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Origins Series: The Origin of Shame
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Origins Series: The Origin of Shame

Adrian Holloway on July 18, 2010 with 0 Comments

Genesis 9:18-28 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service

SLIDE 1: The Origin of Shame

When the preaching rota for this series came through, I wondered what I’d get. I wondered if I’d get the creation of the universe in chapter 1, but no. I wondered if I’d get the amazing promise in chapter 3 verse 15 that one day Jesus will ultimately triumph over Satan, but no. Instead I get the bit where Noah gets drunk and naked. So I admit, I did think, “Oh great! They get God and Man in perfect fellowship in the Garden of Eden. I get the part when Noah gets drunk and naked.”

So this week in our series, Noah passes out unconscious in his tent. Now I dunno . . . maybe as a child you were given crayons in Sunday School and you coloured in the giraffes on Noah’s Ark. Well you never got to colour in this page!

I’ve come to realize, as a father of four, that in today’s ‘Kids’ Bibles, they have deleted parts of Genesis. But can you imagine the shock factor, if they didn’t? There you are snuggling with your 3 year old and you’re saying: “So Noah got all the animals into the ark. Where’s the gorilla? Where’s the cat? Where’s the horse?” You turn the page. And then the rains came down and the floods came up. Turn the page. And then there’s the dove, and then after the ark lands, you turn the page again and there’s Noah lying on his back totally naked, holding a bottle of wine.



“Don’t ask Son! Don’t’ ask. Just turn the page Son, and let’s do Abraham.”

The author of Genesis could have done just what the kids Bible editors did. The author of Genesis could have left out Noah’s drunkenness. I mean Noah lived a blameless life, apart from this one incident. But here’s one reason why this episode gets left in . . . Noah’s shame got covered over. And that’s exactly what’s happened to us in Jesus Christ. At the very end of this story, when we get to the descendents of Shem, we are going to get a glimpse of the glorious fact that Jesus has covered our shame.

So let’s read from Chapter 9 verse 18 . . . The flood’s over. Eight people survive. They come out of the ark, and . . .

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

[comment on vs25-26]

OK, we’re going to see two main things here:

1. The danger of exposing ourselves in a shameful way
2. A wonderful covering for our shame

So first heading . . .

1. The danger of exposing ourselves in a shameful way

Of course, you and I are ashamed of what we did before we were converted. There are certain places I go to in London and I remember what I did there before I became a Christian.

But if I am totally honest I feel much more guilty about what I’ve done since I came to know God.

That’s Noah’s situation here. Noah knew God better than anyone else. Noah had heard the voice of God. Noah had obeyed. Noah had been saved from judgement. Noah knew the grace of God. Noah had been shown God’s favour.

But in verse 21, Noah gets drunk.

Folks the amazing thing is that Noah blows it after God has saved him from the flood!

This should be a warning to us. Even this mighty Patriarch fell into sin. The holiest man on earth!

Some of you have never been drunk. Maybe, you grew up in a Christian home. You’ve never seen your parents drunk. And right now, you’re thinking, “alcohol? That’s not my weakness. I’m not likely to get drunk.” Watch out! That’s exactly what Noah would have said!

I mean Noah should have known better, don’t you think? He was 600 years old! He should have learned a thing or too!

You’d think that the most obvious time Noah would get drunk was when he was surrounded by ungodly people – before the flood. But no, just like you, Noah stayed sober at the office party. Noah was fine on a Friday or Saturday night when everyone else was getting drunk.

Matthew Henry captures the irony brilliantly, in his commentary. He says: “Noah lived soberly when he was surrounded by drunkenness, but he became drunken when he was surrounded by sobriety.”

That’s the irony of the mature Christian’s sin.

It’s not in front of 100s of people that we’ll fall into sin. We stay sober at the wedding reception when everyone else is long gone! No it’s when we are all on our own, and it’s often after some great spiritual battle, or long struggle, and then afterwards we are feeling exhausted, and then we come down from the mountain top, and we are just so tired, and we are feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s then, we allow ourselves a little indulgence, a little reward, after all we’ve been through. And guess what 60 seconds later – we’ve blown it!

Noah’s life had been so spotless. For 120 years, he’d built the ark. When the whole world was dying, Noah stayed strong.

He builds an altar to God. He’s passed through all these crises and experiences. He’s been saved! He’s survived his greatest ordeal.

And then, he blows it.

You know what happened?

Noah dropped his guard.

One of the most dangerous times in your life, is when you have just done something for God.

You’re prone to relax. Your guard is down.

I once met a famous Christian for the first time. I’d listened to his sermons for years. He invited me to his home, and he said, “you know, when I used to come back from doing a series of big meetings, I’d drive home, and I was still buzzing cos of how well it had gone, I couldn’t sleep.”

