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 whole 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 naked 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 naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
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,
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.
A favorite tradition of mine is watching the movie, Independence Day, on July 4 every year. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum play characters who are trying to fly an alien space ship from Area 52 to the mother ship of invading E.T.s. As they try to take off the first time, Will Smith’s character bangs the ship against its dock – having moved the flight lever the wrong way. “Oops!” he says. Goldblum says, “Oops! Don’t say oops. Oops is not good.”
There’s another reason not to say, “Oops!” And it has to do with the seriousness of our actions – especially when they put the sinful human condition on display. Noah and his sons do just that in this portion of the Noah narrative. This is not an “oops” moment. This is a grave reminder of why God had to have determined not to bring a curse again upon the world as he did in the flood. He knew that the imaginations of man’s heart are evil even from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
Imaginations of people’s hearts run deeply evil. There’s no other way to say it. This is not an “oops” issue. This is a time for contrition, confession and repentance. Drunkenness, nakedness, immodesty, hubris, and rage: It’s all here. But make not mistake, this is not just an “oops” issue. This is a fundamental issue of our fallen sinful human condition.
I’m not sure I know anyone who is happy about acknowledging his sinfulness. We’d rather not think of ourselves as evil. Trouble is, we are evil. Jesus says so – even to his disciples! “If you, being evil, [emphasis added] know how to give good things to your children…,” he says (Matthew 7:11). And even though we are new creations in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:23), we still battle the sinful flesh.
For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. – Galatians 5:17
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, and this must never be an excuse to say, “Well, I’m just a sinner.” But the truth is that we are by nature sinful and unclean. Our desire to dismiss this truth is evidence of our fallen state.
Noah and his sons show this in this episode immediately following his deliverance from the flood. Noah found favor in the eyes of God. Noah was a righteous man. But Noah showed, also, that he is a sinner. He needed God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The Bible is replete with examples of sinful servants. David commits murder and adultery. Isaiah confesses that he is a man of unclean lips. Paul calls himself the chief of sinners. Jesus called Peter Satan. And Thomas wouldn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he saw the risen Jesus for himself. They all needed God’s grace and forgiveness.
And so do we. That being the case, let’s be careful not to simply say, “Oops” too quickly or blithely. We do not need to rake ourselves over the coals in endless acts of penance, or try to remember every sin we’ve ever committed in order to be in God’s grace. But we do need to acknowledge our sins, repent and confess them to God. Jesus included, “Forgive us our debts…” in the Lord’s Prayer for a reason.
That’s not a casual “Oops.” Nor is Jesus’ forgiveness a casual promise. He went to the cross for our sins. God promises to forgive the sins of those who confess. He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. For that we can – instead of saying “Oops,” say, “Thanks be to God!”
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