top of page

Human Frailty, God’s Faithfulness

Date: 24 March 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Eld Sim Chow Meng Sermon Text: Genesis 9:18–11:1-16 

CLICK HERE to join in our Livestream service on Youtube


24Mar24 Herald
.pdf
Download PDF • 468KB

 
TRANSCRIPT

This morning we will continue our study in Genesis 9:18-11:26. There are four parts to my sermon: Noah and his sons, the Table of Nations, the Tower of Babel and the genealogy from Shem to Abraham.

 

Before we begin, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, as we dig into Your word, open our minds to understand and our ears to hear. Prepare our hearts that they may be good ground for Your Word and give us the desire to obey. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

In previous sermons, we saw how Noah was called by God to build an ark to save himself and his family. Noah took 120 years to build the ark, and so the world had plenty of time to listen to Noah, find out what’s coming and save themselves. In the end, despite God’s long suffering, only eight persons entered the ark, and the floods came, and all living things were wiped off the face of the whole earth.

 

After the floods receded, Noah came out of the ark. What would Noah be thinking? Noah would have felt relieved and grateful. Because for 40 days and 40 nights, he could hear the chaos outside the ark and the rain kept plummeting the ark. Maybe he felt a sense of grief and loss. The old world was gone, his friends and neighbours. Their disbelief might have also grieved him.

 

Noah would also know that he is on the threshold of a new beginning, a new world. For God said to Noah in Genesis 9:1, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And how was he to achieve that? Not by having more offspring with his wife. The Bible only mentioned Noah’s three sons and from these three sons, the nations of the world were formed.


Noah and His Sons - Genesis 9:18-28

 

We read in Genesis 9:18-19

 

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

 

At this point, the focus is on Noah and his sons. Previously, it was on Noah and humanity, but the old world was gone. So now we are looking at Noah, his sons and his descendants.

 

Notice that there is the bracket that says “Ham was the father of Canaan”. Now remember Genesis was written by Moses for who? For the Israelites. The Israelites went into the promise land. So Moses wanted the Israelites to know who were the Canaanites and their orgins. In fact, as we go through the verses this morning, keep in mind that Moses was actually writing to the Israelites.

 

So far, what do we know about Noah? We know Noah had done very well.

 

We know that:

 

•       Walked with God

•       Did all that the Lord had commanded him concerning the ark

•       Trusted the Lord in faithful obedience

•       Offered the burnt offering of consecration

•       Received the Lord’s covenanted promise

 

If you look at what he has done, it is a perfect report card. It’s like a student with distinctions. Would we then expect anything negative to happen to Noah at this stage? You know Noah had seen the world and the flood. We would expect that he would be much close to the Lord.

 

With His track record, we would say no, unlikely for Noah to have anything negative happen to him.

 

Yet, in the next few verses, we will see a different Noah. In fact, the incident with Noah will stand out like a sore thumb, tarnishing his good track record.

 

We read from verse 20:

 

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.

 

Like Adam who was put in the garden to cultivate and tend it, Noah had to rebuild civilization and became a man of the soil. We are also told that he planted a vineyard. Then he drank wine from the grapes he had grown and became intoxicated. In his drunken state, he lay naked inside his tent.

 

This turn of event is not what we would expect from a man with a good track record.

Should he have more self-awareness and self-control?

 

I believe God left this unfortunate episode of a godly man like Noah in the Bible to remind us never to be over-confident of ourselves. At the very core of our being, we are still human at best. When we think and feel that we have been good for so long and nothing will stumble us, that is when we need to be careful.

 

Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

 

The Bible does not explicitly forbid the drinking wine. Paul even asked Timothy to drink some wine because of its medicinal properties. But the Bible also has a lot of warnings about the wine. It would be interesting to note that the first sin that was mentioned after the flood is associated with wine. Wine, if taken excessively, will lead to mayhem. A drunken man becomes a completely different man, and he will do things that he would not normally do. Unfortunate things will happen. So, we want to be careful about such things, especially when it comes to wine, because we usually start with a little each time, but after that, we increase the amount, and that we might get to drink too much.

