Our passage today has a global perspective. It is as if we’ve just looked into a wide angle lense and zoomed out. However, it is the story of a family. We’ve been focusing on one particular family for the last several weeks, but now, with this text, we see how this one family expands by almost exponential degrees. We see how the globe comes to be covered with people.
This is, of course, one of those passages that we usually skip in our Bible reading. Yet, there is much to say about the passage. This is not just a bunch of names. It is divine teaching, and there are quite a few lessons that we can learn from it.
One of the things that a passage like this really highlights is how reliable our Bibles are.
I. General comments
A. The reliability of the Bible.
I've mentioned a number of times in our study that there are many people discount the first 11 chapters of Genesis. This is true of this chapter too. There was a time when the so called “scholars” said that chapter 10 was not to be trusted. They didn’t give it the time of day because they didn't think that it gave an accurate geographic depiction of man’s origins and movements. However, that is not true today. The exact opposite is the case. Even some of those who would not be characterized as friendly to Christianity recognize that what is laid out here is unparalleled in its accuracy.
As a matter of fact, Bill Cooper, set his life’s work to study the ancient world and how it compared to the table of nations that we have listed here. He began his work with the goal of finding 40-50% of the names listed here among the Middle Eastern world. He thought that finding just half of them would be ambitious, and lend a high degree of credibility to the book of Genesis. But his research far exceeded his expectations. He discovered that, “Every one of their names is found in the early surrounding records of the Middle East.” He went on to say, “No other ancient historical document of purely human authorship could be expected to yield such a level of corroboration as that!”
We know that the reliability of the Bible doesn’t find its basis in archaeology or any other form of investigative research. The authority and reliability of the Bible rests in God. But things like this always provide us with nice confirmations of that truth. And they serve to remind us of the fact that every word of Scripture is from God, and the whole of the Bible can be trusted.
So that is the first observation from our text. The second thing this chapter teaches us is the unity of the human race.
B. Unity amid division
This passage of course is talking about the division of the peoples and how they each go in their own distinct direction and how each forms its own unique culture. But it reminds us that we all have a common ancestor and are all “sons of Adam” and descendants of Noah.
As such it reminds us of the equality of humankind. A passage like this reminds us of the fact that, even though there may be some differences of size, shape, or color, there is no difference when it comes to our basic humanity. To put it another way: this passage tells us that there are not multiple races. There is only one race, the human race.
The concept of multiple races is something that we pick up from secular thinking. It has its roots in the evolutionary worldview. As a matter of fact, we can trace this right to Darwin himself. I was reminded this week of Darwin’s premier work, “The Origin of Species.” I was reminded of the full title of that book. We’ve cut it down to “The Origin of Species.” But the full title was “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”
The subtitle, or perhaps the more literarily precise title, was “the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” The basic premise of Darwin’s book was that there are some races that are inferior because they are less evolved. His whole argument was that the color of one’s skin determines how evolved one is.
Some of you may not know this, but the “evolution picture”—the one with that is depicting the different points of man’s evolution. It starts with the monkey, then has a few “transitionary forms,” and then ends with the upright man. Some of you probably do not know that there were actually six different frames to the original picture. What you typically is just one of those frames. But there were originally six. There was the depiction of the white man at the top, and then the Asian man, and then at the bottom a black man.
That is where racism finds its roots! That is not a Biblical idea. The Bible tells us that all men have descended from one man and none are less evolved or an inferior race. And since this is so, each individual is to be esteemed with the utmost respect.
The last comment I would like to make regarding the chapter as a whole regards the absolute sovereignty of God.
C. The sovereignty of God
“The sovereignty of God? Where do you get that?” A periphery reading of the text reveals just a bunch of names, with a few generalized comments thrown in. But if you examine the chapter more in depth, you come to find that it has a distinct structure. It was crafted in such a way as to mention 70 names (or people groups). Of course, this is a selective list. Not every people group is listed. You’ll notice that just by looking at the text this is so. For instance, the first five verses talk about Japheth’s descendents. His line is the largest and covers the most territory (as our text last time indicated-Genesis 9:27). But only 14 names are mentioned. So it is the smallest record of all of Noah’s sons.
But when you add all of the names up, it comes to 70. Why is that significant? Two reasons. First, numbers meant something to the Jews. The number 70 would be significant because it is 7 multiples of 10. Seven is the number of perfection and ten is the number of completion. So listing 70 peoples is Moses’ way of saying that God has ordained the exact number of people on the earth.
Taken by itself you might think that I was doing a Harold Camping with numerology. But if you look at the end of this book you will find that there are 70 who people who go down into Egypt. I don’t think that was a mistake. The number of God’s chosen people are 70 in all. The number of peoples listed here is 70. I believe that this is saying something about God’s sovereignty over the world. He sovereignly ordains life and directs the courses of history.
You may also remember that Jesus also sent out 70 disciples on a short term missionary trip. I don’t think that count was coincidence.
All this is to say that peoples may go where they go and governments may rise to power but it is God who governs all. And knowing that He is in control is something that we can take great delight in.
So those are a few things that we can say by way of generalization. We haven’t really said anything about any one specific verse yet. So let’s do that.
II. Specific Comments
The first five verses deal with the line of Japheth. I mentioned a second ago that it is the shortest list of names. But Japheth’s line takes up the most territory. His line extends north and west into Europe, and then to the north and east—which are the territories we know as Russia and India. Scholars also say that there used to be land that linked Russia and Alaska, and people most likely migrated through that territory down into Canada, America, and then into South America.
But you’ll notice that in verse 5 it says that the “coastland peoples spread in their lands.” This, I want you to understand, is the Bible’s way talking about the furthest reaches of the earth. These coastlands are the distant places, or the outer regions. We might say today that they spread “to the far corners of the earth.”
And we learn from this that though they be distant peoples, God still has his eyes on them. Though they are not completely known to us (they are simply those people out there), God does know them and there is a sense in which he wants us to remember them.
As a matter of fact, the Scriptures use this word “coastlands” quite a few times in talking about the nations. Sometimes it is used in regards to judgment. But in Isaiah, these coastlands are depicted as eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah.
All this is to say is that these names mentioned here emphasize the world-wide scope of the Bible. It reminds us that we are never to be introspective or introverted as a church. We are always to be thinking about how we can bring the gospel to the far corners of the earth.
Now the next group lists the descendants of Ham.
