Noah: Drugs, Drunkenness, and Nakedness
September 7th, 1980 @ 7:30 PM
NOAH: DRUGS, DRUNKENNESS, AND NAKEDNESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-7-80 7:30 p.m.
Tonight we are speaking of one of the most disastrous of all of the confrontations that our culture and civilization has ever known. It is entitled Noah: Drugs, Drunkenness, and Nakedness.
Now we are going to read the passage together because the sermon is an exegesis, it is an exposition of this passage of Scripture. In the ninth chapter of Genesis, the first book in your Bible, in the ninth chapter of Genesis, we shall read from verses 20 to 26, Genesis 9:20-26. Now let us read it all out loud together:
And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
Now when you read that, it looks sort of innocent-like—just a little incidental pericope in the life of this man, this patriarch, and from the Bible. But when you study that, and especially in the Hebrew language, there is an altogether different picture than anything you would ever have imagined by reading it in this King James Version of the Bible. “Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard” [Genesis 9:20].
We don’t know who first cultivated corn or wheat or cotton. The man who benefited the race so exorbitantly and aboundingly is unknown. Nor do we know who first domesticated the cattle and the sheep and the animals that mean so much to human life. We don’t know who that man is or was. But we know the man who first cultivated the vine, who crushed the fruit of the grape and let it ferment and drank of it. That man was Noah. And it says that, as he drank of that fermented fruit of the vine and was drunken, the Bible here in the King James Version says, “And he was uncovered within his tent” [Genesis 9:21].
No! The Hebrew says he uncovered himself. He did that volitionally and willfully himself. He did it. Being inebriated and drunken with wine, he uncovered himself. He exposed himself like an exhibitionist, Noah did. “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without” [Genesis 9:22]. No! not at all! Ham, the father of Canaan, saw with delight and satisfaction, and he told, he told with great gladness and detail. “So when Noah came to himself and knew what his younger son had done unto him” [Genesis 9:24]—now, that’s an amazing thing. The Hebrew is, “his son, the little one.” Always that phrase, “his son, the little one,” always referred to the youngest member of the family; always. There’s no exception to that. Like Benjamin is called “the son, the little one,” he was the youngest member of the family [Genesis 43:29]. David is called “the son, the little one,” he’s the youngest member of the family [1 Samuel 16:11]. Now, the youngest son of Noah is not Ham; the youngest son is Japheth [Genesis 10:1]. “The younger son, the little one,” refers to another member of the family [Genesis 9:24]: Canaan. For the next verse says, “And he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” [Genesis 9:25]. Well, how did Canaan get in that, and what crime did he commit that he should be cursed, because we have the impression that this thing concerns Ham?
Well, when you put it all together, it is very apparent what happened. The word “son” in Hebrew is used for grandson. It can mean either one: a son, a grandson. And Canaan is the grandson of Noah, and Canaan is the youngest son of Ham, “the son, the little one.” That is, Canaan was the youngest member in the family, the grandson of Noah, the youngest son of Ham, and the youngest son in the family. Now, what did this Canaan do that brought him this terrible curse? Well, it is very apparent what he did. Noah, under the influence of liquor, of alcohol, is there in the tent exposing himself [Genesis 9:20-21], and Canaan comes and sees it and delights in it and indulges in it.
And the darkening silence of the Scriptures but emphasizes the horror of the situation, for this young son, this youngest member of the family, Canaan, goes into the tent, and evidently under the influence of liquor, at the invitation and the encouragement of his grandfather, he falls into homosexual acts, naked and uncovered, and doing it himself. Why, this young boy begins to play with the male genitalia! And Ham, he delighted in it like an X-rated movie! Ham thought, “This was the best pornographic panorama I ever saw.” And the Book says that Ham saw it with interest and excitement and delight, and he told about it with satisfaction and exultation [Genesis 9:22].