 

In this verse, we see Noah let down his guard. And then chaos in the family happened.

 

We are told that the sons discovered that Noah was naked in his tent. So what were the reactions of Noah’s sons?

 

Let’s look at Genesis 9:22.

 

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

 

Here, we can tell that Ham had no reservations about entering the tent. He told the brothers, the brothers did not go into the tent with him. Now, this is something that Ham should not do. Remember that Noah was in his own tent, and therefore he deserved privacy. But yet Ham went in, and looked at Noah’s nakedness.


So we might conclude that Ham might have felt some kind of ill will towards Noah and did nothing to save Noah’s embarrassment. Many commentors agreed that Ham did something dishonourable to him.


Basically, at the core of Noah’s being, he was a godly man, despite this incident. If Ham had been right with God, he would not have treated his father in this way.

How did Shem and Japheth react?

 

So we read in Genesis 9: 23,

 

23 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.

 

Contrasting to Ham, Shem and Japheth did not join Ham in mocking their father. In fact, they showed a lot of respect for his privacy. They did not straightaway go in with Ham to look at the father. We know that when they entered the tent, they turned their backs, and they brought a garment to cover Noah’s nakedness.

 

What was Noah’s reaction when he found out?

 

We read in Genesis 9:24-27 that Noah pronounced a curse on Ham and a blessing on both Shem and Japheth, which is often referred to as the Oracle of Noah. 

 

In verse 24, we read,

 

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

 

The Oracle of Noah
“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said,“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;     and let Canaan be his servant.27 May God enlarge Japheth,      and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,    and let Canaan be his servant.”

 

Now, when you look at these verses, you may be wondering, Ham did the wrong but why did Noah cursed Canaan?

Does it mean that God holds future generations responsible because of their parents’ sins?

First and foremost, we can trust God that He is not punishing the son (Canaan) for the sin of the father (Ham) as this goes against God’s heart. We are told in other verses that God is love, God is just and God is merciful. Scripture cannot contradict scripture. To understand our Bible correctly and accurately, we compare scripture with scripture.

In Ezekiel 18:2-3, we read

“What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “‘The parents eat sour grapes,     and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.

God is very clear, when he gave this command. There is no such thing that because of the actions of parents, the future generations will have to face their consequences.


God told them do not even quote this proverb ever again because if we do that, it means we are doubting God’s character.


So how do we understand the Oracle of Noah?


There are two things that will help us to understand this text better.


  1. The way to understand the curse is to see the oracle more as a prophecy than a curse. Noah was giving a thumbnail sketch of the course of world history through his sons. He may have based his prophecy in part on the character traits he had already observed in his grandson. But beyond that he is speaking the oracle under the inspiration of God, predicting the course of nations, not just of Canaan. Noah was predicting that Canaan’s descendants would serve the descendants of Shem and Japheth.

  2. Ham’s sin shows us that sins which don’t seem big at the time could have far-reaching consequences, not only for ourselves, but for our descendants. As someone with frequent interaction with students and their parents, I can say with certainty that the influence of grandparents and parents on their children is very real and strong. In this case, Noah’s drunkenness and impropriety led to Ham’s misbehaviour. Ham’s sin led eventually to the corruption of the Canaanites.

 

 The Table of Nations - Genesis 10

We now move to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10.

 

Chapter 10 provides us with some important insights into the history of the human race. It is the most ancient record we possess of the roots of the nations. The chapter is a genealogy of individuals and tribe names, names of places and people groups, some of which may be derived from the patriarch of that group.


It is thus not just tracing individual histories, but the development of nations, especially as they related to Israel at the time of the conquest of Canaan, that would help Israel understand the origins of the people they would encounter during the conquest.


The chapter is divided between the descendants of Japheth (10:1-5), Ham (10:6-20), and Shem (10:21-32). The map shows the movement of their descendants.


From the map, we can generally conclude that Japheth’s descendants migrated to the regions of Europe, Russia and India. The sons of Ham spread out primarily toward Africa while the sons of Shem towards the region of Arabia.


Superficial reading of Chapter 10 may lead us to see it as just genealogy, a record of their descendants. Is there something more?


