"They struck me, but
I did not become ill; They beat me, but
I did not know it.
When shall I awake? I will seek another drink." Proverbs 23:35
The life and times of the drunken fool comes to an end with this last verse. Yet this last verse as much as any of the others describes perfectly what alcohol can do to someone. It makes them a fool. The problem is that they do not know it - nor do they really care. Their life is spent going from one drunken episode to another - or as we see in today's world - they live from one party to the next. They are unaware of the real damage that is being done to their lives - and even when it is evident it is worn more as a badge of honor than as what it is - the marks left on a fool in the midst of his pursuit of more and more sensuality. When this drunken episode and party is over - his thought when he awakens is the next party, the next time he can drink, the next time he can act the fool.
This last verse is the drunken fool speaking to himself. He is remembering some of his most recent party experiences. He remembers that someone hit him - but the inebriated deadening of his senses did not remember it. His thought is that he was not badly injured - or at least not injured enough to be incapacitated. That is the idea behind the word "ill" here. It speaks of being ill enough to be weak or incapcitated. It speaks only of a severe wounding. Since this drunken fool was not so badly injured that he was laid up for days - he doesn't even consider the fact that he was struck.
Even worse he repeats this again when he says, "They beat me, but I did not know it." The first statement was a single blow received from someone. This second statement speaks of being beaten with multiple blows. His answer to this is that he did not even know he was being beaten. I've actually met people who were beaten badly - but did not realize it until someone else told them the next day when they were questioned as to why they had bruises on their body. What is truly sad is that they laughed about the situation, finding it funny that they were in a serious fight and didn't even know it. At this point I must also mention another sin of the drunken fool - and that is that some of them beat others. What I refer to is those drunken fools who beat their wives and their children. Some of them do not even remember the pain their inflicted on their loved ones while in the midst of their drunken stupor. The point here is that these fools are so drunk that they do not know what is happening during their beatings.
The last statement here is the worst of all. "When shall I awake? I will seek another drink." As the drunken fool falls asleep after his binge - he knows that he will wake up eventually. Does he awaken to seriously consider what he as done - the damage that is in the wake of his indulgent lifestyle? He does not. In fact, most alcoholics will blame everyone else for their choices and the havoc that follows in their wake. Their thought when they awaken is getting another drink. The literal statement here is this, "I will yet again drink." His thoughts are dominated by the next party, the next binge, the next over-indulgence, his next drunk. His life has become his drunkenness - and his desire to drown his miserable life in another bout of partying.
I know that some of you who read this may be thinking that I am too hard on the drunken fool. In fact you are pretty offended that I use that term to describe this man or woman. You prefer calling them an alcoholic - referring to their situation as a social disease rather than a series of foolish choices. You almost cringe at the strong statements that have been made in this post. God desires to deliver the drunken fool - and He loves him as He does any other sinner. But God makes it clear here and elsewhere that drunkenness is not funny, neither is it something we should treat lightly. God would not spend seven verses in a book that promotes wisdom unless this lifestyle was a breeding ground for fools. Having been a drunken fool in my past also gives me a pretty clear perspective on this sin. I know first hand the damage that comes from living this way. I also know that since I was in high school and college things have gotten progressively worse. Living in a college town and ministering to college students has made me aware that drunkenness on our campuses is running rampant. We don't even blink any longer - nor do we weep and pray for those who are caught in these lifestyles. We just say that they're kids and that is the way that kids act these days. We shrug our shoulders and walk away. Yet the damage increases every weekend. I know because I often deal with the young men and women who ache from it. Maybe instead of just winking at this - we should begin to fall to our knees and pray that God would so revive His church and restore us. Maybe we should not just complain and vote for dry counties - but also wade into the world of these young men and women who desperately need Jesus Christ in their lives. Maybe we should fight drunkenness with the greatest weapons we have in our arsenal - the gospel of Jesus Christ - and the truth of God's Word. Maybe then we could begin to see a harvest - not of drunken fools - but of redeemed ones who have turned to Jesus Christ and, as a result, have become wise!