And if you are familiar with the Bible and its history, some of these names probably were familiar to you. This lists the names of many of Israel’s enemies. All of these are summed up in the fellow, Nimrod, who is mentioned in verses 8-10. In verse 8 Nimrod is said to be the first on the earth to be a mighty man. Recognize that this is Bible speak for a warrior. You know that David had his mighty men. Those were his warriors. Nimrod was a mighty warrior. And it is likely that he was more than just a hunter of animals. It is likely that he was a hunter of men!
Nimrod stands out as one who is a tyrant and a man who is seeking to subjugate peoples. That’s interesting because Ham’s line was supposed to be the line that was subjugated, wasn’t it? (Gen. 9:25) It is likely that he is being depicted as in complete rebellion to the Lord. He will not obey even the command to be a slave, but he will rise up in his aggression against God and make slaves of men.
We will of course talk more about the Babel incident next week. But we notice again the intense hatred man has for God. And we see the cycle of violence that existed before the flood is repeating itself. We are reminded of man’s intense desire to shake his fist in the face of God.
The last to be mentioned, of course, are the descendants of Shem. You might say that the best is saved for last.
Shem is placed last because he is, as you remember from last time (Genesis 9:26-27), was the line through which the Savior would come. The whole of the chapter is coming to this point: to show the linage of Shem and how the Lord is moving closer to the fulfillment of his Mesianic Promise.
When it comes to Shem’s line though, there are two things that stand out. The first is this fellow Eber. You might have noticed that his name is mentioned twice. The first mention is in verse 21—at the very outset of Shem’s list. He is then mentioned again verses 24-25. Eber is significant because this is where we get the name “Hebrew.” Eber was eventually the father of the HE-brews.
The other thing we ought to take note of is Eber’s children. Eber has two children, Peleg and Joktan. The text is clear regarding Peleg’s name. He receives his name because “the earth was divided” in his days (Peleg, of course, meaning division). Most scholars believe that it was during his life that the Tower of Babel incident occurred. That was the division. What it doesn’t tell you is that Joktan’s name means “contention” or “dispute.” That too likely comes from the Babel incident.
These two men express the whole point of this passage though. It is contention and division. Everywhere you look it is contention and division.
What I want you to understand is that this table of nations is not something that is completely good. Yes, it is wonderful that people are filling the earth. That they are multiplying and being fruitful is good. But there’s contention and division! That’s not the way it was supposed to happen. People were supposed to fill the earth, but there is no harmony. They are saying good bye and good riddance to each other. They are forming their own people groups and forgetting the ways of their fathers and mothers.
You might say to me, “But isn’t that a natural thing? Isn’t that just going to happen? As you move away, you are going to develop your own culture?” I’m sure that is unavoidable to some degree, but what you have here is a complete dishonoring of father and mother. As they move away they are not just creating their own culture, they are seeking revolution. They are not honoring their father and their mothers, they have desire to retain their traditions and distinctives. And ultimately they have no desire for unity because they have no desire for the GOD of their fathers!
As Japheth spreads out, he says, “Who cares about this Lord guy!” This division and contention is more than just a language barrier. It is an issue of the heart.
And this division and contention has continued all down through history to today. What do we have between nations today? Is it not division and contention? And it isn’t just a national and international thing. It is not just a problem of the state. What do we have in families but division and contention? What do you say every time you have a family reunion?! Is it, “Yippie! We get to go see crazy uncle Jimmy?”
It is division and contention. And I wouldn’t doubt that some of you in this congregation are dealing with it in your own homes. It might be that you are an adult now and you have run away from home. You don’t call it that. You say, “I’ve found an occupation that has taken me elsewhere.” But really, if you would look underneath it all, you don’t call and you don’t visit much because there are issues between you and your parents.
Or maybe it is one of you young people. Some will call it a generation gap. That’s a myth. That you don’t want anything to do with their music or their traditions is symptomatic of something deeper. It is a way of leaving your parents before you are allowed to move out. The minute you can get it you’ll be gone.
Sure, there might not be yelling or screaming in the house. But there is certainly not unity. Division and contention doesn’t have to be audible. It is represented primarily in distance and disunity.
This segregation is not the way it was supposed to be. People were to move out over the earth, but they were not supposed to fight and faction and conquer one another. Originally, they were supposed to be people who dwelt in harmony. They were supposed to be united and living in peace with one another. But this is what sin does. It drives men away from one another and it drives people away from God.
And it only serves to remind us of the need for Christ and his overruling grace.
In time Jesus would come and manifest himself as the Prince of Peace. And the kingdom that he inaugurated was to be characterized by unity. Christ came so that he could tear down the dividing wall of hostility, which, of course, is what he did through his sacrifice. He opened the way to God. He brought reconciliation with the Lord. And through that, he brings people together.
I always thought it funny who Jesus chose to be his apostles. His main core of disciples was a rag tag band. He chose Simon the Zealot. Here was a guy who was a rebel with a cause. The Zealots were people who were actively seeking to throw off the Roman government. They were so zealous for Israel that they would knife Romans and Roman sympathizers in the street.
And right there with the Simon the Zealot was Matthew the tax collector. I bet that made dinner parties awkward. And you have James and John, two brothers. Guys who were known as “The Sons of Thunder.” I don’t think they got that name because they were gentle and easy to get along with. They were stormy guys. Rowdy men. Contentious and divisive!
And yet Jesus could bring all of them together. It was characteristic of what he had come to do. His intent was to establish a kingdom that would be characterized by peace, purity and unity. And, of course, the only way he could do that is by bringing them first unto himself. There, in submission to the Lord, this band could experience real and true harmony.
Every once in a while the Scripture gives us a glimpse of the antithesis of what we find in this passage. Here, the nations are shown to be running away from each other. And as they run from each other, they are running from God. But every once in a while we are told about a time when the nations will stream to Jerusalem. We are given pictures of all the nations doing a 180 turn, and with one accord beginning to seek the face of the Lord.
I think it climaxes in the seventh chapter of Revelation. For there John has a vision and he says, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out, “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)
If anything, this table of nations reminds us of the curse of the fall. It reminds us of our desperate need for Jesus if we want to see any hope for our future generations.
 Alpha Omega Institute, “Geneologies: There for a reason.” by Mark Sonmor, a review of After the Flood, by Bill Cooper.
One of the distinct features of the Bible is that it goes out of the way to tarnish the reputation of its hero’s. Some say that this is a mark of Scripture’s inspiration.
