Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. (Genesis 9:21-23)
How is it that someone who “walked with God” and was so critical to God’s plan for man could succumb to drunkenness? Perhaps we can answer that question by looking at our own lives and try to understand why we have done some of the things we have done after God has been so faithful to us? In other words, in spite of his notoriety, Noah was just like us in the sense that he possessed the potential to make bad choices. Unfortunately, his actions put others in a situation where they were forced to make choices — some chose wisely and some chose unwisely.
Ham looked upon his father in his drunken and exposed state while the other brothers refused to do so. In fact, they covered their father’s nakedness. The end result was that the son of Ham, Canaan, was cursed by his grandfather. Interestingly, other of Ham’s descendants would become notable rebels (Nimrod) in the ensuing generations. And while there is a great deal of intrigue over what it was that Canaan might have done, let’s consider the lesson embedded within Ham’s decision to look upon his father’s nakedness.
When notable people of God fail, it is our tendency as human beings to gawk, to whisper and condemn; it should not be so because it is akin to looking upon their nakedness. In some situations, there have been those who have gone so far as to “uncover someone’s nakedness” — that is, expose another’s wrong for all the world to see. I’m not saying that sin and transgression should be ignored or protected but I am saying that we need to be careful in how we respond to another’s failure. Should we find ourselves in a situation where we know of someone’s failure and are faced with “What to do?” let’s be sure of our motivation. Are we seeking justice or retribution?
Personally, I feel that it is meritorious to follow the example of Shem and Japheth who, fully aware of their father’s nakedness, decided that they would not look upon him in his shameful state. In their actions we see mercy, compassion and empathy. They did not ignore the consequence of their father’s choice but, to their credit, refused to participate in the spectacle that could have been. Frankly, when it comes to exposing failure, I choose to trust God to handle the situation because He is just. Should He put any of us in a scenario where we are aware of sin and actions that would bring shame should they be exposed, it would be wise to remember that we are all capable of making bad choices. In other words, it would be wise for us to sow mercy that we may, in our day of need, reap mercy.
Blessings and Shalom,