Your eyes will see strange things And your mind will utter perverse things. Proverbs 23:33
In our look at the life and times of the drunken fool we next encounter the physical effects of alcohol on our eyes and mouth. It is a proven fact medically that alcohol will affect our minds - and through that our ability to think and respond to things clearly.
Our brains control both of these functions and since the brain has a large blood supply going to them, they are more quickly influenced by the alcohol levels rising in our blood due to drinking. Within less than an hour two major problems develop for the drunken fool. First the
brain itself is hindered from its ability to have nerves function normally. Alcohol in the blood supply depresses our nerve conductivity - thus it also results in a slow down of our ability to think and react to things. Next as the blood alcohol level reaches muscles - our eye muscles will lose their full ability to function and we will begin to have blurred vision. As these things are multiplied by the drunken fool - the brain may begin to misinterpret information and won't react properly to stimuli that are coming to it. The more acute the situation the more that things become distorted with some even having hallucingenic conditions in their comprehension of what is happening to them. One thing I learned while researching these things on the internet is that this is why we should never drink and drive. The more drunk someone is - the more their ability to react to stimuli is impaired - making them very dangerous on the road. One test involved giving goggles to drivers that simulated various stages of drunkenness. At lower blood alcohol levels the failure level of drivers to pass even simple tests was frightening to see. Things only got worse as the person's blood alcohol levels rose.
The second statement here is that not only will the drunken fool see strange things - but he will also say "perverse things." When the brain is filled with higher and higher levels of blood alcohol - the brains ability to filter things is severely hampered. Things that would normally be supressed flow freely. The fact that perversity flows more at these blood alcohol levels should be of little shock to us since we know that the Bible says that we are fallen and sinful. I've been around people who said the most horrible things when they were drunk. There are people who are the nicest most discreet folks until they get some liquor into them. Suddenly their mouths are transformed as they begin to curse and say sexually perverse things to the opposite sex. Some were horrified to learn how they spoke the next day as they recovered from their drunken state. Yet a simple reading of Romans chatper 3 should remind us that one of the traits of the sinful nature is its horrific effect on the mouth and the tongue. Romans 3:13-14
tells us that sinful man's throat is, "an open grave." We are also told, "With their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips." Finally we are reminded there that their mouths are, "full of cursing and bitterness." Oh how the mouth of fallen man is loosed without any discernment when alcohol numbs their thinking and their conscience. Unfortunately, I've known of relationships that were ended because of things that were said in a drunken stupor.
The wise man knows that the last thing he needs is a relaxation of his ability to discern and discreetly chose how he speaks and lives. Since alcohol deadens these things, wisdom tells us to steer clear of all abuse of alcohol. Wisdom warns us against drinking any level of alcoholic beverages because it may deaden our heart's ability to hold our tongues from saying truly stupid and foolish things. Such passages as these in Proverbs should warn even the novice that taking up an alcoholic drink can be dangerous indeed - especially if we want to see things clearly and speak those things that honor and glorify God.
Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent And stings like a viper. Proverbs 23:31-32
As we continue our look at the dangers of alcohol abuse we are warned that wine will look good when we see it. There is a certain asthetic beauty to a beautiful glass with wine in it. We see its color and note that it sparkles in the cup. The alcohol industry does everything that it can to enhance the look of their product. Beer is sold to us with people pouring it into a glass where we watch the foam grow along with the beer itself in the glass. Everything is done to make sure that we are enamoured with the sight of this drink. Consider as well that every commercial that seeks to sell these things is filled with skinny people who all look amazingly good - and voila - they are all drinking what we are supposed to be buying as well. The secret message to us is that we can look that good too if we drink their beer, wine, or whiskey. But, the proverb warns us that there is a different experience awaiting us when we actually drink this stuff in abundance.
