Service: Continuing the Work of Christ in the World

Share
Service Please

All of God’s Children are Called to Serve

Now that we’re about halfway through our Workout Program, let’s pause briefly to review the progress we have made thus far.  We started out this regimen with four exercises in Salvationexercises through which we learned that…

  • Salvation is obtained through the one-time spiritual event known as the New Birth; an act taking us from sin-enslaved and hell-bound sinners to forgiven and heaven-bound sons and daughters of God;
  • While everyone has been Predestined, or pre-designed, by God to become one of His children, only those who elect to receive His offer of Salvation will do so; and,
  • Once that decision is made and our spiritual adoption is finalized, our Salvation is forever settled and rests Eternally Secure in the hands of our Heavenly Father.

Building upon this foundation during our next five exercises, we were introduced to Sanctification, the lifelong process of spiritual transformation which begins the moment we are reborn—and, the focus of which is the Holy Spirit’s Restoration of our Souls through Prayer, Bible Study, and Worship.  For, it is…

Through Prayer that He brings our hearts into alignment with the heart of God;
Through Bible Study that He brings our minds into alignment with the mind of Christ; and,
Through Worship that He brings our wills into alignment with the will of God.

Once these changes start revolutionizing the way we feel, think, and act, it isn’t long before our perceptions of the world around us also begin to change.  No longer approaching it from the self-centered, grab-all-that-you-can-get perspective of our pre-salvation days, we start looking at it from God’s viewpoint—that is, with a heart of compassion for those still lost in sin, and with a new desire to do something about it.  Such changes in our character and outlook as these should come as no surprise, though, because they are a reflection of the attitude and characteristics of Christ which must be developed in us, if we are to carry out His work in the world.

The Works of Jesus

…and greater works than these we will do

The Works of Jesus

When we consider the nature and the number of things that Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry, the prospect of us continuing His work seems a rather far-fetched, if not impossible, task to undertake. After all, during His brief ministry here, He…

Revealed God to the people, and taught them what the Kingdom of Heaven was like;
Healed the sick—restoring sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb;
Raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and shared the water of life with those who thirsted for it;
Took the religious leaders to task while putting the political leaders in their places; and, then…
As if it were a small thing, walked on water and subdued the storm… 

…making His the most difficult act of all times to follow.  And yet, in the Upper Room, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)…

But, are we really to do greater works than Jesus did—and if we are, how is that possible?  We fully expect Him to be capable of doing works of this magnitude because He is, after all, the Son of God; and, because…

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [so that] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10:38).

However, for us to be able to do even greater things than He—that’s a completely different story, isn’t it?

It would be if we were attempting to do these works in our unsaved and unsanctified conditions.  What we need to keep in mind, though, is that while Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God, when we came to Him for Salvation, we became the Adopted Sons and Daughters of God—as well as the legal heirs to and partakers of all the riches and power belonging to Christ.  And, it is for this reason that Jesus could and would make the following promises to us…

…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17); and,

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

If we doubted the possibility of our being able to carry out the work of Jesus before, we should be encouraged by these promises of Jesus; for, in them, we are assured that He will provide everything we need to fulfill the purpose for which we were created; a purpose which is described by the Apostle Paul in this way…

…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

As for understanding what He may have meant by “doing greater works,” we must to remember that during His life on earth, and in spite of His being God, Jesus willingly chose to confine Himself to one body, living in one time and one place.  As a result, His ministry of good works was confined to a limited number of people, living in one geographic area, during one brief period in human history.  This all changed, however, following His resurrection and with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.

After that, as His newly-anointed disciples shared the Gospel with others and they, in turn, came to faith in Christ, the same resurrection life and power that the disciples had received was also manifested in these newborn Christians.  Then, as more and more people became believers, and as these believers scattered throughout the then-known world, demonstrating the character and commitment of Christ as they went, the quantity and scope of Jesus’ works increased to a degree previously thought impossible—and resulted in an explosion of faith and service that continues to this very day.

Terms of Service

Service for Christ must be done in His Will and Way

What It Means to Serve

When thinking about service and what it means, it’s likely that a number of different images come to mind.  For instance, we might think of service as serving in the military, or as police officers and firefighters; possibly serving patrons their dinners in restaurants; or, maybe even serving the ball in a game of tennis.  But, for those of us who are Christ followers, what does it mean for us to serve? 

In pursuit of an answer to this question, I looked to my handy-dandy Webster’s pocket dictionary—where, among the many definitions for the word, I found four that are highly relevant to this discussion.  And, in adapting them to the exercise at hand, I discovered that they provide us with a systematic, progressive definition of Serving, which for the believer, means…

  1. Rendering obedience and worship to God;
  2. Complying with the commands or demands of Christ;
  3. Being of use to the Master; and,
  4. Providing services that benefit or help others.
     
  1. Rendering Obedience and Worship to God

In one of our previous exercises, Sanctification: Restoring the Will through Worship, we learned that real worship is what takes place when we lay aside our will and wants, and choose to do God’s will instead.  This is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane as He surrendered His will to that of His Father; modeling for us a type of surrender later described in Romans 12:1…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…

..and, a surrender that each of us will be called upon to make as a routine part of our service.  Every day, we will find that, as we are faced with the choice of doing things God’s way or our way, we will repeatedly have to make a conscious decision to climb back on the altar of sacrifice and submit our wills to His in a demonstration of our obedience and worship to God.  If we don’t, no real work for Christ will take place; for, it is at the altar of worship that all service in His name originates.

