Knowing Your Limit

Lots of folks learn this the hard way.

Genesis 9:18-23 (ESV)

The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness.

This passage is confusing to modern readers because we think the word “wine” means something similar to modern wine. It doesn’t. Modern wine-making produces a consistent product. We have good and bad vintages, but to a primitive palate all our wines would be awesome.

Noah couldn’t measure sugar, acidity, or alcohol content. He didn’t even have a special yeast to add to the juice. He had to count on whatever was on the grape skins to start the fermentation. The word “wine” here really just means grape juice. It might not have had any alcohol at all.

http://www.penn.museum/documents/publications/expedition/PDFs/39-1/The%20Beginnings.pdf

So, you could drink a lot of “wine” on a hot day and not feel anything – or you could get plastered. Noah got plastered.

And notice that the text says, “Noah began to be a man of the soil.” He didn’t have any experience making (or drinking) wine, so he had no alcohol tolerance. A quart of a good batch would have gotten him falling down drunk. Thus, his failure to get into his pajamas isn’t all that surprising.

That’s why what Ham did was so reprehensible. Noah wasn’t the kind of guy who needed an intervention to confront his drinking problem; he just needed a good night’s sleep. Ham should have covered up Noah and kept his mouth shut.

Even just ignoring him would have been fine.


If we confess Jesus as Lord, and pray like he’s our boss, then these prayers become a lens through which we see Him. God speaks to us through His written word and through “what happens.” If we ask Him for guidance, He will provide.

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. … If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” – Luke 11:9, 13

But the way we ask sets up how He answers. Some prayers are better lenses than others. A prayer should provide useful context for interpreting His response.

For example one might say, “If you want me to do this, help it happen; if you don’t, close the door.”


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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