Yesterday morning I was sitting at my desk with my Bible still unopened, but ready to look at Proverbs for a devotional for this evening when my phone rang. I picked it up and found that it was Sister Sharon Richardson calling from Lewiston. After the usual greetings she, said that the preacher of the church where she attends had a message last Sunday on the “Marriage in Cana” in which he said that Jesus made wine for the wedding guests. Sharon couldn’t believe that Christ would make something alcoholic. Perhaps I need to point out that Sister Richardson hates any references to Greek and Hebrew. To her, the King James Bible is printed in gold letters. So in other words, she was stuck with “wine.” And in truth so are we. Anyway, I explained my position on the subject, and she seemed somewhat mollified.
After we hung up, I opened my Bible to the next verse in our on-going study. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” I didn’t have to pray about a theme for today; the Lord slapped me in the face with it.
I begin by saying it is a difficult thing to absolutely condemn the drinking of wine, using only the Bible. Nevertheless that is what I will try to do this evening. It is difficult, but not impossible, especially when speaking to people who are the children of God. Drinking wine does not appear to be explicitly condemned in God’s Word, and in fact it seems to be encouraged under certain very special conditions. But that doesn’t mean that the use of wine is generally encouraged. This verse before us tonight, along with many others, discourages its use.
I have not knowingly consumed a full swallow of any alcohol since early in my Christian life. The only possible exception might be some forms of it hidden in medicine, or as used by cooks, without my knowledge, in a restaurant or two. And my refusal to buy, drink or use alcohol is directly linked to my relationship to Christ. You could say that I am “fully persuaded in my own mind” that I should not drink that stuff. But more than this, I am convinced that no Christian should use any form of alcohol.
And of course, I am not talking about drunkenness. There is no controversy about the evils and sinfulness of drunkenness. “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” – Isaiah 5:11. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness” – Romans 13:13. I Corinthians 6 tells us that drunkards are as rare in Heaven as fish on the moon. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” “Be not drunk with wine” – Ephesians 5:18. But merely drinking a bit of wine now and then is not the same as drunkenness. But there IS only one way to become drunk or to become a drunkard, and it begins with a simple sip. Refuse that first sip, and I guarantee that you’ll never be drunk – you will never become a drunkard – you will never become an alcoholic..
Despite other arguments – medical and social, I believe that God does condemn the use of alcohol. In fact it might be said that abstinence embodies the spirit of the Kingdom of God. Why? Because “wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
What does the Bible reveal about the mocking nature of wine and alcohol?
In Genesis 9:20-26 we find the first Biblical reference to wine. Noah and his family had come off the ark into a world completely without people but themselves. I can’t speak to their mental and emotional condition, but their new world was very, very different to them. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Noah “began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.” Without knowing a great deal about the details, we know enough to realize that Noah’s wine made him loose his self-restraint, his self-discipline, his inhibitions and his ABILITY TO REASON. There was some sort of additional sin committed that day which brought down God’s wrath upon his family. Noah’s wine ruined one of his sons and a branch of his grandsons. The first recorded use of alcohol was a disaster which condemned a major segment of human society.
The second record of drunkenness in the Bible is recorded in Genesis 19:30-38. In this case Lot and his two daughters had been delivered from Sodom before its destruction. Wine was involved in the debauchery of Lot’s daughters. You and I live in a very ungodly and immoral society – not much unlike Sodom. We have little control over our surroundings, we never know what our neighbors might do. But we don’t want to become victims, and one step in our self-preservation is to make sure that we never lose control of our own hearts and minds through alcohol. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” If we want to stay in control of ourselves, the lesson is obvious – avoid mind-bending drugs like wine.
Mrs. Richardson pointed out that one of stupidities of our society is the use of alcohol by our decision-makers, like congressmen and senators. Alliances are made and finalized over drinks; decisions are made over drinks; lives are changed over drink. And such was the case when Isaac wanted to bless his elder son Esau. Yes, he was old and blind, but he was also intoxicated to some degree, when he thought that he had his hand upon Esau, while it was actually his conniving son Jacob. Isaac demanded some fine venison for supper, but Jacob made a substitution. “And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.” How much of the success of that deception was dependent upon the wine that Isaac drank? It has been clearly proven that every drop of alcohol, not only kills the ability to think clearly at the moment, but it also permanently lessens the abilities of the mind for the future.
None of us are senators or president of a country, but we do have to make hard choices sometimes. For some of us there are times when we stand on God’s pulpit before a few spiritually hungry saints. What if I asked one of our men to read the scriptures on Sunday morning and after he came up we hear him slurring his words and stumbling over sentences, belching when he was done. What would you do if you smelled alcohol on my breath before a church service?
What did God say in Lev. 10:9-11 to men in spiritual leadership “The LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” If it is sin to drive a car under the influence of wine, what is to preach in that condition?
Numbers 6:3 describes the vow and the characteristics of the Nazarite. If abstinence from wine was a requirement for those people, then it should apply to us as well. We are not unlike Nazarites – Melchisedecian priests – alcohol should be as foreign to us as Tagalog or Swahili.
In Deuteronomy 21 there is a very sad and very serious law given to all Israel. We don’t have any record that it was ever expressly carried out, but it could have been. “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” Please notice that drunkenness was considered to be a major part of this rebellious and stubborn heart. Sometimes the alcohol flows in after the rebelliousness and waywardness have taken control. But sometimes drunkenness precedes the actual attack upon that parental authority. In either case, we can see its evil influence.
In our modern society, with all its medicine and science, expecting mothers are warned not to eat and drink certain things, lest they somehow cripple their unborn children. The plague that we have in our world today with various kinds of sick babies is due in part to women’s refusal to heed the warnings of the experts – including the Lord. In Judges 13 we read of a woman, the wife of Manoah, who was told by an angel that she was going to give birth to a very special son. This child would be Samson – one of the great Judges of Israel. “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing…” If it is dangerous for mothers to drink the mockery of wine, then it should be dangerous for us as well.
In Proverbs 31 Solomon describes some of the instruction his mother gave him before he ascended to the throne. They are lessons which could be applied to anyone and should be learned by everyone, but they are particularly appropriate to people in positions of leadership. “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” Why do such a high number of auto accidents involve alcohol? Isn’t it obvious? It’s because alcohol perverts our ability to make proper judgments. Why are so many crimes fueled by drugs and alcohol? “Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”
Going back to Leviticus 10:9-11 – “The LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” As Christians we need to mark the difference between holy living and the unholy, and I believe this is one area where this distinction can and should be easily made. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Stay away from them for the sake of your good name and for the Name of the Lord.