GREAT MEN OF THE BIBLE: The Old Testament

Noah
A Righteous But Human Man

Noah

Gen. 9:1-29

INTRODUCTION

Unfortunately, the story before us is one that has been repeated consistently throughout human history. God does something marvelous in the life of one of His sons or daughters and then tragedy strikes. The believer experiences a tremendous spiritual high only to fall into some kind of grave sin. The story before us should serve as a serious warning to us who are trying to grow closer to Christ.


THE SCRIPTURES

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. . . . 8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 "Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, . . . 11 "I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." 12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 "It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 "When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." 17 And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth."


GOD'S COVENANT WITH NOAH (9:1-17)

According to v. 9 what did God promise that He would establish with Noah?

This is the first occurrence of this important word in the Bible. It has behind it not only the idea of a contract between 2 people; it also has behind it in this instance the idea of a contract between a superior (God) and an inferior (the human Noah).

How important is the idea of covenant in the Bible? It actually forms the basis of our relationship with God. According to the Bible, we are in a covenant kind of relationship with God, that is, He has made a contract with us. Just exactly what that contract is we shall discover when we study the life of Abraham. At this point, it is enough to say that the covenant forms the basis of our relationship with God, that is, He is in a contractual relationship with us. Unless God is a liar (which He is not), He will not break His contract with us.

According to verse 11, what does God promise Noah, that is, what covenant does He make with Noah?

What does God put in the sky in order to assure us that He will never flood the world again with water (9:13)?

When will that sign appear in the sky (9:14)?


NOAH'S SHAME (9:18-27)

Although we all know the story of the flood and the rainbow, it was important to mention the story of the rainbow in order to prepare us for this story. Sit back and ponder for a moment what has happened in the previous 3 chapters (6-8). Noah has been walking with God. Because of Noah's faith, God chooses to save the human race by saving only Noah, his family, and 2 of every beast of the earth. The ark Noah builds (upon God's instructions) weathers the deluge which overwhelms the earth, a deluge so mighty that it even covers the highest mountains according to Moses. The rains cease, the waters eventually subside, and a pristine earth emerges from flood waters. God makes the "first" covenant with Noah, promising never again to destroy the earth by water. At this point, after this great event, don't you think that Noah would finish his life in glory? The only problem is that Noah is still human. God wiped out the world, but by keeping Noah alive, He also kept human nature alive, human nature being the true problem in life.

18 Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. 20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said, "Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers." 26 He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. 27 "May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant."


Briefly summarize the story of Noah and his sons.


Why was Ham's crime so great?

At the beginning of this lesson, we claimed that "unfortunately, the story before us is one that has been repeated consistently throughout human history." Just think about this from a Biblical perspective:

  1. Abraham follows God, leaving his security in Ur, to the land of Canaan which God promises to give to him and his descendants forever. Then he immediately goes to Egypt without the Lord's permission and almost scuttles God's plan for him and Sarah.
  2. The children of Israel follow Moses to Mt. Sinai and, after receiving the Ten Commandments from the voice of God Himself, fall into idolatry.
  3. Moses leads the children of Israel from Egypt, puts up with them for 40 years, and right as he is about to enter the Promised Land, disobeys God and forfeits his role as leader of the Israelites.
  4. David defeats Goliath, becomes king after persevering under Saul's persecutions, drives the enemies surrounding Israel into complete submission, desires to build God a house for Himself, and then falls into sin with Bathsheba.
  5. Solomon prays for wisdom, builds one of the wonders of the ancient world--God's Temple, and then falls into idolatry.
  6. Peter makes a confession so great that Jesus promises to build His church upon Him; he then turns around and rebukes Jesus, which leads Jesus to call him "Satan."
  7. etc., etc., etc., etc.


This pattern of behavior did not stop with the completion of the Bible. It continues to this present day--great ministers who build tremendous churches lapse into unexplainable sin. Few people today know how great First Baptist Church, Dallas, used to be in its heyday. It was the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. It initiated ministries few other churches had: Family Life Center Ministries, foreign-language based churches as satellites, its own college (Criswell College), children's ministers, youth ministers, senior adult ministries, etc., etc., etc. It could lure any great minister from his church to come serve at FBC Dallas.

One of the up and coming ministers in the SBC could preach like none other. He was rapidly rising in the ranks of the pastors, teaching first at the seminary plus preaching at a nearby church, then proceeding up to the major church in Ft. Worth, only to change his stripes so that he could serve at FBC Dallas after Criswell died. Within a few years, he was in divorce court, confronted by his wife because of the affair he had been carrying on with his mistress. A devastating and crushing fall.

The truth is that Noah was a great man. Greatness doesn't always lead to goodness though. Hitler was a great man. Great men do great things. They may do great GOOD things, but they may also do great BAD things. This helps explain the reason the world of men is so bad: God created us for greatness, either great good or great evil. That choice is ours. We are saddled with greatness. We just choose which direction we are headed with our greatness. Because we are spiritual creatures, our greatness applies to our spiritual nature as well. We are headed for greatness spiritually, either for good or ill.

The young minister who rose so high and yet fell so greatly has found redemption and is once more making a positive impact for Christ. From a human perspective, he has not regained the influence he once had; however, he nevertheless is now making a wonderful impact for Christ. If Christianity is about anything, it is about redemption, forgiveness and transformation.


A SIDE NOTE

This story may serve more than one purpose. For example, it may show that perseverance is needed on all our parts, no matter what great spiritual deed we might have accomplished. A second word here, though: Noah blesses Shem over Ham. Shem becomes the ancestor of the most important human figure in the OT, Abraham. God will bless the goodness of Shem by making him the ancestor of Abraham and more importantly of Jesus.