This is the 7th paper in a series of papers I wrote on The Primeval History period of The Bible (i.e Genesis 1-11). To download this paper as a PDF file click here –> https://www.dropbox.com/s/zw6784m2wk6gg7g/Genesis%209_%20Noah%E2%80%99s%20Nakedness%2C%20the%20Sin%20of%20Ham%2C%20and%20the%20Curse%20of%20Canaan.pdf?dl=0
Abstract: Genesis 9:20-27 comes at the end of the Genesis flood narrative covered in Genesis 6-9. This account baffles many Bible readers because it appears as though Noah curses his grandson Canaan, son of his son Ham, simply because Ham walked in and accidentally discovered Noah passed out naked and drunk. This seems like quite a severe overreaction. However, this only seems odd if one takes “saw his father’s nakedness” literally. I will argue in this paper that this is a euphemistic way of saying that Ham had sex with Noah’s wife (i.e his own mother) as an attempt to usurp Noah’s Patriarchal authority and that this is how Genesis’ original audience would have understood the passage. I will look at other explanations that other biblical scholars have brought up and show why they are not the best interpretation of the passage.
Genesis 9:20-27 – What The Passage Says
“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. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’
He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.’ After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.” – Genesis 9:20-27 (ESV)
This is part of Noah’s story that puzzled me for years. It seems as though Noah gets drunk, passes out in his tent in said drunken stupor, and Ham comes in and inadvertently sees his dad lying there unconscious and naked, so he decides to leave. He tells his brothers “Yo, Dad’s naked in there passed out. You might want to cover him up or something. I just went in there by accident”. Then his brothers walk backwards into the tent out of respect, they cover him, and leave. When Noah wakes up, he somehow knows Ham saw him naked, and enraged, his curses Ham’s grandson who hasn’t even been born yet! What in the world is going on here? I can understand Noah’s embarrassment, and I might even be angry in that situation myself if I didn’t know who saw me and whether they did it on purpose or not, but it seems like an overreaction. Besides, how does he even know that it was his youngest son who did that? He was passed out at the time!
There are basically three interpretations of this passage that biblical interpreters have proposed. I will look at each of them in order of least plausible to most plausible.
Option 1: The Sin Of Ham Was Voyeurism.
The first option is that the sin of Ham was just voyeurism. He walked in, saw his father naked, and this violated a taboo here that Ham violated. Noah got embarrassed, and thus the outcry.
John Sietze Bergsma and Scott Walker Hahn have an article is entitled, “Noah’s Nakedness and the Curse on Canaan.” It’s from The Journal of
Biblical Literature. On page 27, they write this: “The strength of this position is its conservatism: it refuses to see anything in the text that is not explicit. Yet, in a sense, voyeurism is a nonexplanation, since it fails to elucidate either the gravity of Ham’s offense or the reason for the curse of Canaan. It also requires the interpreter to assume the existence of a taboo against the accidental sight of a naked parent that is otherwise unattested in biblical or Ancient Near Eastern literature. ’”1
Donald J Wold writes “Was there a custom that children did not even look into the tent of their parents? How could Ham have known that his father was naked when he opened the tent flap? Perhaps, in his innocence, he meant only to speak with his father. Or, more altruistically, perhaps he knew that his father had taken too much wine and needed assistance of some sort. Perhaps Ham saw his naked father and entertained lewd thoughts (i.e., lusted after him), but did nothing about it. If so, this incident would be one of the earliest examples where an individual is made liable to a curse or penalty for merely intending to do something. . . . Scholars who accept the literal view maintain that Ham only saw his nude father, but they must defend a custom about which we know nothing. They must also presume an immoral intention based on the severity of the curse imposed by Noah. A further problem with this view is that it does not explain why the curse was pronounced on Ham’s son Canaan and not on Ham himself.”2
So Ham walked in, saw his dad there naked unexpectedly, and that merits the cursing of his son, Canaan? It just seems like an overreaction. Dr. Michael Heiser points out the problem with this interpretation in an episode of The Naked Bible Podcast. Heiser said “Again, we don’t really have any evidence that it was taboo to just come upon someone’s naked body and see them and then you were in big trouble. There’s nothing like that in biblical law or Ancient Near Eastern law. Nevertheless, this has probably become the leading traditional view, and it really derives from the statement that Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father. That’s really where it comes from. So simple voyeurism is probably the leading traditional view. Its primary weakness, other than not having a law or anything in the Bible that would just say this was awful, is that it really doesn’t explain the curse on Canaan at all.”3
Option 2: Ham Castrated Noah.