“Cursed be Canaan!” [Genesis 9:24-25]. All through the years that curse of sexual promiscuity and compromise attended the whole nation and generations of Canaan, the Canaanite. The Canaanites’ religion was sexual religion, not only between men and women, but between women and women and men and men, and not only between Homo sapiens, but between men and women and animals. Long time ago, when I was in Jerusalem, upon one of those visits, I was in a shop with archeological artifacts. And being alone with the proprietor, he reached underneath the table, and pulled out an archeological piece of pottery, must have been three, four, five thousand years old. And he put it in my hand, and he said, “Look at that.” And I looked at it in astonishment. It was a Canaanites’ piece and it was the depiction of the copulation of a man with an animal. That’s how they worshipped God. And the Lord God said to Israel, “Their sin and their iniquity has come up unto Me until I can bear to look upon it no longer” [Leviticus 18:24; Deuteronomy 18:12]. And God chose Israel as His instrument of judgment upon the Canaanites, that they might be exterminated from the face of the earth [Deuteronomy 9:4].
All of that arose in Noah. It was Noah who uncovered himself and exhibited his private parts [Genesis 9:21]. It was Noah who encouraged Canaan, “the little one,” the youngest son of the family, to be a part of that homosexual impropriety. How did Noah do such a thing? How could he be an instrument of evil, thus to destroy his own family and to curse the generations of his children forever?
It’s a marvelous thing how the Bible presents Noah as a godly man. It begins in the sixth chapter of Genesis when God sees the wickedness of men in the earth. And God said, “I repent Me I have ever made them. I will destroy all that lives on this globe” [Genesis 6:5-7]. But you look at verse 8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” [Genesis 6:8]. Now, you look at the next verse, how God presents Noah, “And Noah walked with God” [Genesis 6:9]. That was said about Enoch, “And Enoch walked with God” [Genesis 5:24]. It is said about Noah, “And Noah walked with God” [Genesis 6:9].
Look at the next chapter, chapter 7. The Lord said unto Noah, “Come you and all your house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation” [Genesis 7:1]. Turn the page of your Bible to chapter 8, the next chapter. Look at verse 20. Noah, the first thing he did when he was delivered from the awful judgment of God upon the earth, “And Noah built an altar unto the Lord; and offered a burnt offering on that altar” [Genesis 8:20]. And look at the next chapter, chapter 9, “And God blessed Noah and his sons” [Genesis 9:1]. And look at the eleventh verse of chapter 9. God says, “I will establish My covenant with thee [Genesis 9:11]. And I put a token in the sky, a rainbow, as a token of the covenant that I make between Me and you and this earth” [Genesis 9:12-13].
Then the next story is the one we’ve just read. Godly Noah, righteous Noah, who owed more to the grace of God than any man who ever lived, righteous Noah is there in exhibition, naked [Genesis 9:21]—and his own grandson playing with his genitalia; and the curse of God following the generations of Noah’s children. How did such a thing ever come to pass?
The Book says it’s because of the inebriation of the fruit of the vine. It’s because of alcohol [Genesis 9:20-21]. It’s because of a drug and a curse [Genesis 9:21, 25]. The Bible—and we’re going to look at it just for a moment—the Bible always puts those two together: liquor and immorality, drunkenness and whoredom, wine and venereal disease. The two always go together—the unspeakable of human nature brought out to view because of the inebriating influence of a drug named alcohol.
When you turn to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, you have the story of the first incest, and what a tragic incest that is [Genesis 19:30-38]. [Lot], living in Zoar, could no longer stay in the community. So, he found him a home in a cave and there he dwelt with his two daughters. And one of those daughters, the younger, said to the older, “The seed of our father will die in this generation. Come,” she says, “let us make our father drunken with wine, and then you go in and lie with him, and then I will go in and lie with him” [Genesis 19:31-34]. So the story, as you read it there in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, they make their father drunken with wine, and the older daughter goes in, and copulates with her own father, and she’s found with child. Then the next night they make their father drunken with wine, and the younger daughter goes in and lies with her own father, and copulates with him, and she is with child. And the older son is called Moab, and the younger is called Ammon; the Moabites and the Ammonites, the bitter enemies of God through the generations [Genesis 19:33-38]. How could such an incest ever come to pass, when the Bible calls Lot righteous? [2 Peter 2:7-8]. Righteous Lot was vexed with a terrible living in Sodom and Gomorrah. Righteous Lot, how could it come to pass? Because the alcohol that he drank changed his thinking, his mind, his personality; he became somebody else.