  1. Complying with the commands of Christ

In the same way that Jesus set the example for worship through the submission of His will to God’s, He demonstrated His love for the Father through His whole-hearted compliance with His Father’s commands–as He stated here in John 14:31…

…I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Because He did this first, His expectation is for us to follow His lead and do the same thing, so that the world will see how much we love Him and He loves us…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:12-14).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

From this, we learn that love must be the motivation for any service done in Jesus’ name; something which the Apostle Paul elaborates on in 1 Corinthians 13…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The often overlooked aspect of this is that, along with our compliance to His commandment, comes the promise of Jesus that…

…whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him…[and] Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (1 John 3:22, 24)…

…a promise which makes even the most impossible task or service do-able.

  1. Being of Use to the Master

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Tim. 2:20-21

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing his spiritual son, Timothy, on how to be a good servant through a comparison of God’s servants to household vessels.  Just as a homeowner makes distinctions between the vessels in his possession, such as using only the cleanest ones to eat off of, God will only use those servants who have cleansed themselves of sin through confession and repentance.  Or, as Paul goes on to tell Timothy in verse 22…

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart….

…with the lesson here being, service done in the name of the Lord Jesus must always proceed from a pure heart and clean hands.

Clean Hands and Pure Heart

Service for Christ Must Come from Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

  1. Providing Services that Benefit or Help Others 

With our wills surrendered to God at the altar of worship, with the love of Christ as our motivation, and with clean hands and pure hearts to keep us useful to God, we are ready to move on to the fourth aspect of service—which is, the provision of services that will benefit others.  This raises the question, though, about the kinds of service we should be providing. After all, there are so many needs in the world that are going unmet, how are we to know which ones are the most deserving of our attention?

Surely, as a result of our Salvation and of the Spirit’s work of Sanctification taking place in our souls, we are already engaged in good works that are in keeping with our new lives in Christ—works such as the ones cataloged in Ephesians 4:25 ff…

Having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor;

Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun go down on your anger;

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone who is in need;

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear;

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice; and,

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…

…works which could be considered as the MDLA—or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—required of each and every believer.  Moving beyond these, though—that is, moving on to doing the greater works than those previously attributed to Jesus—will call for more than just our minimum daily lifestyle adjustments; they will demand the wisdom, direction, and anointing of the Holy Spirit, working through the cooperative gifts and prayers of all believers.  In other words, providing Service for Jesus will require the active participation of the Church—something which we will discuss at length in our next exercise.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that through our service, we show the love of the Lord to the world and bring glory to our King…

 


Images used in the Works of Jesus montage courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Worship

Share
A Sanctified Soul

Sanctification Restores the Soul of Man

So far, through our exercises in Sanctification, we have learned that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to restore our emotions through Prayer and our minds through the study and application of the Word of God; a ministry which brings our hearts into alignment with that of the Father, and transforms our minds into ones more like Christ’s.  However, this part of the sanctification process only takes care of two of the components of our souls—leaving the third one, our all-important and powerful wills, for the Spirit to deal with.  And deal with them, He must; because unlike our emotions, which are simply expressions of how we feel, and our minds, which merely reveal what we think, our wills through their actions express what we want and who we really are.

Also, through these workout sessions, we have learned that it is God’s will for us is to be saved from our sins and be adopted into His family; as sons and daughters who have not only been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but as ones who have also been conformed or remolded into His image.  This means that we are not only to become like Jesus in His character, but we are also to share in His mission and ministry here on the earth—which, as He stated in John 4:34, 5:30, and 6:38, was to do the will of His Father

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work;
I can do nothing on my own…because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me; and,
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Your AssignmentSince doing the will of the Father was at the heart of Jesus’ mission, and since becoming like Him is the goal of our Sanctification, it stands to reason that doing the will of the Father must become the mission in our lives, as well.  This, however, is something that is a lot easier said than done!

That’s because, before coming to Christ, our wills and the actions they precipitated were dominated by our flesh—which is to say, by how we felt and by what we thought.  If our bodies hungered for or lusted after something—regardless  of whether it was appropriate or beneficial; or, if our minds harbored certain thoughts about anyone or anything—regardless of whether they were true or not—our wills would initiate actions geared toward satisfying those feelings and vindicating those thoughts.  In short, before our Salvation, with no access to or Godly input from our dormant spirits, our wills were like puppets whose strings were being pulled by our baser human instincts; instincts concerned with the pleasing and preservation of our unregenerate and ego-dominated selves.  But, all this began to change the moment we said yes to Jesus and were Born Again.
 

Salvation and the Will of Man

The goal of and long term impact of Salvation on our wills has been well described by Watchman Nee in his book The Spiritual Man, where he remarks…

What is salvation?  It is none other than God saving man out of himself into Himself.  Salvation has two facets:  a cutting off and a uniting with.  What is cut off is self; the uniting is with God.

What is self? …were we to say self is self-will we would not be too far from the mark… [because] man’s essence is in his volition…

Salvation, then, is to deliver man from his created, natural, animal, fleshly, and self-emanating will…

The gospel is to facilitate the union of our will with God.  Anything short of this is failure of the mission.  God aims his arrow of salvation not so much at our emotion or our mind, but at our will, for once the latter is saved, the rest are included.

[For] …God intends to destroy the life of the soul but not its function, so upon being joined with the Lord in life, He launches forth to renew our soul with its various parts in order that our soul may be one with our new life and consequently one with His will.[1]

In the face of such a challenging, time-consuming, and (on our parts) painful prospect as the transformation of our self-absorbed wills into ones totally given over to the pursuit of God’s will, we might find ourselves wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for us, instead of being endowed with the capacity to choose, to have been pre-programmed for obedience by God.  Surely, this would have been much easier on everyone involved; and yet, if God hadn’t designed us in this way, we wouldn’t have been created in His image and would therefore not be eligible to be adopted as His children.  For us to be like God, then, we would have to be free to choose to act in ways that He would; ways such as…

  • Choosing to do what’s right, rather than what’s expedient;
  • Choosing to do what’s in the best interests of others, even at the expense of our own interests;
  • Choosing to speak nothing but the truth, even if we are the only ones doing it; and,
  • Choosing to believe God and take Him at His Word, even though we can see no evidence of His existence; and even when our thoughts and feelings do not concur.