This interpretation says that the sin that Ham committed was basically removing Noah’s testicles. Certainly, this is a rabbinic idea. To quote Bergsma and Hahn, in their article, they provide just a little snippet of an explanation or comment here. They say:
“. . . one can cite examples from Ancient Near Eastern mythology (although none from the Bible) of a son castrating his father as part of an effort to usurp his authority… [This view] also provides some rationale, albeit complex, for the cursing of Canaan: Noah curses Ham’s fourth son since Ham deprived Noah of a fourth son. What is lacking, however, is any lexical hint in the text of Gen 9:20-27 that would suggest castration.”4
So basically what Bergsma and Hahn are saying is that there’s no evidence in the text that castration occurred, there’s no evidence that Noah desired to have a fourth son, but this view does have the advantage of explaining why Noah was so angry. Hey, if someone removed my testicles while I was passed out, I’d be pretty ticked too. But other than providing a reason for Noah’s outburst, it’s really a strained interpretation.
Option 3: Ham Committed Paternal Incest.
I think that this view is the closest to the truth, as you’ll see later in this paper, but it slightly misses the mark. Robert A.J Gagnon takes this view in his book The Bible and Homosexuality.
Robert A.J Gagnon defends this interpretation by writing “First, the story appears to place Ham inside the tent, suggesting an action beyond peeking into the tent. Gen 9:22 clearly states that, after seeing his father’s nakedness, Ham ‘told (it) to his two brothers outside.’ The Septuagint is even more explicit, adding (or translating from a different Hebrew version) that Ham ‘went out and told . . .’ (exelthōn). What was he doing inside the tent? Possibly the tent was understood to be off-limits to the sons, explaining why Shem and Japheth were ‘outside’ and unaware. The fact that v. 23 refers to Shem and Japheth taking ‘the outer garment’ suggests that the garment was Noah’s. How did Noah’s garment happen to be outside the tent? The most likely answer is: Ham brought it out when he went back outside. Why would Ham have brought out Noah’s garment? A possible answer: Ham brought the garment out as proof of what he ‘had done’ to his father. It was the evidence he needed to establish bragging rights. Second, when Noah woke up, ‘he learned what his youngest son had done to him’—not the expression one would expect to describe an unintended glance or even voyeurism. If wayyitgal is translated ‘and he was uncovered’ rather than ‘and he uncovered himself,’ it ‘leaves the door open’ for asking: who uncovered Noah? The continuation in 9:22 (which need not be separated from 9:21 with a period) intimates that Ham committed the unspeakable act.”5
Gangon goes on to say “Third, and most important, the language of ‘uncovering” and ‘seeing the nakedness of’ connects up with similar phrases denoting sexual intercourse.66 Leviticus uses the phrase ‘uncover the nakedness of’ to denote incest (1aw8:6-18; 20:11, 17-21; also in 18:19, of sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual cycle). The same phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible of prostitution and adultery, and of rape and/or public exposure for adultery. In Lev 20:17, the expression ‘sees his/her nakedness’ is used to describe sibling incest; in other instances, the phrase ‘seeing the nakedness of’ may imply an opportunity for rape.”6
After giving these three arguments, Robert Gagnon goes on to give some other reasons for why he thinks the sin that Ham comitted here was homosexual paternal rape. He concludes by saying “Thus it is likely that the narrator charged Ham with committing a heinous act of incestuous, homosexual rape of his father.”7
I said that this is the closest alternative to being correct out of all the alternatives that I don’t take. The reason is that this interpretation recognizes that Ham “DID” something to his father. The text says “When Noah realized what his youngest son had done to him.” Obviously, something more than mere taking a glimpse at daddy’s ding dong is going on here. An action took place. And as Gagnon explains, a plausible explanation is that Noah’s garment was outside the tent is that Ham took it out as evidence he needed to establish bragging rights over what he had done. Finally, Gagnon explains that the phrase “seeing the nakedness of” is a common Old Testament idiom for sexual intercourse. Here, I think Gagnon is correct. It was indeed an Old Testament idiom for sexual intercourse. However, I think Gagnon misapplies it. Gagnon gets so close to the right answer, but literally misses it by mere inches. And no, I didn’t misuse the term literally here, as you’ll see in the next subsection.
