"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Monday, March 22, 2010

Raising the Standard: Alertness Is Recognizing Opportunities And Dangers Which Others Overlook

Many parents wonder why they have problems with their sons and daughters. They don't realize that what a father allows in moderation, his children may excuse in excess. The quality of alertness involves recognizing opportunities and dangers which others overlook. Scripture gives a vivid illustration of a father who had an opportunity to establish a society of godly men and women but failed to exercise this aspect of alertness and, as a result, diminished the opportunity God gave him.
How Does Scripture Illustrate The Need To Recognize Dangers Which Others Overlook? The strength of a nation is in its families, and the strength of a family is in the standards of its father. What father invested an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to protect his own family but---because he was not alert to one danger---brought a curse into the very family he was protecting? Noah.
This man walked with God as few others have. In his early life, sin abounded on the earth; but rather than his love for God growing cold, it became greater. All around him violence multiplied at an alarming rate. The chief concern of everyone centered around satisfying their desires for eating, drinking, and sensual living. He watched as friends and relatives corrupted themselves with wicked habits. He observed that the pleasures to which they sold themselves were not only destructive to their futures but repulsive to God. He purposed that when he raised his own children they would escape the corruption that was in the world through lust. That meant he would have to be very alert to spiritual dangers and be true to God's standards. God honored his desires and gave him a detailed plan to spare his family from the great flood that destroyed the mocking, jeering civilization which refused to be warned. This man and his family now had the unprecedented opportunity to learn from the failures of the past and establish an entirely new civilization based on God's righteous standards. Their success would depend upon their ability to exercise alertness to spiritual dangers. Alertness was far more important than this father realized. He, his wife, his sons, and their wives had been exposed to the godless standards of a wicked society. Like a family susceptible to a contagious disease, they needed the wise protection of an alert father. One day he indulged in the luxury of satisfying his own personal desires. He made and became drunk on the fermented juice of grapes. One of his sons saw him in a shameful, drunken condition. His condition tempted the son to commit even greater wickedness. When that father became sober, he realized what his son had done. Guilt and anger prevented him from seeing the need of confessing his sin, asking forgiveness, and then correcting and restoring his son. Instead, he pronounced a curse upon one of his descendants. That father was Noah, a great man of faith who found grace in the sight of God but failed in this test of alertness. He sowed iniquity, reaped vanity, and the rod of his anger brought spiritual destruction. Ironically, the curse that he gave would demand the very quality of alertness which he lacked. "A servant of servants shall you be unto your bretheren." (From Genesis 9:20-29)
Was Noah Aware Of The Dangerous Example He Was Setting?
Since Scripture states that "Noah was just a man and perfect in his generations" (Genesis 6:9), some have charitably suggested that Noah was unaware of the effects of wine. The New Testament, however, sites that men were "eating and drinking" before the flood (Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27). That expression is often associated with the eating of food and the drinking of wine (cf. Luke 7:33-34; 12:19). The Bible is very honest in describing the failures of the righteous. Lot was also called "just" (2 Peter 2:7), but he, too, allowed himself to become drunk with tragic consequences (Genesis 19:33). It is conceivable that Noah chose to become drunk because he wanted to escape the reality of a situation which may have depressed him. Noah no doubt knew of his son Ham's growing disrespect for his authority and the authority of God. He may also have been aware of this rebellious spirit developing in his grandson, Canaan. Did Noah think that the flood had been in vain, merely to be repeated again and again? Had he forgotten God's promise never again to destroy all of mankind? In any case, he turned to the wrong source to find peace and joy. It is possible that the low standards of pre-flood society influenced Noah. In comparison, he may have justified becoming just "a little" drunk in the privacy of his own tent (cf. Luke 8:17). Noah probably was aware of the effects of wine, but there is no way that he could have anticipate the tragic results of his actions.
Why Did Noah Curse Canaan Rather Than Ham?
A principle of God's Law is, "every man shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16) A son cannot be punished because of the sin of his father. We must conclude, therefore, that the curse on Canaan was just; it was a prophecy of the judgment that would result because of sinful acts that would be committed by his descendants. It is significant, that these sins were of the same nature as those of their ancestor, Ham (cf. Deuteronomy 5:9). Canaan's descendants were the inhabitants of Sodom, and this city is remembered by the name of its perverted sin. Centuries later, the Romans, not exactly a standard for moral purity, were surprised by the depth of depravity of the few remaining Canaanites. But only one of Ham's four sons is mentioned in the curse; only one son chose the path of complete moral depravity. The grace of God is available to all men, regardless of the sins of their parents.