You know how stories usually end. The hero is supposed to be depicted as a legend who rides off into the sunset and everyone is supposed to live “happily ever after.”
The reason it does that is because the Bible seeks to highlight the fact that there is only one hero in Scripture. All the characters in the Bible are failures except one, God himself.
And that is certainly the case in our passage today. This section of Scripture most likely would not appear if it had not been written by the finger of God.
My wife asked me what passage I was going to be preaching on this week and I said, “It’s the passage where Noah gets wasted.” She said, “Oh, I hate that passage!” Such a response perked my curiosity, and so I asked her, “Why do you say that?” She said, “It’s just so sad. Noah had been such a great guy up to that point. He’d been the hero and a righteous man, and to see that happen to him is just so sad.”
I think she summed it up perfectly. This passage is here for one purpose. It is here to remind us of God’s story, and not Noah’s. It serves to remind us of the Lord’s redemption and what he does to bring salvation to his people.
The passage starts out by reminding us of man’s inherent depravity.
I. The depravity of man [18-20]
When we come to this passage we find Noah completely blitzed. After planting a vineyard he takes some of the fruits of his labors and goes on a drinking spree such to the point that he’s found laying naked and passed out.
There are some who want to pretty up the scene here and say that it was an accident. Some even supposed that Noah was so pure that he didn’t understand the intoxicating effects of wine. That’s a bit of a stretch though. I think it is safe to say that Noah was intentional about his drinking. He made a god out of his wine. The moment he felt a little woozy he could have stopped. But he didn’t. He drank and he drank and he drank until he lost all power of reason.
The point of this passage is, as I said earlier, to highlight the fact that Noah botched it.
A few weeks ago we talked about the receding of the flood waters. And as we studied that I suggested to you that what was being depicted was a new creation. There was a parallel to the opening chapter of Genesis one and the creation story. Then two weeks ago we talked about how God reiterated some of the words from Genesis 1 regarding the sanctity of human life. All along we have seen how the Noah narrative recapitulates a lot of the opening scenes of Genesis.
Well, here in our passage today, we have a reprise of Genesis 3 and the fall. Noah had been a man who “found favor in the eyes of God.” He, you might say, was the New Adam. All this time he has been one who was righteous in his conduct. But here we see a different side of Noah. Noah didn’t remain upright before the Lord. Just like Adam, he sinned against God. And so the cycle repeats itself.
It is even interesting how many parallels there are to the story of Adam and his fall. Both of them are found in gardens. And both of them involve the partaking of fruit. Both involve the idea of nakedness and its corresponding shame.
So again, I think that it is evident that the writer of Genesis is trying to tell sin is still a scarlet red reality. The flood changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change the heart.
I want this to be noted because there are many today who think that our problem is mainly attributed to our environment. People want to tell us that if we just remove the bad influences around us and if you put people in a better context, then man will turn out a lot better than he would had he been in those inferior conditions.
That’s why you used to have all the to-do about integration at schools. They said, if we just get the kids out of the projects and into better neighborhoods and better schools, then we’ll see change for the better.
You will hear from time to time how we are nothing other than “victims of our environment.” Some sociologist might say, “He became a thug and a gang banger because he grew up in the projects.” Or, “I never had a dad in the home, that’s why I turned out the way I did.” Now, do I believe that it is important to have a loving and caring dad? Of course, I do. Is it possible that such things can make you more susceptible to making bad decisions? Yes, I do. But you can never say that you are merely product of your environment.
If there is one thing that Noah teaches us here, it is that evil actions don’t spring primarily from your environment. Noah had the best of situations. All the evil influences of sin had been erased in the flood. He had a nice garden, and, for the most part, he had a good family. His context was certainly a lot better than it was prior to the flood! But no matter how pristine his context was, he chose to cut loose.
It all serves to show us that there is something genuinely wrong with the human condition, and that salvation does not come simply by a change of scenery. Salvation can only come through a radical change in the heart of man.
And that is why Noah cannot be the end of the story. All of this points us forward. All of this just reminds us that we are still waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. And that won’t come until that time when, in the twinkling of an eye, we are changed.
But as we look at this passage, we not only see how the man’s depravity continues, we also see how man’s division continues.
II. The division of man
Again, back in the early chapters of Genesis we saw how there was going to be a division of peoples. There is going to be a distinction between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan. There would be an ungodly line, and there would be a godly line. And we saw that Cain was the line of the apostates who refused to fear God. And from Seth came this long line of God fearing men, from whom Noah eventually came.
In this passage too we find this same division. Look at verse 22 It says, “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.” Here we find that the ungodly line was not altogether wiped out when the flood came. There is a new apostasy.
Now we are not told the details of what he said, but we get the gist of it—especially when we see the actions of his two brothers. Verse 23 tells us that Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on their shoulders, and walked in backwards so as to cover up their father and not further his disgrace. These guys took the honor of their father seriously. They couldn’t even lay their eyes on him for fear of furthering his disgrace.
But not so with Ham. Ham sees his father all laid out like this and starts talking about it. You can see him, “Hey Shem! Hey Japheth! Come here. You got to hear this!” No doubt he had a good laugh at the “old man.” It was bad enough that Noah laid uncovered. But Ham goes and uncovers the thing in an even more public manner. He’s broadcasting the sin of his father as if it were a joke!
I like what James Montgomery Boice says at this point. “The only thing worse than committing a sin is the devilish delight of finding and exposing someone else’s sin.” And it is this relishing sin that really shows us where Ham’s heart is. Especially when you consider the fact that Noah has been God’s minister of Salvation!
A real Christian is one who is grieved by sin. He mourns it and is greatly pained by it, especially when it involves the church. And when such a scandal occurs, a real Christian doesn't go out and broadcast it like he’s the anchorman for the six o’clock news. He makes every attempt to see that the name of Christ is not disgraced any further.
But people who are not Christians, they get high off these kinds of things. They take pleasure in it, laugh about it, and replay it over and over. They love to get their kicks at someone else’s expense. And they virtually salivate when they have a chance to disparage the church! That’s almost euphoric for them.
All this is to show though that this devilish cult was not fully exterminated in the flood. It was re-birthed in Ham and the seed of Satan survived because it was harbored in the safe haven of Ham’s heart.
But the passage not only talks about the depravity and division of men. This passage is also prophetic. It also serves to highlight the destiny of men.