Option 4: Ham’s Comitted Maternal Incest
What we have in Genesis 9 is, indeed, a Hebrew idiom. “To see” (the Hebrew word is ra’ah) the nakedness (the Hebrew word is ‘erwah) of someone is idiomatic. It’s an expression for sexual intercourse. Now how do we know that? If we go to Leviticus 20:17, we read this: “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity.”
Michael Heiser explains that “The key here is to understand that ‘uncovering nakedness,’ which describes the act of removing clothing from the genital area for the purpose of sex, and ‘seeing nakedness’ are equated in this passage. Did you notice that? We have the idiom ‘to see the nakedness of’ and ‘sees her nakedness’ and that’s parallel to “uncovering nakedness.” Similar expression, but with two different verbs: see and uncover. That’s important because if you actually searched for the phrase ‘uncovering nakedness’ (there the Hebrew word is galah), you’re going to find passages that very clearly and explicitly show that uncovering nakedness is a reference to sexual intercourse.”8
Listen to the “uncovering nakedness” terminology in Leviticus 18.
“None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.” – Leviticus 18:6-18, ESV
Note the underlined boldface words. The phrase “uncover your father’s nakedness” means to have sex with your father’s wife (your mom or step mom). To uncover your father’s brother (or uncle’s) nakedness means to have sex with your aunt. To have sex with your own son or daughter, Leviticus says, is to uncover your own nakedness.
As Michael Heiser says, “In Old Testament, Semitic, patriarchal culture, the nakedness of a man was defined as the woman that belongs to him. So that’s why Leviticus has this wording. To us it sounds very confusing, but if you understand the idiom, it’s not.”9
So when I said that Gagnon missed the answer by a few inches, I mean that the idiom he applied, and interpreting it as Ham having sex with Noah, should really have been applied to Noah’s wife, who was likely in the tent with him. To uncover a man’s nakedness means to have sex with a woman that belongs to him.
At this point, one may wonder about the description of Shem and Japheth walking in backwards so as not to see Noah’s nakedness. Surely the text isn’t saying that they were trying to avoid having sex with their mother, right? Bergma and Hahn explain that “The brothers’ actions play on the broader meaning of the phrase. Not only did the brothers not ‘see their father’s nakedness’ in the sense of having intercourse with him, but also they did not even dare to ‘see their father’s nakedness’ in a literal sense. Where Ham’s act was exceedingly evil, their gesture was exceedingly pious and noble.”10
But we’re still left to wonder why Canan was cursed instead of Ham. Brian Godawa writes that “Ham is oddly and repeatedly referred to as the father of Canaan. It is a strange repetition that draws attention to itself and is finally climaxed with Canaan being cursed instead of Ham for Ham’s dirty deed. Well, if Canaan was the fruit of that illicit union of maternal incest between Ham and Emzara, it makes perfect sense within that culture that he is cursed. It may not sound kind to our modern ears, but it is perfectly consistent with that Biblical time period. Ham sought to usurp his father’s patriarchal authority through maternal incest which was ‘uncovering his nakedness.’ The fruit of that action, the son Canaan, is a cursed man. And that cursed man is the forefather of a cursed nation.”11
The sin of Ham was maternal incest. Ham had sex with his mother, Noah’s wife, in order to usurp his father’s patriarchal authority. Rather than outright say that Ham violated his mother, the author of Genesis employed a biblical idiom “uncovered his father’s nakedness” which meant to have sex with his father’s wife. To uncover a man’s nakedness was to have sex with a woman that belonged to him. This explains why Noah was so enraged at Ham, and why Canaan was cursed (because he was the fruit of that illicit union). It explains the “done to him” kind of language we find in the account, which suggests Ham did more than just get a quick peek.
