Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Alcohol and the Old Testament

Wrong Uses of Wine
All Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin. The Bible is replete with commands and warnings against the abuse of alcohol.

Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty
(Proverbs 23:20-21).

Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
That they may follow intoxicating drink;
Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!
(Isaiah 5:11).

Woe to men mighty at drinking wine,
Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink
(Isaiah 5:22).

Many other passages condemn drunkenness. Prohibitionists, abstentionists, and moderationists all agree that drunkenness is a sin.

The Godly Use of Wine

Yet, the condemnation of the abuse of wine does not entail a condemnation of all uses of wine. Rather, God says many positive things about wine. Most who oppose the Christian use of wine do not reckon with how the Bible endorses the proper use of alcohol.

Wine is a Gift of God
The Psalmist sings that God wants us to enjoy wine.

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
(Psalm 104:14-15).

This is one of the most positive statements about wine that God has made. Just as God provides the conditions that allow man to cultivate food and oil, so God provides the conditions that allow man to produce wine. Wine is a gift from God to man.

Notice, too, that wine is given to make our hearts glad. It is virtuous, godly, and righteous to enjoy the warmth that a glass of wine gives. Feeling some of the effects of alcohol is not the same as drunkenness.

Those who argue against the righteous use of wine are rejecting one of God’s good gifts. This passage alone ought to be enough to cause abstentionists to pause. If we take God’s word literally, then we will not shrink from believing this passage. Alcohol is a gift from God.

Wine is a Gift to God
God commands wine to be given as an offering to himself.

Now this is what you shall offer on the altar … with the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine [approximately one quart] as a drink offering (Exodus 29:38-40).

Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to Yahweh, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin [one quart] (Leviticus 23:13).

And one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb … and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a sweet aroma to Yahweh … and you shall bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine [two quarts] as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to Yahweh (Numbers 15:5, 7, 10).

God demands that nothing unclean or unholy can ever to be offered to him. Yet, God also commands Israel to regularly include wine in their offerings. Therefore, it is impossible that wine is inherently unclean or unholy. God was pleased when Israel gave wine to him as a gift.

Look at what God also commanded as an offering:

And its drink offering shall be one-fourth of a hin for each lamb; in a holy place you shall pour out the strong drink to Yahweh as an offering (Numbers 28:7).

God commands not only wine, but also strong drink as an offering. Again, it is inconceivable that God would allow something sinful to be poured out on his holy altar. God was pleased to receive alcohol from Israel as an offering.

Wine is a Blessing
Isaac blessed Jacob, praying for plenty of wine:

Therefore may God give you
Of the dew of heaven,
Of the fatness of the earth,
And plenty of grain and wine.
(Genesis 27:28).

Throughout Israel’s history, God promised an abundance of wine for faithful obedience:

Honor Yahweh with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
(Proverbs 3:9).

Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that Yahweh your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you (Deuteronomy 7:12-13).

As a reward for faithful obedience, God also commanded Israel to purchase not only wine, but also strong drink, which was even more alcoholic than wine.

And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

The abundance of wine and strong drink is a sign of godliness and blessing. Indeed, God promised an abundance of wine for those returning from exile:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says Yahweh,
“When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
And all the hills shall flow with it.
I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them (Amos 9:13-14).

Wine is a also part of the great eschatological feast:

And in this mountain Yahweh of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees (Isaiah 25:6).

An abundance of wine is one of the signs of blessing that God graciously promised throughout Scripture. God would never tell his people that wine is a blessing, if it were actually a curse or sinful or foolish.

The Absence of Wine
The absence of wine is always regarded negatively, as a sign of the absence of God. For example, God threatens to curse Israel by preventing them from drinking their wine:

But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you … You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them (Deuteronomy 28:15, 39).

As a further curse, God threatened that foreigners would drink Israel’s wine:

Yahweh has sworn by His right hand And by the arm of His strength: “Surely I will no longer give your grain As food for your enemies; And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, For which you have labored (Isaiah 62:8).

Just as God promises an abundance of wine as a blessing for faithfulness, so God also promises the removal of wine as a curse for unfaithfulness.

In Scripture, prohibition is a curse, the result of disobedience. Those who object to the use of wine on the grounds that it is inherently evil, and that its use is sinful, should pause to consider the fact that they are declaring to be a curse that which God has declared to be a blessing, and a blessing that which God has declared to be a curse. This is a grievous error.

Wine is a Symbol of the Gospel
Isaiah uses wine as a symbol of the gospel:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).

It would incongruous for God to use wine as a symbol of the gospel and yet prohibit his people from enjoying it. The consistent testimony of the Old Testament is that wine is a gift and a blessing and is to be enjoyed by God’s people.


hooner said...

Pretty good article. There is a time and place for everything as Eccl. says. Wine is for celebration with friends and food not for drunkeness.

William Maricle said...

Why are you so desperate to drink alcohol?

Throughout your posts on the godliness of flirting with drunkenness, you repeatedly misrepresent or fail to bring up the most basic arguments against strong drink.

As a 'pastor' you must be aware that 'wine' in the Bible refers to any drinkable product of grapes. Check your dictionary.

