PART 2 ABSTAIN? MODERATION?
PART 2 ABSTAIN? MODERATION?
What does the Bible have to say about alcoholic consumption?
THE AGE OF ISRAEL
THE EXODUS OF THE JEWS FROM EGYPT TO THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
Moses led the Jews out of their captivity in Egypt. They arrived at Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments, along with instructions concerning the building of a tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable tent-like structure that was to be used in the worship of Yahweh throughout their wilderness wanderings to the land that God promised they would inhabit, the Promised Land of Canaan.
Joshua followed Moses as the next leader of the Jews. Under his leadership, they crossed over the Jordan River and entered the land of Canaan, thus becoming a nation of people. This section of the Scriptures contains the spiritual ceremonies by which the Jews would worship Yahweh along with the precise ethics they were to follow. These are the testimonies [the laws directing the commemoration of certain events (e.g., Seventh year Sabbath rest; the 50th year, the year of Jubilee; the ordinance of the Passover; the feast of unleavened bread; etc.)] and the civil statutes (e.g., laws for military service, diet, soil conservation, etc.), which were previously delineated by Moses during the wilderness wanderings, and are now in force at this time.
After Joshua died, the Jews were ruled by various leaders called Judges for a period of about 400 years. God would raise up these judges to rule over them, when Israel, after a period of apostatizing from Him and being in subjection to foreign nations, would cry out to Him for deliverance from their enemies.
Following the period of the Judges, the Jews decided that they wanted a king to rule over them. So, God allowed them to have their desire. Their first four kings, Saul, Ishbosheth (ruled over all of the tribes except Judah), David, and Solomon ruled over the entire nation or 12 tribes of Israel. After the reign of Solomon, the nation split into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was comprised of 10 tribes and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was comprised of 2 tribes. Because of apostasy, the Northern Kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians and led away into captivity. Years later, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was also invaded and led away into captivity by the Babylonians. When the Babylonian captivity ended, the Jews began to return to their homeland.
As a reminder:
A non-dispensationalist will look at the instances in which drinking alcohol was mentioned throughout the Bible, and will choose the ideas that support the perpetuation of the practice of abstinence.
A dispensationalist will look at the instances in which drinking alcohol was mentioned, and will confine the conditions of this practice to the dispensation at hand. If abstinence was suggested, then fine. If abstinence was not suggested, then fine.
During this time, the Jews were operating under the tenets of the institution of the Mosaic Law. Under this Law, there were four words that were used to describe their obligations. These four words are as follows.
- Statutes - [the Spiritual Code-the ordinances of the Law (e.g., the Tabernacle, the Holy Days, the Offerings, the High Priest, the Meat Offering, the Trespass Offering, the Levites, etc.)] Exodus 26-31; 35-40; Leviticus 1-24
- Commandments - the Moral Code which included not only the 10 commandments called the Decalogue (e.g., honor thy father and thy mother…Exodus 20:12-17) but more than 100 other commandments (e.g. thou shalt have no other gods before me; the Sabbath,… thou shalt not do any work…Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy 12)
- Judgments - [the Social Code which are the laws belonging to civil government. (e.g., dietary, marriage, military, conservation, etc. along with the related consequences (punishment)]. Deuteronomy 14-28
- Testimonies - the laws directing the commemoration of certain events (e.g., Seventh year Sabbath rest; the 50th year, the year of Jubilee; the ordinance of the Passover; the feast of Unleavened Bread; etc.). Exodus 12:43-50; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 25-26
With these thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the various Scripture sections which relate to this topic of drinking alcohol during this dispensation. How will the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist use these Scriptures to determine whether a New Testament believer should abstain entirely or whether they are allowed to drink albeit in moderation?
Were the high priest and the priests prohibited from drinking alcohol before entering the tabernacle?
C. DO NOT DRINK WINE
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 10:1-10
Leviticus 10:8-9 …Aaron… Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle, lest ye die.
Aaron, the high priest, and his sons were told not to enter the tabernacle if indeed it was the case they had become inebriated beforehand by drinking wine or strong drink. If they entered while in this state, they would receive the consequence of physical death. Could we say that this was a prohibition against drinking alcohol under any circumstances? As concerning the high priest and his sons, I would say no. It appears that they could drink wine or strong drink, albeit in moderation.
