No one would deny Noah was a righteous man. Genesis 6 tells us he walked with God and was blameless among all the people of his time. Numerous bible scholars estimate the population at the time of the flood to be in the billions, so it is noteworthy that Noah stands out as an obedient lover of God among so many. 2 Peter 2:5 tells us Noah was a preacher of righteousness and even though no one seemed to be listening, he continued to preach. When told to build an ark to prepare for a rainstorm that had never before happened, he does so with complete submission and trust. Every instruction the Lord gives to Noah is followed implicitly, including the exact moment of entering the ark. Noah and his family experience the grace and presence of God in a miraculous way and are saved from a flood that kills every living thing on the earth.
Following the world’s devastation, Noah, the preacher/ farmer plants a vineyard, drinks too much, passes out in his tent and is discovered by his son Ham. He notifies the brothers who, instead of looking on the nakedness of their father, walk backward into the tent and cover their father’s error. Interestingly, Ham, not Noah is rebuked and when Noah wakes up, he curses Ham and blesses the other boys.
Now, I am in no way justifying Noah’s behavior. It was a serious lack of judgment and discernment on his part, brought shame on the family and should never have happened. However, I would like to draw some parallels of leadership and help us though rough waters when we have to deal with the failures of others:
- All leaders have the potential of getting drunk from the work of their own hands and successes they have had. It’s not right, but sometimes happens, is painful to watch and, for those that must provide oversight, a difficult task to undertake. Perhaps some instruction from Paul’s words would be helpful here: “If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the days out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived (Gal. 6:1-3, message). (1) Paul also reminds us that those who think they are standing firm and secure need to be careful lest they fall into temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). Ham was cursed because he failed to recognize his own humanity.
- Our goal should be to cover the nakedness of failure, not discuss it with the rest of the family of God. There is a difference between covering and hiding sin. Hiding fails to deal with the issue but love can cover a multitude of sins and make potential restoration easier for the entire body of Christ. When Saul was slain on the battlefield, David did not want his failure exploited because he realized the potential of Kingdom enemies to blaspheme God. He said, “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice (2 Samuel 1:20 NIV). (2) Ham was cursed because he failed to recognize the impact of failure on God’s reputation.
- Spiritual Authority matters to God and how we respond to leadership failure reveals our own hearts. As a father, God had given authority to Noah over his family but Ham disregarded that authority and appointed himself to be the exposer of Noah’s sin. The final chapter on Noah’s life had not been written as he would live another 350 years. To disregard a natural and spiritual father’s investment of time in us when they fail is to misunderstand how God views the spiritual authority he places in men and women. Noah’s other sons recognized this and instead of staring at his nakedness, walked backward into the tent, honored their father and covered him with a blanket so they would not see him. Ham was cursed because he misunderstood spiritual authority and became an authority unto himself at the expense of someone else.
Here’s a fact: Until we all get to heaven, human failure is going to be part of our walk on earth. Responding incorrectly, we risk bringing further hurt to God’s people. Done properly, we have the great opportunity to bring restoration and hope to many people, including leaders in the Kingdom of God. Let’s ask the Lord to help us get this right.
- The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
- New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®