You also as a thinking adult must be aware that there is no such thing as naturally 100% 'non-alcoholic' juice. An absolutely sterile environment is necessary from the moment the grape is squeezed. Otherwise, wild yeast will start the fermentation process. Sterilization is also essential throughout the long production cycle to control the rotting process (which is exactly which fermentation is), else the wine will naturally be undrinkable as God designed all rotten things to smell and taste.

You and your 'Bible scholar' friends expect us to go along with you as your impose our modern technologies and skills onto our biblical forefathers. Thanks, but I'm not buying it.

Excellent sanitation, refrigeration, mass production, bottling, and efficient transportation were not widely available 500 years ago. So, please don't pretend these methods of producing drinkable high alcoholic beverages were widely available more than 2,000 years ago.

Of course the liquid from grapes more than a few hours old had alcohol. ALL of it does! But don't try to deceive us into believing that what we call "wine" today is anything close to the product commonly consumed in Bible times. Hence there is a need to "tarry long at the wine" before its effects would be noticed. Hence, it was unreasonable that the Apostles were drunk at an early hour of the day in Acts 2. They did not have a time to guzzle that much wine.

The beverage that you feel called to spend your time defending is appropriately called "STRONG DRINK" in the real Scriptures. It isn't ever highly looked upon in God's Word.

I would like to end this by urging all who read this to turn from the Jesus of Eric Adams. This Jesus attended a wedding at which alcohol was so prevalent that they unexpectedly ran out! Then this Jesus used his authority as Creator to produce another batch of alcohol so potent that even the already drunken partiers could tell it packed a superior punch. 'Pastor' Adams would have enjoyed his Jesus-induced hangover.

This is NOT my Jesus. Praise His HOLY name!

Eric Adams said...

You pretty much ignored all of the Biblical evidence (Psalm 104:14-15, etc.) that I cite in this post and others in this series.

jake said...

Im teaching sunday on John 2:1-11 where Jesus turns the water from wine. Wine in those times was fermented because obviously they didnt have fridgeration. Also wine was harder to get because it had to undergo fermentation thats why when the wine ran out it was out. Also just because its better tasting dosnt mean its stronger. Also, at the time of Christ and way before him wine was used as a way of purifying the water, Try finding clean water for such a mass of people. They would dilute the wine with water in hopes that the ALCOHOL in it would kill the bacteria and its seemed to work to me. Above all the whole problem with drinking in churches and opinions are all different. If your a leader among your church follow your qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 v. 3 not addicted to wine v. 8 addicted to much wine theres many more but it simply dosnt say all drinking is an abomination of God. Im under 21 and before I became a Christian I drank alot in High School. Drunkeness is all a matter of one person. I could drink more than someone and not be drunk while they would be drunk. The same as it is today if you can handle one glass of wine, your able and if you cant then its simple, you cant.

Grace said...

Dear Eric,

I accept that wine is not unholy and God is accepting it as an offering. However, offering does not mean drinking. It was poured out.... Some people would moan and groan now. :-)

In considering today's attitude of almost worship and abuse of alcohol, keep in mind what Paul said about staying away from something that could be a stumbling block for anyone else including a brother.

For this reason my husband and I decided not to drink alcohol anymore some 38 years ago. We have not suffered because of it but gained.

Eric Adams said...

Grace, the weaker brother is important but often misunderstood. Here's my take:

TRUTH459 said...

(1Timothy 5:23) Stop drinking only water, but use a little wine for your stomach because of your frequent illnesses.
HOW do You think the USA ushered in Prohibition...? And then Repealed it? By using complete abstinance from Alcohol.
Did YOU miss... 1Timothy 5:23..? Did YOU at one time have a PROBLEM with Alcohol...?

Eric Adams said...

TRUTH459, I have no idea what your point is. For the record, I have never had a problem with alcohol - I tilt my head back and finish the cup.

Robert Derrick said...

Why are you so desperate to drink alcohol?

A familiar accusation against the temperament of others.

The more accurate question is: why are you so worked up about stopping others from drinking alcohol?

If indeed it is a sin, where in Scripture are you encouraged or required to stop someone else from sinning.

Jesus' procedure for dealing with a fault among brethren is to admonish them, and then leave them to themselves if they fail to hear. Not to go after them and hound them about it.

I have seen much more damage done in the church by zelots, trying to police others, than by backsliders trying to be left alone.

The real issue hear is a steadfastness to remain in the liberty of the Law, and not be judged by the conscience of others, who hold to commandments that God never plainly said. (1 Cor 10:29)

William Maricle said...

1 of 2

Dear Robert Derrick,

You implied that my comment was "hounding" and harmful because I dared to vocalize what I believe to be right. In your vocalization of what you deem to be right, you did EXACTLY what your conscience told you that I was wrong in doing. But, you did it to me anyway. You judged my judging. You violated your own principle. If you have any character, you will delete your post.

As for myself, my conscience dictates that I say something. You may not comprehend this, but, believe me, standing up for righteousness is not easy, fun, convenient, popular, nor enjoyable. Standing up against any sin has always brought backlash as Jesus discovered on the cross.