The whole Bible is like that. When you turn to Hosea, the fourth chapter, it puts the two together, “Whoredom and wine, take away the heart” [Hosea 4:11]; whoredom, promiscuity, prostitution and alcohol go together. And in the eighteenth verse the prophet Hosea says, “Their drink will become bitter: they have committed whoredom continually” [Hosea 4:18]. I turn just once again, as typical in the Book of Habakkuk, chapter 2: “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that putteth a bottle to him, and making him drunk, that he may look on his nakedness” [Habakkuk 2:15]. Always in the Scriptures, those two go together, drunkenness and nakedness; drunks and prostitution, alcohol and exhibition. Ah! That’s what God says.
And could I close this little part of our beginning in the Bible with one other word from the Lord? In the [twenty-third] chapter of Proverbs, the twentieth verse, and then beginning at 29, “Be not a winebibber,” [Proverbs 23:20]. [Then] verse 29:
Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed drinks.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”
How is it that such a thing could overwhelm mankind? The answer is very patent. Alcohol is a drug, and a drug is any substance that changes the mind, or the body, or the way of acting, or feeling, or thinking. Anything that changes the man is called a drug. And drugs are classified into four groups: first, narcotics; that includes heroin and codeine and morphine. The second group is called hypnotics or sedatives; that’s barbiturates or tranquilizers or alcohol. The third group is called stimulants; those are the drugs like Benzedrine, Dexedrine, and amphetamines. And the fourth group is called hallucinogens; that’s LSD or acid, that’s marijuana, that’s meperidine, hallucinogens. These are the four groups of drugs that change the mind and the human personality.
Now in that group one is hypnotics or sedatives, barbiturates, tranquilizers and alcohol. It lowers a man’s self-judgment. It pulls down a man’s thinking. It has every possibility of hurt known to the human personality. I quote, “Beverage alcohol is the greatest, single curse of mankind. It first attacks the brain.” I had an expert this week tell me the most amazing thing that I can hardly believe. One ounce of alcohol destroys ten thousand cells in the brain, every time it is taken. Ah! It first attacks the brain, then interferes with every function of the nervous system; the ability to reason, rapidity of thought, capacity to recall, memory, muscular response. It is like putting sand in the bearings of an engine.
One of the great literary figures of our modern generation in America was Upton Sinclair. He wrote a book, a novel called The Cup of Fury, and in that book he describes how drinking cut short the careers of many of the writers of his acquaintance. For example, he quotes the poet, George Sterling: “If you write when you have been drinking, you think you have written the most wonderful thing in the world, but when you read it the next morning, you discover that it makes no sense.” In that same book of Upton Sinclair, The Cup of Fury, after examining the lives of many famous authors, Sinclair concluded, and I quote again: “The greater a man’s goals are, and the more capable his mind, the more tragic is his story when he drinks.” Then he illustrates that avowal with a story of Jack London, who was a marvelous writer. There’s not a schoolboy in the earth, but has read stories by Jack London. Now, Jack London wrote among his volumes a book entitled John Barleycorn, and that is a kind of an autobiography of Jack London’s, describing his drinking experiences. And after he describes the pessimism and the skepticism that accompanied his drinking, Jack London concluded that he would continue to drink but “more skillfully and more discreetly.” Every drinking man thinks that. Then at the age of forty, Jack London gave his last word on liquor by taking his own life. What a price to pay for alcohol!
