Lent day 36: Who is Shem?
Luke 3 v 36 “the son of Shem”
Genesis 9: 20-23 “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.”
Shem’s name means ‘name’ but can also mean ‘esteemed’. Certainly what NAME is known for is the esteem of honouring his father with his brother Japheth.
Many have speculated on what happened inside Noah’s tent alluding to some sexual activity. What we are told is that Ham went into his father’s tent, saw he was naked and not only didn’t do anything but came out and spoke about what he had discovered.
My friend and colleague, James Glass tweeted at the start of the year regarding the story of Shem: “Sometimes you have to walk backwards to help others move forwards.”
It is a great line!
It is not condoning. Shem and his brother could have said ‘let’s leave our father till he wakes up from his drunkenness, he is inside his own tent, what happens there stays there.’
It is not making it worse. Shem and his brother could have replicated Ham’s approach by telling other family members. Deciding ‘not to tell’ of someone else’s downfall is to be esteemed above all traits when it is coupled with helping that individual make a recovery.
It is protecting. Their father was vulnerable being unprotected. They could not sleep themselves knowing anything may happen in that state.
It is making it right. Helping to make it right is better than telling someone they are wrong. Jesus didn’t come to tell the world they were wrong. He came to make it right.
It is honouring. Everyone can honour the honourable. Honouring the brokenness of humanity is something else. This honour is not about what the individual does but who they are.
Let us be Shem (and Japheth!) today and walk backwards to someone.
This is what it means to esteem.