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Noah and His Sons

Ernest Hemingway was raised in a Christian home. So was pop superstar Katy Perry and best-selling author Bart Ehrman. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins sometimes claim people have faith only because of their family background, but plenty of evidence demonstrates that belief is not passed to the next generation like hair color. The faith of a father or mother does not automatically guarantee that their children will believe.

Noah’s family is one of many biblical examples of this. Noah experienced grace, but his son Ham rejected God’s truth.

It’s important to see that the experience of grace did not make Noah perfect. He behaved scandalously by becoming drunk and passing out unclothed in his tent. Some scholars have suggested that Noah behaved this way out of ignorance, arguing the phrase “proceeded to plant” implies that this was his first experience with wine. The biblical text includes the reaction of Shem and Japheth, however, to suggest that Noah’s behavior was shameful. Unlike his brothers, Ham sinned by failing to show his father respect (v. 22).

The focus of the passage is on the curse and blessings that follow. Noah’s curse foreshadowed the struggle between Israel (descended from Shem) and the inhabitants of Canaan (vv. 25– 26). God had spared a remnant from the Flood, but sin and discord would still characterize human relationships. Some have suggested that the curse on Canaan implies that he might have been complicit in this incident. It at least suggests that Ham’s son was already following in his father’s footsteps.

The entrance of grace into a family is no guarantee that everyone will walk in faith. Even those who experience God’s grace sometimes fall. It is natural to be disappointed when this happens, but we should not be shocked.

Apply the Word

One way to deal with the collateral damage that sin creates in family life is by covering sin. This is not the same thing as denying or ignoring sin. The grace of covering is the decision to follow this exhortation from Scripture: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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