1: John Sietze Bergsma and Scott Walker Hahn, “Noah’s Nakedness and the Curse on Canaan.”, The Journal Of Biblical Literature, page 27.
2: Donald J Wold, “Out Of Order”, Pages 66-67
3: Dr. Michael S. Heiser, The Naked Bible Podcast: “Episode 159: Noah’s Nakedness, the Sin of Ham, and the Curse of Canaan” — https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/NB-159-Transcript-1.pdf
4: John Sietze Bergsma and Scott Walker Hahn, “Noah’s Nakedness and the Curse on Canaan.”, The Journal Of Biblical Literature, page 28
5: Robert A.J Gagnon, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermenuetics”, Abingdon Press, First edition, page 69.
7: ibid, page 70.
8: Dr. Michael S. Heiser, The Naked Bible Podcast: “Episode 159: Noah’s Nakedness, the Sin of Ham, and the Curse of Canaan” — https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/NB-159-Transcript-1.pdf
10: Journal of Biblical Literature 124 (2005): 33, ed. Gail R. O’Day, 33 (Decatur, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005).
11: Godawa, Brian. When Giants Were Upon the Earth: The Watchers, the Nephilim, and the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed (pp. 181-183). Embedded Pictures Publishing. Kindle Edition.
This Post Has 7 Comments
The problem I have with this theory, is that if it’s true, – why would not Emzara have been cursed or at least receive some measure of punishment ???? But she’s not even mentioned. She would not have been viewed as not co-responsible, unless he raped her, but in THAT case, – she would have screamed, & Noah would’ve woken up right at the very onset. – But intriguing theory still.
I think she probably was raped, and she probably did scream. As for Noah waking up, let me say this; I think you underestimate the power of alcohol to knock a person out. 🙂
Thank you for that sensible critique. Me & my neighbour were preparing to do some research about that. We acquired a good book on that matter from our local library and most books exactly where not as influensive as your details. Im really glad to see such facts which I was searching for a long time.
I am interested in what the Peshitta has to say on this Biblical story. Since the theories were translated (most probably) from the Greek or Latin and translations are often way off the mark when it comes to ‘idioms’ and customs of that time period. What have you to say?
Hi Evan, I love your analysis. In my research I have come across two additional pieces of evidence to corroborate maternal incest. If you look at Genesis 9:23 in Hebrew, you will find the word for garment is hassimlah, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/8071.htm. If you look closely, you will see that this word is a feminine singular noun, meaning that this was a females garment, which would make sense when covering your mom, not your dad.
Additionally, if you look at Genesis 9:25 in the Greek (https://studybible.info/interlinear/Genesis%209:25), you will find the word for brothers is Strong’s Greek #80 (https://studybible.info/strongs/G80) when referring to the relationship between Shem, Japheth, and Canaan, which literally means “sons of the same mother”.
Thank you and God Bless
Regardless if you believe in God or not, this is a “must-read” message!!
Throughout time, we can see how we have been slowly conditioned to come to this point where we are on the verge of a cashless society. Did you know that the Bible foretold of this event almost 2,000 years ago?
In the book of Revelation 13:16-18, we read,
“He (the false prophet who deceives many by his miracles–Revelation 19:20) causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”
Speaking to the last generation, this could only be speaking of a cashless society. Why? Revelation 13:17 tells us that we cannot buy or sell unless we receive the mark of the beast. If physical money was still in use, we could buy or sell with one another without receiving the mark. This would contradict scripture that states we need the mark to buy or sell!
These verses could not be referring to something purely spiritual as scripture references two physical locations (our right hand or forehead) stating the mark will be on one “OR” the other. If this mark was purely spiritual, it would indicate both places, not one OR the other.
