The question has been asked by a brother in Kenya: “Is there a curse on Africa? as some in Europe suggest”.
Let us begin by studying God’s attitude towards people.
All men. On the authority of Scripture we know “our Saviour God, who desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”, 1 Tim. 2:4. This is regardless of race, nationality or skin colour. The apostles were told to go into all the creation and preach, and, John 3:16, “that whosever believes on Him may not perish, but have life eternal”. Let us hold to these great certainties.
“Christ is the head of every man”, see 1 Cor. 11:3. Again, this is regardless of race or nationality. As an aside, I wish there were as many conferences on headship as there are on leadership.
In Romans 11:15 we are told: “For if their [the Jew] casting away be the world’s reconciliation…” Since the death of Christ, the whole world stands in provisional reconciliation. This does not mean that everyone is saved for heaven, but that God is able to go on with the world for a time, without raining down [deserved] judgment. He views Christ’s sacrifice and is justified in holding back judgment until evil is fully developed.
Cursed be Canaan – not Ham. Now let us look at the time of Noah, and what may be the results of God’s ways in discipline. We have to admit that God’s grace does not set aside his government. We see this with the consequences of the sins of Eve and Adam. Their penalties carry on down to our time; every woman suffers, more or less, in childbirth. We could go on with other examples.
Noah failed but recovered himself. Ham failed by not protecting his father. For some reason, God only cursed Canaan, one of Ham’s sons. He may have been largely responsible for Ham’s failure. Canaan was to be a servant to both Japheth and Shem. We will assume that this discipline included Canaan’s ensuing generations. See Genesis 9:18-27.
The offspring of Noah’s three sons cover the three broad racial divisions of the world – Shem the Asian, Ham the Negroid peoples and Japheth the Caucasians (whites). But Ham’s sons were not all Negroid. His sons were Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt), Phut (Libya) and Canaan. The offspring of the last settled in what is now Palestine – rather than Africa.
Centuries later the tribes of Israel conquered the land of Canaan. God’s command was for them to destroy the inhabitants due to the wickedness of those peoples as well as His promise to Abraham. Some were not overcome but remained as a thorn in the side of Israel. These were brought into bondage to Israel. As an example, consider the Jebusites who possessed Jerusalem. In Joshua 9 we find that they became “hewers of wood and drawers of water” (menial servants) to Israel. As we know from Genesis 11, the line of faith followed from Shem to Abraham, and hence the nation of Israel. So that part of the Noah’s prophecy was fulfilled. Even today Jews are called “Semites” (Shemites).
If - as shown above – Africa does not share in the “curse” on Canaan, how do we account for the sad situation there?
May I suggest that it is because of their giving up God, as stated in Romans 1:18-32. Nor is this unique to Africa. Asian nations were in the same situation (e.g. India, China, Japan, South East Asia). I would also include the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Australia, etc. “Because they thought it not good to have God in their knowledge …”
In the article “Judicial Blindness” (apostlesteaching.net), it is shown that constant refusal to accept God’s testimony results in judicial blinding. The nations (Romans 1:18-32), the Jew (Romans 11:7-8, 25, etc.) and finally Christendom (2 Thess. 2:10-12) are all given up by God because of their refusal of God or His truth. None of this is unique to Africa.
We can say that where the Scriptures were valued, in those areas God has been pleased to give understanding and a measure of wisdom, even in the things of this world – see Job 38:36. Hence we have so-called “progress”.
Make no mistake, where the light of the gospel has been - and is now being refused - judgment will be more severe. “To whom much has been given, much is required”. The African and Asian sections of the Anglican communion are prominent amongst those that refuse to allow practicing sodomites in the pulpit. I thank God for their stand.
The sins of the Fathers. This question was also raised. See also an article of that name at 'apostlesteaching.net'
Briefly, God does not destine anyone to evil conduct. A son or grandson may follow in his forbears’ footsteps, but that is because of learned behaviour, not because God has put it upon him. “Visiting the iniquity upon persons to the third and fourth generations” means that God may allow them to suffer His discipline that follows from wrong conduct. As an example, after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, they decided to suppress religion – the government became avowedly atheistic. God chose to leave them to their own devices for three generations – about 75 years, from 1917 until 1992. It was only then that the Bible was allowed freely into the Communist bloc. This did not mean that all were atheists, nor were all Communists. Neither were any relieved of their responsibility to receive the gospel. Each individual still had his responsibility before God. But as a whole, it seems to me that God visited – in His governmental dealings - the iniquity of the Bolshevik “fathers” on three generations.
MM September 2009