III. The destiny of men
You might have noticed that this passage talks a lot about the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth. The first two verses we read said that it was from these three that all the descendants of the earth came.
Then in verses 26-27 you have the pronunciation of the blessings on Shem and Japheth. And really these are not about those two individuals as much as they are about their descendants. What’s more, is that you have mentioned three times in this passage that Ham is the father of Canaan. And, you might have noticed that when Noah rose up out of his hangover, he cursed Ham’s son rather than Ham.
Some people get a little squeamish about that. They say, “What’s the deal with that? Why does his son get cursed and not the actual perpetrator of the crime?” Well, there are a number of explanations. One reason is that Ham is Noah’s son. And since Ham is a scourge to his father, Ham’s son is going to be a scourge to him! There is a sense in which this is just retribution.
It may also be likely that Noah sees how Canaan has his father’s heart. You know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! So it is likely that Canaan is walking in his father’s footsteps, and Noah is simply pointing out that this is going to be revisited in his own life.
But I think the best explanation for why Canaan is singled out has to do with when this book is being written. You remember that Moses is the author of the Book of Genesis. And this book is being written when the Israelites had come out of Egypt and were about to enter the Promised Land. But who was living in the Promised land? It was the Canaanites! It’s likely that Moses is singling out Canaan because the Israelites need to see that it is their duty to take the Promised Land by force and conquer the Canaanites. So Moses is saying, “You-who! Do you get it? Canaan is supposed to be subjugated by you!”
You might say, “D’em’s fighting words!”
Well, that’s the destiny of Canaan. But the passage also indicates something of the destiny of Shem and Japheth’s lines.
You see that in verses 26-27 Shem and Japheth are blessed for their obedience. And maybe you noticed that Shem’s line is given a place of honor over Japheth’s. Shem is the one who receives the greater blessing. We are told that God would enlarge Japheth, but at the same time he was going to dwell in the tent of Shem.
Well, if you trace things out, you find that Shem is going to be the line from which Abraham comes. You know the Jews are often called “Semitic” people. That’s because they are descendants of Shem. And Abraham is, as you know, the great, great, great grandfather of Jesus. The Lord is singling Shem out as the line from which that promised Savior would come.
But what about Japheth? This is interesting because if you trace it out, Japheth’s descendants travel to the north and make their dwelling in what is now Europe. Shem goes in the opposite direction (to the East). The two never really converge. That is until the New Testament times.
When you read the book of Acts you hear how the gospel moves all through the Western world. During this time you have all these Gentiles coming into the church. These Gentiles are the decedents of Japheth. And Japheth enters the tent of Shem through Jesus Christ. So what we have here is a prophetic utterance of the missionary work of the gospel.
And that is the good news of the text for us. We, through faith in Christ, have opportunity to enter the tents of Shem and experience the joy of our Lord’s salvation.
On Friday you might have caught the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on television. Most likely, if you watched that and continue to watch the events, you will be exposed to all the different kinds of people in the world. You will be exposed to different cultures, particularly the culture of the hosting nation. Sometimes you might be shocked at how different they will seem. You will find that these people enjoy different foods, fashions, and different types of entertainment. And you may come to find out that some of their personal tastes are radically different than yours.
And the funny thing is, when you read the Bible you should have the same sort of experience. In the Bible we are sometimes reminded that, as Christians, we are foreigners. We are people who do not belong in this world. We belong to a heavenly country. And because we are foreigners we will often find that we have radically different tastes.
That is indeed what we find in the book of Proverbs. We find that our orientation for a lot of things will be—or at least should be—polar opposites. It is no less true this morning. Here in this proverb we find that what we find personally pleasing radically differs from someone who does not follow Christ. On the one hand, we find that the fool delights in depravity while on the other hand the wise man delights in decency.
I. The foolish man delights in depravity
You see that it says in the first half of the verse, “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” It’s his pleasure. He gets a good laugh out of wickedness. He finds sin hilarious.
And let’s be clear about this: This is not just frivolous teasing or a practical joke. This is something that is out and out wrong. Your version may use the word “mischief.” This is talking about deliberate, unabashed disobedience.
Matthew Henry says, “When he [i.e. a fool] has sinned, instead of sorrowing for it, he boasts of it, ridicules reproofs, and laughs away the convictions of his own conscience.”
Have you ever seen one of these people? (Are you one of these people?)
This week I read about an incident that happened while some kids were Trick-or-Treating. A mother had agreed to take her nephew along with her children as they went door to door. When they were done they were waiting at a park for her brother in law to come and pick up his child.
As they were waiting her toddler said he had to go to the bathroom. While they were gone, her brother-in-law came, but he didn’t come empty handed. When the mother returned she found her son, had been doused with shaving cream and eggs. Apparently her brother in law wanted a little laugh.
Now we might say to ourselves, that was a harmless thing. But the boy was only 9 years old, and he was humiliated in front of his friends. He was ambushed by someone older, someone who was a part of his own family—someone he was supposed to trust. His uncle simply made sport of him right there in the open.
The mother was aghast at what had happened. She confronted her brother in law about it. But he would not express remorse. He had thought that it was hilarious.
You can even imagine the guy before he set out to pick up his kid. He gets the bright idea, and he chuckles to himself. As he goes around the house to gather his weapons he thinks, “Ah, this is going to be great.”
That’s the kind of perversity that this verse is talking about, this shameless sinning. Love your neighbor as yourself? HA! To the fool a neighbor is just an object from which he might get his amusement. His pain is my gain!
Young people, I want you to remember that sin is never a laughing matter. Getting our kicks at someone else’s expense is evil. Acts of depravity are never things we should delight in. Sin is something we should grieve over. If it violates another person’s wellbeing we shouldn’t be giggling, we should be crying.
People are never to be used. God doesn’t put people in our lives so that we can have some laughs. People are precious to God, and we should never insult their dignity.
So make sure you guard against any sort of joke that might come at another person’s expense. Whether it be practical jokes or a silly comment, if it is in any taking away from someone’s good name or going to affect their personal esteem we should have nothing to do with it. The Lord says in Ephesians 5, “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place.” The Lord says that they are “out of place.” It is not becoming of a Christian. Moreover, it is out of accord with God’s law, therefore we shouldn’t have anything to do it.
You see, as Christians we have a standard for beauty. We have a standard by which we judge what is funny. And some things just shouldn’t make us laugh. There should be times where we find ourselves infuriated while other people laugh.
