The Only Response to Grace - Part Two
Scripture: Genesis 9:1–29
The Only Response to Grace-Part TwoGenesis 9:1-29
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
Honor - it has almost become a lost word in our society. It seems few can define the concept and even fewer still make any effort in their self-absorption to practice the trait. It is sad how this notion of honor is foreign from so many minds today. It seems there is only a remnant that are deeply grieved when a senior citizen is treated with disrespect or a person talks to a friend throughout the playing of our national anthem or a child chews out a parent in a shopping store.
Did you know the Bible has a lot to say about "honor?" Children are commanded to honor their parents (Mt. 15:4), citizens their government (Rom. 13:7), churches their leaders (1 Ti. 5:17) and employees their employers (1 Ti. 6:1). Those are the easy ones, but as we dig a little deeper we also see that husbands are to honor their wives (1 Pet. 3:7) and churches are to honor their widows (1 Tim. 5:3). Our bodies are to be honored in purity (1 Thes. 4:4). Marriage is to be held in honor (Heb. 13:4). As a matter of fact, we are all even commanded to honor one another. Rom. 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor."
A society becomes broken, filled with narcissistic people, when it loses its concept of honor. Moreover God is indirectly dishonored because we dishonor those whom He commanded us to honor. As a matter of fact, ultimately, we must say that God Himself directly demands honor, and our honor for Him must be supremely above all the other things we honor.
How seriously does He take this? In Malachi 1:6 God says, "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?'" Later in 2:2 God says, '"If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,' says the LORD of hosts, 'then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart.'"
It is not just the Israelites. Romans 1:21 declares that basically most humans created to honor the Lord, fail to do so. Instead they have become "futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart[s] [are] darkened." What a contrast from the scene presently happening in heaven: "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing'" (Rev. 5:11-12). The Christian life is about honor, ascribing to people, especially to God, the dignity and respect they deserve.
This morning as we prepare for the Lord's Table and conclude chapter 9 of Genesis, we will see three things that the Lord expects us to honor, which are also the three points of our sermon: Human lives, covenants and parents.
1. Honor Life
Let's begin. First of all we are to honor life. We covered this in depth last week, so allow me to make two brief remarks and then we will move on.
Remark number one: My support for this command is found in verses 1-7. In the short span of seven verses, we see God reaffirm and now extend humans' dominion over the animals, thus showing them not to be co-equals. We see God commanding humans to multiply and populate the earth, thus showing His pleasure with them. And we also see God institute the death penalty for those who unjustly take another human's life, thus showing the sanctity He places upon human life. Verse 6, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man." Only humans are created in the image of God. Therefore all humans from the elderly to the handicapped to the various skin colors to the unborn have inherent value. All life, that includes yours, is sacred and must be honored.
Remark number two: I know last week's sermon which concentrated on the issue of abortion was intense, and I do not apologize for that. I believe and seek to apply both in heart and in action everything I said. Though the feedback I received was entirely positive, saying these things was not a matter of courage, saying these things was a matter of necessity. Sure, people might leave the church because of my stance and I am prepared for the assaults, but pastoring a church that is not unified on this issue brings greater fear to my heart. I did no differently than I would do with my adolescent daughters: Inform the mind with the specifics, pray God impacts the heart with convictions, and then look for actions of the will to do something.
Here is one e-mail that I received last week that I believe captures these three goals.
I just wanted to let you know that your sermon yesterday was really encouraging to me!
A couple of months ago I felt really convicted when I read Proverbs 24:11, 12 which says, "Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?" [mind informed with truth!]
I feel like God put that verse on my heart for a reason [heart convictions!] and I know that I need to do something about it, I just don't know what [response of the will intended]. Your sermon yesterday was a good reminder for me to be praying not only for a cultural change but also for God to show me what else I can be doing. Thanks again!
I am excited that the young singles group will be joining me at the clinic on the 25th. If you need suggestions as to how you too may be involved, meditate on the 14 action points included in your sermon outline. Remember this: Be Christlike and creative!