The failure to make this last choice—which is really the first one we each need to make—is what caused our first parents, and eventually us, to be at odds with the will of God in the first place.  For, as Genesis 3:6 relates it, in spite of the fact that Adam and Eve had been told not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Sadly, when Adam and Eve were given an opportunity to prove that they would carry out the will of God, they failed the first test of “Sonship,” which was obedience to their Father.  Rather than complying with His will, they allowed their own to succumb to the desires of their flesh, and to be seduced by the promises of self-achieved divinity being offered to them by Satan, the one whose will has always been in direct opposition to God’s.

On this, Watchman Nee comments again…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

The War of the Wills

When overwhelmed by the countless mundane issues in life, it is very easy for us to lose sight of the fact that the driving force behind everything that takes place in our lives is this unseen, on-going conflict of wills between the one Righteous Ruler of the Universe and the evil imposter who is seeking to overthrow Him.  The evil imposter is none other than the powerful fallen angel, Lucifer—who is also known as Satan, “the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2),” and “the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).”  His bio, in Ezekiel 28: 12-17, reads like this…

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, in the garden of God…an anointed cherub…blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you…

So I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…

His arrogant ambition and the self-centered nature of his will are also noted for us in Isaiah 14:12-14…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Daystar, son of Dawn!  How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

You said in your heart…

I will ascend to heaven;
…above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the height of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.

His opponent, of course, is God—the Sovereign, All Powerful, All-Knowing, Holy Being who not only…

…created the heavens…formed the earth and made it…[and] formed it to be inhabited;
…speak[s] the truth…[and] declare[s] what is right (Is. 45:18-19);
…gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom. 4:17);
…is light and in [whom] is no darkness at all (1 John 1:50;
…is love (1 John 4:10)….

…but is the One who could, at any time He chooses, destroy His impudent adversary with just one word from His mouth.  Instead, in His wisdom, He continues to allow him to “…prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”  And, why is that?  Because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each—relatively speaking—puny and seemingly insignificant human being who lives on this planet; and, is determined every time he or she is faced with the choice of doing what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.

Screwtape

Screwtape’s Perspective on Humanity

In the classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides us with additional insight into the nature of this war of wills through the instructional letters that seasoned demon, Screwtape, writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a lowly demon-in-training.  Here, in a slightly abridged version of one such letter, we learn that in the view of Satan and his minions

…Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks…As long as [they live] on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty…

…To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy [God] wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us (demons) a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. 

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy [God] does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation.

Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice.

He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys…[3]

 

Servants to Sons

God’s Desire is to have Sons who Choose to do His Will over their own


Worship and the Will of God

Although he didn’t refer to it as such, the act that Screwtape is describing when a child of God chooses to obey the will of His Father—even in the face of any thoughts, feelings, or circumstances to the contrary—is something that God looks upon as Worship.  For, in spite of what we have been conditioned to believe, worship isn’t so much about what we do as we gather together in church on Sunday morning; it is more about what we do when we leave church and, going back out into the world, we come face to face with the people and situations that Satan likes to use in an attempt to get us to abandon God’s will in favor of our own.  It is then that, as we are strengthened by the Spirit and reminded that…

God is God, and we are not;
He created everything, He owns everything, and He established all the rules by which His creation operates;
He knows everything, is everywhere, and has all the power;
He is holy and always does what is right; and,
His thoughts or ideas, and His ways of doing things are better than ours; and,
He can always be trusted to do what is right, not only for us but for everyone else, as well…

…we can lay aside our will and what we want, and choose to do what Jesus would do, if He was there in our place.  This, in fact, is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when, in the face of the Cross and in spite of His own human desires, He surrendered His will to that of His Father, so that His Father’s would be done on the earth.  What we learn, then, from His example, is that worshiping God simply means living surrendered to Him, in any and every circumstance in life, and anything less is not true worship.

With that in mind, then, we need to submit to and embrace the work of the Holy Spirit as He continues the work of restoration in our souls, so that in every situation our attitude will be…

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Ps. 95:6).

Worship the Lord

 

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The song of a soul restored…

 

 

[1]  Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 81-83.

[2]  Nee, Spiritual Man, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

Sanctification:  The Work of the Holy Spirit

Share

The Holy Spirit
As promised in our introduction to Sanctification, this workout time will be given over to becoming better acquainted with the Holy Spirit, our Trainer and Coach for this entire series of exercises.  The way in which we will do this is by asking and answering the following questions…

His Person—Who is He?
His Position—What does He do?
His Power—How does He do it? and,
His Presence—How does He relate this to each one of us? 


His Person:  Who is He?

Although some may have mistakenly thought of the Holy Spirit as nothing more than an emanation of God’s power, or some impersonal spiritual force from God, in reality, He is a Person—the equal, yet distinctive third Person of the Godhead, or Trinity.  This Trinity is actually a community made up of God the FatherGod the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit—three separate and unique Persons who are united in purpose, with each one working together to bring about the achievement of that purpose.  As a member of this Godhead, the Holy Spirit is every bit as divine as God the Father and God the Son; meaning that He shares in the very same divine attributes which they possess. Like them, He is:

  • Omniscient—that is, He is all-knowing (1 Cor. 2: 10-11);
  • Omnipresent—that is, He is everywhere present, all at the same time (Ps. 139: 7-10; John 14: 26; John 16: 12-13);
  • Omnipotent—that is, He is all-powerful (Luke 1:35);
  • Eternal—that is, He is, always has been, and will forever be (Heb. 9:14); and,
  • Holy—that is, He is pure and totally separate from sin (Rom. 1:4).

