Short Accounts

Genesis 9:22 “Ham…saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside.”

Observation: Genesis 9:19 states that from Noah’s three sons “came the people who were scattered across the earth.” Along with their wives, each had experienced God’s deliverance through the flood. Now, in establishing a new life in the postdiluvian world, Noah planted a vineyard, became drunk, and apparently passed out naked inside his tent. At some point Ham saw his father’s nakedness and went out to tell his brothers.

Application: Scripture is silent as to why Ham found himself inside his sleeping father’s tent. No doubt his original motive was benign. Perhaps he sought to quiet his father’s loud snoring, or maybe he sought clippers with which to prune the vineyard for next year’s crop. But whatever the reason, Ham got quite an eyeful, enough to cause him to step outside and gossip.

“Shem, Japheth,” he may have said, “you’ll never guess what the old man has done now.” Or maybe his approach was more compassionate, as in “Hey guys, dad is in a really embarrassing situation in there; what can we do to help him out?”

No matter Ham’s approach or his heart in the matter, Noah was furious when he awakened and realized Ham had talked about what he had seen in the confines of Noah’s tent. As a result, Noah cursed Ham and his descendants, condemning them to live as slaves to the offspring of Shem and Japheth. Indeed, Israel would struggle for centuries with the consequences of Noah’s curse, from constantly encroaching Canaanite sin to strife with such cousins as Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians and others. (see Gen. 10:6–20)

What is it that motivates the human heart to gossip? Because we who know Christ know it is wrong, we find ourselves dressing it up in more acceptable garments. We use the language of “concern”, of wanting to marshal help for one who seems deficient in one thing or another. But such disclosure of another’s shortcomings contains a more sinister purpose than mere compassion. My hidden motive, once honestly exposed, is to somehow elevate me above the one I am supposedly concerned for. Thus my real motive stands exposed, every bit as naked as Noah on his bed. I must learn the lesson of Ham if I am to live under God’s blessings rather than merit His curses. This old, old story has an uncomfortable currency about it, one I am called to bury along with all those other traits I must put to death.

Prayer: Father, I see clearly the awful consequences of Ham’s sin, even as the story causes me to reflect with honesty on similar sins of my own. Forgive me, Lord. Thank You for keeping short accounts with me.

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