Monday, February 29, 2016

Genesis 9:18-29 - "Noah’s Fall!"

Last  time we considered  God’s Covenant with Noah, which extends to this very day. God did not only enter into a covenant with Noah in his day, but we noted that  God  also  entered into an everlasting  covenant with the earth and all its inhabitants (Gen. 9:8-17).   In this covenant  God  assured  the offspring of Noah  and  every living creature on the earth  that  He would never destroy the earth by water again. For this, God  provided a sign  for  Himself – the rainbow! Every time you see a rainbow, be assured that  God remembers  His  covenant!

And so Noah and his family  are given the chance of a new start for humanity. In some ways the new start  contains elements  of the  Adamic covenant.  Noah is  commanded to  be fruitful and to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28 à Gen. 9:1)  
But there are also aspects in which this new start differs from the Adamic covenant.  Adam was told that he would have dominion  over  all  fish, birds and animals, and it appears that  Adam lived  in harmony with  all these. These  also were not food  for Adam, for in Gen 1:29 he is  told: “Behold , I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
Under the Noahic covenant  however   things are different in this regard.  The relationship between  man  and animals, birds and fish  has changed.  God says to Noah: “The fear of you and the dread of you  shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps  on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hands they are delivered”(9:2).  We see  that this is true today. No wild animals, birds, fish  are  naturally tame. They all fear man.
There is  also  another new dimension attached to this  in Genesis  9. God  permits man to eat  the flesh of animals  in addition to plants  (9:3). The only proviso in this regard is that man  is not allowed to  eat the blood of animals (9:4).
And  then  we find a significant addition  to the  new world   under Noah.  Law is introduced! Life in a sinful, fallen world requires regulation. Following  the fall of Adam,one of the earliest  sins  is murder. Cain killed Abel  (Gen.4:8). Murder becomes a frequent occurrence from  there on.   So God makes a law concerning this in the new world under Noah: “And for your lifeblood I require a reckoning… whoever  sheds the blood of man, by man  shall his blood be shed , for God made man in His image.”   Laws for the ordering of civil society,  laws that protect us from murder and violence are  introduced to make life possible in a fallen world.  Please note that every civilisation in which law and order are ignored  are also societies  in which respect for human life collapses. Such societies  are subjected to a drastic increase in civil wars, riots,  murder, abortions, rape , violence etc. So then,  Noah was given help from God  to order his new world.

But now we  must  face another sad reality in  Genesis 9 : 18 – 21.  After such a merciful deliverance from the  flood,  and  after witnessing such a solemn demonstration of God’s holy wrath against sin, and  having received such a great covenant  filled with assurance, one  might have thought that these lone  survivors  of the  human race might have learned from their past!
The  very next thing we read is  quite discouraging:  "Noah began to be a man of the soil,  and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the  wine and  became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent" (9:20, 21).  The Hebrew word translated here  as  "uncovered"  (Hebr. galah)   when referring  to a human being  most often refers to sexual promiscuity. Whether this was so is difficult to tell. A.W. Pink says, “ The sins of intemperance (drunkenness)  and impurity are twin sisters“.   In the case of the  story of  Lot later  in Gen. 19:30-38, drunkenness or alcohol abuse  becomes the means  by which  he enters into an incestuous  relationship with  his daughters, having far reaching effects on his descendants.

We  may be  surprised, having developed such a high esteem of Noah  from the testimony of the Scripture itself, and that  Noah  having faithfully served God  for 120 years,  should now be  found  in such an uncontrolled  state.  We shall see  that this seemingly small thing has enormous consequences on his descendants. And a puzzling  prophecy is made in 9:25 with far reaching consequences.  We learn this often from the  Scriptures :  the sins that we think of as private  have public consequences. No one sins in isolation. Private sins  have effects on our families, and if on our families , then on our societies, and if on our societies , then on the world.

But should we really be surprised that Noah sinned? Have we not yet learned  that  the best among fallen  human beings are capable of disappointing us?  As someone said,  “The best of men are men at best!”   Are we still looking for the perfect Adam, apart from Jesus?
We may be shocked and grieved and disappointed, but we should not be surprised  to find   Noah failing.   It reminds us  all  too much of  the  sin of the first Adam, who ignored  God’s clear directives in Gen. 2:17, and  who was inclined  to  listen to the devil rather  than to God (Gen. 3:1-7)!

There is an uncanny  resemblance in the history of Noah with that of Adam.

A comparison of Adam with Noah  :

1.      Adam was placed upon an earth which had been  newly created by God ;  so also, Noah after the flood, was placed  onto a newly created earth.
2.       Adam was made lord of creation (Gen. 1:28);  a similar promise is given to Noah  (9:3)
3.       Adam was "blessed" by God and told to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28);  in like manner, Noah was "blessed"  and told,  "be fruitful and multiply and fill  the earth" (Gen. 9:1).
4.      Adam was placed by God in a garden to "work it and take care of it " (Gen. 2:15) ; similarly  Noah, " a man of the soil …planted a vineyard" (Gen. 9:20).
5.      In this garden Adam sinned and fell, and  similarly the product of Noah’s garden,  the vineyard,  caused  Noah’s sin and fall.
6.      The sin of Adam resulted in the exposure of his nakedness (Gen. 3:7), and similarly we read  that "Noah… was uncovered in his tent" (Gen. 9:21).
7.       Adam’s nakedness was covered by another (Gen. 3:21);  and so it was with Noah (Gen. 9:23).
8.      Adam’s sin brought a terrible curse upon his  offspring. In Rom. 5:12 we read,  “Therefore as sin came into  the world through  one man, and death through sin, and so  death spread to all men because all sinned…” . Noah’s sin ( though linked to Adam’s) is  similar in that his  sin caused  a curse to be spoken  over  his offspring. (Gen.9:24, 25).
9.      Adam had three sons—Cain, Abel and Seth. The promised seed/ Messiah  was to come through Seth; and here again the analogy holds -  for Noah also had three sons—Japheth, Ham and Shem,  and it was Shem  through  whom the promised seed, the  Messianic line continued.
10.   Almost immediately after Adam’s fall a wonderful prophecy was given containing in  seed form  concerning the history of redemption (Gen. 3:15), and  so too after Noah’s fall, a remarkable prophecy was uttered containing in outline the history of the great  nations of the earth and God’s redemptive plan in it all.  Abraham, the friend of God would become  the father of many nations . The NT applies this in a particular way, namely that  Abraham’s true offspring will not be measured by nationality  but by  their faith relationship to God.

