Noah received two of the highest accolades ever given to a mere mortal in Scripture. God’s Word describes him as, “blameless in his generation” and as having “walked with God” for 601 years (Gen 6:9)! Yet, as Martin Lloyd Jones once said, “The best of men are men at best.”
Despite the impeccable record of his early years, his later years provide a much-needed warning for each of us. Chapter 9 reads, “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” (Gen 9:20–21). His sin does not remain his only, but infects his family. “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside” (Gen 9:22).
What warnings does the second part of Noah’s story give us?
Noah Took the Focus off of God and Placed it onto Himself
In Noah’s story (Gen 6:9–9:17), God is the subject. Noah’s role is fairly passive for most of the four chapters in Genesis. In fact, if you wanted to make a movie about Noah that was actually based on the biblical account, I imagine the storyboards would say something like this: God speaks, Noah obeys, earth floods, and rainbow appears. But in Genesis 9:18, the roles are altered and God becomes the passive character. He never takes the centerstage again in Noah’s story. The focus of Noah’s story changed.
Generally speaking, that best describes Noah’s sin—his life became entirely self-focused. I don’t think he ever intended it to happen, but little by little, Noah removed God from the central place in his life’s story. Let’s not be shy on this point: we are all susceptible to this. We can minister to the glory of God or we can glory in the ministry of ourselves. Make no mistake, though, we can only serve one master. We must make our choice daily. Is God in the spotlight or have I demanded that it be refocused on me?
Noah Toyed with the Line between Pleasure and Sin
More specifically, the narrative turns to Noah planting a vineyard. God has no problem with this in itself. But the line between Noah enjoying the fruit of his labor and his falling into drunkenness wasn’t clear to Noah. And the same is true for each of us as well. We are all prone to yield to temptation and fall into sin.
How much worm can a fish swallow before it’s hooked? Pleasure always entices us to ask the wrong questions. A reputation built over the course of a lifetime can be destroyed by a momentary pleasure. It’s crucial that we heed James’s warning: “each person is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14). Guard yourself against sin by pursuing godliness and fleeing temptation.
Noah’s Sin Affected his Family
I’m not sure what is more disheartening, Noah succumbing to vice or his sins infecting his family. Noah has only one monologue in the recorded play of his life. “Cursed be Canaan,” he states, “the lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers” (Gen 9:25). Like a wave crashing into sand castle on the shore, sin eroded the foundations of his family.
Noah’s failure reminds us that sin always poisons the spiritual wells from which our children must drink. Let us not be fooled; holiness and sin cannot walk hand in hand. Holiness provides a clarity for our walk with God which the insobriety of sin can never stumble upon.
Let us heed Noah’s warning. We are all capable of running the race well only to stumble at the end. Keep the spotlight on God in your ministry and in your life. Guard your heart from sinful temptation and protect your family by pursuing holiness.
Pastor Summerville First Baptist, married to Danielle, father of five, PhD student @SWBTS, MDiv SWBTS 2012, BA Theatre OSU