Among all in his era, Noah was the most godly. He alone was considered by the Almighty, blameless. In a time when terrible wrath was about to unfurl, Noah alone found favor with the Lord. Consider this man Noah and what he experienced: Aware that the end of his world was at hand, he faithfully preached repentance for over one hundred years, yet his words converted no one. His eyes beheld the terrible descent of the wrath of God; his ears heard the terrifying cries, the final cries, of an entire civilization. His mind experienced the horrifying destruction of every man, woman and child outside the ark.
What burden does such an experience create upon the human soul? What nightmares? We don't know how Noah processed the catastrophic end of the world, but here's what we do know: After the flood, Noah began mankind's journey anew. He farmed and planted a vineyard. From the harvest he produced juice, which fermented into wine. We don't know if this was the first time he, or any man, tasted the effects of wine, but we do know that he drank it and it made him so drunk that he collapsed in his tent. The great man of God lay unconscious and naked, in a drunken stupor.
Here was a righteous preacher who, for whatever reason, had fallen short of his own high standards. Into this scene comes Ham, one of his three sons. Ham entered Noah's tent and saw the shameful state his father was in. Then, Ham reported the scene to his two brothers. Instead of silently, discreetly covering his father's shame, he sought to expose it. His brothers, Shem and Japheth, the Scriptures tell us, took raiment and, walking backward with the sheet on their shoulders, they covered Noah with it. Keep this point in mind: Ham dishonored his father by seeking to expose his shame; Shem and Japheth honored their father by covering his weakness. Your future and the future of your children is attached to how well you understand the value of honor and the curse that follows a dishonoring spirit.
The New Testament Scriptures, in fact, call us to honor and respect people. Here is what God's word commands:
"Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect. . ." (1 Pet 2:17-18a).
Honor all men? Honor the king? Servants be submissive with respect? Surely this apostolic leader is not speaking to the church in America! We want our rights! We are not afraid of any man, be he king or priest. Yes, but the issue is not whether we are afraid; it is whether we are capable of showing genuine honor.
There is something within us that grates at the idea of honoring people. We say, often quite righteously, we will only honor God. We feel it is our task to keep others humble lest their pride take over. In fact, it is our pride that has taken over, not theirs, and it is fueled by our jealousy of another's success.
God calls us to honor all men for the simple fact that He chose to give them life. Jesus lived and died so sinful men could be saved. People are precious to the Father; they are as valuable to Him as His Son. Yes, today the person standing before you may be a sinner, but by showing honor you tell that person that he or she is important to the Almighty.
Some, we are called to honor for their attainments; others, we honor for their intrinsic worth to God. Yet, the call of God is to honor all. Not that you honor the actions of sinners, but the humanity of sinners. We are not to worship people, as those who swoon over celebrities; but we are to show all men honor.
You cannot lead someone to Christ whom you have dishonored. You cannot sincerely communicate the love of God if you do not respect the person to whom you are speaking. Our tradition of dishonoring people has not come from God. In fact, the kingdom of God emerges with a completely opposite spirit. The kingdom is a culture graced with honor and respect for the dignity of all people.
Consider: within the body of Christ we are commanded to honor every member, actually giving to the "unseemly parts" more abundant honor. As stated, we are also called to "Honor all men" and also "honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17). We are additionally required to honor the church elders (1 Timothy 5:17); and at work, we should honor and respect those who are our employers (1 Timothy 6:1). We are to honor widows (1 Timothy 5:3), spouses (1 Peter 3:7 & Ephesians 5:22), the unseemly (1 Corinthians 12:23-25) and the aged (Leviticus 19:32). In fact, when the gray-haired enter a room we are told to stop talking, stand, and acknowledge with reverence the entrance of an older individual. When was the last time that happened in America?
The Lord himself bestows honor on people: John 12:26 says, "If anyone serves Me, ... the Father will honor him." And Psalm 91:14-15 say, "Because he has loved Me, ... I will rescue him, and honor him." So if the Lord has no problem honoring people, considering His great glory, why are we so apt to dishonor each other?
The word "honor" in the Greek meant to fix valuation, esteem by implication and to revere. Picture a home where the children revere their parents and the husband and wife honor each other. We must esteem and fix value to each other. For honor creates a spiritual buffer against the enemy's attacks, which otherwise erode the quality of our lives.
Moreover, honor releases the power of God while dishonor greatly hinders its expression. Jesus taught, "'A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household.' And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:57-58). The people of Jesus' hometown did not honor Him, and their lack of honor, Jesus called, "unbelief." In other words, when we dishonor a man or woman of God, we shut down the power.
The Ability To Advance
In Life Paul reminds us of the fourth commandment. He writes, "Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you..." (Eph 6:2-3).
Let's return to the story about Noah. When Ham exposed his father, Noah cursed the son of Ham, Canaan. Why didn't Noah curse Ham instead of Ham's son? Noah knew that, as Ham had been to him, so Canaan would be to Ham. Noah's curse was actually profound. He said Canaan would be "a servant of servants" (see Gen 9:25). Why? Because if you can't honor an imperfect leader, you will never advance in life. You will always be a slave.
You see, there are no leaders other than imperfect leaders. Your boss, your pastor or teacher or mayor or father or mother are all imperfect. When we expose them to humiliation or dishonor by telling others of their weaknesses, it brings their curse upon us. We will never advance in life with such an attitude.
To be successful, you need to be able to submit to leaders who are imperfect without dishonoring them. You say, "If I do that, I will feel like a hypocrite, a 'yes' man." If you don't show honor, you are already a hypocrite. For a true Christian esteems and respects people; you don't have to trust them, but you must honor and respect them.
Now this doesn't mean you shouldn't have concerns when you see a problem. You may indeed have good advice or even a revelation to share that can help your leader. But don't open the door to dishonoring leaders, especially in the church! If you see a problem, don't follow Ham's example. Don't go telling your brothers; instead, cover the situation in love. Follow the procedure Jesus gives us in Matthew 18, remaining respectful and humble as you seek to bring an end to sin in a person's life.
Ham dishonored his father. The generations of Ham became slaves. How you relate to the imperfections of your superiors determines not only your future, but also the future of your children and your children's children. Do they hear you complain about your boss? Do they listen when you criticize your pastor? Is a curse being passed on to them when they are forced by proximity to hear you bad mouth other leaders? Do you see this? You are actually teaching them how to NOT succeed in life. A dishonoring spirit will cause them to remain poor, frustrated and outside the realm of the blessed and prosperous.
Right now, your children are patterning their lives after you. From you they are learning how to deal with the imperfections of life. Will they become bitter and angry at life's structure of authority? Or will they be free to relate to imperfect authorities over them, and do so with honor? Are you breeding generations of slaves or generations of free men and women?