One of my all-time favorite movies is Braveheart. I know, I fit right in with the long line of guys who love that movie. There’s something about the movie Braveheart that moves me. William Wallace was not content with the way things were. His country Scotland was under terrible oppression by England. So he decided to do something about it. He chose against all odds to actually fight back against the British. He rallied his people and to everyone’s surprise was actually achieving victory after victory on the battlefield. Wallace and his men fought bravely. And the tide was beginning to turn, when Wallace was tragically betrayed. When it came time for his torture and death in front of a watching crowd, Wallace was given the chance to recant of his ways and be able to die a quick death. But Wallace wouldn’t give in. No way. So he was tortured. It was brutal. And at the end of this famous scene, Wallace yells out “Freedom!” with the last bit of energy and breath he had left. The way in which Wallace died was so moving that, against great odds, his fellow Scotsman fought bravely in his name and won their freedom.
What moves me so much about this story is that Wallace found something – something worth really living for. Something worth giving all of his energy and efforts for – literally everything he had. He didn’t even have the luxury of staying alive long enough to actually see this freedom become a reality, but he was willing to die painfully in the hope that it might happen. Wallace was so compelled by this possibility of freedom that he was willing to die for it.
We’re too content with how things are. We’re not the people that we should be. Some of us aren’t really convinced of this. We think we’re fine. We think we’re basically good people. Or, like we talked about last week, we at least pretend like we are. For others of us, we’re painfully aware that we’re not the way that we should be. We know that we should be more pure. We know that we should love the people around us more than we do. We know that we should worship God with more passion and commitment than we do. We fight every day against the sin that clings so closely and wants to rule over us. But even if we admit all of this, we don’t have any real hope that this can actually change. This is just the way it is. This is just who we are. We’re too content.
Somehow, we’ve become used to all of this. It’s so hard for us to wake up to the reality that life was not meant to be this way. This broken world is just all we know. How can we know any different? And so we become content. We just settle in and get content with the fleeting pleasures of this world and the routines of life. We should long for something more. Something more than this world can offer us. Something worth living for. We need to set our hopes on something that is actually worth all of who we are – all of our passion and energy and desire and even our very lives. We need a vision of what life – full, abundant, overflowing life – can really be like.
Tonight we’re going to jump back into the Story. The grand Story that we all find ourselves in. We’re going to dive into a part of this Story that we all know about – at least a little bit. We’re going to focus on Noah. We all know Noah, don’t we? When you think of Noah, what do you think about? What comes to your mind? The flood, right? This massive flood that wipes out all living things on the planet. This is an incredible story. I don’t know about you, but my answer to the question, “What did you want to be when you grow up?” was always a weather man. Maybe I was nerdy. I don’t know. I just loved the weather. I thought it was so cool. One my favorite movies was Twister because of the power of these tornadoes that could just destroy anything in their path. There’s just something about big storms that just fascinates me. This story of a universal flood in Genesis 6-8 is fascinating. We can’t help but stand in awe and wonder at God’s power. But even though we’re going to talk about Noah tonight, we’re not going to focus on the flood. That’s because I want us to see how the Noah story fits into the big Story that we’ve been talking about. Once we see that, I think we’ll be surprised by what the story of Noah really has to tell us.
The Center of the Story: A Promised One
But before we jump into the Noah story, we need to rewind a bit. I know we haven’t jumped into our main text yet, but stay with me. We need to rewind back to Genesis 3. Last week we saw Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God in the garden, and because of this rebellion this awful curse is now on all of creation. But in the midst of all of this judgment and curse, Adam heard something – something that gave him hope. In Genesis 3:15, we see a promise. We left the Story last week with Adam and Eve looking for one of their descendants to deliver them from the curse. The whole Story – this grand Story we’re talking about – is centered on and focused on and driving towards this coming One. That’s what the whole Story is about, even from the very beginning. So, for every major character that we come to in Genesis, this is what we’re looking for. Is he the One? When we get to Noah, this is what we should be looking for. Is Noah the promised One? Is he the One that they have been waiting for?
Now, let’s jump into our text. Turn with me to Genesis 9:1. This is God speaking to Noah after the flood. So this is post-flood. Noah and his family come out of the ark, and God speaks:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are all delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it."