2. Honor the Covenant
Let's move on to the new material. Point number two, honor the covenant.
One of the first things God did when Noah and his family exited from the Ark on dry ground was to establish a covenant with him - actually it was a covenant that He established with every human and every living thing that would ever exist. In verses 8-10 we read, "Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 'Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth."
Throughout the Bible we see God as a covenant-making and promise-keeping God. So what is a covenant and what were the stipulations of this particular covenant with Noah?
A covenant is a solemn arrangement between two parties. Throughout the Bible we see God in His love and grace instituting covenants with sinful people. This is the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9. There are also is Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant and of course the New Covenant, just to name a few. Some of the covenants are limited, applicable only to certain people, such as those who love Jesus in the New Covenant or the nation of Israel in the Mosaic Covenant. Others are unlimited, applicable to all people at all times. Some covenants are conditional, expectations placed upon the people whereby their compliance would result in curses or blessings. Others are unconditional, a covenant God made and would uphold regardless of how the people responded. This covenant made with Noah was unlimited (everybody in all ages is involved) and unconditional (the blessings of the covenant are not determined by man's response). Therefore all people today are still reaping the benefits of the Noahic Covenant.
And what is the Noahic Covenant? Look at verse 11, "I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth."
Throughout this series I stressed the horrific nature of this global flood. It was an incredible display of God's wrath directed toward man's sin, which resulted in worldwide suffering and death. Only Noah and his family live through the massive destruction. So put yourself in the man's shoes. Should they live in the Ark because another flood might be just around the corner? Should he freak out every time a rain drop hits him on the forehead? Should he prepare his grandchildren? With such a traumatic experience, you can imagine the paranoia!
While God's wrath toward sin should always be discussed and feared, after all it was Jesus' mission to repeatedly warn people of a place called hell much longer and far worse than a global flood. But God wanted all people from the time of Noah to know that they need not fear His destruction of the world by water. It must have come as a relief to these people, no different than the people of Nagasaki somehow being promised that they would never again experience a nuclear explosion or the people in Thailand another Tsunami!
Covenants are sealed with a sign. For example, when we get married we enter a covenant with our spouse before God that we will stay together until death does us part. Then after we recite those vows, we present to each other a wedding ring. The wedding ring is only a piece of metal, but it is a sign that represents the covenant we just made with each other. In other words, I could throw this glass coaster across the platform and it would be no big deal, but if I threw my wedding ring across the platform, all of you, most of all, my wife, would be appalled. It comes back to honor. God gave Noah and all of us a sign of the covenant that He made as well. A ring is a reminder that we will be faithful to each other. The rainbow, something we have no control over, is a reminder that God will be faithful to us and keep His promise of no more global floods.
Look with me at verses 12-17, "God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.' And God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.'"
For many, the rainbow nowadays is a reminder of "gay pride." Its origin in the Bible is ironically a reminder that God's wrath is still upon sinners, but He just won't kill them anymore with a global flood.
Now if you are in Christ, you are also under God's New Covenant. I believe that Covenant is based on God's unconditional election and irresistible grace. It is sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13), and I believe is manifested through the sign of the Lord's Table (Lk. 22:20 - though many would say baptism - Ac. 22:16). Evidence that you are in the New Covenant is therefore the presence of the Holy Spirit in you (Rom. 8:9), and evidence of the Holy Spirit in you is therefore the desire and ability to produce the fruits of the Spirit - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). The New Covenant is God's promise to remove all our sins through the shedding of Christ's blood and keep us forever with Himself throughout eternity.
3. Honor Your Parents
So we must honor life, honor God's grace in the covenants and finally, we must honor our parents. And that means more than just Mother's Day (which young people by the way is next week) or Father's Day!