This morning, I would like to just share four things for this chapter.

 

First, when we look at Chapter 10, we should see God’s vision, that his vision is inclusive of the whole human race.

 

Second, I hope we can see God’s hand at work here. God is actually orchestrating the affairs of nations and guiding the course of history according to His divine purposes. 

 

Third, I hope we will realise that it is a fulfillment of a promise. In Genesis 18:18, God assures Abraham that through him, all nations will be blessed. This promise underscores God's intention to include people from every corner of the earth in His plan of salvation.


Finally, as such, when we look at the map and the descendants, we realise that God’s redemptive plan is universal and this inclusivity is ultimately realized through Jesus Christ, who offers salvation to individuals from every ethnic background, language, and nationality, fulfilling the promise made to Abraham.


Thus, the Table of Nations serves as a precursor to the expansive reach of God's redemptive work through Christ.

 

The Tower of Babel - Genesis 11:1-9

 

We move now to the narrative on the Tower of Babel.


How many of you know about the history of the Korean language?


The language was actually invented in 1443 by King Sejong of the Yi Dynasty.


Why did he invent the language? Because he wanted to unify the nation and close the social gap between the commoners and the social elites.


We see from history that language is able to unify people. The converse is true. Perfect unity is impossible if there is no common language and same speech.


In Chapter 11 verse 1, we see from the start, there was only one language and a common speech. This is to be expected since humankind all came from Noah and his family. Humankind was able communicate, share, work, play and learn together.


In verse 2, we read that a group of man has moved eastward to a plain in Shinar.


Who is the leader of this group? The leader was Nimrod.


Nimrod and his counselors have realised at some point that they need to do something to hold the people and empire together.


Thus in verse 3-4, we read that they challenged the people with a vision to build a great city and religious center in the form of a gigantic tower in Babylon, the Tower of Babylon.


We read in verse 3-4,


And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

If you notice what they are doing, they burnt the bricks thoroughly to make it strong, they use bitumen to make the tower waterproof. This is open defiance and disbelief in God’s promises. God had already said that he would not flood the whole again. Yet, this group of people waterproof the tower as God may cause it to happen again. This showed that they do not actually trust in God.


Now, to build cities is not a problem. Many cities have been built in the past and even today. So, there is nothing wrong with building a great city.


So what is the problem here?


The first thing we can observe is that God is absent from their endeavours. They were totally acting independently of God. God meant nothing to them. They have completely forgotten about God. The whole enterprise was secular. They were building a godless empire and a memorial to their own vanity.


The second thing is that the tower which Nimrod built has religious significance as the tower would reach heaven. When a scared place is being built, as it is today, it is meant to glorify God. However, instead of giving God the glory due to His name, Nimrod wanted glory for himself when he said, “Let’s make a name for ourselves”. They were also disobedient to the known will of God for man at that time, which was to “fill the earth”. Genesis 9:1.


In Verse 5, we read,  


And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.

From Nimrod’s perspective, it was a magnificent city in terms of size and significance. But in verse 5, we see God’s perspective.


The commentator, Gordon, shares with us his take on how God sees the whole thing:


“With heavy irony, we now see the tower through God’s eyes. This tower which man thought reached to heaven, God can hardly see! From the height of heaven, it seems insignificant, so the Lord must come down to look at it … It is simply a brilliant and dramatic way of expressing the puniness of man’s greatest achievements, when set alongside the creator’s omnipotence.” (Word Biblical Commentary, Gordon J. Wenham)


In verses 7-8, we read of God’s judgement.


7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 

The people were no longer able to continue with their grand vision. Their unity was compromised as their languages were different.


The whole saga ends with Genesis 11:9


 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Babylon in the ancient language means “gate of the gods”. In verse 9, Moses tied this name to “Babel” which in Hebrew means “confusion”. Recall the original intent was to create a name for themselves, but in the end, their enterprise ended with a humiliating name, “Babel”.


I want us to take a close look at Genesis 11:6.


We ask ourselves, was it God’s judgement or God’s preservation? Or in other words, was it God’s mercy?


