exposed | Genesis 9.20-23
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 in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. Genesis 9:20-23 | ESV
It’s another repeated theme – from Genesis to Jurassic Park. Advances in culture and technology always end up twisted and contorted by human frailty and depravity. Since the “fall,” the soil had only produced thorns and thistles, and useful bread to eat through much pain and sweat. Noah begins something new. He invents “viniculture.” Noah discovers wine. Knowing that Noah lives another 350 years or so, we have to track forward a bit in our imagination. Time has lapsed and Noah’s three sons and wives have started having their own kids, one of whom is named (Ham’s son Canaan). We probably need to imagine them as grown as well, cousins marrying cousins, and so forth. But like the apostles in the wake of Christ’s resurrection, these families are refusing to spread out just yet – were they lingering close to the shadow of the ark just in case, a worried look over their shoulders at each gathering storm cloud? Maybe. But what we do know is that Noah started playing with grapes. He became the first vintner. Biblically, wine is viewed as a gift from God to “cheer the hearts of men.” But like all gifts, this one can be abused. Wine was and is found on every table in the Near East (we keep ours tucked away in cabinets – or in bars) and a little bit of daily cheer was seen as a good thing. Overdoing on the occasion of great celebration, such as a wedding feast, was even culturally embraced. But to get so plastered that one lost his inhibitions, particularly his sense of sexual propriety – and especially to do so habitually – was seen as shameful depravity. Hebrew youth just didn’t do the whole Spring Break thing at Joppa. So, culturally, Noah planting a vineyard would be met with, “Ahhhh. Thank you, Noah.” Noah getting drunk would prompt a “He must have stumbled into some really good fortune!” Noah getting drunk and then exposing himself would leave them shaking their heads. “What happened to Noah? How could he fall so low?” At least he was inside his tent. The fallout is minimized. But then enters Ham. Was he just checking on dad, or was he looking for something? Regardless of what brought him there, he sees. Rabbis later discussing the story would speak of homosexuality, of rape and sodomy. But all the text says is that Ham saw, with the implication of not a glance, but an unaverted, searching gaze. And then he invites his brothers to join him. A grown man, with a wife, and his own grown son (more than likely) ogling his naked passed out father and then posting the picture on Facebook. More is exposed here than Noah’s nakedness. If we had or have any doubts about it, human depravity is intact. You can flush the world, but our fractured fallen-ness remains fixed in our un-flushed hearts. But it’s not all bad news. Noah’s other two sons walk backward into the tent and do what their father and other brother did not – cover his shame. We remain a mixed bag, we humans. Beauty and beast, angel and ape. Our challenge is to, with Noah, learn how to say “when” – and how to tap into the better angel of our nature.
How often do you find yourself leering – if even just through “harmless” gossip – at the shame and faults of others? How often instead of posting others shame for all to see do you loving cover it instead?
Lord, “love covers a multitude of sins.” Thank you for covering mine. Daily. Give me your heart of covering grace to return the favor for others today. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.