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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 winemaking 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.

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 wrong. Noah wasn’t the kind of guy who needed someone to confront his drinking problem; he just needed to sleep it off. Ham should have covered him up and kept quiet.

Even just ignoring him would have been okay.

Prayer is a lens through which we see God. He 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.”

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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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