We are told the truth here - that alcohol bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. What we are being alerted to is the effect of the alcohol on our system as we become more and more inebriated with it. We will find ourselves experiencing a type of poisoning of our system. Just like a snake and a viper bite will affect our vision and our ability to speak and walk - so also does the imbibing of alcohol. We will find ourselves strangely affected as this stuff hits our bloodstream and begins inhibiting our brain and physical functions. I find it somewhat disingenuous that we hear over and over again that alcohol can actually enhance our health. But what we are NOT told is how alcohol can poison our system and destroy our bodies. The amount of alcoholic drink we can have to make us healthier (and this is not in every case) is rather small - a small glass of wine often being used as the example. The problem is that in our party society we are not drinking for our health - we are drinking to party - to lower our inhibitions and help us do things we normally would not do. But the problems come not just to our mental state - but there are damages that happen to our brain, our kidneys, and our liver when we poison ourselves with too much alcohol.
As I've said earlier, I was a weekend drunk before I was saved. That also means that I have had the unfortunate situation of not only being drunk - but also of having a hangover and of being very sick when I poisoned myself wth alcoholic drinks. To describe what happens when you do this is difficult because it is hard for some to grasp what it might feel like to have multimple sledge hammers converging on the sides of your head while having a stomach ache and a feeling like you are going to throw up. It is difficult to describe how someone's whisper can sound like someone shouting in your ears. Yet these things are signs that you are poisoning yourself with the venom of alcohol abuse. Oh, before I leave this aspect of our current proverb I would like to regale you with what it looks like when someone abuses alcohol for a lifetime. They die of something called scirosis of the liver.
I was able to lead a man to Christ who had been a drunk his entire life. He was in his late 40's but looked like he was around 70. He came to Christ just as he was learning of his condition. His alcohol abuse had effectively destroyed his liver, which was in the process of shutting down. He told me to use his situation to warn others to stay away from alcohol and drunkenness. His body began to turn yellow as it also swelled to about twice its normal size. As his liver shut down he was blinded by the impurities that were in his blood. They also began to kill all the other organs in his body. It was not a pretty death that he died. That was the lifetime effect of someone who literally drank themselves to death.
The Word of God is trying to warn us of the dangers of alcohol. If we are wise we will approach alcoholic drinks in a similar way that we would approach drinking Draino or some other kind of known poison. Just because alcohol will poison us slower than these things is no reason to treat it any less cautiously. We live in a culture that glories in its alcohol abuse - and does not let us know the backside of this lifestyle. I've always wanted to cut one commercial for a Super Bowl that would present alcohol truthfully. It would involve people who are not pretty - drinking alone or even at a party. We would watch as they drink themselves into a foolish stupor - but the commecial would continue to follow them as they began throwing up uncontrollably. Then the commercial would end with them waking up the next morning as the sound track would distort with the sound of people talking to them - yet sounding like a bullhorn being used to deafen them. The tag line on the commercial would be something like this, "People who tell you to drink promise a good time." At this point the commercial would review the people throwing up uncontrollably and say, "Does this look like a good time?" A quick shot of someone dying of liver disease in all its horror would come next with the final statement, "Yeah, good times." That would at least begin to balance the scales just a little with wisdom when it comes to drinking alcoholic drinks and the truth. Will it ever happen? What do you think?
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Proverbs 23:29-30
We are about to read one of the most amazing sections of Proverbs that there is. These next seven verses are one of the most poignent commentaries on alcohol and drinking that there is in Scripture. It is also one of the most plain statements against getting drunk. I am not one who states that the Biblical view is complete abstinence from alcohol - simply because Scripture itself does not state that. The Bible teaches us to steer clear from getting drunk. It also warns against lingering long over wine - and I would also argue that the Bible militates against the whole "party culture" that exists in our society today. My own personal stance is complete abstinence from alcohol. The reason for this is because I've led at least two men to Christ who were alcoholics. If I were to drink - and they were to follow my example - there is good reason to be concerned that they would be ruined by my abuse of my freedom in Christ. Therefore, rather than make my brothers stumble, I will renounce my freedom to have anything to do with alcohol.
