Delighting in Sin
By Stephen Terry
Noah, a man of the soil,
proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he
became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of
Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside.
But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders;
then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness.
Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their
father's nakedness. Genesis 9:20-23, NIV
This brief story which is related in only 4 verses out of the
Bible carries more weight than the shortness of the story seems to
deserve. Noah and his family have just survived the flood and gotten
re-established on the earth. What happens here shows that the flood did
not end mankind’s problem with making bad choices. Noah got drunk and
took off all his clothes, but is that the problem God is most concerned
about or is it something else? It is Ham who ends up with a curse over
what took place, not Noah. Why?
Ham saw in his father’s indiscretion a tale to relate to
others. His brothers, the only other surviving men he could tell it to
were the recipients of this sad tale. Maybe he said something like,
“Hey, brothers. You know our father? The one who talks to God? The one
who always acts so holy? Well he is drunk and naked in his tent. He
doesn’t look so holy now. You should go see and get a laugh.” Or maybe
he said, “Brothers, we should pray for our father who is drunk and
naked in his tent. He seems to be going astray after all God has done
In the first instance, Ham would have been obviously
ridiculing that which is holy and most of us can easily see why that
would be wrong. But what about the second instance? It carries with it
much more subtle dangers. Like the first it spreads the knowledge of
the sin, but it does so with an apparent holy motive. But is it holy?
Ham would be implying that his father is a greater sinner than he is,
and if his brothers would only look they would see this is true. So the
hearers are led to understand that the talebearer is more righteous
than the one the tale is about. The end result is to lift up the
righteousness of the talebearer in the eyes of others while tearing
down the reputation of someone else.
Christ himself was victimized by these kinds of talebearers.
Luke tells us “the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man
receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Luke 15:2 That it was
Pharisees saying this should come as no surprise as the Pharisees were
constantly fixated on the sins of others. Just like Ham, they found
their purpose in this score keeping on other’s sins. In Luke 18, we
read the account of the Pharisee and the Publican who went to the
temple to pray. The Pharisee thanked God that he did not have the sins
of the Publican. While it is good to not have sin in one’s life, his
focus was on someone else’s sins and not on his own need. He even
recited a list of other people’s sins that he was not guilty of.
Perhaps we could update it somewhat for today. “God, I thank Thee, that
I am not as other men are. I don’t listen to rock music, I don’t eat
meat, I don’t struggle with tobacco, I don’t drink, I don’t even watch
TV like the sinners do. I pay tithe, I read Ellen White daily, and I’m
rigorous about my diet.” Yet it was the Publican and not the Pharisee
who was blessed according to Luke.
The tribe of Pharisees is an ever increasing one, while the
tribe of the disciples continues to be small. It is always easier to
concern oneself with the sinfulness of others than it is to admit that
we are guilty of the same sins. As the Publican said, “God be merciful
to me a sinner.” He made no mention of the sins of others. He knew he
had all he could handle just dealing with his own life and surrendering
it to God. He knew he had no power to overcome his sinfulness and that
drove him to his knees before God who has the only answer. He asked for
God’s mercy. And God is more than willing to grant that mercy. Matthew
18 tells us of God’s willingness to forgive.
Therefore is the kingdom of
heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his
servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him,
which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to
pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and
all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell
down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I
will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with
compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. Matthew 18:23-27
The ten thousand talents owed in this parable are equal to 4.8
billion dollars in today’s purchasing power. Obviously a debt that was
impossible to repay, yet his master forgave him all of it. What a
tremendous relief to have such a burden rolled away. He was not
expected to even repay the debt. He was just forgiven. This should have
brought forth a spirit of mercy and compassion in him, but instead he
went out and found someone else who was guilty of the same sin and
judged him unmercifully. When word got back to his Lord, his own
forgiveness was revoked. Then he discovered the meaning of the Lord’s
prayer which says “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12 And Jesus himself added further emphasis to this when he
said about this prayer “if ye forgive men their trespasses, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their
trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” verses
Most smokers can tell you that there is no one harder to live
with than an ex-smoker. The same is true for many other things we
become addicted to. For Christians sometimes there is no harder
Christian to live with than one who feels he has gotten the victory
over a particular sin. They can be unmerciful to those still dealing
with the same sin. After all, they have gotten the victory, why
shouldn’t everyone else? Believing that God is unable to “straighten
out” the struggling sinner without their intervention, they take it
upon themselves to go in and do battle against the sin they perceive in
the other person’s life.
“When he thinks he has
detected a flaw in the character or the life he is exceedingly zealous
in trying to point it out; but Jesus declares that the very trait of
character developed in doing this un-Christlike work, is, in comparison
with the fault criticized, as a beam in proportion to a mote. It is
one’s own lack of the spirit of forbearance and love that leads him to
make a world of an atom. Those who have never experienced the
contrition of an entire surrender to Christ do not in their life make
manifest the softening influence of the Savior’s love. They
misrepresent the gentle, courteous spirit of the gospel and wound
precious souls, for whom Christ died.” Thought from the Mount of Blessings, pg 125
Returning to the story in Genesis we can now see why Ham was
cursed and Shem and Japheth were not. While Ham sought to lay bare his
father’s sin to everyone, Shem and Japheth covered their father’s sin.
They looked away. It was as though while covering their father’s
nakedness, they saw no sin. Where are your eyes today? Are they on your
neighbor’s sin? Are you secretly glad that you don’t have those sins?
Do you silently hope that something bad will happen to the other person
to teach them a lesson regarding their sinfulness? Do you shun them to
show the world that you are not like them? Do you make sure they are
aware of their sinfulness by your attitude toward them? Do you tell
your friends about the sinfulness of others? Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t do that to us?
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