Bible stories can sometimes sound vague, with some key details missing or left unexplained. One of the reasons for this is that ancient languages like Hebrew are very plain compared to English (Biblical Hebrew only has about 6,000 words while we have over one million today!). So bible stories often sound strange, choppy, or vague to us in the modern day.
Noah and his sons were a perfect example of this from yesterday’s sermon. Ham saw his father Noah lying naked in his tent after too much wine, then told his brothers. The author of Genesis does not give much more detail on the matter. We know the end result of Noah cursing Ham’s lineage.
Did Ham make fun of Noah to his siblings? Should he have helped him out instead of leaving? Did he break some sort of ancient custom with nakedness, drunkenness, or parenthood? Regardless of the backstory and details of this episode, I think it is safe to say that alcohol abuse did not help the situation at all.
Whether it is alcohol, pain medication, hard drugs, or whatever, so many people struggle with addiction issues today. Just like the story of Noah, the bible does speak explicitly about this issue from time to time. Consider what Proverbs 23 has to say:
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?”
In addition to this bible passage, two stories will always stick out to me when I reflect on drug use. Both have to do with ministry in prisons. The first came from when I lived in Houston and volunteered at a youth correctional unit. The young man I mentored there talked about his experience with marijuana. He noted how a life with drugs truly led him to a very dark place. His father had been imprisoned recently and he sought an escape from the poverty he lived with each day. He’d skip out on school and got involved in a street gang. “When I was high,” I remember him telling me, “I just felt apathetic. I didn’t wanna do anything. I just felt hopeless.” That drug became of sort of god to him–an object of worship and dependence.
The second story comes from my work at the Tucker Unit here in Arkansas. Another young man also reflected on his experience with alcohol in his family. His “normal” for childhood consisted dreading when he heard his father’s truck turn into their gravel driveway. The dad would down at least 10 beers while sitting on the front lawn and make his two young boys fist fight each other—that is, until one of them were knocked out or he passed out from too much alcohol. This young man truly understood the evils of alcohol dependence and abuse, and how it is often connected with other sins like violence.
The good news is that even though “post-flood” Noah gave us a bad example, scripture does talk about Noah’s righteous work in the midst of a corrupted world. Genesis 6:9 states that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” Despite struggling with drinking too much, Noah does offer us some examples of what it means to be holy in how we live. When we face whatever temptation in life, we must remember to always walk faithfully with God.