In our day we have seen an explosion of stand up comedy. We have comedy clubs. Stand-up comedy is on the Television. A lot of the morning shows on the radio are simply trying to be comedians. But what are most of their jokes? It’s poking fun at someone or delighting in what is vulgar.
Some of the people you may find yourself around might be just trying to be one of these comedians. Whether it’s a comedian or a coworker, sometimes you should be thinking to yourself, “You know what? That just isn’t funny.”
Delighting in depravity is a trademark of a fool, not a Christian. As a Christian we are supposed to follow the wise man. It says that a wise man does not delight in depravity, but he delights in decency.
II. The wise man delights in decency
Read with me the second half of our verse. It says, “Wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.” Now, your version might be a little different. Yours may say something like, “A man of understanding has wisdom.” And that would be a good literal translation. The idea is that since he has wisdom, he delights in it. It is almost like wisdom is his hobby.
You may have a fishing pole. Why do you have that fishing pole? It’s because you like to go fishing. That’s what is meant in this proverb. The man has wisdom. He loves to practice wisdom. He finds pleasure in it.
It’s not evil that we are supposed to take pleasure in. We are to take pleasure in what is wise—what is in accord with God’s will. Doing good is supposed to bring us happiness.
A man by the name of Derek Kidner points out how odd this may be. We are used to thinking that the one who does what is good is a “kill joy.” We are used to taunts by our friends who say, “Come on, let’s just have some fun.” when they are about to do something that you know is wrong. And so we think, “OK, if I want to have fun, I have to do this. If I don’t do this, I’ll be a kill joy.”
But that is false logic. We are to be people who delight in God’s law. We are not simply to delight in the reading of it. We are to delight in the doing of it. Doing what is right ought to give us a high.
You know, whenever someone goes on a short term mission trip, you often hear the same sort of response when they have returned. If you have ever heard someone give a testimony about what they did, you would probably hear them say, “It felt so good helping those people.” You might have known someone who went down to help out with the hurricane relief efforts. When they got back they might have said to you, “The work was hard, but I’m so glad I went.” Those are just some examples of wisdom delighting someone.
We even talk like this sometimes. Sometimes we will do something for someone, and what will we say? They will say, “Thank-you for ____.” We will respond by saying, “It’s my pleasure.”
So, for a godly person, wisdom is delightful, but if you are honest you’ll readily admit that it is defective.
For some reason we often find it hard to obey don’t we? Obedience is something we delight in, but we don’t always obey. We often play the fool and delight in foolishness—even while at the same time we delight in God’s law.
Paul talks about this in the 7th chapter of the book of Romans. He says, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Basically he says, “I delight in wisdom, but I keep on doing foolish things.” Then Paul blurts out in consternation, “What a wretched man I am! Who will same me from this body of death?”
How does he respond? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Where did he find comfort? It was in Christ. Why? Because Christ can deliver him, because Christ was the man who delighted in decency.
Our proverb points us ultimately to Jesus Christ. He is the wise man. He delighted in God’s law. It is said of Jesus, “Behold, I have come…I desire to do your will, O my God”—that is, I delight to do your will.
Jesus found it no problem to do good. It was his joy in life. Even as God’s will for him was to face humiliation and death. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:5
I think that we could say that Jesus actually took pleasure in dying! Think about it. Why would you subject yourself to death? Jesus could have easily escaped the clutches of his captors. When they came to get him, what happened. His disciples started a rebellion. The disciples were outmatched, sure. But don’t you think that Jesus could have taken care of them? In John’s gospel it says that the mob asked, “Where’s Jesus.” When Jesus responded, “I am he” John says that the crowds stumbled back and fell down. He was really saying, “I Am.” He was declaring himself to be the LORD (YHWH). He could have easily taken them out.
And when he was on the cross. They jeered at him, didn’t they? They said, “He saved others, let him save himself.” And they said, “If he is the Son of God, let him come down from there.” They were right, he was the Son of God, and he could have come down, but he didn’t. He stayed on the cross. It was more satisfying for him to die.
It gave him more pleasure to suffer that excruciating pain and then to give up his life. He knew through that his people would be delivered. The dominion of sin would be broken.
And that is where you see the conclusion of the matter. For the wise man, wisdom is definite. And so we’ve come full circle. The wiseman finds wisdom delightful. He’s frustrated because it is defective, but in the end, through Christ, it is definite.
If the dominion of sin is broken, what is going to happen? Righteousness is going to take the throne. If death is conquered, life is going to be there in its place, isn’t it?
When Lazarus was raised from the dead, he didn’t say, “No thanks, I really prefer it here. It’s quite nice.”
Romans 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death… By sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk according to the Spirit.” (italics added for emphasis)
That’s saying that now, because of God’s work in us, we move in a new direction. Things change. There is a definite turning around. Because the Spirit now lives in you, you crave the things of God.
After his conversion, one of his old friends said to him, “Bill, I pity you—a man that has been such a high-flier as you. And now you have settled down; you go to church, or stay at home and read the Bible and pray; you never have good times any more.”
“But, Bob,” said the man, “you don’t understand. I get drunk every time I want to. I do all my old things whenever I want to.”
“I say, Bill,” said his friend, “I didn’t understand it that way. I thought you had to give up these things to be a Christian.” “No, Bob,” said Bill, “the Lord took the ‘want to’ out when He saved my soul, and he made me a new creature in Christ Jesus.”
We are going to be different. When we are born of God we receive a new life and that life has its own new nature—a nature that hates sin, but delights in holiness and goodness.
If we are in Christ, people ought to find us strange, because we are strangers. We are to have a radically different orientation because we walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
This last January James and Zelma (Tichenor) Barnes of Greensburg, Indiana walked the aisle…again. The elderly couple was married 70 years ago, and the retirement home that they are currently living in put provided them with a ceremony where they could renew the vows they made in 1943.
World War Two, he sent Zelma a letter asking her to marry him. Zelma accepted, and while James was home from the military for two days, the couple wed.
The very next day, James was stationed on board the USS South Dakota, which would eventually shoot down 32 Japanese planes during Pearl Harbor.
The couple never had a honeymoon or even what you might call a traditional wedding ceremony. Aspen Place surprised the pair by announcing they’d finally have a proper celebration of their long-lasting love and marriage.
It is certainly true that the couple’s relationship was never in question. They had been together for 70 after all. Their taking the time to renew their vows was simply a celebration of the love that they shared. It was a way for them to reaffirm the covenant bond that they held so dearly.