This passage though is about abuse of alcohol. It asks a series of questions that are all rhetorical in nature. They are this way because they have to do with the consequences of alcohol in someone's life who is abusing it. Who has woe? The answer is the alcohol abuser. Woe means to have a horrific distress. Take a close look at the drunkard and you will find plenty of woe and sorrow in his life. There are so many ways that this happens - through broken relationships - through wasted lives - through the regret and horror of the aftermath of a drunken driving accident or arrest. There is so much sorrow from the immediate consequences - as well as the long term ones that come out of drinking and drunkenness. But too often men want to make it look as if these are rare consequences rather than the norm of alcohol abuse.
The next set of two questions here deal with the issue of contentions and complaining. Unfortunately, before I came to Christ, I was often in parties where the abuse of alcohol was frequent. I can tell you from experience that the contentions and complaining are very much true. Guys would break out into fights and would have major altercations when they were drunk. I remember one friend who not only had a fight, but was beaten bloody and shot before the night was over. He survived, but the gunshot wound is still in his body to this day as a monument to his stupidity and drunken lack of sense. The complaining usually comes from those who have to deal with the drunk. Their wives complain of their actions. Their children complain of their actions. Their employer complains of their alcohol abuse. They all feel the effects of the lack of self-control - and in some cases the anger that comes with a drunk stumbling into the home. It is a sad but true fact that many men return home to beat their wives and children in their drunken state. Their complaining is testimony to a man who has lost all self-control and who is slowly ruining his life.
The next couplet here has to do with questions about wounds and redness of eyes. The wounds come from stumbling around drunk - running into things and injuring oneself. They may come from fights and their aftermath. The redness of eyes comes in the morning when the drunk gets up and faces the difficulty of recovering from the previous evening's activities. Not only is there redness of eyes - but there is also a pounding headache - and at times a stomach that is sick from the alcohol of the previous night.
These things are all said of those who "linger long over wine." This speaks of someone who drinks - and stays at a place where they serve them. These are the men who stay at bars well into the night. They may start at happy hour and not finish his drinking until after midnight. The drunk may have 5 to 10 drinks as he pours out the problems he has with the bar tender. He lingers long over a beer or a hard drink - and has another when he is done. The passage here also says that there are those who go to taste "mixed wine." Mixed wine refers to ways that men would mix wine with other things to make it better - and often to make it more intoxicating. It would in some ways refer to the way that men mix drinks in bars today.
We are going to get a pretty good picture of the drunk over the next several days. We are going to see his actions as well as the consequences of them. We are going to hear warnings against the things that he does. We will hear warnings about alcohol and the way that it can lure someone into its trap. We will hear about how alcohol promises one thing, yet delivers something quite different. We will also see that when we give ourselves over to this habit and this abuse, we will find that it is a trap that shuts over us and does much to bring great destruction in our lives. The wise man knows that wine and strong drink are deadly and deceptive. That is why he stays away from them.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31:4-5
Mixing authority and alcohol is a very bad thing to do. As Bathsheba gave her counsel to Solomon her son, she made clear to him that this was the case. She said clearly to him that is was not for kings to drink wine or to desire strong drink. These two terms, wine and strong drink both describe alcoholic drinks. Wine refers to the fruit of the vine - grapes - but in the form of them squeezed and made into wine of a lower alcohol level. Strong drink refers to drinks that are much stronger - probably something akin to whiskey or some type of grain alcohol. It was usually used to get drunk quickly - and in some cases was used medicinally to act as a type of pain killer.
Solomon is told that it is not right for a king to drink these things. The reason that she gives to him for this prohibition is that if he does, there is a chance that he will drink and forget "what is decreed." This is a reference to the Word of God. For Israel, the Word of God was also the place where their civil law was found. But either way the concern was that while in a drunken state, he might forget the civil law - or the law of God. When he did, he would then forget the rights of the afflicted. These are the less fortunate, the poor, and those who look to the king to defend their rights.
