Men Who Slept --Part 2

Men Who Slept
Part 2

Andrew Borland, M.A.

This is the second article in an unusual series by Andrew Borland, Editor a The Believers’ Magazine which is published in Scotland. These articles give good instruction and timely warning.

2. Noah

Noah, despite all the noble records concerning him, is one of most pathetically tragic figures in the Bible story. To some that may be a startling assertion to make, especially when they recall the honourable mention made in one of the most vivid verses in Hebrews II. He is there in the catalogue of the heroes of faith. Yet, as in the case of other persons mentioned in that chapter, not even the slightest allusion is made to the lapse which blackened the end of his days. The “fly in the ointment” of Noah’s life is the unsavory event which happened after he had settled down when he had come out of the ark.

It is one of the evidences of the impartiality of the Biblical record that it includes such incidents as the deceptions practised by Abraham, the gross sin of David, and the drunkenness of Noah. By his act Noah disgraced himself in the eyes of two of his sons, and seems to have been a laughing stock of the third one. That sleep, induced by indulgence, spreads a blot upon a life which otherwise is one of the most remarkable in the story of the Bible.

Here is the record of the sad event.

“Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and 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 upon both their shoulders, and walked backwards and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.”

He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.

God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave” (Gen. 9:20-27 R.S.V.).

That is one of the watersheds of Biblical history, in which the characteristics and destiny of the three branches of the human family are hinted at. The prophetic utterance is closely connected with the sleep of Noah, for it was when he recovered consciousness and sanity that he made the threefold pronouncement. The fact that Noah became the mouthpiece for a divine utterance does not in any way mitigate the gravity of his unseemly behaviour.

Look at the man about whom the incident is recorded. There is no necessity to investigate the details of the story in Genesis 6-9, nor to discuss the problems connected with the question of the historicity of the Flood.

(1) Consider the general social background of the days in which Noah lived. If ever there was a permissive society it was that in Noah’s day. Whatever may be our interpretion of the fact that the ‘sons of God’ took to themselves wives from the attractive daughters of men, the inference is that there was a break down of the social structure as God had intended it, and the result of such unions was the development of a most undesirable situation. The wickedness of man on the earth became great. His mind became degenerate, and he thought only of evil. Violence characterized his behaviour. Corruption of morals was universal. The spirit of undisciplined conduct spread like a miasma until all around Noah were affected. Only one family remained uncontaminated, That family was the family of Noah; but what an atmosphere to live in! The Bible record is meant to impress upon us the outstanding character of Noah’s conduct in the midst of the prevelance of such corrupt behaviour.

(2) Consider Noah as he is depicted as an individual. Certain outstanding features marked that distinguished man. Plain, unadorned statements disclose a man of unusual experience.

He was a righteous man. That is, he was in right relationship with God, and he became a preacher of righteousness to a community that was characterized by unrighteousness. Such a course was neither easy nor popular. That Noah persisted gives evidence of the robustness of his righteousness.

Noah found grace or favour in the sight of the Lord. That is a compliment to the separateness of his life amidst all the corruption that prevailed. He was different from others, and those noted that there was a peculiar charm about his behaviour. While they did not appreciate the source of that charm, they could not but conclude that it was a characteristic which sprang from non-conformity to their mode of behaviour. There is something distinctive about a person of whom it is written that he has found grace in the sight of the Lord.

Moreover, it is written that ‘Noah was perfect in his generations.’ Marginal reading for ‘perfect’ is ‘upright’, that is, he was of a different strain. He was pure in his descent. He was not of a class with those degenerate persons who had corrupted the earth. He was in a family apart by himself, a very fine compliment to a man who had found favour with the Lord.

Last of all, and, perhaps most important is the fact that ‘Noah walked with God’. That is another way of stating that he habitually cultivated the spiritual side of his life. Evidently he was conscious of fellowship with his Maker. He had no Scriptures to guide him, but he had access to the presence of God, guided’ doubtless, by the Spirit of God. No higher commendation can be given to any man than this, ‘he walked with God.’

Now take the four statements which sum up the life of Noah.

· He found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

· He was a just or righteous man.

· He was perfect in his generations.

· He walked with God.

Those are remarkable characteristics. Yet it was of such a man that it is recorded that at the end of his days he was guilty of an act of drunkenness which has disgraced him in the eyes of others.

Think, too, of the influence Noah had on his family. His was no easy task in the permissive society in which he lived and in which he had to rear three sons who could not but be aware of the wickedness which prevailed. Yet Noah managed to marry a wife of like persuasion as himself, and managed to acquire for his sons wives who had not been contaminated by the corrupt behaviour which they witnessed everywhere, Those features which have been noted in Noah’s life must have exercised a potent influence upon the lives of his family. Noah’s offspring, after the flood, were to repeople the earth with a new race of people from whom was to spring Abraham, the father of the faithful.

It was such a man, a man who had walked with God, who had been a preacher of righteousness, who had built the ark, and had been shut therein with God, who had built an altar and offered sacrifices of gratitude to God that it is written that he fell into a drunken stupor and disgraced himself in the eyes of his family. What a calamity!

What was the cause of such a disaster? The answer is plain. He allowed himself to be tempted to indulgence in a legitimate manner of life. He became a husbandman. He grew vines, and evidently he partook of the fruit thereof. That surely was not the only means of sustenance, but from the fruit of the vine he made wine, and on the occasion of which we have been reading he over-indulged himself, lost his self-control, and exposed himself unnecessarily within his tent. What a picture of a man of whom such an action was never expected. There is no limit to the excess to which a man may go when he allows himself to be taken off his guard.

There are lessons to be learnt from this man who slept.

    1. A life that pleases God can be lived in the most vicious of circumstances. Noah pleased God by his conduct in the midst of a corrupt generation. That fact should be an encouragement to those who find themselves exposed to conditions which are far from being encouraging to a life which is bent on pleasing God.

    2. A man’s life has its repercussions in his family. Parents should exercise an influence for good upon their offspring. The abiding nature of Noah’s influence is evidenced in the conduct of two of his sons when their father needed their help. Isn’t there truth in the Proverb, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it?’

    3. Experience does not create immunity from temptation. Noah is the last man of whom it would be expected that he would succumb to the temptation of over-indulgence. He had resisted the temptations abundant in the longest portion of his life, yet in a very simple fashion he was brought under a power which disgraced him. That is a pertinent lesson to us all.

    4. Age does not give us freedom from temptation. Noah entered the ark when he was six hundred years old, and he lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. It was during that second part of his life when Noah fell a victim to the temptation which came upon him in the ordinary course of living.