I’m like: “Yeah?”

He says: “that’s when I’d look at pornography.”

I’m thinking: “I’ve only just met you, why are you telling me this?” And then it hit me, “He was warning me!”

Noah got careless and got drunk. The Bible says: “Don’t get drunk with wine. Instead be filled with the Spirit.”

Get filled with God’s Spirit. Jesus said: “if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” The first Christians were so filled with the Spirit, that everyone thought they were drunk. Peter had to say: “No, you’ve misunderstood, we’re not drunk with wine, it’s only 9 in the morning. No this is what the Old Testament said would happen, this is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit filled Christian is the merriest person on earth. I don’t know of anyone more joyful than the Spirit-Filled Christian. Because you’ve got Jesus in this life, and paradise in the next. It doesn’t get any better than paradise. You can’t top ecstasy! If I’ve already got eternal ecstatsy. And I’ve already got a deposit of it inside me in this life. If I’m already filled with the Spirit, why would I want to get drunk on wine?

If Jesus has taken my sorrows, why would I want to drown them in lager! I’ve given my troubles to Jesus. He’s got them now.

If Jesus has permanently washed my sins away with his blood, why would I want to temporarily wash them away with alcohol? Why try and remove a stain that’s already disappeared?

Some Christians totally abstain from alcohol, but probably most of us here at Christ Church would teach strict moderation.

So let’s be clear, drinking wine is not a sin. Jesus drank alcohol. And he assumed we would too. He told us to eat bread and drink wine in the Lord’s Supper to remember his death until he comes again.

So the New Testament assumes that we’ll drink alcohol, but commands us to not get drunk. So strict moderation is fine provided you can strictly moderate yourself 100 per cent of the time. If you can’t, don’t touch the stuff.

Why? Hundreds of reasons, but one is that when you slip up, it doesn’t just affect you. When you sin, other people will get to hear about it. Noah was in his own tent. He was alone and in private. Noah had every right to think: ‘Well at least I can console myself with the knowledge that no-one else will ever get to hear about my sin. Particularly after all I’ve done for God!’


Maybe you’ve told people at work that you are a Christian, and that you go to church, but they don’t ask you much about it. You go out socially with a group of colleagues, and again, they don’t ask you, and so the most natural thing to conclude is that “they’re not interested.” And it’s true, they are not so interested that they are seeking you out 1 on 1 to ask you about Jesus – but, friend, they are watching you. Your colleagues, your neighbours, you are the only Christian they know. You are the only Bible they’ve ever read. And they are watching you, and taking note of your behaviour in a way that they don’t with anyone else. Why? Because you are a curiosity to them! And what they are wondering is . . . “does this church/Jesus thing make any difference?” And they are kind of secretly hoping it does.

But if you get drunk, they think . . . “she’s just like everyone else.” “He’s just like everyone else.”

On the other hand, if you don’t get drunk ever, and you seem to have a joy that transcends office politics, then they might start to think, “There is a difference, and who knows one day, they might start to wonder, “maybe this Jesus thing is real!” I know people who’ve been converted and that’s how their conversion story started – a Christian in their office lived differently, and they were drawn in by the integrity and authenticity of that life well lived.

How come anyone ever got to know about Noah’s bad day? The answer is in verse 22.

22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside.

Ham publicized Noah’s sin. Ham broadcast Noah’s sin. Ham stumbles across his Dad, who’s having a bad day, and Ham’s reaction is to tell his two brothers . . . “Hey Shem, hey Japheth, check this out, Dad’s wasted in his tent. Seriously. You’ve got to see this. It’s hilarious. Come on . . . check out the preacher of Righteousness! Come and see the man of God!”

Ham disobeyed what was going to be the Fifth Commandment, which says ‘honour your father and mother so that it will go well with you.’

Ham could have said nothing about what he saw. He walked in. He saw something he wasn’t supposed to see. He could have walked out and never uttered a word of it to anyone ever. But no, Ham gossiped about his father’s sin.

And we read this and we want to shout: “What are you doing Ham? This is your father! Who took you into the ark! Who saved your life! Who provided a means of salvation! Your father to whom you owe everything! You’d be dead without your father Ham.”

But Ham gloated over his father’s mistake.

Hey, if your Dad has a bad day, don’t be like Ham. Be like Shem and Japheth. Learn from how they reacted . . .

23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.

Look at what Shem and Japheth do. These boys cover Noah’s nakedness. And they go to great lengths to make sure that they don’t look at anything that they’re not supposed to look at.

Noah was totally incapable of covering himself. Apparently the Hebrew word here is reflexive, Noah had exposed himself. Noah was helpless. He had knocked himself out with alcohol. Noah needed someone else to cover him.