You might say that the experience of James and Zelma Barnes parallels the relationship that we have been looking at in these Scriptures over the last few weeks. Way back in chapter 6 we read how the Lord entered into a special relationship with Noah. In chapter 6 we read how the Lord established a covenant with Noah and promised to save him and keep him.
Our passage today occurs not too long after Noah got off the ark. But it has been over 100 years since the original covenant was made with Noah. Now, after the whirlwind beginning and after so much time has passed, the Lord comes to Noah again to renews His covenant vows.
You might say that here the Lord pledges his abiding love once again. And as we examine this passage together, and as we look at this covenant that God renews, I think we can see something of God’s love for us too.
At the outset of this passage we can see something of the nature of this covenant.
I. The nature of the covenant
Look with me at verse 11. God says, “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” You notice that this covenant has a universal tone to it. Never again will he cut off all flesh by a flood.
Theologians sometimes call this covenant the “covenant of preservation.” That’s because the Lord swears to preserve his all of his creation. There will never be a flood again, and so the earth will not be ravaged in such a way ever again.
I want you to recognize how important this is. This is significant for two reasons.
First of all, you have to understand that, if God had not done this, then there would always be the nagging feeling hanging over us that it could happen again. Every time you walk past a waterfall, or every time you see the storm clouds building in the distance, you’d wonder, “Is this it?”
There used to be a show on the weather channel called, “It could happen tomorrow.” I’ve never seen it, but I saw some of the advertisements for it. The premise of the show was that they would describe some natural disaster happened in the past. Then they would ask, “what if this same disaster hit today?”
One episode was about a hurricane that hit New York City and tore through much of the New England states. They played up the carnage. Then they would close the commercial with the deep voiceover: “It could happen tomorrow.” The whole point, of course, is to scare the bejeebers out of you.
If God had not made this promise, then that eerie kind of feeling would be hanging over our heads all the time. We would always be saying of the flood, “It could happen tomorrow!”
Let me give you another example. A coworker of mine once expressed his dissolution with the Big Bang Theory. He had been taught that a long time ago there was a freak accident a long time ago where static matter all of a sudden blew up. Perhaps you were taught this too—that the laws of physics were defied for one moment in time and there was a big bang that launched all matter spiraling through space.
Now, this is what my coworker said. He said, “If it happened once, why can’t it happen again?” In other words, if a random disaster that defied all the laws of physics could happen once, what keeps it from happening again? And in the back of his mind he always wondered, “Could there be a nuclear explosion that ripped us apart today?”
I thought that was a pretty keen insight. I commended him for seeing something of the downside of that worldview.
If God had not made this promise, that sort of feeling would have to hang over our heads all the time. If God had not made this covenant, we’d all be saying, “It could happen tomorrow!” Every time we walked past a water fall, or every time we saw the storm clouds forming on the horizon, we would probably get the shivers.
But there is more to it than that. There is more to it than simply our present feeling of safety. This has to do with our eternal security too.
That the Lord promises to preserve his creation points us again to what he will do in the future. His promise here reminds us of his promise to send a redeemer. You remember that God has already promised to raise up the seed of the woman who would crush sin and Satan. This promise is a reminder that that promise is still in effect. That Redeemer will come. God says here, “Don’t worry Noah. I’m not going to renege on that promise. I will send the Savior, and he will bring redemption to my people.”
And along with that, we see something of what the Redeemer will accomplish! The redeemer will redeem the world! It is not that every soul will be saved in the end. The flood has just shown us that. But God’s promise here has a cosmic feel to it. And that is an indication that God’s creation will be renewed on the last day. When Adam fell, the creation fell under God’s curse. And we read in the book of Romans how creation groans with the longing for the adoption as sons.
Here we see an indication that our Lord will bless the earth and free it from its present groanings.
And to serve as a confirmation of this promise, God gave us a sign: The sign of the rainbow.
II. The sign of the covenant
You see this mentioned in verse 12 and following. We don’t know if rainbows ever appeared prior to this. But from this point on the rainbow is to serve a special purpose. It was to be a reminder this covenant that God has made. It is to be a reminder of the grace of God and how he is faithful to his promise.
What’s more, you see that it says that it will be a reminder, not just to us, but to God! It says in verse 14-15, “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant.” This is God speaking here. God says that he will remember his covenant.
Of course, this is what we call an “anthropomorphism.” God obviously doesn’t forget things. It is just a way of speaking to help us understand something about what God is doing. And this is God’s way of saying he will never fail in his promise.
And that is to be a confirmation to us. When we see the rainbow, we should remember that God remembers his covenant. And that should reassure us.
You know, when it comes to the sacraments, we often talk about them being “signs and seals.” They are signs that point to a spiritual reality. The Lord’s Supper points to the reality that Christ has died for our sins. Baptism reminds us that he has cleansed our sin and accepted us into his kingdom. But they are not just signs, they are seals. A seal confirms something. It is there to assure you that what you see is truly legit.
Sometimes I’ll put it this way to my students. When I graduated seminary they gave me a little piece of paper we call a diploma. And you can look at that paper to verify that I really did graduate. Someone might say, “Well, how do I know you didn’t just print that off the internet or Photoshop it?” It is because it has my seminary’s seal on it. And so that seal is there to assure you that I did indeed graduate.
And that is one of the reasons why we take the Lord’s Supper each week. It is so that you may be assured of what Christ has done for you. This is God’s seal that he uses to confirm you in the reality of your salvation. And your baptism is to do the same thing. If you ever start to doubt your faith, all you have to do is think back to your baptism. Of course, baptism doesn’t save you. But it should serve to confirm your faith. It is there to be God’s guarantee that Christ is the Savior and that God accepts you because of what he has done.
And the same should be true of the rainbow. Whenever you see a rainbow, you should take a few seconds to marvel at it. All those dazzeling colors, are there to assure you that God remembers to keep this world and bring salvation to this earth.
I just want to make one further remark about this. I believe that this is why you find the rainbow mentioned a number of times in Scripture, particularly in the book of Revelation. If you would, turn with me to Revelation chapter 4. In Revelation 4 we read about John’s vision of the throne of God. And one of the features of the throne was that a rainbow encircled it. Read with me.