In 6:5 God made it clear that man's heart is sinful. The flood came as a result (Gen. 6:7). After the flood not too much changed. God declared in 8:21 that "the intent of man's heart is [still] evil." What we see here with Noah is that even people who find God's favor (6:8) and are declared and practice righteousness (Gen. 6:9; 7:1) still sin. I am not making excuses, just stating the reality of it (1 Jn. 1:8, 10). For Noah and his family, despite directly witnessing the wrath and grace of God in a remarkable way, the new beginning starts with failure.
Beginning in verse 18, "Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent" (Gen. 9:18-21).
I've never seen this mural of Noah painted on a children's classroom! The picture is rather straightforward. Drinking the wine was not sinful. He wasn't driving the Ark under the influence! The guy was 600 so I think he was old enough (Gen. 7:6)! Getting drunk was the problem. He goes to his tent to sleep it off and in the process uncovers himself (he was hot, clueless, who knows?).
One of Noah's sons by the name of Ham takes notice of his father actions. According to verse 22 he "saw," literally "gazed," at the nakedness of his father. He then proceeded to tell both of his brothers. To Ham this was an opportunity to ridicule his dad. Maybe he resented his father's authority. Maybe he simply enjoyed making sport of people, and his father became an easy target. Either way, he was given a golden opportunity to get at Noah, and he maximized it by passing the degrading gossip onto Noah's other sons. The Hebrew text literally says he told them with delight.
Why he entered his father's personal tent as an older man and why he found pleasure looking at his father without clothes is beyond me, but what is most despicable is the satisfaction he received to mock and disrespect his father. Every father and every mother for that matter has sins that might not be hard to find. Moreover, many today out there are an absolute joke, yet despite their weaknesses parents are to be esteemed and honored. The command is cover-to-cover in the Bible (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:2).
I can just see Ham with that cocky smirk and haughty attitude. "Hey brothers, my son, Canaan, come here and check this one out for yourself! Look at dad lying there without his clothes as drunk as a skunk! Ha, ha, ha, he, he, he." The attitude of dishonoring parents which is seen all over our society today really makes you sick! Not much different than our two earlier points like aborting babies or breaking marriage covenants. As my children will tell you, this is why there is a ban of most television stations and movies in our home - because dad is portrayed as the bumbling fool and the kids always save the day! Parents, guard your kids from these awful themes!
On a positive note, my daughter had many teens over from the youth group a couple nights ago. I was so impressed with the respect and honor they showed Julie and I in leaving with many comments of gratitude for our hospitality. Also positively speaking, the other two sons didn't play along with Ham. Verse 23, "But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness."
Noah was wrong - no doubt about it, but just because our parents make mistakes, and we may not agree with their parenting does not mean we as children (regardless of our age) are ever permitted to dishonor them! We want to give "honor to whom honor" is due (Rom. 13:7). In light of last week's message, our President recently made some extremely disturbing comments to the gathered forces of Planned Parenthood. He blessed and vowed his support to those who end the lives of over 330,000 babies each year using over 500 million of your tax paying dollars. That doesn't earn my respect for the man, but I am still required to honor the man for his office.
Noah's curse on Ham, which wraps up this chapter, is not some hasty proclamation from an irrational parent. I believe it is only Noah's understanding of generational sins. Like father like son. Like Ham like Canaan and like Canaan some pretty messed up people from his line recorded in the Bible. I don't think the curse came from Noah. I believe the curse of Canaan came from Ham. These dishonoring men, like Ham, that model this behavior for their children will get a taste of their own poison from their children.
Folks, we all fall short on this subject of honor. Only Jesus was the perfect human when it came to honor. He honored all the outcasts of society. He honored His covenant in perfect obedience to the Father. And even while suffering on the cross, He honored His mother and made accommodations for her to be cared for by His beloved disciple named John (Jn. 19:26-27).
We all fall short, here and everywhere else. We need the righteousness of Jesus credited to us. Like Shem and Japheth did with Noah, we need Jesus to cover our sin. And for those of us in Christ Jesus that is exactly what we have now with the desire and ability to honor that and whom God commands.