And there’s the gospel right there. We are exposed, the bible says

Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

And so we panic and we try and cover ourselves by being good, or being religious, or giving to charity, or by cycling to Africa, and by re-cycling all our paper. And you put all your re-cycling in three separate boxes for three years! But it’s not enough. We haven’t covered over all of our bad days.

We know that the approval we get from all our friends is only conditional. It’s conditional on the fact that they don’t know our secrets. We try and cover up our faults with our good works. But it’s like wearing a hospital nightgown, you’re not as well covered as you think you are.

We’re exposed. We need covering.

Then along comes Shem to cover Noah. Along comes Jesus, the son of Shem, who covers us. Hallelujah! Jesus the descendant of Shem. Our great Shem-ite Saviour arrives on the scene. Jesus does to us, what Shem did to Noah. He covers us. He covers our shame. He covers over our mess, and our nakedness and exposure.

Jesus was always covering people’s shame.

• Peter.
• Confession at Caesarea Phillippi
• Denial
• Acts 2 – 3,000 saved
• Acts 3 – crippled man healed & preach
• Acts 4 – before the Sanhedrin
• Acts 5 – Peter’s shadow heals the sick
– He again defies the Sanhedrin
• Acts 8 – BHS power
• Acts 9 – Paralysed Aeneas healed
– Dead Dorcas raised

On the cross, it’s Jesus who provides our covering. He did this for Peter on the cross.

Jesus was shamed for us. The God who created the universe came down and became a man. A poor man. He was born in a stable. He was scoffed at, beaten, hated, and despised. He was forced to carry the cross out of town. He wasn’t even allowed to stay in Jerusalem.

Jesus hung there naked on the cross. Jesus was exposed. Even the passers by, the general public saw Jesus naked, dying a slave’s death. There he died. He was forsaken by his own father.

Why on earth would God allow his son to be shamed like that? Why would God allow Jesus to be exposed like that? Because all of our shame was being placed completely on him.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

All of Noah’s shame was put on him.

Jesus became on the cross the most shameful, despicable thing in the universe.

And we get a foreshadowing of all of this, at the end of our passage. Verse 24 . . .

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan! 
 The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

OK. What’s going on here?


• Shem is the father of the Semitic peoples, including the Jews.
• Ham is the ancestor of the Eastern and African peoples.
• Japheth is the father of the Indo-Europeans.

All mankind flows out of these 3 sons.

And what Noah’s doing here is that he’s prophesying. It’s not that Noah’s really angry so he spits out a curse on Ham’s son Canaan.

No Noah’s doing what Jacob does in Genesis 49 – Noah is seeing the whole future of human history. Noah is seeing the future.

Now in verse 25, we don’t know why Noah cursed Canaan and not Ham. Maybe Noah’s saying, “I was shamed by my youngest son, and the same thing is going to happen to you through your son Canaan.”

But please note only one of Ham’s four sons is cursed. It’s not all Ham’s sons who are cursed.

What’s the significance of that? Well, just ask any African American. You see, before the Civil War, some slave owners in the Deep South said: “All the sons of Ham are cursed, that means all the Africans are cursed, and that makes it OK for me to have African slaves in my cotton fields.” And even as recently as the 1980s there were some Boers, some Afrikaaners, who claimed that this prophecy justified apartheid in South Africa.

But if you actually read the verse, only Canaan is cursed, not ALL the sons of Ham.

The name Canaan comes from a Hebrew word that means humiliated or enslaved. And it’s a simple fact of history that Canaan was always subject to its masters, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Archaeology has taught us a lot about the Canaanites. And they really were a degraded immoral and brutal people who disappeared from history and were obliterated altogether.

So this prophecy has long been fulfilled and has no bearing on anyone living today.

Verse 26 says blessed be the Lord God of Shem.

Shem means name. What name? Well Jehovah is the God of Shem.

Noah’s saying that God will enter into a special covenant with Shem.

Embedded in this prophecy is the call of Abraham and the formation of the nation of Israel. You can imagine what an encouragement this must have been for the people who Moses was leading, as they headed towards the promised land.

Imagine if you were in that great multitude hoping to overcome the mighty nations of Canaan, but you’re scared and intimidated. You’re thinking: “We can’t do it. We’ll never overpower them. Those Canaan-ite people look so strong. But . . . hang on a minute, now I remember, our great father Noah prophesied that Canaan will be our servant. Canaan shall bow down before us. Come on, God is with us!”

All Jewish history is implied here. Our Lord Jesus Christ is included here.

He’s the descendent of Shem. He’s the Lord of Shem.

Yet Shem’s family won’t be the predominant racial grouping in the world. They won’t run the empires. They won’t have the armies or the power, but God has said in a very special way, he will bring salvation to Shem.

The third brother in Japheth. (vs 27)

OK, are you still tracking with this?

