20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
Each of us have our personal low point, our “naked shame” that reveals us at our absolute worst. As with Moses, it is often our family who get to see us at those low points. Sometimes they get to see the best of us, but they also get to see the worst. Here we read that Noah was drunk and passed out, certainly not the most honorable of situations to be found in, and the different reactions of his three sons is very telling.
Shem and Japheth keep themselves turned away from their father’s shame and cover him. They are clearly retaining a reverence and respect for the man, even at his low point. And by that I don’t mean to suggest that we should just sweep the failings of our family members under the rug, but if confrontation and boundaries are needed, we can still establish those from a place of love and respect.
Ham, on the other hand, has no excuse for his behavior. Glorying in another’s shame and ridiculing them is never acceptable. By trying to expose his father’s wrong, Ham was also revealing his own.
When I do something that I know better than to do, I do not shame myself with messages like “I’m not any good” or “I’m no longer worthy of love.”
I do, however, remind myself that because I am still good and worthy of love, I deserve to do better.
21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
When Adam and Eve discovered their naked shame they tried to hide it behind an apron of fig leaves, and we all do the same thing. We create all manner of guises to try and conceal the things that we are ashamed of. We might assume a persona of just not caring whether we’re a good person. We might try to overcompensate with a show of false piety. We might become depressed and define ourselves entirely by our wrong. We might try to distract from the pain with media or busyness. There are many ways that we make fig leaves, masks that are different from the authentic self we were born to be, anything that prevents others from seeing the wound inside.
But fig leaves are very inadequate clothes, and God provided to Adam, to Eve, and to us a different solution. The skin that He offered to our first parents is symbolic of the body of Christ. He invites us to surrender our mask, and replaces our shame with the purity of the Lamb. And this new vestiture isn’t about hiding our shame, it is about replacing it. Those that have been washed clean have a sense of being given a new and once-more-innocent soul. And one of the best analogues to that fresh feeling is pulling on a clean set of clothes, just like God gave to Adam and Eve.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
Yesterday I mentioned how Satan uses techniques that are uniquely suited against each individual. We all have our secret weaknesses, and many times they are secret even from our own selves. We feel bold and confident, believing there is no chink in our armor, right up until the moment that he pierces us with his arrow.
Then our weakness is exposed and we are ashamed to discover this part that is so willing to trade all our principles for temporary gratification. We lose trust in ourselves, and we feel naked. Having seen this bare side we hurry to craft a persona to conceal it behind, an apron of fig leaves to prevent anyone else from seeing what we truly are. We hide.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
I let my two young children take a shower just last night. They love our walk-in shower, because they can freely march across its tile and splash in the water without a single care in the world! Both of them were stark naked, of course, but they didn’t feel one bit embarrassed or ashamed about it. Why should they? They are innocent. Indecency and sexuality don’t even register in their minds.
Of course being naked is also metaphorical. It means being exposed, being vulnerable, having all your private secrets laid bare. How many of us would feel so unashamed in that event? A key piece of my children’s carefree innocence is that they also are too young to have done anything that they truly, deeply regret. They therefore have no hesitation to be seen exactly the way they are, just like Adam and Eve.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
I will give line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man
When it comes to commandments that we do not understand the reasons for, it is important to know that there is nothing wrong in our ignorance. There is no shame in saying “I do not understand why this matters.” As we see in these verses, it is the natural and expected course for us to learn one step at a time, which implies that we have not attained all knowledge yet. Even Jesus followed this pattern. Though he showed great wisdom in his youth, that does not mean he came to earth knowing absolutely everything. In fact the record showed that he learned and grew, just like the rest of us.
Consider, also, the example of a small child that has yet to learn addition. Yes, they need to learn that skill, it is important, but there is no shame that they have not attained it yet. For now, mastering counting is sufficient for them.
For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have
What would be concerning, though, is the child that refuses to learn to count, and by extension refuses to learn every higher form of mathematics. It is okay to not know all things, but it is not okay to stop learning.
It can be tempting to take what commandments we do understand and say “I’ll just keep these ones and not worry about the rest,” but that would be limiting ourselves. Neither should we look at the commandments that we do not understand and say “I feel deeply ashamed for my ignorance,” that would be abusive. As with so many things, the middle path is the right way forward. We can accept that we are ignorant, without shame, and also strive to grow past it.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
All we like sheep have gone astray
Arguably the wounds that cut us most deeply are the ones we inflict upon ourselves. We might respond to them with intense shame, believing ourselves to be irredeemably broken and fundamentally flawed, or else we might become defensive, responding with anger at any suggestion that we did something wrong.
In either case, we have an intense feeling that it is not okay that we are imperfect. Which, in a world without grace, I suppose would be true. In a world without grace, admitting that you had done something wrong, confessing your faults, and exposing your weakness could only result in condemnation without forgiveness. It would be a horrifying prospect. Thus it is little wonder that we feel like we have to put on a perfect face, even as we know that none of us are.
And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all
But, thankfully, there is grace, there is forgiveness, and there is a way to be loved even after we have done something wrong. All the horror of unremitting condemnation was faced for us by another. It was laid on the back of our brother. It is a sobering fact, but also the only way that this story could have a happy ending.
Because of our mortal frailty we have all gone astray, but because of His divine consistence we may all regather. We can be flawed, but live with the peace as if we had been perfect. We can learn from our mistakes, yet live as with the wisdom of having always known right. We can surrender all the bad, and preserve all of the good.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you
Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God
We have examined how we feel a divide from God, one that can confuse us and even frustrate us. We have also considered how this separation is appointed to us by divine wisdom, to aid us in developing godlike attributes like faith and patience.
However, I cannot claim that all separation from God is according to His divine plan. Because if I’m being honest, most of the times that I have felt a lack of God’s presence, it was because I was living a life where His spirit could not abide. I actively made choices to keep him at bay. I didn’t want Him to get too near because of my shame.
Absolutely I believe that God is willing to work with the sinner…but the sinner also has to be willing to work with Him. You don’t have to be perfect to hold God’s hand, but you do need to be reaching. If ever you feel that God isn’t as available as you wish, you might consider whether you feel right in your conscience.