Genesis 9 Devotional
By Pastor Lawrence
Noah’s drunkenness may come as a shock to many of us after hearing the Bible’s description of his life thus far. Moses told us back in Genesis 6:9 that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time; he walked with God and did everything that the Lord commanded him to do. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Noah was a man of faith who when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. And by faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. And Peter tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. So, continually we hear that Noah was a righteous man and therefore we expect him to act righteously. But the Scripture also takes great pains to show us that Noah was not perfect.
Not long after the landing of the ark, Noah, no longer occupied with the tasks of building a ship or gathering animals or preaching to the lost, proceeded to plant a vineyard to make wine. Now there was nothing fundamentally evil about that. For, the Scripture tells us that God is the one who brings forth wine to gladden the heart of man (Ps 104.15) and to alleviate the pain of the curse (Pr. 31.7). In fact, in Dt.14 the Lord told the Israelites on special occasions to use silver to buy wine and to drink it in the presence of the Lord and to rejoice. And certainly, we remember that Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine, and he himself used wine in the Lord’s Supper.
Consumption of wine and alcohol in itself is not sinful, for Jesus said it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him ‘unclean,’ but the evil that comes out of his heart. And the Scripture teaches us that every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart are only evil all the time. This was true before the flood and it is also true after the flood. And so, we see for the first time the evil in Noah’s heart by his actions. What at first appeared to be an almost perfect man is now depicted in a drunken stupor shamefully lying naked in his tent, exposing his naked body to any passerby.
I’m surprised that some of the commentators try to excuse Noah’s behavior by suggesting that Noah didn’t know what he was doing, that perhaps this was the first time he had ever tasted alcohol and was unaware of its power or danger. But Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that in the days before the flood people were eating and drinking right up until the day Noah entered the ark. Surely Noah had seen the consequence of over consumption before and had consumed wine himself prior to the flood.
I think the reason they attribute his behavior to naivety or ignorance is that they want to maintain Noah’s role as a hero in the Bible. But the Scriptures will not allow such a role to exist apart from God. God is the only Savior, for all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And this is not a small point in Scripture. The theme is continually repeated throughout the Bible. Not only do we see the perfect man Adam fall into sin, all of his descendants do the same. We could go through a long list of men such as Noah, and Abraham, Moses and David, Hezekiah and Josiah, Peter and Paul and time after time we see their sins exposed in one way or another. Paul states it clearly in Romans 3 when he says, “no one is righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Not even Noah.
It’s not just the fact that they sin, but that they sin just after the greatest demonstration of God’s grace given to them. Noah falls into sin right after his salvation from the flood and after God renews his covenant with him. Lot falls into sin right after God saves him from the destruction in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham lies about his marital status and gives his wife to the Pharaoh right after God established his covenant with him, promising him a lot of land and children. The Israelites worship a golden calf right when God is graciously giving them the covenant of the Law on Mt. Sinai. David commits adultery and murder right after God established his covenant with him promising that his son will reign on the throne forever.
It seems that as God continually demonstrates his grace and favor to his people throughout the Bible, the people demonstrate their wickedness and their tendency to break God’s covenant through sin. This is what we see in the life of Noah, and this is what we see in our own lives as well. Have you not noticed that is often at the height of our success in life, or the height of our blessings that we fall into sin?
Listen carefully to the warning Moses gave the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6 just prior to their entering the Promised Land. He said, When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
But that’s exactly what the Israelites did, and what Noah did, and what so many others have done: they forgot the Lord who saved them and who established his covenant with them. May we learn from their mistakes and be watchful especially during times of ease remembering the Lord our God. For, often, it is in those times of blessing and ease that Satan is most at work and we are the most vulnerable to fall into sin.