The Early Chapters of Genesis: Chapter 9:20-24

Genesis 9:20‑24  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
IN these verses we see the fall of him to whom primarily government was committed by God. Noah failed to govern himself by his abuse of God's creature, and gave occasion to such sin in his family as brought in a special curse there; instead of making good comfort “for our work and for the toil of our hands.” It is the sad and familiar story of the first man; directly he is put to the proof, he breaks down. Nor does the evil terminate with himself. The vilest can see it and despise the guilty, where love would cover a multitude of sins. How deep the ruin where the shame of the father drew out only the contempt of son and grandson! But God is not mocked; and His moral government fails no more than His grace, which answers every failure of man by some better thing in His goodness and wisdom, while He judges impenitent wickedness as it deserves.
“And Noah began as husbandman (a man of the ground); and he planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took the garment and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward and covered their father's nakedness; and their faces [were] backward, and their father's nakedness they saw not. And Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son had done unto him” (vers. 20-25).
It is not merely the fall of a righteous man, and its wholesome warning for all time; for scripture does not withhold the profit from any. But there stands the humbling fact. God reveals the truth without respect of persons. Man was no sooner put to the proof, in the new trial to which he was subjected, than he is seen breaking down in the very point which he was responsible to maintain intact before God and his own fellows. Government over life and death was entrusted by God to his keeping; and he to whom the trust was first made was beyond comparison the most suited by piety and by experience. Yet the next fact recorded of him is that, doubtless through self-indulgence and unwatchfulness, he not only sinned himself, but brought God's ordinance of government into flagrant dishonor. And the sin and dishonor wrought not godly sorrow but contempt in his own household. His younger son Ham was as insensible to God's glory as to what was due to his father, even in such calamitous circumstances; he only manifested the wickedness of his own heart by the unfeeling mockery he put on Noah, and the ready desire to spread his father's shame and ensnare his two brothers. Their reverence was as plain as Ham's impiety, who forgot to whom he owed his life as well as his preservation from the deluge.
But God is not mocked by the sinner any more than He forgets a work of love shown to His name. And it was a work of love which the two brothers did, roused to it all the more through the graceless hardness of their own near kin. Yet what sorrow must have filled their hearts, when their piety compelled them to turn their backs on him to whom ever before they justly looked up with constant affection and honor and gratitude. And this, not only in requital of his fatherly care, but as a righteous man, perfect in his generations, who walked with God, when all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.
Thus, if man quickly fell, and shamefully, where we might have least expected it, and, as far as he was concerned, tarnished irreparably from the start the new and honorable commission with which he was invested, God did not fail, even when it wrought disastrous effects where it ought not, to work in His goodness the beautiful activity of His grace. And we shall see in due time that the ways of His moral government meanwhile are no less perfect. The wicked and scornful son reaped the fruit of his evil in his own offspring Canaan; as the reverent modesty of Shem and Japheth was remembered in their posterity. Salvation is of grace, and cannot fail, because it is the work of God in Christ where all is infallibly secured to His glory. Even where salvation may not be, God puts honor on obedience and respect paid where it is due. Scripture often indicates this, conspicuously in the Rechabites whom the God of Israel brought before the prophet (Jer. 35) to reprove disobedient Judah. Therefore, when Jehoiakim Josiah's son was disgracing both God and his father, Jonadab, Rechab's son, should not want a man, Gentile though he was, to stand before Him forever.
But whether among the righteous or among the unrighteous everything opposed to God's nature and word bears its consequence Nothing is slighted by Him. And a time of evil is just when fidelity to His will becomes all the more imperative for those who love Him; while its prevalence encourages the evil-minded to become more indifferent and abandoned. Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. And there is no real believer who does not begin and go on with that self-judgment of himself and his ways before God which scripture calls repentance.