Canaan means ‘enslaved’
Shem means ‘name’
Japheth means ‘to enlarge’

Noah prophesies that Japheth is going to be a numerous, large, influential people who spread out around the world.

That prophecy has also come true. Looking around I can see that most of us here today are Japhethites. For the last 2,500 years, it is the Indo-Europeans who have been dominant in the world. Ever since the time of Greece, the descendants of Japheth have dominated the world, and then they colonized the new world, south and north America, which has then spread its influence over the whole world.

So all 3 of these prophecies have been fulfilled:

Canaan was humiliated and destroyed.
God sent salvation through Shem, through Jewish people.
Japheth enlarged and colonized the whole world.

Isn’t the Bible amazing!

But then Noah says one last, mysterious thing . . .

He says: “Japheth is going to dwell in the tents of Shem. Japheth is going to come under Shem’s shelter somehow, and share Shem’s inheritance somehow.”

“May God extend the territory of Japheth, may Japheth live in the tents of Shem.” (Genesis 9:27 New International Version)
“May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem.” (Genesis 9:27 English Standard Version)
“God doth give beauty to Japheth, And he dwelleth in tents of Shem.” (Genesis 9:27 Young’s Literal Translation)

The Jewish people of the OT must have puzzled about this verse, “what does this mean . . .” but of course we can understand it.

If you’re a believer today, your conversion and mine lies embedded in this prophecy!

We Japheth-ites have been brought by grace into the tents of Shem.

What do I mean? Well, what did you, as a Japethite do today? You got on a bus or a tube or to come here to worship a Shemite Saviour. You’ve just been singing Shemite songs, based on Shemite Psalms. And now you are listening to someone preaching from a Shemite bible. Written in a semitic language, written in Hebrew, by Shemites.

You a Japhetite, living in London have been brought into the things of God, into Covenant with God.

Salvation is from the Jews, but you by grace have been brought into it!

The OT was written in the language of one of the descendents of Shem. But the saviour, when he came, was not just for the Jewish people, but on the great day of Pentecost, the gospel went to all the nations, and Japheth was invited to come into the tents of Shem. That’s what’s happening in Acts chapter 8 in Samaria. That’s what’s happening with Cornelius in Acts 10. [Galatians 3 Hamites.]

And next week, we’ll see that one of the descendents of Japheth is (Genesis 10:2) Javan. Javan is the father of the Greek peoples. The NT is written in the language of one of the tribes of Japheth.

So when you pick up a Bible, you are reading the story of salvation. The first two thirds of the book are Shem, but the last third is Japheth. Japheth has been brought in.

So what have we seen today? We’ve just seen that God used this tragic, shameful family incident to bring about wonderful prophecies and wonderful fruits.

The Bible says that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. If you’ve been called according to his purpose, like Noah was, God is so loving and so gracious, he can even make something wonderful come out of your bad days. God brought the salvation of the world out of Noah’s drunkenness. God’s grace is amazing!

Where evil has abounded, grace has much more abounded. And you and I today have come into the tents of Shem.

So if you feel like you’ve blown it, you are so much in the right place. Because if you are breathing, then there is hope, because Jesus came to earth for people who’ve blown it. We’ve all blown it. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Here’s a clue to where things are really at. There was a woman in the gospels who was caught in the act of adultery. Everyone else wanted to stone her, but Jesus showed amazing compassion to her.

Jesus turned to her accusers and said: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!” And gradually they sloped off, the eldest first. Until no-one was left except the woman and Jesus.

So Jesus asked her: Who is there left to condemn you?

No one Sir, she replied.

Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus said: Go and sin no more!

That woman went away feeling wonderful. She must have felt so affirmed, so loved, so empowered. She didn’t leave Jesus thinking: “I’ve blown it. There’s no hope for me.” That woman left Jesus thinking: “You know what, this Jesus, it’s almost as if he’s been sent into the world specifically for people like me who need a second chance. A chance to start all over again.”

Folks, if you think you’ve blown it. If you think you’ve fallen too far, then please remember . . .

Noah was a drunkard.
Jacob was a liar.
Moses was a murderer.
Elijah gave up on God.
Gideon doubted God.
Jonah ran from God.
David was a murderer, an adulterer and a liar.

Thomas doubted Jesus.
Peter denied Jesus.
Saul of Tarsus tracked down and murdered the followers of Jesus.
Martha was a worrier.
And Lazarus was dead.

God seemed happy to use all these people. So I think you qualify. If you’re breathing, you’re a candidate for the grace of God.

Bible written by murderers:
• Moses
• David
• Saul

Peter no longer felt ashamed.

[nb Poss need to say that Ham-ites can be saved, otherwise I seem to imply that only Japheites have been included in the New Covenant!]