Drunkenness causes us to function apart from wisdom. When a man is drunk he does not think normally. The alcohol leads him to excess in regard to his emotions. It can also have a deadening effect when it comes to his normal moral restraints. This is why it is not wise to mix drink and authority. When you do, the person in authority is more likely to abuse it - because he will not be thinking properly so as to make godly judgments.
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one
with rags. Proverbs 23:21 (NASB)
Here are the consequences of the sins of drunkenness and gluttony. The father of these sons has been seeking to aim for their hearts on these issues. Now he does so by letting them know where these sins will take them in the future.
This dad is not brow-beating his boys as he says this. If he was, this would not be three verses long - but 1003. That is the way of the lecture - and most of them are usually ignored. This wise father takes the time to give his sons a call to wise and a godly heart. Then he takes a moment to offer them a command of instruction - and follows that up with a warning about the consequences that are coming for those who live such lifestyles. Then he is quiet. Having an advanced degree in the art of "Father-Lecturing," I wish that I was wholly unlearned in this area. I've engaged in lectures that took far too long - and were usually tuned out the moment I began my second (of 53 points). This dad just puts out the facts - and lets them sit with his son.
This dad knows that if his sons ignore him - all the additional words in the world will make little to no difference. They will become the cautionary tale for others through the consequences that come upon them. As a result, this father wants to make sure his sons know the truth - but that they know it with brevity and a lack of wordiness. Their hearts will not be turned due to the length of his talks. They will be changed and turned due to the work of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to teach them and lead them in the truth.
The heavy drinker and glutton will come to poverty. This is the first warning and consequence that the dad tells his son. For a few years in seminary I had the honor of being able to work and preach at the Union Mission in Memphis, Tennessee. We would serve food to the men - and afterward would take turns bringing a message to them. After the preaching we would sit with whoever was interested and share with them personally. While doing this I met numerous men who were in bondage to alcohol. Many of these men were former executives - some who would still be wearing an expensive suit - as they slept on the streets of Memphis. Their drunkenness had destroyed their lives. I remember one man who had previously had an office in a downtown skyscraper. He told me that just two years ago he was pulling down a six-figure salary, had a beautiful family, and lived in a house worth nearly $350,000. Due to the sin of drunkenness and an addiction to alcohol - he had lost all of this. Every month that I read this passage - I usually remember him. Truly, his sin and brought him to poverty. The glutton will have the same problems as well. His poverty though may be an inability to play with his children - or a poverty of respect as others wonder why he has so little self-control. His poverty may be a lack of self-respect himself - as he struggles with his weight. I've personally experienced some of these things as I've struggled with gluttony.
The second thing that happens to those who indulge in these sins is that a drowsiness will come upon them. It is a drowsiness that will clothe them with rags. Both of these sins lead to a lack of awareness and also - honestly - a person who has to sleep more. The drunk has it because he has to sleep off the affects of his drinking. The glutton experiences it because he is too full - or too overweight to exercise. The result of that is that he is sleepy all the time. There are also problems that result from blood sugar levels and other medical conditions that rob the glutton from the alertness that he should have. These things, if left undealt with long enough, will clothe these men with rags. They will miss promotions - and some will even lose their jobs.
The wise father will warn his children of the real consequences of these sins. He does so - not to be melodramatic. He even avoids such things. But he does tell his sons the truth. His hope is that ultimately such warnings will open their eyes to the problems that lie ahead when these sins are ignored. The goal of all this is not just that his sons won't be drunks and gluttons. Too often young people in the church equate Christianity with phrases like, "A Christian doesn't drink, doesn't chew, and doesn't go with girls that do." This kind of training does more to harm our kids than help them. It gives them the false idea that if they just steer clear of these evil three sins that they are right with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the end we want to win our children's hearts - not just burn a three rule list into their minds. We want them to be wise - not just in these couple of areas - but in all of life. Dads - don't get caught in the trap of warning your kids about your list of deadly sins - but not giving them the gospel and good rounded biblical teaching. We want more than obedience to us in a couple of areas. We want obedience to God in all of life. This we will obtain when we aim straight for their hearts - and have as our aim - that they be wise, godly, and Christ-centered. When we see these things in their hearts - we will know that we've been truly successful!
Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or
with gluttonous eaters of meat; Proverbs 23:20Yesterday we looked at how a father can aim straight for the heart when warning his son against lifestyles that will cause him to be self-destructive. Today, we will look at how he warns his son.
The father makes it clear that those who drink wine heavily - and those who eat gluttonously, aree going to face some difficult times later in life. There are those who drink heavily. They consume a lot of beer, wine, or hard liquor. We are warned not to be among these people. Heavy drinking will eventually lead to alcoholism - which is a stronghold of sin that is very difficult to break. Over the years I've been a pastor
, I've worked with several men who suffered from a stronghold of alcoholism. They were drunks who drank until it became a very self-destructive habit. It was heart-breaking to see some of them struggle for years with this sin. Jesus is able to deliver us from anything - any habit - any addictive behavior. But we would be far better off if we never needed HIs deliverance from such things. That is why we should be warning our sons and daughters against drinking heavily. But the father also is warning his child against being a glutton as well. Here is a sin that is seldom if ever addressed - especially if there is a potluck after church that day.
Gluttony is a sin. That is clear from reading the Word of God. Just as a person can become addicted to alcohol - he can also become addicted to food as well. If you don't mind me being a little open here - this is a sin with which I struggle personally. I tend to eat too much - and at times I've been accused to being addicted to cookies (chocolate chip in particular) - but I can stop eating them whenever I want. All joking aside, overcoming gluttony has been a battle for me. As I've fought it - winning sometimes and losing others - I've seen where food has been an idol in my life. I will run to it to comfort me - instead of running to God. The excess in eating - also lends itself to excess in other areas as well. This is a sin we should warn our children about falling into in life. If it is not overcome - it will lead to very serious consequences. The reason that we do not see them - is because they are consequences that come over a much longer period of time. Yet they are coming to the glutton - just as the consequences of drunkenness and alcoholism are coming to the heavy drinker as well.
We are wise when we see these sins of heavy drinking and gluttony and warn our children against them. We need to warn them that there are very serious problems that develop because of them. If they continue in them - they can even become life-threatening. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the consequences of these choices - and - we will see how the wise father seeks to warn his children of them - while seeking to reach their hearts.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to him whose life is bitter. 7 Let him drink and forget his poverty And remember his trouble no more. Proverbs 31:6-7 Is the Bible encouraging drunkenness here? When I read this - at first glance I come away with the thought that the Bible is encouraging us, if we know someone who is struggling with poverty and bitterness, to encourage them to knock back a few - and they will forget all their troubles. Is that what the Bible is saying here? If it is - then this contradicts badly the passages that warn us against the harm that over indulgence in alcohol can do in our lives. To understand this Proverb we once again need to understand it based upon what it says in context. God just moved on Bathsheba to instruct her son NOT to drink wine or strong drink. Her reasoning is that such an action would lead her son to forget the Law. With his thinking and reasoning impaired - he might pervert the rights of those who are afflicted. So, two things we know here are that drunkenness is out of the question in what is being said - and - that Bathsheba is interested in how her son, as king, deals with the afflicted within his kingdom. Her admonition to her son, next, is to give wine and strong drink to the one who is perishing. This word means to perish, to be lost, or destroyed. It was understood by the Jewish rabbis as dealing with two primary situations. The first is when someone is suffering greatly with sickness - especially when that sickness is terminal. It was a custom due to this admonition to medicate the dying with strong drink so that they would drink and forget the pain of their dying. We do this today with terminal patients through morphine. It is not evil to do so - it is merciful. It is giving them something to help with the throes of dying. The second instance where this was used was with those given to a death sentence - especially crucifixion. We know this because Jesus was offered wine mixed with gall when He was on the cross. This was a pain killing mixture that was given by godly women to