Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Christians & Drugs – God’s Quotes on Wine

This is Part 3 in a series about God’s opinion on drugs by study of scriptures concerning the drug, alcohol. If you have not read the prior two posts, you should before reading this. God spoke in Biblical times through the Hebrew language – not English. Therefore, we have examined each of the several words in Hebrew that God used to communicate His opinion on this subject. As a reminder, the highest and best version of “wine” in the Bible was “new wine” – fresh-squeezed, unfermented grape juice. And, all of the other Hebrew words translated as “wine” mean both unfermented and fermented forms in their culture. Given the obvious linguistic and cultural differences, we can only hear clearly by letting God’s word speak through the language in which He actually spoke. It is only through this language, and with their cultural backdrop, and by means of reasonable translation that we will accurately listen to God.

Let’s begin listening to God from a macro level. Aside from the 38 references to “new wine” in the Bible (unfermented), what about the other 192 verses? The table below summarizes all 230 verses on the subject in terms of favorability towards drinking:

“new wine”
Mere Mention

From this macro level, the Bible paints a revealing picture. Of the 230 verses, 117 (over half) speak unfavorably about drinking alcohol while only 8 speak favorably. What does that suggest? And, of the 8 that speak favorably, given the nature of the Hebrew words used, it is just as likely, if not more so, that these are references to unfermented forms (we may never know). And, of the 117 verses that speak unfavorably, 42 of them implore abstinence. What does that suggest regarding God's preference? Why are so many pastors not giving God's mentions of “wine” the benefit of the doubt in their preaching? Why are Christians basing positions strictly from the 8 passages that speak favorably (assuming fermentation), while ignoring the 117 unfavorable (especially the 42 that implore abstinence)? What does that suggest? We can’t judge pastors or each other, but the numbers 117 and 42 far exceed the number 8. That suggests that generally speaking God’s view of recreational consumption of addictive drugs is not favorable. And, if that is true, the individual verses should paint a similar picture.

In Proverbs 23:29-35, God said, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. ‘They struck me,’ you will say, ‘but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.’”
  • Does God really need to say more for us to hear his opinion? Notice that God implores us to not even "try" or sample from mixing bowls – what does that suggest? This passage also addresses drunkenness but implores us to not even sample long before the possibility of getting drunk. Even before sampling, God said “Do not look at wine when it is red.” It will be hard to drink it if you follow these wise commands. By the way, why did God single out the color “red?” Why didn’t He just say while it is in the cup? Red means undiluted (see prior post). When they mixed wine into water up to 20 parts water to 1 part wine, it was no longer red. But, when it was poured directly from the “wineskin” (undiluted) into the cup, it was red. And, God went on to say that wine “bites” and “stings” or poisons like a “serpent”/”adder”. What does all of this clearly suggest about God’s opinion?
In Proverbs 20:1, God said, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
  • Should followers of God unnecessarily consume what God has called a “mocker” or a “brawler"? Here God says that alcohol leads us “astray” to a state of being “not wise.” Would God ever desire that we do something that He has clearly warned will lead us astray? What does this passage suggest of God’s opinion?
In Proverbs 31:4, God said, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink.”
  • What does this verse teach? Isn’t Jesus a "king"? Since we are co-heirs to God’s Kingdom as God’s children aren’t we "rulers"? Does God look favorably upon leaders drinking? What does this verse suggest about God’s opinion on drinking?
In Leviticus 10:8-11 records, “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.’
  • The “tent of meeting” was the precursor to God’s temple. Why would God respond so extremely as killing priests who drink wine in His temple? Also, isn’t Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14)? And, aren’t Christians, priests (1 Peter 2:9)? And, aren't our bodies God’s temples (2 Corinthians 6:16)? What does all of these truths suggest for us today concerning God’s opinion about us drinking alcohol?
In Numbers 6:1-4, God said, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.’
  • As God is Holy (separate, pure, one-of, etc.), He calls us to be separate and holy as well (2 Timothy 1:9). In fact, the Nazirite vow was to separate one’s self to the Lord. The word in this passage for separate is “Pala”, which means to be extraordinary and marvelously distinguished. Why would God require of him who chooses to be distinguished, to abstain from wine? Aren’t we also called to pursue the highest of standards as if unto God in all of our actions? What does this suggest about God’s opinion and preferences?
In Habakkuk 2:15, God says, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
  • Since a “wineskin” was the equivalent of our modern day wine bottle (undiluted, fermented), what does this verse suggest concerning God’s opinion of giving wine to others?

In Deuteronomy 29:5-6, God said, “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.
  • Why did they not drink alcohol? Answer: “that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” What does this suggest for us?

Jeremiah 35:5-19 records, “Then I set before the Rechabites pitchers full of wine, and cups, and I said to them, ‘Drink wine.’ But they answered, ‘We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever…We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters…Thus says the Lord of hosts…The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father's command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me…The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me…to the house of the Rechabites…: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.”
  • What does this passage teach concerning God’s opinion of drinking alcohol and teaching our children to follow us?
Concerning John the Baptist, the fore-running witness of Jesus Christ, God gave only one, solitary command in Luke 1:15, “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.”
  • This was not a Nazirite vow as God only forbid John from consuming alcohol and alcohol alone. And, it was not John's vow but God's vow for John. Remember from Matthew 11:11, Jesus declared of John the Baptist, “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist”. Why would God have as His single requirement of His greatest witness that he not drink alcohol? This being God's single command of John, doesn't that explicitly reveal just how important this is to God? Aren’t we called to the same task of preparing the way for the return of Jesus Christ?
Daniel 1:8 records, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.”
  • What does this passage suggest regarding God's view of consuming alcohol?

1 Timothy 3:1-2 records, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.”
  • These are the qualifications of overseers/elders/pastors. Among them is “sober-minded.” The Greek word here is “nephalios,” which means completely wineless. Elders and Pastors are required to be 100% wineless. And, we are all implored to “aspire” to this noble qualification. What does this suggest about God’s opinion of drinking alcohol?
Notice that these passages span both Testaments and are entirely consistent in message. God has clearly communicated his preference and opinion regarding recreational consumption of addictive drugs. He is not in favor. It is unwise to do that of which God is not in favor. It is also unwise to stake out a position outside of God’s.

Next post will address the more controversial scriptures on wine. Until then, as a closing challenge, re-read all of the above passages while asking yourself this question: “How does abstinence align with all of these passages?” Christian, as the Holy Spirit guides you, you should have a clear and bulletproof answer to that question as well.

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