Where have we heard this before? If we have been reading the Genesis story since the beginning, this language will sound somewhat familiar to us. This is almost exactly what God told Adam in Genesis 1. We have the same themes here, and almost exactly the same language. This is an echo of Genesis 1. So, if we’re looking at the Genesis story as a whole, Noah is like a Second Adam. He is given the same mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Like Adam, Noah is given clear authority over creation, which is made even more explicit here: creation will fear and dread Noah. In Genesis 1, God created man in His own image. And here in Genesis 9, God makes it clear that He cares about His image. So much so that now man shall not kill his fellow man without deadly consequences. God cares a lot about His image – an awful lot.
Do we? Do we care about God’s image like He does? There are parts of God’s creation that we see as beautiful. We stand in awe in front of a snow-capped mountain. We gape in wonder at the vastness of the ocean. We see something beautiful – something compelling – in the sunrise and sunset. But do we see the people around us as beautiful? I have been convicted of this lately. When Amanda and I were on vacation last year in California, it dawned on me that I get more excited about going on vacation and seeing breath-taking views of mountains and oceans than I do about seeing the beauty in the people all around me – right here in the city. I have this strange way of thinking that I could somehow get a greater glimpse of God by looking at His natural creation. And we can. And we do. But mountains weren’t made in God’s image. Oceans weren’t made in God’s image. Animals weren’t made in God’s image. Only humans were created in God’s image. Do we value God’s image like He does? Do we value the people around us like God does?
I think if we see this – God’s care for His creation, especially humanity – then I think we get more of a glimpse of God’s grace and compassion than we ever thought possible – even in the story about a world-destroying flood. God wipes out creation because of man’s wickedness: “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). So God’s judgment comes. But He didn’t destroy everyone. Right? This is the whole point of God choosing Noah and the building of the ark. But even after the flood, God promises not to destroy creation again with a flood like this. In the next section here in Genesis 9, God makes a very clear promise – a covenant – with Noah not to destroy creation again like this. And the symbol of this covenant is the rainbow. God makes this promise, even though man is evil and full of wickedness. Even in the flood story, we see that grace cannot be left out. Grace always finds a way into the Story, because God is full of grace. God cares about His creation. He cares greatly about humanity. And because of this, He essentially starts over with Noah. He gave Noah the same mandate that He gave to Adam. Do you see it? Noah is like a Second Adam.
Is Noah the One?
Is he the promised One that Adam and Eve were looking for? It certainly seems like it. In the original language here in Genesis, the name Noah sounds like the word for “rest.” And his father named him Noah on purpose. Listen to Genesis 5:28-29: “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.’” Sound like anything familiar? This is the same language from Genesis 3 to describe the curse. Remember, Adam would have to work in painful toil because God cursed the ground. Lamech clearly thought (or at least hoped) that his son was going to finally deliver them from the curse – that he was finally going to bring rest from the exhausting burden of living in this broken world. That’s why he named him “Noah.” And Noah plays the part. The beginning of Genesis 6 is clear that Noah was a blameless, righteous man. And so God chose him for a unique role. Noah was the one man through whom God chose to save a remnant of humanity during the flood. God starts over with Noah. And he is looking like the One.
The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Has was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.
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 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. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younges son had done to him, he said,
"Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers."
He also said,
"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant."
Noah Gets Drunk?
What is this weird story about? Have you ever even heard of this story? How do we make sense of this? I mean, where do you even file this weird episode in the Noah story? Where does it fit in? As bizarre as this little story is, its purpose is actually pretty simple. Noah is not the same man he was when we first encounter him in Genesis 6. Noah’s behavior is so different here than before the flood that some people even suggest that this is a completely different person in view here. Before the flood, Noah is portrayed as a blameless, righteous man who found favor with God – in a way that no one else on Earth did. Now, after the flood, Noah gets wasted and lies naked in his tent for even his own sons to see. What do we take away from this?
The problem here is not that there is alcohol involved. Noah’s sin is not that he consumed alcohol. It is clear in other places in the Bible that alcohol is something that God has provided for man to enjoy. Psalm 104:15 reveals that God gave wine (i.e. alcohol) to “gladden the heart of man.” We could look throughout Scripture at all the different times that alcohol is presented in a positive light as a blessing from God. Noah’s sin here is not that he drank alcohol. The problem here is his drunkenness – that he gets wasted and indecently exposes himself. Now, we probably agree that drunkenness is not a good thing. But Noah lying naked and exposed here is a very shameful thing in the culture that he lived in. In Ancient Near Eastern culture, nakedness had a degree of shame attached to it that is hard for us in our modern culture to understand. Noah lying naked for even his own sons to see would have been viewed as morally atrocious. This story is in Genesis is to show one thing: Noah is not the One. For all the hopes that we had that Noah was the promised One who would deliver man from the curse, we are sorely disappointed now. Noah is just as broken as the rest of us are. And so we are still looking for this promised One to come. We’re still waiting.