The Trinity1ax
Even though He is singular in His Person, the Holy Spirit is known by a number of different names, with at least twenty-five of them found throughout the Old and New Testaments; with these names giving us some much needed insight into His Person, and into His ministry.  The names by which He is known are:

  • The Spirit—which is translated as “breath” or “wind.”  As breath, He is the “breathing out” of God that imparts news life (Gen. 2:7, Ps. 104:30), and that gives divine inspiration to the Word of God (Heb. 4:12); and, as wind, He is invisible and sovereign; and beyond human understanding or control (John 3:6-8).
  • The Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16), the Spirit of Jehovah (Is. 11:2 1 Cor. 12:11), the Spirit of the Lord Jehovah (Is. 61:1-3), and the Spirit of the Living God (2 Cor. 3:6)—in His relationship to God the Father;
  • The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:6,9), and the Spirit of His Son (Gal.4:6)—in His relationship to God the Son;
  • The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), the Holy Spirit of Promise (Eph. 1:13), the Spirit of Holiness (Rom. 1:4), the Spirit of Judgment (Is. 4:4), the Spirit of Burning (Is. 4:3-4); and the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13);
  • The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding (Is. 11:2, 2 Tm. 1:7), the Spirit of Counsel and Might (Acts 1:8, 8:29 16:6-7), the Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord (Is. 11:2), and the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2);
  • The Holy Spirit of Joy (1 Thes. 1:6), the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29), the Spirit of Supplication Zech. 12:10), and the Spirit of Glory (1 Pet. 4:14);
  • The Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14)—all in regards to Himself; and,
  • The Comforter (John 14:26).  As the Comforter, He is also known as the “Paraclete” (Gk. Paraklētos), or as the “one who is called alongside” of the believer for assistance.

The Spirit Searches


His Position:  What does He do?

Because He is a Person, the Holy Spirit does the things that any other personal being does:  He thinks (Rom. 8:27), He feels (Rom. 15:30), He wills (1 Cor. 12:11)—and He acts, with some of His actions being described for us in:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10—-where the Holy Spirit searches the thoughts and the deep things of God;
  • Acts 8:29 and Acts 13:2—-where the Holy Spirit speaks;
  • Acts 15:28—-where the Holy Spirit makes decisions;
  • Romans 8:26-27—-where the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us before God;
  • John 15:26 and John 16:14—-where the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus;
  • John 14:26 and 1 Corinthians 2:13—-where the Holy Spirit teaches us;
  • Romans 8:16—-where the Holy Spirit reassures believers of their salvation;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:11—-where the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to believers;
  • Ephesians 4:30—-where the Holy Spirit grieves over sin; and,
  • Acts 16: 6-7—-where the Holy Spirit overrules human actions.

The Holy Spirit teaches...


His Power:  How Does He Do It? 

Although no one has ever been able to adequately explain the Trinity or how it works, one thing that seems to be apparent about it is that:

  • God the Father is the One who wills and plans;
  • God the Son is the One who does the Father’s will and carries out His plans; and,
  • God the Holy Spirit is the One who provides the power (Gk. Dunamis, or dynamic power) needed to apply the work done by the Son.

In other words, the role of the Holy Spirit is to see that the will of the Father and the work of the Son are carried out to completion.

Although we cannot actually see the Spirit’s power as He is working, we can see the evidences of that power, not only throughout the Scriptures but throughout our world, as well.  Even as He, in Genesis 1:2, was busy hovering over the darkness and chaos preceding the first coming of life—waiting in anticipation for the Word of God to be spoken so that He could perform or empower that Word into reality—He is constantly, yet invisibly, at work, bringing light and life to those who are living in darkness.  From the creation of the world until now, the power of the Holy Spirit has been at work:  striving with and convicting men of their sins; performing miracles; inspiring the prophets and the preachers; protecting God’s people; maintaining life as we know it on this planet; and most importantly, magnifying Jesus, and shining the light of God upon the Truth. 

Speaking of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit was also clearly seen in every aspect of His life, including His incarnation; His anointing for ministry at His baptism; His ministry to His disciples and to the crowds which followed Him; His transfiguration; His sacrificial death on the cross; His resurrection; and, the empowerment of Jesus’ disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

Truth


His Presence:  How does He apply the will of God and the work of Christ to us?

Since it was the will of God that:

  • No one should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 2:9);
  • We believe on the One (Jesus) whom He has sent (John 6:29);
  • We be sanctified, or made like Jesus, and be set apart for the His holy purposes (1 Thes. 4:3);

It became the work of the Son to:

  • Provide the redemption and forgiveness of sins needed to save us from perishing (Eph. 1:5-7);
  • Be sent to earth, to live a sinless and righteous life before men, to die an agonizing death on the cross in order to make atonement for the sins of all men, and to overcome death through His own resurrection; and,
  • Go back to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit could be sent to apply the work that He had accomplished.