So, we take a step back. What do we see? We  see  the devastating consequences of sin.  We learn that even  small sins can have  great effects. Sin’s deceitfulness  fuelled by   Satan’ snares trip us up, time and again! We see that history does repeat itself. The problem is that due to our stubborn pride we  fail to learn from history.

Now Romans 15:4 says… “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope…”. If this is so,   then what  are the lessons to be learned here, and what hope can we draw from these lessons?

Lessons learned from Noah’s fall :
1.  We learn from Noah’s fall  that the Bible presents   human nature in its true colours: the characters of our Bible heroes  are faithfully  depicted.  Where they do well, we are  told  that God is pleased with them. But this does not mean that  our Bible heroes are sinless.  The sins of   our Bible heroes  are never   covered up in the Bible. Normally,  we try to cover up the faults of  those  whom we admire,  and from this perspective  we may be assured  that if  the Bible  had been a human production, we might have never known the truth about Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and many others. We might never have known about the grave  defects of our leading  Bible characters.  But God caused this  Bible  to tell us the  absolute truth about ourselves.  We  have illustrated before our very eyes the doctrine  of the  utter and total depravity of human nature.  Man by himself and  unaided just cannot  be righteous by God’s standard.  And so we learn that God’s  dealings with us in history are not determined by  the faithfulness of man. God  deals  with us on the basis of his  faithful love (Hebr. hesed)  – His covenant love, which is  fulfilled in  Christ and His work on the cross. The reason why  I can  go to heaven is not  rooted in myself.  It lies in the  covenant faithfulness of God, which was supremely shown in the blood shed on the cross.

2.  We learn from Noah’s fall  to beware of  ancient  stumbling blocks … in this case , the danger of using alcohol  in an unguarded  way! Drunkenness is an evil!  It is solemnly warned against from the very first chapters of our  Bible! The Bible has strong words to say about alcohol abuse!  Drunkenness is a sin against God, for it  makes  the image of God in man look foolish; it is coming under the influence of the wrong spirit, and it leads to further sinagainst our fellowman  - as we well understand in our country, for most crimes committed in Namibia are connected to alcohol abuse, and very frequently  alcohol  abuse is also  linked to sexual sins! Drunkenness leads to other evils. Noah’s sin gave occasion for his son Ham to sin.

3. From Noah’s sin we learn our need  for constant  watchfulness and prayer. A believer is never immune from falling. We are children of Adam and of Noah.  We are  fallen beings, and  evil  dwells  in us and beside us. Nothing but constant dependency upon God  will help  us to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let us be humble in this regard, and let us never think that   we cannot be tempted  by evil.     Listen to the word of God in  1 Cor.  10:12:  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  The apostle Paul wrote this to the Corinthian Christians who  had become  complacent  in so many things. They  were not carefully guarding  their lives. Paul drew an analogy for them  from the history of Israel in Numbers 25:1-9,  where as the result of careless interaction  with the people of Moab, Israel began to indulge in  idolatry, as well as  unrestrained eating and drinking,  which ended  in  sexual immorality. On that occasion God  put to death 24 000 of them.
Back to Noah. Here was a man who had withstood the temptations of an evil world for so long  and yet, he now,  in an unguarded moment  gives into the  uncontrolled behaviour  associated  with drunkenness, and  the results are devastating.  This is one of the things which is written for "our instruction (warning)on whom  the end of the ages has come" (1 Cor. 10:11).  One thing we must  not do! We must not sit in judgment upon Noah with pharisaical complacency. Instead  “…we  need to watch ourselves, or we also may be tempted “  (Gal. 6:1).

4. Noah’s fall  issues  a solemn warning to every servant of God. It is deeply significant that following this prophecy, recorded in the closing verses of Genesis 9, nothing whatsoever, except his death,  is recorded about Noah after his  fall. The last three hundred years of his life are a blank!   Brothers and sisters , make it your aim to end well. Guard your lives. In this  matter  take counsel from Paul  who wrote to the Corinthians, “…I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. “  (1 Cor. 9:27).
It is one thing to start well; it is quite another to end well. To start well, does not mean that we will end well. Oh, to be able to say with the apostle Paul , who could say in his last  days  in 2 Tim. 4: 7 : “I have finished the  good fight , I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Now,  we are not saying  at all  that Noah lost his faith. His picture hangs after all  in that great gallery of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. But we may be assured of this: Noah is there in heaven by grace  alone.
We want to end well  and in order to end well we need to be guarded  and disciplined  and humble  before God and man. Let us learn this lesson, and live circumspectly, and go to heaven, as far as it depends on us,  without regrets. May the Lord Jesus  be glorified  in our lives, and may no one  be given cause to blaspheme the Name of God because of our  erratic Christian behaviour. 
Amen !

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