I mentioned to someone the other day that I read the Bible every day and that I have read all of the Bible, from cover to cover, several times. He didn’t think you needed to read “all” of the Bible since there were so many “boring” parts. As an example he mentioned the “begat” parts. He was familiar with the so and so begat so and so, and so on. Frankly, I’ve come to feel that all of the begetting we read of in the Bible is part of what makes this such and extraordinary book. Most cultures have myths concerning how the world began; who created it and how. These myths tend to be rather general in their description. They may mention specific individuals but I am unaware of any of them providing a list of descendent names, and lengths of their lives. The Bible provides rather specific details about creation and the development of human societies.
We read in today’s passage that the Canaanites, the people who lived in what would become the Promised Land, were descended from Ham, as were the Egyptians. We also learn that Abraham, and thus the Israelites and their step brothers the Arabs, were descended from Shem. One of the things that interests me here is seeing how certain areas and towns got their names from some of these first descendants of the three sons of Noah. Of greater importance, however, is our ability to see how Noah’s curse played out over the millennia since.
We may think that these genealogies way back in Genesis don’t mean much today but we would be wrong. Not only is the world still affected by the decisions made by the children of Abraham, but by the children of Noah, and the children of Adam. Let’s look back at the curse and blessings Noah placed upon his sons in yesterday’s passage.
Genesis 9:20-27 ESV
“ Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.  He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.  Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.  When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,  he said, “Cursed be Canaan; 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.’”
Noah’s three sons were Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Ham was cursed by Noah as we read above. Notice that he didn’t curse all of Ham’s descendants but rather only those descended through Canaan. Shem’s descendants were given mastery over the descendants of Canaan. This would come to pass over 400 years after God first promised the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. The first mention of this promise is found in today’s reading as well.
Notice that Abram, later renamed by God Abraham, did nothing to deserve the blessings God bestowed upon him. We tend to think of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God as proof that he was deserving of God’s gift of the Promised Land. Let me make several observations. First, Abram was promised the land of Canaan before he even left Haran; he wouldn’t have a son for another 25 years.
Second, it was a rather common practice in those days for parents to sacrifice their first born to their man-made gods. Sacrificing his own son in the same way would hardly commend him for special treatment since even those who didn’t obey God participated in such an act. No, what was special about the moment of Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, was not that Abraham was willing to do this, but that God stopped him and provided the sacrifice Himself. This was a foreshadowing of God sacrificing His own Son for all of mankind.
Third, while one might give Abram credit for obeying God and proceeding to Canaan, it was his father Terah that had begun the family on the road to Canaan. Terah gave up and settled in Haran where he died. Obeying God by going to Canaan might not have been as difficult as first imagined seeing as how he was simply continuing a journey his father began. God’s direction was also rather easy to obey seeing as how He promised to make Abram a great nation, to bless him, and that he would be a blessing. It is here that God says He will bless those who bless Abram and curse those who dishonor him. Further, God promised to bless all the families of the earth through him; this, of course, is a reference to the coming of Jesus the Christ through his descendants.
All of this was promised to Abram before he left Haran. It would be a pretty easy decision for any of us to make; don’t you think? Abram didn’t earn this blessing. His obedience to God didn’t predate God’s blessing but was rather a response to God’s blessing. This truth holds for you and me today. We have done nothing to deserve salvation – God’s blessing, but those who belong to Him were chosen by Him. God calls His children to Him and chooses to bless them even though they don’t deserve it. The proper response to this blessing is obedience.
Would the fullness of God’s blessings to Abram have been realized if Abram had refused to go to Canaan? I don’t think so. I worry about people who submit their lives to Christ only to sit down along the way to the Promised Land. They start out on the journey full of hope and joy but along the way the baubles and cares of the world distract them, they get tired, and they settle for less than the fullness of God’s blessings. Don’t let that be you brother. Even if you feel like you are a little too old for the journey, let me remind you that Abram set out from Harran when he was 75 years old and he didn’t have his first son until he was 100 years old. If you have gotten weary along the way, remind yourself of the fullness of God’s promises. Dig deep and pull yourself up on your feet and walk the path upon which God has placed you. I know you are tired. Finish the journey. Attain the fullness of God’s promise.