This is where it really starts to come together. It is shocking how accurate the Bible is concerning the implantable RFID microchip. These are notes from a man named Carl Sanders who worked with a team of engineers to help develop this RFID chip
“Carl Sanders sat in seventeen New World Order meetings with heads-of-state officials such as Henry Kissinger and Bob Gates of the C.I.A. to discuss plans on how to bring about this one-world system. The government commissioned Carl Sanders to design a microchip for identifying and controlling the peoples of the world—a microchip that could be inserted under the skin with a hypodermic needle (a quick, convenient method that would be gradually accepted by society).
Carl Sanders, with a team of engineers behind him, with U.S. grant monies supplied by tax dollars, took on this project and designed a microchip that is powered by a lithium battery, rechargeable through the temperature changes in our skin. Without the knowledge of the Bible (Brother Sanders was not a Christian at the time), these engineers spent one-and-a-half-million dollars doing research on the best and most convenient place to have the microchip inserted.
Guess what? These researchers found that the forehead and the back of the hand (the two places the Bible says the mark will go) are not just the most convenient places, but are also the only viable places for rapid, consistent temperature changes in the skin to recharge the lithium battery. The microchip is approximately seven millimeters in length, .75 millimeters in diameter, about the size of a grain of rice. It is capable of storing pages upon pages of information about you. All your general history, work history, criminal record, health history, and financial data can be stored on this chip.
Brother Sanders believes that this microchip, which he regretfully helped design, is the “mark” spoken about in Revelation 13:16–18. The original Greek word for “mark” is “charagma,” which means a “scratch or etching.” It is also interesting to note that the number 666 is actually a word in the original Greek. The word is “chi xi stigma,” with the last part, “stigma,” also meaning “to stick or prick.” Carl believes this is referring to a hypodermic needle when they poke into the skin to inject the microchip.”
Mr. Sanders asked a doctor what would happen if the lithium contained within the RFID microchip leaked into the body. The doctor replied by saying a terrible sore would appear in that location. This is what the book of Revelation says:
“And the first (angel) went, and poured out his vial on the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore on the men which had the mark of the beast, and on them which worshipped his image” (Revelation 16:2).
You can read more about it here–and to also understand the mystery behind the number 666: https://2ruth.org/rfid-mark-of-the-beast-666-revealed/
The third angel’s warning in Revelation 14:9-11 states,
“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.'”
“The coming of the lawless one (the Antichrist) is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)”
Who is Barack Obama, and why is he still around?
So what’s in the name? The meaning of someone’s name can say a lot about a person. God throughout history has given names to people that have a specific meaning tied to their lives. How about the name Barack Obama? Let us take a look at what may be hiding beneath the surface.
Jesus says in Luke 10:18, “…I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
The Hebrew Strongs word (H1299) for “lightning”: “bârâq” (baw-rawk)
In Isaiah chapter 14, verse 14, we read about Lucifer (Satan) saying in his heart:
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
In the verses in Isaiah that refer directly to Lucifer, several times it mentions him falling from the heights or the heavens. The Hebrew word for the heights or heavens used here is Hebrew Strongs 1116: “bamah”–Pronounced (bam-maw’)
In Hebrew, the letter “Waw” or “Vav” is often transliterated as a “U” or “O,” and it is primarily used as a conjunction to join concepts together. So to join in Hebrew poetry the concept of lightning (Baraq) and a high place like heaven or the heights of heaven (Bam-Maw), the letter “U” or “O” would be used. So, Baraq “O” Bam-Maw or Baraq “U” Bam-Maw in Hebrew poetry similar to the style written in Isaiah, would translate literally to “Lightning from the heights.” The word “Satan” in Hebrew is a direct translation, therefore “Satan.”
So when Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:18 that He beheld Satan fall like lightning from heaven, if this were to be spoken by a Jewish Rabbi today influenced by the poetry in the book of Isaiah, he would say these words in Hebrew–the words of Jesus in Luke 10:18 as, and I saw Satan as Baraq O Bam-Maw.