those who faced the death penalty. Jesus refused this because He needed to embrace all that the cross meant for sin. But to offer some merciful pain killing substance to someone in the midst of horrific pain is something God counsels us to do. These admonitions are given for those "perishing" and also for those who are "bitter of soul." Here is where things get a little bit more dicey. For the one who is perishing - it is easy to see that we are easing their suffering as they draw near to death. But what about the bitter of soul? What is going on here? Again, context is so important to remember. We are in a section of Scripture where a mother has just warned her son against alcohol abuse - and how it clouds judgment and could lead to her son disregarding the Law in a moment of drunkenness. Therefore, we can be assured that when it comes to those who are "bitter of soul" she is not advocating drunkenness to alleviate their problems. This passage cannot be used therefore to justify men or women drowning their sorrows in whiskey or beer. What we do see though is that there is a benefit for the bitter of soul in having a drink. The Bible itself says that "wine makes man's heart glad," in Psalm 104:15. That verse is in the midst of a list of things that God Himself provides, including oil for the skin and the food that sustains a man with strength. Wine was used in the feasts of Israel as well - and even offered up to God as a sacrifice. Our problems with alcohol come from living in a society where drinking is too often done for the sake of partying - and with a view to getting drunk. But God knows that drinking in moderation (let me stress here that this means NEVER getting drunk - and it also means drinking apart from the party scene, which in itself has more sins than just the drinking) can lift someone's spirits. Wine does make a man's heart glad - and can lift someone's spirits. Thus, Solomon was advised to give it to those who are bitter in soul to help them be lifted temporarily and cheered. I'm going to venture into an area where there is much disagreement and where I can be heavily criticized. But in light of this passage, I feel the need to go there regardless of the dangers. There are believers who struggle with periods of depression. You could call these periods of time being bitter in soul. Often a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a doctor encourages them to take something for a while to help them with their depression. When this happens there is a cry from some that this is wicked, sinful - and it is only because the person does not trust God. Yet here we have counsel given to the king that he should give wine or strong drink to someone who is too struggling with being bitter in soul. Verse 7 in this section speaks of having him forget his poverty and trouble no more. Poverty speaks of a lack - something is missing here - and it is further described as a man's "trouble." This second word means a troublesome time - a time of labor and toil - and was used of the difficulties and hardships of life that lead to sorrow in a man's heart. These times can be very difficult to handle - and I've actually watched brothers and sisters helped for a period of time by a medicine - something that lifts their spirits as they walk through a very difficult time. Needless to say - or maybe it is better to say, Needful to say - God is not advocating drunkenness and the proverbial drowning of our sorrows in beer or hard liquor - but I do think what is advocated is something that would temporarily lift ones spirit and soul through a very difficult time. Here is where I offer what I hope to be the other side of wisdom on this issue. Although I do see a situation and a period of time where this might be profitable - I do not see it as "the answer" for depression and for times when we are bitter of soul. Psalm 4:7 tells me that God puts, "gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound." A period of time may require this verse to be applied (if it does not refer solely to the perishing - and the bitter of soul is just another way of saying someone who is perishing) but we need to see God ultimately as our source of joy and as the ultimate One who can lift us out of any funk in which we find ourselves in life. The one who turns to wine, strong drink, or even modern medicines as a permanent solution to their difficulties - and who does not turn to the Lord with them - is placing themselves in danger of looking to something rather than looking to Somone - as the answer to their problems. Remember this - as we close today's look at Proverbs. There is a mountain of Scripture dealing with the abuse of alcohol - of wine, new wine, and strong drink. The Bible is overflowing with examples of how people lost their reason and their discernment with these things and wound up in grevious sin. So as we see the wisdom of using wine and strong drink in the ways specified here - we need to do so with extreme caution and with God's wisdom guiding our every move in this area. Too many, thinking they were just needing a little lift - have turned to alcohol and found it to be worse than their original problem in the end. Wisdom, dear saints, should always color our use of such things. May God give us grace and wisdom to do just as His counsel suggests here - and not find ourselves falling into sin by abusing something meant for a temporary benefit. In the end, He is and always will be our source of comfort and of encouragment in difficult times - even in death.