The tragic toll of the drug is something that all of us pay for, all of us. First: the cost in money. I realize I’m almost like a lone voice crying in the wilderness. More than eighty percent of urban America drinks and the percentage is increasing every day. And the age they begin to drink is lowering. Our children now are problem drinkers. There is more money spent on the drug alcohol than on all the churches, and all the charities, and all the schools in America, combined. For every dollar that is collected in revenue from the sale of liquor, the taxpayer pays four dollars in social problems, and the loss to the nation each year, in absenteeism, in a thousand other ways, is more than forty-three billions of dollars.
Now the toll in death, the cost in death: there are more than 85,000 people in America who die annually because of alcohol; 28,000 of them on the highways. We lament over the cost of the Vietnam War, about 45,000 men died in the Vietnam confrontation, but every year more than 85,000 people die in America due to alcohol. It knows no economic, cultural, sexual, or geographic boundaries. It’s involved in 64% of all murders. It’s involved in 50% of all fire deaths, 50% of all fatal automobile accidents, 45% of all drownings and 30% of all suicides.
But the greatest toll of the drug alcohol is found in family life. That is the most tragic of all. In the Gallup poll he discovered that alcohol is the most harmful factor in family life. I read this week of a judge—and I can’t believe it—he said, “Ninety percent of all divorces have alcohol as a contributing factor.” There are toward five million children who are in alcoholic homes. Their parents are alcoholics, and an increasing large percentage of children are now problem drinkers. Toward sixty-million Americans are tragically affected by alcohol, sixty million in the families of America. And there are twelve million hopeless alcoholics in America. And this final statistic: when a man drinks, take any group of them, one out of nine will become an alcoholic. Ah! It sickens your heart.
Well, why? Why? The death, the family disintegration, the curse! Why? That’s my sermon, and I’ll tell you why! Because of the drug pushers that are everywhere, on every hand; the drug pushers. I name them. One: the airlines. I cannot tell you the number of times I have sat in the airplane and I’m the only one that doesn’t drink, the only one. About forty-five percent of all airplane crashes are due to alcohol; that captain up there, and that co-captain and that navigator. Over there in the “Y,” almost daily, in these years gone by, I sat by a captain of Braniff Airlines. His wife was a devout member of our church, so he knew me well; and somehow he had a hang-up on alcohol, on liquor. He drank, and I said, “It’s a curse.” So he’d argue with me every time I saw him—which was at least once or twice every week—about drinking. Finally I said to him, “You know, if I was on your plane it would be a comfort to my heart just to know that you didn’t drink.”
“Oh,” he said, “such idiocy, such silliness! I don’t drink on the job.”
I said, “I know, but how do I know but that you have drunk just before you have reported for work?”
He laughed at me and scoffed at me. Went out the next day to the Braniff airport, took his airplane. Flew it to Chicago, and as he came down on the runway, he hit a sign, a road sign, and killed himself and all of his Braniff passengers; the misjudgment of an almost incalculable spread of a billionth of an inch.
The first drug pusher is the airlines. That’s what those stewardesses and stewards do. They go up and down, purveying the stuff. And if you ride first class, and I suppose the reason for riding first class is because you drink, because if the front of that thing gets there, the back is going to get there too. I suppose the reason you pay first class is to get drunk. The airline is the first drug pusher.
The second drug pusher is the liquor store. They’re proliferated all over creation. On one of those liquor store signs in a city that I could name is this: “If you can read this sign, you need another drink!” The liquor store: what matters it to them that the highway is burdened with the dead and that homes are destroyed? They’re making money; they’re drug pushers, the liquor store.
The third drug pusher is the host and the hostess in the home. They keep the glass filled up in order to keep the party going. What a comment on the intelligence of the American mind. You can’t carry on a conversation; you can’t even be interesting unless first you fill your brain with the addling effects of liquor. In order to have a good party, you’ve got to get drunk. In order to have a good time, you’ve got to serve liquor. What a comment on American life, as though I couldn’t carry on a conversation without a bottle of booze in my hand.