As for the way in which the Holy Spirit goes about applying both the will of God and the work of the Son in our lives, He does this through the on-going work of His Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Holy Presence, as He:

  • Convinces of us of our sins, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment waiting for us in the future (John 16:8-11)—so that we can be brought to repentance;
  • Regenerates, or brings back to life, our long dead spirits, thus reconnecting our spirits with God’s (Titus 3:4-7);
  • Comes to live within us—writing the laws of God upon our hearts, and teaching us to live lives that are pleasing to God—reproducing the very character of Christ in us as a result (James 4:5, Heb. 10:16, Gal. 6:22-23);
  • Baptizes us and places us into the Body of Christ, giving us gifts of service, and then empowering us to use those gifts to carry on the work of the Son (1 Cor. 12:4-11, 1 Pet. 4:10); and,
  • Guarantees our inheritance by His seal, until we can take possession of it ourselves when we get to Glory, (Eph. 1:13).

As you can see, the Holy Spirit is a very busy and a very important Person in our lives; for, in the plan of God, it is His work to birth us as the spiritual children of God, and then, to help us mature into sons and daughters of God who can carry on the work of Christ in this world, and prepare for His coming Kingdom in the next.  In light of what we learned in our introductory exercise in Sanctification, the initial work of the Spirit in this regard will include…

  • Opening up the lines of communication with God, and teaching us to talk to Him through Prayer;
  • Transforming our carnal minds into Christ-like ones, and teaching us how to hear from God, through the Study of His Word; and,
  • Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit, or the character of Christ, in our lives through a combination of Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, and Testing of what we have learned…

…beginning the process whereby our Spirits, Souls, and Bodies are restored to their proper places and functions, with the Spirit controlling our thoughts, feelings, and actions—and our flesh responding with submission and obedience to the Will of God.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Gaither Vocal Band and “Search Me, Lord”…

More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion!

Share
Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Now that we have had some time to digest the things that were covered in part one of Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, it’s time for us to get back to our analysis of Vignette #9 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story.  As a little reminder, just before our break, we were introduced to the idea that Noah was, in his cursing of Ham and blessing of Japheth and Shem, prophetically assigning them (and their descendants) to their respective roles as the corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit of humanity—roles naturally bringing with them some specific responsibilities.  In this part of our critique, we will take a look at these responsibilities in an effort to see…

  • How well Noah’s sons fulfilled their prophetic assignments;
  • How one line of Ham’s descendants rebelled against their divinely ordained destiny; and,
  • How that rebellion led to the division of languages which resulted in the development of nations.

Additionally, in the process of all of this, we will meet two of the shady and rather illusive New Characters who will be playing such vital yet largely unseen roles throughout the remainder of the Heavenly Story now unfolding before us.

The Prophetic Assignments of Noah’s Sons

1. Ham

Ham as the Body of MankindAlthough Ham was the youngest of Noah’s sons, since he was the first son that Noah dealt with, we will also begin with him.  As we learned last time, because of his fleshly response to his father’s drink-induced nakedness, and his apparent disregard for the spiritual position and reputation of his father, Ham and his descendants were “cursed” by being relegated to the role of the corporate Body of mankind.  In this capacity, their chief responsibility was to learn how to make the best use of the natural resources around them so they could provide not only for their own physical or material needs, but also for those of Shem, Japheth, and their descendants.  In so doing, they would be fulfilling Noah’s charge for them to be “…a servant of servants” to their brothers.

As for how well they served their “brothers” in this capacity, history has shown that, for the most part, Ham and his descendants have been highly successful in the accomplishment of this task.  For, if we were to research the history of their contributions to mankind, we would find that the development of…

…almost any essential element of our highly complex civilization—aircraft, paper, weaving, metallurgy, propulsion of various kinds, painting, explosives, mechanical principles, food, the use of electricity, virtually anything technological in nature…leads surely and certainly back to a Hamitic people and exceedingly rarely to Japheth or Shem.[1]

Through their development of such things as new farming techniques, writing and printing, the domestication of animals, fabrics and weaving, and building tools and materials…

…the Hamitic peoples have shown an amazing ability to exploit the immediate resources of their environment to the limit…”[2]

…and have, in the process, made life on the earth sustainable and far more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

2.  Shem

Shem as the Spirit of MankindAfter assigning his youngest son to the task of service to his brothers, Noah redirected his attention from the physical to the spiritual, and from cursing to blessing, as he called upon God to bless his son, Shem.  Although his reason for singling Shem out in this way remains unclear—especially considering that, in Genesis 9:23, both Shem and Japheth had responded to their father’s unfortunate situation in the same thoughtful and respectful way—in his blessing of Shem, Noah was prophetically elevating this son to the role of the corporate Spirit of mankind.

In other words, Shem was being designated as the conduit through whom God would progressively reveal Himself to humanity; first through the Law and the Prophets, and then through His Own Son, Jesus Christ.  However, in order for them to fulfill the responsibilities associated with this role, Shem and his descendants would have to maintain a unique relationship with God by being obedient to His laws (so that when the Lord blessed them for their obedience, they would become witnesses of the reality of God to the rest of the world) and, protecting and preserving that which would be entrusted to them by God.

As for how well the Semites fulfilled this assignment, they were successful in that the revelation of God was preserved until it was made flesh in the coming of Christ; however, this was due more to the faithfulness of God than to the faithfulness of the people.   Had God not preserved a righteous remnant to guard this divine treasure, it would have been lost to the world as a result of Shem’s descendants’ flagrant violations of God’s statutes and their repeated disavowals of their unique relationship with Him.

3. Japheth

Japheth as the Soul of MankindOnce the roles of the Body and Spirit had been filled, Noah turned to assigning the role of the corporate Soul to his son, Japheth; something he accomplished by pronouncing a blessing on Japheth; a blessing in which he asked God to enlarge Japheth and his descendants, and to allow them to eventually become partakers in the spiritual blessing of Shem.