Now ask yourself, why is there a rainbow here? I think that it can serve only one purpose. In the book of Revelation we are going to see some rather scary images. My wife sometimes says that she doesn’t like reading it because many of the scenes are rather troubling. There are dragons and martyrs, there are fierce battles and all these bowls of wrath being poured out which wreak all kinds of havoc. There are stories of how a third of the earth suffers this, and a third of the earth suffers that. And we are told of how angels and horsemen inflict all kinds of havoc upon the land. There’s no wonder that you get the heebie-jeebies as you read through it.
But here at the beginning of those visions John says that he saw a rainbow around the throne. I believe that this sign is presented here at the outset of those visions to be a reminder that our God is the covenant keeping God. He is the one who will not go back on his promise to his people. No matter what the Lord may do, no matt how the earth may heave, our God will sustain us to the very end.
 Adapted from http://greensburgdailynews.com/local/x2056583691/Couple-renew-marriage-vows-after-70-years
Some of you may have heard the legendary story of Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers franchise had been a losing team for almost ten straight years. They were at the bottom of the standings, and morale was sagging.
Vince Lombardi was called in to turn the team around. He began leading practices, inspiring, training, motivating. But the team was horrible.
There sometimes comes a point where you have to come back to the basics. Whenever things have been completely fouled up and the blunders are excessive, you have to stop. Before you can go on or make any sort of headway you have to go back and review the fundamental principles
I believe that is exactly what is occurring in the passage that is before us this morning. In our passage, the Lord is taking us back to something that we saw in Genesis 1. In this passage the Lord reiterates the principle of how sacred human life really is.
You remember that prior to the flood, man’s evil was in excess. Violence had escalated to the point where it had become the “in thing” and a commonplace reality. You might say that men, by their wicked acts, had ravaged the world almost as badly as the flood had.
Because there was such little regard for life—because things had been completely fouled up, God sent the flood. He stopped everything. And here in this passage we see him starting all over. He goes back to the basics and reiterates the fact that life is precious. In this new creation our Lord reaffirms the sanctity of human life.
I believe that there could not be a better word for us to hear this morning. For we are living in a time of excessive savagery and bloodshed (and that might be putting it mildly!). Our culture has a blasphemous regard for human life. In most cities in America you can hire a hitman for $300, and he will go in and terminate the life of your baby in an abortion. Then there are the mass shootings that seem to be occurring on a weekly basis. For that matter, we can tune it in on our televisions or have it streamed over our computers. We can watch movies where people are gunned down at will and we cheer for it. Hollywood is pretty much synonymous with the frivolous treatment of life.
Because we are immersed in this kind of culture, it is good that we hear what the Lord says here. We need to blow the whistle and have the Lord reiterate to us just how precious human life is.
In this passage the Lord highlights the sanctity of life in three ways. The first way he does this is by commanding us to procreate.
I. Commanding us to procreate [1, 7]
As a matter of fact, it is so important that he states it twice, once at the outset of the passage and once at the end. He begins this passage by saying, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And then he repeats it in verse 7, “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”
Now, you remember that the Bible usually repeats things for the purpose of emphasis. There is a sense in which this is an important message for Noah and his family. Of course, there is a practical reason for this. The world has just been wiped and it needs to be repopulated.
But I do think that there is more to it than that. God is concerned with more than just numbers. The Lord is making a pro-life statement. He’s saying, “Hey Noah. Don’t get the idea that life is insignificant. Life is precious! So have children!”
These are words that ought to ring in our ears too. A few weeks ago we talked about abortion and how that is a blight on our nation. It is good to have that discussion and affirm our stance on that issue. But we also need to realize that God calls us to do more than stand against the murder of children. He calls us to proactively have children. He wants us to procreate and multiply and build whole societies with the passing of every generation.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the size of the average family in America today. The average family in America has 1.9 children. That is definitely not being fruitful and multiplying. That is being barren and imploding. But we would be fools if we thought that this only because of abortion. A lot of it has to do with ordinary couples who are intentionally not having children. A lot of this has to do with our free and liberal use of contraception.
I believe a passage like this should make us think seriously about our use of birth control and whether or not we should go about limiting the number of children we have.
We Americans have a natural distaste for having multiple children. Even among those who have not had an abortion there is oftentimes a shared mentality with those who have. Even though we might not have had an abortion, many of us still consider children to be an inconvenience.
Now there is some truth to that. Children are an inconvenience to a life of pleasure. And a lot of times people have used contraception much like an abortion. They just want to keep from having children so that they can continue pursuing the bigger house and more toys.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning bigger houses and having some nice things in life. That is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not we are really seeking to carry out God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” And that has implications for the use of contraception.
In 1936 the Christian Reformed Church adopted a statement on Christian family planning and the use of birth control. This statement continues to be an up-to-date word regarding the subject. In that document they said this, “In the light of the Scriptural principle...there can be no doubt that it is the duty, as well as the privilege, of normally endowed married people to produce as large a number of children as is compatible with the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the wife and mother on the one hand, and of the children on the other.”
I believe that this is a good summation of how we as Christians ought to think about the use of birth control. You will notice that it does not expressly reject the use of contraception. We should not think that birth control is absolutely forbidden. There may be occasions where we ought to refrain from having children. As the CRC statement said, we need to think about the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the mother and the children. If mom’s wellness is unstable, then that probably wouldn’t be a good time to add another child to the mix. There may be some other contexts where you find yourself needing to refrain from having children for a season—such as a lack of gainful employment.
Yet, while there may be some allowances, we ought to recognize that limiting the size of our family for selfish reasons is simply unlawful.
God wants us to procreate. And he wants us to do so because life is precious. That is the real result of a truly pro-life position. If we really do recognize how sacred human life is, then we will understand why God commands us to reproduce. And the sanctity of life we will fertility as a holy calling and a most glorious thing.
As I said before, God’s command to procreate is perhaps the most important way we recognize the sanctity of human life. But you’ll notice that it is not the only way God highlights how precious life is. In verses 2-4 the Lord affirms our dominion over the animals.
II. Affirming our dominion over the animals [2-4]
In verse 2 the Lord says that “the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth.” Then, in verse 3, we find that God grants us the permission to eat meat. Up until this point we had not been granted that right.
You remember that in Genesis one God told Adam to “rule over the birds of the heavens and the bests of the earth.” Here we see that that role of ruling and having dominion is being reiterated (and you might say that it is being expanded to some degree).
But what we should see is that this is another way of emphasizing just how precious the life of man is. Man’s life is so sacred that he has a place above the animals. The animal kingdom is under our dominion because we are endowed with a dignity and honor that exceeds theirs.