You wrote, "Jesus' procedure for dealing with a fault among brethren is to admonish them." I agree with this part of your assessment of Jesus. So, Robert, why are modern Christians, which you seem to flawlessly typify, so disdainful of christlikeness? The word admonish means to "warn or reprimand someone firmly." The modern "Christian" and "pastor" flies into a tiff when anyone dares to make a pet vice feel the least bit uncomfortable by, say, writing a comment at the end of a post promoting alcoholic beverages.

How was I "hounding?" True "hounding" would probably be sending a sixteen chapter letter passing judgment after judgment, and following it with more letters including a whopping thirteen chapter letter in much the same vein. Who would such a thing? Only Paul? Definite "hounding" would be a shepherd leaving his ninety and nine sheep and PURSUING the one sheep "trying to be left alone." Who would "hound" in such a "damaging" way? Anyone you know?

Robert, a young commenter only two posts after mine erroneously believes and promotes that the Savior attended a drunken wedding where the guests had unexpectedly quickly consumed every last drop of what had been assumed to be an adequate supply of booze. This young man further believes that Jesus' reaction was to supernaturally supply that crowd with even more alcohol.

And yet, you, rather than standing up for the Lord's good name and helping that young man by debunking his blasphemous idea, chose to use your time judging me as the dangerous one. Robert, as a zealot on a crusade to silence anyone still possessing a modicum of zeal for righteousness, your work is almost done. The weary, lonely Shammahs are fewer and farther between.

You asked me a question: "Why are you so worked up about stopping others from drinking alcohol?" In answer to your question, I can only forward your question onto the countless people who warn others about any of the countless other dangers that exist in the world. It would be heartless to, in prudence, foresee evil and fail to "admonish" those on the path to the danger ahead.

On the subject of alcohol, I don't think you nor the original poster are interested in any principles that would endanger your "liberty" to be enslaved to alcohol. However, if you actually would read it, let me know. I'll share my unpopular thoughts.

William Maricle said...

2 of 2

Finally, my original question, which you adroitly sidestepped, still stands. Why are you so desperate to drink alcohol?

If you aren't enslaved by it, why drink it? Is fresh wine (modern English would call it grape juice) not enough for you? Fine, how about Coke, orange juice, Pepsi, lemonade, Gatorade, Dr. Pepper, Kiwi Strawberry Snapple, iced tea, cappuccino, root beer, grapefruit juice, coconut milk, Seven Up, non-alcoholic beer, hot coffee, iced coffee, green tea, black tea...or even pure, refreshing spring water? Nope, sorry, those are enough for you. You must have your alcohol.

What kind of "liberty" are you living in?

I live in China where everyone drinks copious amount of green tea, but I cannot name for you one person who has ever died nor one family harmed from causes directly related to drinking green tea. However, you and I could name countless lives that have been and are even now being damned by alcohol. You and our generation of "liberated" Christians are like a little kid who can have his choice of pet (puppy, kitten, rabbit, frog, hamster, bird, lizard...), but he insists on cuddling with a venomous serpent while declaring that he, Robert Derrick, will never be bitten AND while encouraging and justifying other kids to play with and tease the deadly adder AND while disparaging anyone who dares to mess up their fun by warning them of their foolishness. Sad.

Why, Sir, are you so desperate to drink alcohol?

Living in true liberty by God's grace,

Proverbs 23:31,32 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

Child of God said...

Okay here I go. Truth is anything can become addictive like food, shopping, unhealthy relationships, sex and on and on, however it would be impossible to abstain from all these natural parts of life when in proper context are good not evil. I believe it is a matter of the heart. A healed whole heart fully given over to the Father has no need for fulfillment through other means and this is what Jesus died for to bind up the broken hearted, set the captives free and open the prison doors. Having said that a glass of wine is no problem to me because it can never be an idol because my heart belongs to my Father God and I am His daughter. Caution to all the above let Father God heal and make whole your heart first do not depend on anything food, alcohol, sex etc. to self medicate let The love of the Father, the power of the word and the person of the Holy Spirti make you while. The word says those who worship idols become like them deaf dumb and blind, I would put that in a spiritual context. Spiritually deaf dumb and blind. The scriptures say to be free from Idols that is how I would admonish my dear sisters and brothers in Christ then you can enjoy the gifts God gives with a clear conscience and healed while heart!

Justin H. said...

Sin os in the heart of man, we can turn anything into a sin. For those arguing Jesus would not have supplied the wedding withwalcoholic wine, consider this: When Jesus supplied bread to a crowd, there were leftovers... Now, do you think someone there gorged themselves on bread? Most certainly,and that's gluttony. Gluttony is sin just the same, but Jesus supplied bread. God supplies everything. It's us who use it for sin.

William Maricle said...

This is getting silly. Of course Jesus blesses us with things that we can then turn around and use in sinful ways. This encompasses everything. But the insinuation that Jesus provided alcohol to a crowd that, in such case, could have only been already intoxicated is something VERY different. Maybe your jesus would that. My Lord did not.