As for the significance of the order of Noah’s cursing and blessing, and of Japheth’s positioning in between his two brothers, we need only refer back to But Why Couldn’t We Stay the Way We Were…, where we learned that, on an individual level…

…when God created man, He first fashioned a physical Body for him, then He breathed His Spirit into that body, and when He did, the human Soul came into being.  This, then, set up the system that God intended to use when He wanted to relate to and to communicate with the man that He had created.  Once again, this is the way it worked:  God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit, man’s spirit would speak to his soul, and then man’s soul would speak to his body—each part relaying to man the will that God wanted to be carried out on the earth on His behalf.

As we can see, this was the very same order in which Noah prophesied over his sons; first, he dealt with Ham as the Body, then with Shem as the Spirit, and finally with Japheth as the Soul, in the middle, acting as mediator between his two brothers.  There, he was in a position to take the spiritual revelations given to Shem and, through the use of his “soul” attributes of intellect and communication, relay them to Ham for their implementation.  Or, as Arthur Custance explains the process, as it has taken place over time…

Thus it has come about that the pioneering task of opening up the world, subduing it, and rendering it habitable, was first undertaken by the descendants of Ham…

Centuries later, Japheth settled slowly into the areas already opened up by Ham, in almost every case adopting the solutions, suited to local survival, which the predecessors had already worked out.  Yet in all cases Japheth took with him a certain philosophizing tendency which acted to modify the somewhat materialistic culture which he was inheriting…

In the providence of God the Semitic people, represented in Israel, remained at the center until their spiritual education had reached a certain point.  They were then scattered among the nations and carried with them their pure monotheistic faith.  But when they should have received their King, they failed to recognize Him, and their particular Kingdom was taken from them and the responsibility of its administration given to Japheth instead.

The enlargement of Japheth has continued to this day…frequently at the expense of the Hamites who first possessed the land…This “enlargement” has also brought its own undesirable consequences.  Perhaps this is because the spiritual responsibility taken over from Shem has never been completely undertaken by Japheth who received the commission.[3]

The First Big Rebellion at Babel 

From what we can gather, then, each of Noah’s sons managed to fulfill his prophetic assignment to some degree. While the divine revelation entrusted to Shem was “stewarded” by him, it was not always done faithfully; and, even though Japheth did take up that revelation, he has not been entirely successful at passing it on to the rest of the world. Likewise, in spite of his many successes at subduing the earth and exploiting its resources—and, given the natural conflict existing between the flesh and the spirit— Ham has all too often rejected the revelation of God, and rebelled against submitting to any higher spiritual authority other than himself, something which this revelation has always demanded.

We witnessed our first recorded instance of this sort of rebellion in Vignette #9 where, from Genesis 10:6, 8 and Genesis 11:1-9, we learned that Ham’s grandson, Nimrod, rather than submitting to his God-ordained assignment to serve his brothers, determined that he would rule over them instead.  In his efforts to seize control, we also have documented for us man’s first attempt at hijacking and corrupting the system of human government, which had so recently been established by Noah at God’s direction.

Although the Bible tells us very little about Nimrod, there are numerous references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  We find one such reference in Antiquities of the Jews, compiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like “the man of lawlessness” the Apostle Paul warned his readers about, later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10.  There, he described this man as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[4]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name (i.e. His character and attributes), they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).[5]

Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when “scaled” through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[6]

So, in addition to his corruption of the established governmental system and the establishment of himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod was also responsible for the development of the first false religious system in the world; one…

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood. In the original this system depicted by means of constellations the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible. The serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent. These fables were based upon the then widely-known story of the constellations, and were introduced under the guise of revealing the hidden esoteric knowledge concealed in them (regardless of the fact that the original was quite straightforward).

…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal which was the worship of the “heavenly host,” which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels. Satan was quite willing to receive worship “by proxy”, hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[7]

The Division of the People into Nations

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that God so quickly “came down” to earth and put a stop to it.  In the face of these men’s arrogant aspirations, He simply confused “…their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech…” and, in this way, He “…dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:7-8).”  From this map, we can see which way each of Noah’s sons went…

Table of Nations

Noah’s Descendants Scatter

The Introduction of New Characters

From what we have just learned about Nimrod, it should now be easier for us to see that, with his appearance on the earthly stage of God’s One Big Story, we are also being introduced to a sinister new character, simultaneously making an entrance onto the heavenly stage of our Story.  This character is none other than the Antichrist—and even though he will not always be visible to us, we will certainly be able to see evidences of his work throughout the remainder of the Story.  That’s because he will not be working alone, but with a co-conspirator—one who also made her first appearance on our stage at the Tower of Babel.  Her name is Mystery Babylon and she became a reality in our Story in the following way…

As the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth made their way into strange new lands, one of the familiar things they all carried with them was the false religious system which had first been established in the land of Shinar at Babel—later to be known as Babylon.  And, it was…

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[8]

As a result of this, Babylon came to be known as the “mother” who had given birth to every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon.  This system is described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations… 

…and it will be through her and the Antichrist that Satan will, throughout the remainder of our Story, attempt to deceive and seduce people into worshiping him, rather than the true God.

Mystery Babylon5 Ottheinrich_Folio300r_Rev17 Matthias Gerung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Babylon, the Mother of all False Religions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
In spite of all the lies Satan has put out, Steve Green reminds us that there is only one who is deserving of our worship, and that is “God and God Alone”…

 

 

 

[1] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 37-38.

[2] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 27-28.

[3] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 42.

