Noah, a man of the soil, planted a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness. Genesis 9:20-23
It used to baffle me what Ham had done wrong. Didn’t he just stumble upon his naked drunk father? How did Ham know Noah was naked when he walked into that tent? Wasn’t this all a big accident?
In short, no.
First of all, what was Ham doing in that tent? We aren’t told if he was in it when Noah disrobed or he just happened by later. Either way, it was Noah’s tent, his private place, where he had a right to be naked. Don’t we all need a sacred space where we can be ourselves, faults and all, without fear of judgment?
Ham violated his father’s private home. He took what should have been secret and gossiped about it. Love would not have done that.
Ham also exposed his father even further. Noah was drunk. I don’t know why he was drunk. Maybe the flood, the loss of people he knew, the total change of the world and his life was a bit overwhelming and he sought refuge in drink. Maybe he had forgotten what wine does to people. Maybe he just flat out decided to sin.
Whatever the reason, Ham saw his father at his worst state in life. He saw the righteous man who had built an ark and saved his family from a flood now at his lowest point, drunken and sprawled out naked for all the world to see. In short, Noah was passed out, dead to the world, not possessing enough faculties to even cover himself. He needed help, not exploitation. He needed to be covered.
Let me stop here and say that I once discovered someone I cared about in a similar condition. He wasn’t naked, but he was passed out drunk lying in a pool of vomit. The last thing I wanted to do was tell someone else about the awful condition this person was in at the time. I desperately wanted to help, to hide the person’s shame until the drunkenness had worn off and the person could make rational decisions again.
So, when I think about what Ham did, it’s so shameful and ugly. It tells me one thing: He didn’t love his father. If he had, his first move would have been to cover him with a blanket and to keep to himself what he had seen. His willful spreading of gossip about his father’s shameful condition was an act of total disrespect.
If he truly loved and cared about Noah, he would have done what his brothers, Shem and Japheth, did. He would have covered his father first with a blanket, and then with his love.
That’s what love does. That’s what love looks like in action. It sees faults and shamefulness and sin, and covers it.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8
Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12
Do you have a situation or someone in your life right now that you need to cover with love?