The fourth drug pusher is the television set. They have studied those television programs, and on an average, two and one-half favorable, enviable drinking scenes are presented to the eyes of those children every hour. That’s ten every day, that’s three thousand every year. Can you imagine then, why the country is becoming increasingly sodden? Three thousand favorable, enviable drinking scenes looked at by our children every year.
And the [fifth] drug pusher is the clergy; the priest and the minister and the pastor. He’s the fifth one. In a hospital here in Dallas, where I was visiting the sick, the whole hospital personnel was trying to get a drunken priest out of the hospital. He was staggering from one room to another, and his offensive behavior was hurting the patients, and the doctors, and the nurses, and the whole hospital staff. And they were maneuvering the best they could to get that drunken priest out of the hospital. I pick up the newspaper in Dallas and I read there, that such-and-such is elected bishop, and he’s a social drinker. I went to a $500 plate dinner; I didn’t pay the $500! They just had me there to lead a prayer. So, I sat on this end, and the priest sat on the other end. It was a political meeting, $500 a plate. So, they served liquor, and the people who are serving carry it around in a bottle, and they’d fill up your glass, and if you drink you’d fill up the glass. So the priest down there at the other end, they filled up his glass and he’d drink it; they’d fill it up, he’d drink it; fill it up, he’d drink it. Finally, they got tired of going to that end of the thing, and they put the bottle there; so he drank the whole bottle. Then they put another bottle there, and another bottle there, and he drank until he was stupid!
Who’s the drug pusher? The minister and the clergyman, and the priest, and the pastor; they drink! Thousands and uncounted numbers of them, and one of the alcoholic problems we have in America is the drunken clergymen, the alcoholic clergymen. And when you accost them, my brethren, and talk to them, and this is what they say to me: “Hah, hah! You, you! Jesus turned water into wine. He drank it.” That’s the first miracle. If I had an hour I’d expiate upon it. The Greek word oinos refers to the fruit of the vine; that’s all, the fruit of the vine. And in that marvelous miracle that had a glorious meaning, the wine Jesus made, the oinos, the fruit of the vine into which He turned the water, turning it on a thousand hills all over the earth [John 2:1-11]. They bore it to the emcee, to the master of ceremonies, and he said, “I never tasted wine like this” [John 2:9-10]. It was different. How was it different? Do you think Jesus made something to destroy a man’s mind, to widow his wife, to orphan his children, to make him a slave, do you think that? He said, “This is different!” [John 2:9-10]. I’ll tell you exactly what kind of oinos it was. When He observed the institution of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28], Jesus said, “I will henceforth drink no more of this fruit of the vine, till I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” [Matthew 26:29]. And in the nineteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, and we will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. That kind of wine, the fruit of the vine, oinos that Jesus made [John 2:1-11], is the kind that we’re going to drink in glory, in heaven, at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and it doesn’t make you drunk! [Revelation 19:6-9].
Now I close. What is the great Christian principle, the great Christian principle of how we act in this world of drunkenness and of drug pushing? The great Christian principle is in the eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians. The eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians concerns eating meat offered to idols, a thing that is a thousand miles away from our participation or trouble today [1 Corinthians 8:4-13]. See, you have to remember that the way they worshiped idols was to bring a sacrifice, and that was a shared meal. And some of it was burned; that belonged to the idol. And some of it, most of it, was eaten; that belonged to the worshiper.
So in the shambles, in the butcher shops were sold some of that meat that had been offered to idols. And a man, a Christian man, would buy a roast, and he’d be eating it, and a brother would say, “That meat was sacrificed to idols.” And the Christian says, “An idol is just metal or wood or stone to me.” But to that man it represented the worship of that idol. So Paul says, “If my eating makes my brother to stumble, I will not eat while the world stands, lest I make my brother to stumble” [1 Corinthians 8:13].