[4] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[5] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[6] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[7] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html)

[8] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/)

 

 

Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion

Share

Now that all nine Vignettes, or mini-stories, in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story have been presented, you might be thinking that the time has come for us to leave Stage #1 and press on to Stage #2, where the second scene in our production is waiting to get underway.  However, before we can move on from here, there is still the matter of our critical analysis of Vignette #9, which has yet to be completed.  Given that this particular Vignette was packed with a lot more action than most of the previous ones, there will be a considerable amount of material for us to discuss; so let’s not waste any time changing into our Critic’s Hat and getting this challenging critique underway. The episodes from this Vignette that we will be focusing on are…

Noah’s Drunkenness;
His Blessing and Cursing;
The New Characters Introduced into the Story; and,
The Rebellion Taking Place at Babel.


Noah’s Drunkenness 

I don’t know about you but if I had been unfamiliar with this particular episode in Noah’s life, I would have been surprised by behavior so seemingly out of character for such a perennially pious hero as he.  After all, up until this point in our story, Noah has lived for well over six hundred years without a blemish on his scriptural record.  He has maintained his integrity while living in a thoroughly corrupt society, even in the face of ridicule, persecution, and personal loss; and, he has remained obedient to God before, during, and for some time after the Deluge which had completely destroyed the world he had known before.  So, what could possibly have driven him to drink at this point in his life; and, why is this lapse in his behavior significant enough to be recorded for us here?

Some have speculated that due to the vastly different environmental or atmospheric conditions existing before the Flood, grape fermentation would not have been possible; implying that, without any previous experience with the process, Noah would have been ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the wine that it produced.  But this may not have been the case at all; for, even if winemaking had been a possibility before the flood, as a man on a mission for God, Noah may have been so focused on the completion of his task that drinking wouldn’t even have been a consideration.  At this stage in his life, however—as a man without the sense of purpose he once had and with so much time on his hands—he may have resorted to drinking in order to fill this newly created void in his life.

Of course, there could have been a number of other reasons to account for his lapse at this juncture.  Since no mention has been made of Mrs. Noah since her departure from the Ark, it is altogether possible that she has already passed away; a circumstance which would certainly have left Noah feeling sad and alone, and in a state of grief over her death.  Or, it could have been that he was just feeling old, tired, and discouraged, or maybe even a bit disappointed in the way some of his children or grandchildren were turning out.  Since no one really knows for sure and since the scriptural record neither condemns nor tries to justify Noah’s behavior—it must have been recorded for some other reason.

Perhaps, it was included as a warning to us that even the righteous “Noahs” in this world are still sinners and capable of falling victim to temptation at any time; or, maybe it was merely to serve as the catalyst for, or as an explanation of, the curious events which were to follow.  I say “curious” because, just as we could not have predicted that Noah would end up in a drunken stupor, there was no way that we could have imagined that the godly man who had gone to such great lengths to secure the deliverance and safety of his family during and after the Flood would so soon afterward be cursing one line of the descendants within that family.  So, let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can get a better idea of what this blessing and cursing was really all about.

Noah’s Blessing and Cursing 

According to Dictionary.com, to bless means to consecrate or sanctify by a religious rite; to make or pronounce holy; or, to request the bestowal of divine favor on something or someonewhile to curse is to express a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a particular person or group.  And, in our travels through the Word thus far, we have witnessed several occasions when God carried out these very actions in regard to His creation.  For…

Noah's curse

Noah damning Ham, 19th-century painting by Ivan Stepanovitch Ksenofontov

  • In Genesis 1:22 and 1:28, He blessed both the living creatures and the man and woman with fruitfulness;
  • In Genesis 2:3, He blessed and consecrated the seventh day and set it apart as holy;
  • In Genesis 3:14, He cursed the serpent because of his involvement in the fall of man;
  • In Genesis 3:17, He cursed the ground because Adam listened to the voice of his wife and ate from the forbidden tree, instead of obeying God;
  • In Genesis 4:11-12, following Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, God cursed Cain’s ability to derive a living from the land; and,
  • In Genesis 9:1, after their departure from the Ark, God blessed Noah and his sons with the same blessing of fruitfulness that He had bestowed upon Adam and Eve.

In other words, in each of these circumstances, God decreed—or, issued “…a formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law”[1]—either a benediction or bestowal of good things, or a malediction of evil in response to someone’s offense or sin.  When we come to the pronouncements of Noah, though, we find that his blessing and cursing, unlike those righteous decrees of a holy God, take on the form of prophetic utterances—that is, they become the divinely inspired foretelling or predictions of things that are to come.  We find these prophecies or predictions in Genesis 9:24-27, where we read…

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son [Ham] had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan [the youngest son of Ham]; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’  He also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD,the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.’

As an aside here, when we compare the circumstances surrounding Noah’s “Fall” with those of Adam and Eve’s “Fall”, we find the following interesting parallels…

Adam versus Noah
I tend to think that when Noah awoke and learned what had happened earlier, he was not at all surprised to find out who had done what.  Having lived with his sons through thick and thin for over a hundred years, he surely had to have developed a keen insight into the nature of their individual personalities.  In fact, it was his discernment of these natures which lead him to “curse” and “bless” them in the way that he did.  And, while it might seem to us that he was making a mountain out of a molehill, if we are going to understand the significance of his blessing and cursing to our story, we will need to make an effort to view this situation from his perspective.   Probably the best way to do that is by answering the following questions:

  1. What did Ham do that was so bad that it provoked a curse from his father?

While it may not seem like a very big deal to us, especially in our nudity-saturated and authority-rejecting society, Ham’s reaction to his father’s embarrassing display would have been a major faux-pas during his time.  That’s because, instead of showing respect for his father by compassionately and discreetly covering his nakedness—as his brothers later did—he apparently reveled in the fact that this man of God had “finally” fallen.