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1 What does the Bible say about alcoholic drinks? That is what we face here in Proverbs 20:1. The first thing we need to do is to define what is referred to as wine and strong drink. There are some who try to make a distinction between these two words saying that wine is not alcoholic, but strong drink is. Problem with that view is that wine is referred to at least 20 times as having intoxicating properties. It is paired with the other word used here 12 times in a negative context - each time indicating that one is likely to be drunk if they drink it to excess. The word for "strong drink" is even more explicit. It means in every situation a very intoxicating substance. It is difficult to try to make a direct correlation between the levels of alcohol in these drinks and those of today. What you can say with confidence is that both wine and strong drink when not controlled properly will cause intoxication - which the Bible strictly prohibits both in the Old and New Testaments. You can also be confident in saying that one would get drunk faster when drinking strong drink rather than wine. About the only comparison you could make this way would be comparing wine to the alcohol levels of win and beer - and strong drink to stronger intoxicants like whiskey, vodka, and other higher proof drinks. Here is what we learn though about both wine and strong drink. Wine is called a "mocker" in this passage. A mocker is one who boasts and scorns. This person is given to deriding others. Their actions lead us utter contempt toward someone. The idea therefore here is that when a person drinks wine to the point of being deceived by it (the NASB calls this decieved state the point of intoxication) he is not wise - he is a fool. Think a moment about this - when someone is intoxicated by wine - he no longer thinks clearly and can say and act in ways that he regrets later. The alcohol deceives his mind - making it stray from wisdom - wander from godliness - and to make major mistakes. Want to avoid being deceived and erring badly from the way of the Lord? Then stay away from wine. That is the implication made by this verse - this wisdom from God. What is strong drink? It is a brawler according to Proverbs 20:1. This word is very illustrative of the drunk. It is "hamah" and means to murmur, growl, roar, or howl. When refering to the drunken fool it means to be a fighter - to be a boisterous, roaring, howling fool. We all know that many who are affected by alcohol wind up becoming more agressive. This is especially true of the "fighting" drunks who go home and beat family members when under the affect of wine and strong drink. Why should we avoid strong drink of every kind? Because the effect of this poison is to deaden our minds to kind and gracious behavior and turn us instead into a brawling, fighting fool. The wise man would avoid these things altogether. The Christian community has those who want to preserve our ability to have a glass of wine or a social drink. They state that they have freedom in Christ to do so. While I cannot categorically say that all alcohol is utterly forbidden by Scripture, I can say that the wise person would stay away from it. I will give a couple of reasons for this. First - to drink is to place yourself in a situation where it is far more possible to sin by becoming drunk. Considering what the law considers drunken driving, the amount which a person can drink before they are considered drunk is minimal. Why put yourself in that kind of jeopardy when there are plenty of beverages that pose no danger whatsoever? Second - outside of a glass of wine with a meal at home - the usual places where drinking takes place also include a hedonistic lifestyle as well. Bars, last time I checked, have not been traditional centers of godliness and holy living. Why endanger your witness and testimony by drinking in these places? Why endanger your heart by placing yourself in such places where far more than drunkenness is the possibility? This verse deals with being intoxicated and therefore deceived by wine and strong drink. If you get the drift of the writer of Proverbs - the wise man would avoid these things altogether. This should even more be the case in our day when the ability to purify water has led to a multitude of drinking options that do not have the danger of alcohol in them. Truly - the wise man - just stays away from this. You would be wise to do the same.