Curses and Blessings

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

“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.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died. – Genesis 9:24-29

Yellow Daisies | Biltmore Gardens, Asheville, SC | April 2021

One of the great privileges I had over the past 40+ years of pastoral ministry is that of pronouncing the benediction at the end of the worship service.

The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The LORD look upon you with favor [lift up his countenance], and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

Whenever I’ve spoken the benediction, I have done so with deep sense of privilege and good will toward the worshippers. I need that blessing and so do the people. I say it like I mean it because I do. Curses…not so much.  

Of course, I’ve been inclined to offer a curse to the driver who pulls into my lane on the highway (I do own the road after all!). And if someone needlessly prevents me from getting to my parking spot at the grocery store, I might not be inclined to offer a blessing. Not sure that’s a curse, but I sure don’t think of blessing them. Your dog keeps me awake all night: No blessing. You have a party in the apartment above mine into the wee hours. No blessing. 

One Saturday night at 10:30 PM, our next door neighbor was revving his motorcycle again and again. No blessing: I went over to him and said, “I’ll make you a deal. You don’t rev your motorcycle at 10:30 and I won’t run my chain saw tomorrow morning at 6!” That was not a blessing. Maybe I do employ a curse more often than I thought. 

Noah offers a curse and a blessing based on the behavior of his sons. The youngest son who just had to tell his brothers about their dad’s drunken nakedness is cursed. Canaan, Ham’s son, will be cast out. He will serve his brothers. The Canaanites would ultimately be conquered by the Hebrews in the conquest of the Promised Land. Noah’s curse might simply be a foretelling of what would actually happen many years later. 

The blessing Noah offers provides a look forward to the Hebrew people who would, alone, hold true to the faith for many centuries. This blessing now goes to the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. And they come from every tribe, nation, and tongue. No longer are certain people groups more or less favored by God. His grace now comes to all people.

Not only does the blessing come to all people, God’s people are to be servants of all. Jesus calls upon his followers to serve others as a show of true faith and discipleship. 

Jesus called [his disciples] to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

It is a sad commentary on the sinfulness of man to learn that some people used this Genesis text to justify enslavement of African people. This is a wrong hearted and wrong headed notion. I love Matthew Henry’s comment: This [text] in no way excuses the covetousness and barbarity of those who enrich themselves with the product of their sweat and blood. God has not commanded us to enslave Negro’s [sic]; and without doubt, he will severely punish all such cruel wrongs.”

There are two significant incidents of cursing in the New Testament. One is actually on the lips of Jesus in Matthew 25. He says, “Depart from me you who are cursed…for I was naked, hungry, sick, and in prison…and you did not [help me]. It is clear that those who must depart from Jesus’ presence are cursed, and not that he curses them. On the other hand, Paul offers a curse to those who would preach a “gospel” different from what he delivered to them. 

There is no other hope and no other blessing than that which is in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of all who believe. It is God’s delight to offer and give those eternal blessings. It glorifies Jesus, and God’s glorious grace.

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.


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