This reaction is very telling; for although Ham had been “saved” from the Flood, just like the others in his family, his response to his father’s drunkenness exposed a decidedly carnal nature in him—one in which…

  • He showed no respect for his father as the spiritual head and high priest of his family, and as the one who was chiefly responsible for his own salvation;
  • He extended no grace to his father, but seemed to take delight in his failure; and,
  • He demeaned and ridiculed his father to his brothers, and possibly to other members of the family or camp.

In short, he failed to respond to the situation in a way that honored both his father and God—which was, in the way that Shem and Japheth did.

2.  Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham?

Although this question has long been a puzzling one, of the several explanations which have been put forth, the two most frequently offered appear to be these…

  • That in recognition of an already obvious proclivity to sin in his grandson, Noah’s curse was actually the prediction of (and therefore the justification for) the eventual judgment and destruction of the Canaanites at the hands of the Israelites, as ordered later by Moses in Deuteronomy 7:1-3; and,
  • Noah cursed his youngest son’s youngest son because Ham, in Genesis 9:1, had already been blessed by God.  From an incident recorded later in Numbers 22-24, we learn that when a prophet-for-hire named Balaam, was paid by the King of Moab to curse the Israelites, he was compelled by God to bless them instead.  His explanation for this bizarre behavior is found in Numbers 23:8, where he tells the King of Moab…

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?

Based upon this, then, it would seem that once anyone or anything has been blessed by God, he, she, or it cannot afterward be cursed by man.

Undoubtedly, a lesser known but much more reasonable explanation has been posited by Arthur Custance in his book, Noah’s Three Sons, where he explains that…

“It is a common social custom among many primitive people to attribute the greatness of a son to the father, who then receives the honor for having raised such a worthy child.  This is clearly reflected in Scripture where Saul seeks to honor David after the slaying of Goliath.  He asks his general whose son the lad is (1 Sam. 17:55)… Undoubtedly Saul knew David well enough, but evidently he did not know who his father was.  It was his father he was seeking to honor according to social custom…A man in blessing his own son was in fact blessing himself.  This was true when Noah blessed Shem and Japheth.  By the same token, however, if he had cursed Ham, the real offender, he would at the same time have been cursing himself.  Quite logically, he could only pass judgment upon Ham by cursing Ham’s own son, which is what he therefore did.”[2]

3.  Does this mean that when Noah was cursing Canaan, he was in reality cursing Ham, and sentencing both him and his descendants to lives lived in perpetual states of servant-hood or slavery?

While many have interpreted this passage to mean that very thing—especially those who have sought to justify their involvement in the buying, selling, or owning of slaves—it is really a far cry from the true prophetic meaning of Noah’s pronouncement.  For, in designating Ham as “… a servant of servants…to his brothers,” rather than sentencing him to the lowest form of human service, Noah was actually calling on him to carry out the highest form of service to his brothers.  That is, because Ham and his offspring’s interests were focused on the natural, more fleshly concerns in life, they were being given the task of providing for the physical or material needs of Seth, Japheth, and their descendants.  In order to understand what I mean by this, we will have to expand our view of the role that Noah’s sons were to play in the new civilization that about to be generated through them and their children.

You see, in much the same way that an individual person is made up of a body, soul, and spirit, here at the head of this new era in human history, the three sons of Noah were being singled out as the representatives of the collective body, soul, and spirit of mankind, just as it was being launched out into the world—with Ham representing the corporate body of mankind, Japheth representing its corporate soul, and Shem acting as its corporate spirit.  And, as you may recall, back in Another Learning Interlude, in our discussion of the way in which each of these three aspects of man’s nature was to function, we learned that…

  • The Spirit was the means by which God’s Spirit would communicate with man;
  • The Soul, consisting of the mind, will, and emotions, was to act as the means of communication between man’s spirit and body; and, once it made known the will of God to the body…
  • The Body was then to carry out God’s will on the earth while, at the same time, providing for the physical needs of the person.

As this graphic helps to illustrate, in his blessing of Shem, Noah was designating him and those who came from him to be the spiritual stewards of God and His revelation to the rest of mankind.  In blessing Japheth with enlargement, Noah was calling upon God to not only extend this son’s territory but, more importantly, to expand the collective mind and thinking of mankind which Japheth and his progeny were meant to represent.  And, in making Ham a servant to each of them, Noah was assigning him and his children the task of guaranteeing mankind’s physical survival, which would eventually make it possible for the revelation of God to be carried to the ends of the earth.

Noah's Sons
As you can see, at this point, we have only covered about half of the material in this Vignette, meaning that we will need to take a break and continue at a later time with our analysis.  We will, at that time, learn more of how these prophetic utterances of Noah have been fulfilled, and about the parts they have played in the on-going action of our story–so don’t take your Critic’s Hat off quite yet!  Until then, though, here is…

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Tracey Campbell, singing a song by Secret Garden, reminding us that in the middle of a difficult situation, “Sometimes a Prayer Will Do”…

 

[1] decree. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decree.

[2] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 26.

The image of “Noah Damning Ham” courtesy of Wikimedia.com.

 

 

A Timely Message

Share

Dear Friends,

News FlashSince I haven’t posted anything new in a while, you might be thinking that the Truth Train had been derailed and our Bible Study Tour through the Land of Revelation Knowledge had been aborted. But, let me assure you that nothing of the kind has occurred.  It is just that following a recent move, I found it necessary to take some time off in an effort to try and get my household organized.

Now that the dust has settled, however, the time has come for us to resume our travels together.  So, be on the lookout for our next study, “Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion,” coming sometime around the first of the year.

Until then, here’s wishing you a blessed and happy Christmas and a most prosperous New Year!

Judy