fruit of his labors in excess and became drunk. Not only that but he passed out naked in his tent and became uncovered.

I remember a particular New Year’s morning waking up on the side of an apartment complex in the freezing cold with my friends missing and one of my shoes missing. Not funny or fun. But when you are in this condition it is so easy for others to take advantage of you. Now what I did not know is that many biblical scholars hold that perhaps Noah may have been sexually abused by one of his sons or relatives. I was shocked to discover this, but apparently the idea of “becoming uncovered” carries with it an idea of some sexual discretion. The reality is that it should not come as a surprise. Statistically speaking, most rapes and sexual crimes are committed when one or both parties are under the influence of alcohol. According to one source:

75% of the men and 55% of the women involved in date-rape situations were drinking or taking drugs just before the attack. The FBI says 50% of all rapes involve alcohol.

Whether or not Noah was abused in this manner is still out for the jury, but when we see the LORD’s judgment through Noah’s mouth and how intense it is, it does beg the question, “does the crime fit the judgment?”  If Noah, being a righteous man was violated, then I can see why such a curse was passed down.

[Gen 9:22 NKJV] And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.

Now, if you just read this as it is in our English language, you might say, “so what?” It would appear that Ham walked in and was like, “Whoah…” and turned around and told his brothers, “Hey guys, Dad is in their in his birthday suit passed out.” But when you look deeper into the Hebrew language you discover this was not an innocent retelling of the facts. Ham came out of the tent and told his brothers in a disrespectful and mocking manner attempting to undermine Noah’s godliness. As I read this, I thought about how as a Christian man, I have blown it in the area of sinfulness. Now imagine to my chagrin if my wife witnessed my sin and mocked me saying, “Yeah…sure…wannabe pastor!” or my kids, “You call yourself a Christian?” The fact is that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But we read

[1Pe 4:8 NKJV] And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

and again…

[Pro 3:21 NKJV] My son, let them not depart from your eyes–Keep sound wisdom and discretion; (emphasis on discretion)

and here we read

[Pro 19:11 NKJV] The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory [is] to overlook a transgression.

Now, I am not saying that we sweep the sins of others under the rug and forget about them. No, we have an obligation to call our brothers and sisters to the mat with regard to sin.

[Gal 6:1 NKJV] 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. (notice this verse is directed at brethren)

But what Ham did was an insult to his father and to his father’s position. He humiliated his father and brought shame upon both his father and himself through this blatant disrespect and mockery. Had Ham shown some discretion and sought to cover his father without telling his brothers, and then discussing the impropriety in secret with his father later when it was appropriate to do so, he could have avoided God’s judgment, which as we will see became a generational curse. We are given a prescription for discipline in the Bible (Matthew 18:15-17), but Ham did a dishonorable thing here and as we will see it came with a cost.

[Gen 9:23 NKJV] 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.

Now, what we have here are two noble sons. They preserved their father’s dignity and showed a great deal of respect for Noah. They not only covered Noah’s shame but refused to even look and join in Ham’s folly. We see that they draped a garment over their shoulders, went in backward and covered the nakedness of their father without even glancing. Meanwhile, Ham is running around with Polaroid glossy photos showing everyone and making a mockery. You get the point.

[Gen 9:24 NKJV] So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him.

Now, if the scholars are correct and Noah was somehow violated sexually by his son, then I would say the curse was not harsh enough. I am afraid that I would have been in prison. But, if Ham’s only crime was mocking his father then why such a drastic curse? Why not curse Ham? And why was Ham’s son brought up in this curse? The Bible just doesn’t say. It does not specifically answer these questions for us. But we do know that Ham was Noah’s youngest son. It was also likely that Canaan was Ham’s youngest. Now in the Bible, we find that grandsons are often called sons. This is not uncommon in Scripture (Ezra 5:1 for example). This could very well mean that Ham actually did nothing at all, but that his son was the perpetrator. But it could very well be that Ham was a guilty party to the sin and that Canaan also contributed to the discrace. And, of course, we can’t be sure if there were any sexual sins committed either. I read a couple accounts that suggested that someone castrated Noah, another article I read alluded to the idea that the perpetrator slept with Noah’s wife. All we can do is speculate because we are not told. It is most prudent in cases where the Bible is silent for us to remain silent as well. And so all we really have to go on is the fact that Noah was naked and his two older sons covered him. It could be that was all there was to it. But, we are able to see something else here.