Earlier, in Genesis 3: 22-23, God sent Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Eden to prevent them from taking the fruit from the Tree of Life. Was it judgement or mercy?


If both had stayed, and took the fruit, they would have destined themselves for eternal condemnation and separation from God. So, God in mercy, chased them out to preserve them from eternal condemnation and to protect them.


In see the same thing has happened Genesis 11, verse 6. We read,


6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”

The Lord saw that the attempt to build the tower was only the beginning of the evil that sinful humans were capable of doing. So, to prevent things from getting worse in Shinar, God scattered the community as a restraint, thus preserving humankind from being eternally lost forever.


So even through all these, we can see God’s mercy preserving mankind.


In the midst of a world obsessed with power, prestige, and self-promotion, the Tower of Babel stands as a sobering reminder of the emptiness of human pride and the futility of building kingdoms apart from God.

 

The story of the Towel of Babel compels us to examine our own hearts and motivations. Are we, like the builders of Babel, seeking to exalt ourselves and assert our independence from God? Or are we building our lives on a solid foundation? Are we humbly submitting to His sovereign authority and aligning our desires with His purposes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Shem to Abraham

Genesis 11:10-26

 

 

As we continue from Genesis 11:10 onwards, we realise that while God was stopping man’s godless purpose, He was at the same time preparing to save man by raising up a chosen people onto Himself.

Going back to Genesis 9:26, we read

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem”

Notice that Noah blessed the God of Shem instead of blessing Shem himself. Why is this so?

By blessing the Lord, Noah was acknowledging the spiritual lineage and covenant associated with Shem’s descendants. Shem’s lineage would eventually lead to the chosen people of Israel. We could clearly see God’s hand and faithfulness in fulfilling His promise in bringing about the Messiah. With this context in mind, we will be able to gain more insights when we look at Shem’s genealogy.

We read Genesis 11:10, “These are the generations of Shem”, from whom Jesus would come.

The charts show the descendants from Adam all the way to Abraham.

From the chart, we could also see that life span of man was going downwards.

After the flood, Shem lived till 600 years old. By the time of Abraham, he lived for 175 years. This is about 30% of Shem’s life span.

While we do not have a definitive answer why their life spans were shortening, one truth is clear; death will come to all men. 

For we read in Romans 5:12

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

Physical death is a certainty. Some may say, “Death is the end”. But is death really the end of everything? God’s word tells us that death is not the end. It is the beginning of eternity and there are only two place one can go upon death. In heaven or hell.

Death is a reminder to us of God’s divine judgement for our sins will happen; is already happening and we will have to face God eventually.

It is a reminder to us that we have only one life now on earth to make the decision. Do you want to accept God’s salvation in Jesus Christ? Do not delay. Death waits for no man and death can come when we least expect it.

In the genealogy, we see God’s unfolding plan. We are reminded of God's active involvement and sovereignty over human history.

 

Each name represents a link in the chain of God's purposes, leading ultimately to the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

It reveals to us how God is fulfilling His promise to bless all nations through the offspring of Abraham. 

 

Hence, in the same set of verses, while we see the life span of man decreasing steadily, we also see God’s plan unfolding. Even in the midst of human frailty and failure, God remains faithful to His promises, working behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes in ways that we cannot always comprehend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Genesis 9:18 to Genesis 11:26 remind us of the complexities of human nature and the sovereignty of God as well as God’s faithfulness.

 

From Noah’s personal failings to the collective pride at Babel, we see that sin can lead to division and strife. Yet, amidst these stories, we also witness the beginnings of God’s redemptive plan through the lineage of Shem to Abram.

 

Above all, we've glimpsed the unchanging character of our God. Despite our imperfections, God’s purposes will prevail, and he continues to work all things together for good.

 

God’s plan of redemption is for the whole human race, and the Table of Nations stands as a witness to this grand vision and purpose.

 

As we commemorate Good Friday and Easter Sunday this week, let us also embrace our role as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Let’s once again hear the commandment that Jesus gave to His disciples as He was taken up to heaven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20. Amen.

 

70 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Commentaires


bottom of page