That is the great Christian principle of our drinking. If what I do leads somebody else into a tragic, tragic stumbling, I’ll not do it as long as the world shall last. It’s like this. Riding back to Dallas from a faraway city, I sat by one of the great, famous, big corporate executives in this city. So, as we rode on the plane, as you would think, he was drinking and drinking. So he said to me, “I see you don’t drink.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t.”
“Well,” he said, “I would suppose that you object to my drinking.”
I said, “Yes, it’s a tragedy.”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t ever get drunk. I carefully mind how much liquor I take.”
I said, “You know, you got some boys, and I know them, and you’re the head of a great corporation, and I know many of the people who work for your corporation.”
I said, “Statistically, one out of every nine social drinkers become alcoholics. They become problem drinkers. That includes the number of your boys and your employees and all other children of mothers and fathers. Now,” I said, “a boy, when he sees a drunk in his own vomit in the gutter, that boy is not encouraged or enticed to drink like that. He’s nauseated and offended and repulsed. There’s nothing about the drunk in the gutter that would ever get that boy to drink. But what will do it is, he goes to your company affair and the head and the success of that company is epitomized in you, and you drink. And that boy fills his glass full of liquor, and one out of nine become alcoholics.” I said, “My friend, it’s not worth it. I don’t care how much kick you get out of it. I don’t know how much it means to you, the disaster, and the sorrow, and the catastrophe that overwhelms that ninth boy or that ninth girl is not worth whatever you think you get out of drinking liquor. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.” And he bowed his head and thought a while and said, “I never thought of it like that.”
We can’t hide the trail of our influence. What I do and what I am, how I speak, how I walk, how I talk—it has a repercussion in the lives of others, and we must pray that the life that we live and the way that we walk is beautiful and upright and godly. And when people see it and follow us, our tracks lead to church, and to godliness, and to holiness, and to commitment, and to the glorifying of our blessed Lord. And God will bless you in that commitment. You will lose nothing at all, but you will gain the world and all that’s in it.
Come, my people! Let us rejoice in the Lord! Let us exalt the name of God our Savior! Let us be happy and glad in Him! And as for drugs, and stimulants, and nakedness, and pornography, and all of the excitement that is connected with shameful nakedness and promiscuity, we don’t need it. We have found hope and blessing and richness in Jesus and in the fellowship of the faith in loving one another. God grant it and bless it to our lives. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, we cannot but be moved by the invitation of God when He said to Isaiah, “This is the way, walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. God hath set before us a beautiful path. His arms are extended in wide open encouragement and invitation, come. “Walk with Me. Live with Me.” And to walk with our Lord and to live in the faith is always aboundingly blessed. It is overwhelmingly precious. Our hearts cannot contain it. God’s goodness makes us so rich, and our souls are so happy. We don’t need the world or anything in it, and we don’t need to drink or to get drunk in order to live a full and beautiful and wonderful life. Jesus is all in all to me. I need no other than He. God bless these precious people, and their families, and their homes, and their children.
And while our heads are bowed, in a minute, after praying, we shall sing a song of appeal, and I will be standing down here by the side of this table of the Lord’s Supper. A family you, to put your life with us; a couple you, to accept Jesus as Savior; or just one somebody you, answering with your life the call of God; make it tonight. “This night I accept Jesus as my Savior, my friend and guide and fellow pilgrim.” Or, “God has spoken to me and I am answering tonight.” Out of that great throng in the balcony, down that stairway, in the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come.” God bless you as you take that first step; the greatest step you can ever make in your life. And our Lord, for this sweet harvest God shall give us, we shall love Thee and praise Thee through Christ, our hope and our Savior, amen.
Now while we pray, while we wait, while we stand waiting for you, out of the balcony, on this lower floor, down a stairway, down an aisle, “Here I am, pastor.” God bless you as you come, while we sing and while we wait.