The Curse Continues
When Noah wakes up and finds out what his son Ham had done, he utters a curse on him and his descendants. Now, I know this seems very strange to us. Why would Noah curse his own son like this? And what did Ham do that was so bad? Again, this is about the shame associated with nakedness in their ancient culture. The way that Ham handled this delicate situation would have been clearly recognized as awful. And so Noah makes a prophecy about Ham. He prophecies that Ham’s descendants will act like him. This shouldn’t surprise us too much, right? Don’t our kids act like us? We could list off many examples – maybe even from some of you here – of vices that are passed down the family line from generation to generation. Sins that just can’t seem to be broken. This is just part of living in this broken world. And that is what Noah prophecies here. So what do we take away this? The whole point of this prophecy is that the curse continues through Noah’s line – through Ham. Noah is not the One. He didn’t bring relief from the curse. The curse continues. But, there is also promise of God’s blessing here. Look at verse 26: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem.” Even though the curse continues, there is also a hope of God’s blessing to come through Shem. Noah is now looking for the promised One to come through Shem. He’s now looking and waiting.
After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.
Like everyone else before him, Noah died. How do we know for sure that Noah is not the One? Because he died, like everyone else. This last part of Genesis 9 is actually the bookend to Genesis 5. All of Genesis 5 is a record of Adam’s descendants all the way through Noah. This is how it goes: So and so had this many sons and daughters, he lived this many years, and then he died. So and so had this many sons, he lived this many years, and then he died. So and so lived so many years, and then he died. And then he died. And then he died. And then he died. And on and on it goes. The ultimate problem with this broken world is that we all die. Even though we had great hopes for Noah, death still reigns. Noah died looking for the promised One.
Like Noah, we’re still waiting. We’re looking for the promised One – the One who will finally deliver us from the curse. We’re looking for the Messiah. The only difference between us and Noah is that our Messiah has already come. Jesus came. He became human like us. He suffered and died as the sacrifice once for all for our sins. And while death still reigns in this broken world, it didn’t hold Jesus down. He got up out of the grave. Jesus was victorious over sin and death. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we now have a real access into God’s very presence – a kind of access that was not possible before Jesus. And because of this new access, we can see glimpses of God working in us.
Our Desperate Need
But – even though all of these wonderful things are true (and they are!) – our transformation is not complete yet. It’s not. Jesus did come for us. And He did great things. But He left. He ascended to heaven and now sits at the Father’s right hand. But Jesus is not physically here anymore. Like Noah, we are waiting for our Messiah to come for us – but this time we are waiting for Him to come again. We are eagerly waiting for His return. Because until He does, we will not be fully transformed like we desperately long to be. We still struggle and fight against our sins every day. We desperately need Jesus to come back for us.
And death still reigns. The one thing that we fear most eventually happens to all of us – we all die. We need resurrection – a physical, bodily resurrection. That’s what Jesus’ resurrection guarantees for us. That’s what Jesus’ resurrection means for us. Because Jesus got up out of the grave, one Day – when He comes back for us – we too will get up out of the grave. But if Jesus doesn’t come back, we’re not getting up.
When? When will we finally have Life? The full, abundant, overflowing Life that Jesus promised us. Life that doesn’t end in death. When will this finally come for us? Like Noah, this is what we’re waiting for. This is what we’re longing for. This is why we’re waiting for Jesus our Messiah to come back for us – to finish what He has started in us. This is our only hope. We must set our sights on this. Not on anything else. Not on anything in this world. We must set our hope on the fullness of Life that Jesus is bringing for us.
Our Great Hope
This great hope is actually worth all of who we are. We don’t just vaguely hope that this might happen. We deeply believe that Jesus is coming back for us. And what He is bringing for us is more glorious than we can imagine. This great hope is actually worth all of our energy and all of our passion and all of our desire. It’s worth giving our very lives for. Because we believe that Jesus is coming back for us, let’s pursue this Life that we were created for. Let’s not settle for anything less. We don’t need to be content with the fleeting pleasures of this world and just the routines of life. It is possible for us to see glimpses of this Life in us now. Even though we will continue to wrestle against the evil within us, we can expect God to work – to begin transforming us. As we confess our sins, our God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us. He works in us by His Spirit and begins to make us more like Jesus. Our great hope is that one Day our transformation will finally be complete when Jesus comes back. Let’s set our hope on Jesus – our Messiah who is bringing full Life for us when He comes back.
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