The fact is that Noah sinned in his drunkenness. Because he got drunk he made himself vulnerable to whatever did or did not happen to him that night in his tent. He put himself at risk and his reputation on the line as well. We aren’t told, but you would have to imagine this changed Noah moving forward. He was probably less apt to get drunk again! But we have to understand that Noah was not innocent in this, while he may have been a victim he put himself in a position to be victimized. I know this may sound harsh, but I think about young women who go out and get drunk and are taken advantage of. It is not their fault someone victimizes them, but they are not innocent of being victimized either. This by no means lessens the crime of the perpetrator, but it does put the onus on the victim for putting themselves in a place to be victimized. If you find yourself in a place where you have made your safety an issue incumbent upon you to do whatever it takes to get yourself out of the mess you put yourself into. Noah did not have to over-do it, but he did. I am not saying he deserved what he got, but he is quite fortunate that he did not get worse. I know I am playing in dangerous areas by making these statements, and I know that circumstances will vary, so don’t get up in arms with me accusing me of being a victim blamer. All I am saying is we all need to be prudent and wise and do our very best to avoid situations where we are more likely to become a victim.

[Gen 9:25 NKJV] Then he said: “Cursed [be] Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.”

Now, this verse seems like it could go two ways, and if it were not for the word cursed in the mix I would say there was some room for debate. It is a good thing to be a servant. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is “To be a leader of leaders, one must first master being a servant of servants.” Jesus was the greatest servant of servants. He proved that there was power in serving others. But that is not the kind of thing Noah is saying here. He is saying that they would be cursed to be a servant of servants. This means that would not be the leaders but always the followers. I am not going to touch the whole racial thing that the church, cults and rednecks have made of this because frankly, it preposterous. God has made all men equal, and the last time I checked we all bleed red. So to say that this proves racial inequality is absurd.

[Gen 9:26 NKJV] And he said: “Blessed [be] the LORD, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant.
[Gen 9:27 NKJV] May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.”

We see the patriarchs of these first families all the way through Genesis blessing their children and their children after them. In fact, when we get the story of Jacob and Esau, LORD willing, we will see what a big deal this was in those times. But it could be argued that this event happened towards the end of Noah’s life and that he was offering this blessing to his other sons as a result.

[Gen 9:28 NKJV] And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
[Gen 9:29 NKJV] So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

And so the forefather of humanity dies at the ripe old age of 950 years old. As I discussed in previous studies this is proof that men lived longer than 120 years after the flood. Now it could be that those born after the flood did not live nearly as long and since Noah was a pre-diluvian human he was “grandfathered” in so to speak. I am not certain at this point, but I am sure as we keep digging we will find the answer to this and more. One thing I can be pretty certain of is that Noah probably never got drunk again!

Prayer: LORD, thank You for our Christian liberties. Thank You that we are not tied down to legalism that robs us of living fulfilling lives. But on the same token thank You for giving us Your WORD that we  can know where the lines are and steer clear of them. LORD, there have been times in my life where I have walked as close to the line without going over, but You know my heart. I may have just as well sinned, because my heart was not being faithful in those circumstances. Forgive me when I press the limites of my liberties. Help me to be a better steward of the life that You have given me. LORD, if there are any areas in my life where I might be causing a brother or sister to stumble, I ask that You would open my eyes to see these things and give me the resolve to put aside my rights for the sake of another. LORD, I want to be pleasing to You and it is so hard to do when I live in this skin suit we call the flesh. But You are a good and mighty God, capable of working in and through me to do great things, and so I know that it is not a difficult thing for You to do. Help me LORD, that is where the difficulties lay. I am so hard-headed at times and self-righteous in many ways. The closer I get to You LORD the more I recognize my own sinfulness. Forgive me of my sin LORD so that I will be pleasing to You. Finally, LORD, I promised to continue praying for my pastor during this season, and so I will remain faithful to do just that. I ask LORD, that You would bless him with understanding from Your WORD as he prepares for his studies. I ask LORD that when we meet this week that our time together would be fruitful and that You would recieve the glory. Father, protect his family while they are away, and I pray for a good report. LORD, may You be honored by his life and the lives of his family. May You recieve all praise and glory. It is in Your name that I pray. –Amen

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