Yesterday we looked out how Ham treated his father, Noah, badly. Shem and Japheth, Ham’s brothers, did the right thing by their father. And when Noah woke up, if he knew what had happened, or found out later, we would expect him to be upset. Sure enough, he knew:
When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. – Genesis 9:24, NASB
In this situation we’d expect Noah to go to Ham and straighten things out. But that’s not what happened next. Earlier in Genesis 9 we’re told a couple of times that Ham was the father of Canaan. In Genesis 10, when the genealogy is covered, we note that Ham had several sons, 4 in fact:
The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan. – Genesis 10:6, NASB
So why is it so important for us to know that Ham is the father of Canaan? That’s because of what Noah did in response to how he had been mistreated by Ham.
So he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall 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.”
– Genesis 9:25-27, NASB
We’re not told why Noah went after Canaan and not Ham. I’ve read some theological suppositions that Noah couldn’t curse someone whom God had blessed (all 4 were blessed in Genesis 9:1). Put that aside. Why was Noah cursing anyone? After all, he was the one who made the mistakes that put himself in that situation. And he had just been the target of an enormous gift of forgiveness and mercy, completely undeserved, an example that foreshadowed what Christ was going to do for us. But curse someone he did. And he didn’t go after Ham. Instead, he went after Ham’s son, Canaan.
The first mistake was going after anyone, regardless of who it was. The second mistake of going after Canaan just compounded the issue. But how often do we see folks taking out their frustration or their wrath on someone other than the source of it? How often have we done it? Ever yell at a customer service representative who had nothing to do with your messed up bill or incorrect order? It happens all the time. Noah is a regular guy. He made mistakes just like you and me. Why was he saved among the people of his time? Because he truly loved God. But that didn’t make him any holier or any better than anybody else. Just as our holiness comes solely from Christ, any holiness attributed to Noah came from God (Hebrews 11:7). And so he fell into the same trap we can find ourselves in: he was angry, he wanted to take out that anger on someone, and he ended up taking it out on someone other than the one who caused it.
God would rather us forgive. He would rather us let go of our anger and not take it out on anyone. If we take that approach, we’re not going to hammer an innocent target. After all, we’re not going to hammer anybody. I know it can be hard to let go when someone has really burned us. I’ve been there, and I’ve made the wrong choice plenty of times myself. But I know what God expects. I’ve read Hosea. Hosea is a great example of God explaining through Hosea and his wife how He had been wronged by His people but continued to choose to let it go and just forgive. He has set the example. He isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t done Himself. And so that’s what we must endeavor to do, to follow His example. We must forgive rather lash out. We must seek to respond in gentleness, rather than anger. In other words, we must seek to respond with just a smidgen of the grace He has already extended to us.