What Special Opportunities Did Noah Bestow On His Other Sons?
Shem and Japheth were blessed because they honored and showed respect to their father even during his lapse of faith. They were not seeking to justify and excuse their sinful actions by pointing their finger at the one who had proclaimed God's standards to them. When Shem and Japheth honored their father, they set an important example for their own children to follow. It established their respect for the teachings of their father---the principles of which would naturally cause them and their children to prosper (cf. Proverbs 1:8-9). The righteous ways of Noah did not die with him, but were passed on to his sons who honored him. The buffalo of North America is not really a buffalo at all. Because it is an even-toed, hollow-horned ruminant it belongs to the family Bovidae. Its genus name is Bison and its species name is also bison. Only in Asia and Africa is the true buffalo found.
How Does The Bison Illustrate The Need To Recognize Danger Which Others Overlook? A horrible blood-curdling scream broke the silence of the plain and the ground began to tremble and shake. Billows of dust clouded the air. Confusion reigned. As the thunderous spectacle moved forward in a compact mass no obstacle seemed large enough to stand in its way.
Only minutes before, a heard of bison several hundred in number had been feeding peacefully. The magnificent beasts, overwhelming in size, created quite a sight as they casually grazed on the grass. Some bison measured twelve feet long and six feet high. They were without question the largest of the North American land animals. Because of its sheer size, the bison had few enemies. But the animal's peaceful coexistence with the Indians was beginning to change. The Indians were becoming more and more of a threat to this "king of the plains." Under normal circumstances, hunting equipment of bow, arrow, and lance was no match for these swift and wary animals. Kills were few and far between. The hunters were creative, though, always looking for more effective ways to secure this vital source of food. When their conditions were right, they compensated for their primitive hunting equipment by using a unique tactic. One characteristic of this animal that the Indians used to their own advantage was the creature's poor vision. A second was its tendency to herd and stampede blindly when danger approached. The Indians had taken great preparation and precaution to ensure the success of this hunt. With the hunters strategically positioned, they needed only the cooperation of one or two of the animals. Knowing that the bison couldn't see well and that it was nervous and short-tempered, an experienced Indian was elected to choose a susceptible candidate --- a young bull. By using the wind to his advantage, the hunter slowly crept up to the unsuspecting animal. At just the right time the Indian let out a blood-curdling scream. The startled animal immediately began to run in fright. Like a shock wave, panic spread through the herd of bison. A large cow---one of the leaders---noticed what was happening. She, too, followed the younger bull's example and took to flight when she saw the frightened animal. Soon the entire herd was moving in a thundering, massive stampede. By yelling and waving wildly, the carefully positioned Indians directed the stampeding bison in the direction they wanted them to go. Suddenly terror flashed through the cow. She hadn't been alert to her path but had blindly followed the lead of the inexperienced bull. Before she could change her course she ran off a sheer cliff, tumbled through the air, and, with a hideous thud, crashed to the ground. The others behind her also realized too late what was happening. They could do nothing to reverse their course and they, too, were plunging to their deaths. As quickly as it began, the hunt ended. The entire group perished. If the cow had only been alert to recognize danger, that the others overlooked, she might have saved herself and possibly the others as well.
Scriptural References To The Bison "Will the wild ox be willing to serve thee, or abide by the crib? Canst thou bind the wild ox with its band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt though leave thy labor to him?" ~ Job 39:9-11
Though now extinct in Israel, proof of the buffalo's existence was found when buffalo bones were unearthed in Palestine. The Biblical "wild ox" may refer to a buffalo. Outwardly the animal is placid, but attempts to harness its energy for the plowing or pulling loads would be futile. It is easily aroused and must be approached with caution. Job and his three friends knew a great deal about the world of nature, but God showed them how little they knew about many, many aspects of His creation---including the untamed nature of a wild beast. God compares an attempt to reform the nature of a non-Christian person with trying to change the nature of an animal. Results are only temporary. "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb. The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." ~ 1 Peter 2:22

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