The names of both of Obama’s daughters are Malia and Natasha. If we were to write those names backward (the devil does things in reverse) we would get “ailam ahsatan”. Now if we remove the letters that spell “Alah” (Allah being the false god of Islam), we get “I am Satan”. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Obama’s campaign logo when he ran in 2008 was a sun over the horizon in the west, with the landscape as the flag of the United States. In Islam, they have their own messiah that they are waiting for called the 12th Imam, or the Mahdi (the Antichrist of the Bible), and one prophecy concerning this man’s appearance is the sun rising in the west.
“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.'” (Revelation 14:6-7)
Why have the words of Jesus in His Gospel accounts regarding His death, burial, and resurrection, been translated into over 3,000 languages, and nothing comes close (the Quran about 110 languages)? Because the same Spirit of God (YHVH) who created all people likewise transcends all people; therefore the power of His Word is not limited by people; while all other religions are man-made, therefore they tend to primarily stay within their own culture. The same God who speaks to all people through His creation of the heavens and earth that draws all people around the world likewise has sent His Word to the ends of the earth so that we may come to personally know Him to be saved in spirit and in truth through His Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus stands alone among the other religions that say to rightly weigh the scales of good and evil and to make sure you have done more good than bad in this life. Is this how we conduct ourselves justly in a court of law? Bearing the image of God, is this how we project this image into reality?
Our good works cannot save us. If we step before a judge, being guilty of a crime, the judge will not judge us by the good we have done, but rather by the crimes we have committed. If we as fallen humanity, created in God’s image, pose this type of justice, how much more a perfect, righteous, and Holy God?
God has brought down His moral laws through the 10 commandments given to Moses at Mt. Siani. These laws were not given so we may be justified, but rather that we may see the need for a savior. They are the mirror of God’s character of what He has written in our hearts, with our conscious bearing witness that we know that it is wrong to steal, lie, dishonor our parents, murder, and so forth.
We can try and follow the moral laws of the 10 commandments, but we will never catch up to them to be justified before a Holy God. That same word of the law given to Moses became flesh about 2,000 years ago in the body of Jesus Christ. He came to be our justification by fulfilling the law, living a sinless perfect life that only God could fulfill.
The gap between us and the law can never be reconciled by our own merit, but the arm of Jesus is stretched out by the grace and mercy of God. And if we are to grab on, through faith in Him, He will pull us up being the one to justify us. As in the court of law, if someone steps in and pays our fine, even though we are guilty, the judge can do what is legal and just and let us go free. That is what Jesus did almost 2,000 years ago on the cross. It was a legal transaction being fulfilled in the spiritual realm by the shedding of His blood with His last word’s on the cross crying out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
For God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). This is why in Isaiah chapter 53, where it speaks of the coming Messiah and His soul being a sacrifice for our sins, why it says it pleased God to crush His only begotten Son.
This is because the wrath that we deserve was justified by being poured out upon His Son. If that wrath was poured out on us, we would all perish to hell forever. God created a way of escape by pouring it out on His Son whose soul could not be left in Hades but was raised and seated at the right hand of God in power.
So now when we put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), where God no longer sees the person who deserves His wrath, but rather the glorious image of His perfect Son dwelling in us, justifying us as if we received the wrath we deserve, making a way of escape from the curse of death; now being conformed into the image of the heavenly man walking in a new nature, and no longer in the image of the fallen man Adam.
Now what we must do is repent and put our trust and faith in the savior, confessing and forsaking our sins, and to receive His Holy Spirit that we may be born again (for Jesus says we must be born again to see and enter the Kingdom of God in John chapter 3). This is not just head knowledge of believing in Jesus, but rather receiving His words, taking them to heart, so that we may truly be transformed into the image of God. Where we no longer live to practice sin, but rather turn from our sins and practice righteousness through faith in Him in obedience to His Word by reading the Bible.
Our works cannot save us, but they can condemn us; it is not that we earn our way into everlasting life, but that we obey our Lord Jesus Christ:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Hebrews 5:9)
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’
Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’
And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.'” (Revelation 21:1-8)