Keep in mind, man has shown himself to be rather base. Prior to the flood all we heard about was how sinful man had become. The violence that he is capable of really reveals how degenerate man can become.
Perhaps you have heard people talk like this after the last school shooting out in Connecticut. People will say things like, “What kind of animal would do such a thing?” Or, someone might say, “Animals don’t even do that to one another!”
I remember hearing John Gerstner talking about the depravity of man. Someone was questioning him on just how sinful man was, and they said, “Do you really believe man is a worm?” He responded by saying, “No. I would never insult the worms like that.”
It is true. With all the wickedness of man, one may wonder if he has lost his exalted position in the world that God originally gave him, and descended to a place below that of the animals. And with that the thought may be, “Well, man is expendable because he is no greater than the toads or the beasts of the earth.”
But here he shows that man has not lost his place as God’s co-regent. Because of the sanctity of life, no matter how brutish a man may become or beast like he may seem in his sin, man is still the highest creature in God’s creation—and his life is to be cherished.
You will notice that the only restriction that God gives is that man is not allowed to eat meat with blood still in it. And it explains that this is because the blood is its “life.” I personally believe that this also has to do with the sanctity of life.
The commentaries that I read said that this restriction is given for the purpose of restraining man’s cruelty. To eat an animal with its blood still in it means that there is little time in between the slaying and the eating. To eat something without the blood, you have to go through the process of draining the carcass and preparing the meat sufficiently. But if you eat it with the blood still in it, then you don’t have that discipline. There is little time between the violence of killing and eating.
The commentaries suggest that this prohibition was to help to keep us from acting like savages. It is mean to keep us from disrespecting all forms of life, most especially man’s. First of all, the animals were still to be seen as God’s animals, and—thought they can be used for food and nourishment—they are not to be scornfully treated. What’s more, if you treat animals with such flippancy, then what restraint will you have when it comes to your fellow man? If you just rip open an animal and devour its flesh raw, then you are likely acting out of passion. And those same passions will cause you to denigrate your fellow man.
All this is to say, we continue to have dominion over the animals. And this only serves to highlight how much we must esteem the life of man and view it as precious in the sight of God.
This, of course, is further explained in the next portion of our text. In verses 5-6 we see that God not only forbids the unlawful taking of life, but he institutes the death penalty as a means of dealing with those people who would.
III. Institutes capital punishment [5-6]
He says, “For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’”
Now this may come as a surprise to you. It may even seem contrary to the argument at first glance. We’ve been talking about how precious life is and how it is to be respected. Now we are talking about capital punishment. God tells us that there are occasions when life needs to be ended. If there is a murder, then God says this is an appropriate time to take that person’s life.
And this is why many people today argue against capital punishment. They use this line of reasoning and say, “If life is so precious, then how is it you can require the death penalty? If it is so valuable, how is it that you can take a life in any circumstance—even if it be in the case of a murderer?”
But the Biblical answer is that the murder must die. And if you think about it for a moment, the logic is clear. When someone commits murder, they have disregarded the life of their victim. Now, because that life was so precious, the life of this murder must be taken.
Or think about it this way: If we allow a murderer to live we cheapen the life that was lost. It essentially says that this life was not all that valuable. If there are no significant consequences, then the life that was lost is deemed to be rather trivial.
You see, God puts the focus on the victim and not the perpetrator of the crime. And the only way to truly compensate for the loss of that life is to have the perpetrator put to death himself.
Of course, this is not to be taken into our own hands. It is not our individual duty to be the judge, jury and executioner. We understand that the Lord is also instituting the lawful role of a governing body here. We read in Romans 13 a clearer and fuller statement of what we have here. There we find that the Lord has given to the state the power of the sword. And you know what swords are for. The state is to act as God’s minister; he is to act as God’s avenger by punishing the evil doer.
But the principle that we find here in Genesis 9 is clear enough even though it be in seed form: those who commit murder ought to be put to death. Those who perform abortions, the state should be rounding them up and seeing to it that they are put to death. Those who are convicted of homicide— ought to be given some brief spiritual counsel and then they ought to put to death.
Someone may object here and say, “Well, the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrence to crime.” There has been a great deal of chatter about that in recent years. There have been a number of studies that been in the news, and these say that the death penalty does not act as a deterance to crime.
There are a number of things that I would say in response to this. The first is this: I agree. Putting a man to death in a back room where no one can see or hear will most certainly not prevent others from committing the same crime. Perhaps if we had public hangings like they did in previous years, then we might see some different results.
I can say with 100% confidence that it does act as a deterrence because there is at least one person who will never have a chance to commit another crime. All you hear about in the prison system is the “recidivism rate.” But I have a great plan to reduce the number of reoffenders! If he is put to death, he will never lift his hand again to defy someone’s life. So, yes, it does deter crime to some degree.
The last thing I would say is, “I don’t care.” I don’t care if capital punishment does not act as a deterrence to crime. We don’t execute criminals because of its effects on society at large. We execute them because the Bible tells us to do so. God has said in his word that life is precious. And he says here that if you violate that sacred creation by means of homicide, then you must die.
I recognize that some of what has been said today may not sit well with some people. However, I hope you see how it all points to how much esteem God places on the life of man.
What’s more, I hope that by this message you see the significance of the birth, life and death of God’s own Son. You know, Jesus reiterated how precious life is by virtue of his birth. He could have left us to our sin. But he didn't. He became man and took on flesh to redeem man.
He also, during his life, affirmed the dignity of man in perhaps the most stunning terms. He said, “If you say to someone Raca (i.e. a dumbhead), then you are in danger of hell fire.” Jesus reminded us that if you even go so far as to denigrate a man by calling him a name, then that is a high crime against heaven. And God will bring you to judgment.
Here is a man who so valued the life of man that it was said of him that “a bruised reed he would not break; a faintly burning wick he would not snuff out.” That is to say, he so valued man that he acted in the most tender and gentle way toward man.
But this man, who never offended any man so long as he lived, was put to death. And his death was in the form of capital punishment! Crucifixion was reserved for capital offenses. And this was all part of God’s plan. His sacred life ended that he might take the punishment that each and every one of us deserves.
He died the death so that we might learn to regard the life of man as we should. As we read here today of how precious life is, let us remember that Jesus is precious too. And because he has given his life for ours, may we now heed his calling to esteem our fellow man as we ought.
 Adapted from John Hunt’s This is a football.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.