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
Some commentators suggest that this prohibition was because Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, entered the tabernacle after having consumed an inordinate amount of alcohol, and as a result, they were consumed by fire. However, according to Leviticus 10:1-2, they were consumed not because of alcoholic consumption, but because they offered unto the Lord incense that was not compounded according to the prescription of the four spices of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense.
Besides this, there were a few more stipulations mentioned that Aaron and his sons were warned to not engage in, lest they die. While we might or might not look at some of them as this study progresses, what I would like us to take a look at next is another group of people who were restricted from drinking alcohol under certain circumstances. Do you have any idea who these people were?
Numbers 6:1-4, 13a And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled:
In the book of Numbers, another group of people are mentioned, called the Nazarites, who were people involved with keeping certain religious observances over varied periods of time. They had many restrictions placed on them, one being that they were not allowed to drink wine or strong drink under any circumstances while under a vow. However, once their vow was completed, they were allowed to drink wine or strong drink.
To summarize, it was important that the high priest and the priests (the sons of the high priest) abstain from alcohol inebriation so that they could attend to the daily observances of the Mosaic Law, which involved the teaching of doctrine, both ritually and verbally, as God had prescribed.
The next book of the Old Testament that I would like us to turn to in our Bibles if you have one handy is the book of Deuteronomy.
Why weren’t the children of Israel allowed to drink wine or strong drink during their wilderness wanderings?
D. NEITHER HAVE YE DRUNK … STRONG DRINK
Suggested Reading: Deuteronomy 29:1-9; Deuteronomy 8:1, 8-10
Deuteronomy 29:5-6 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the Lord your God.
The children of Israel did not eat bread nor drink wine or strong drink during their 40 years wandering in the wilderness, because God wanted them to live according to grace (by that which He provides). In other words, He did not want them to lean on their own efforts.
Deuteronomy 8:1, 8-10 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers. A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
When they finally entered Canaan, they would be blessed with a land that would provide them with physical sustenance through agricultural means. It would be at this time that they would be allowed to make and eat bread, grow crops, and grow vines that would produce the grapes to make wine. Hopefully, even amidst their laboring in Canaan, they would remember that everything they owned was because of God’s grace.
Please go to the book of Psalms.
Do you think that drinking wine in moderation could have a personal benefit?
E. WINE THAT MAKES GLAD
Suggested Reading: Psalms 104:1, 10-15
15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
This psalm conveys to us that God sent springs of freshwater into the valleys and hills, which provided drink for the animals. He caused the grass to grow for the cattle and plants to come forth by means of the toil and sweat of man which produced food, wine (fermented grapes that would be diluted with water) that made a person glad, olive oil that kept the pores open and the perspiration in check thus causing a cheerful countenance, and wheat or barley bread that provided physical nourishment.
Apparently, if the wine was mixed with water and drunk in this manner, it would cause a person to rejoice or be happy. Some of it was initially filtered and dried into a paste, which was then mixed with water. As a result, small amounts of alcohol were present in the wine, thus becoming so diluted so as to minimize the intoxicating effects. The alcohol contained in it was used strictly for preservation purposes. In this sense, some of the wine could be considered as grape juice with only enough alcohol to preserve the grape juice from spoiling.
There doesn’t seem to be a prohibition concerning drinking wine (fermented grapes). However, there was a recommendation that before it was partaken of it should be mixed with water in order to limit its intoxicating effects along with providing preservation.
What are some of the effects of overindulgence of drinking wine?
F. IS NOT WISE
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Excessive use of wine can cause a person to ask in unbecoming ways such as to be inclined to speak in an argumentative way. It could also cause a person to act out aggressively toward others. Thus, whoever it is that goes astray because of it is not wise (it dulls the mind; he/she is no longer master of oneself). This verse illustrates what happens to a person when they overindulge in wine or fermented liquor.
The book of Proverbs will be where we will go next.
What was King David’s instructions to his son Solomon concerning getting involved with excessive drinking?
G.SOLOMON’S INSTRUCTIONS FROM HIS FATHER DAVID
Suggested Reading: Proverbs 23:19-33
20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
David is instructing his son Solomon concerning the subject of drinking alcohol in an excessive manner. Here is what he said to him. Become wise by listening to what I have to say to you. Set your mind on the right course. Right thoughts lead to right actions. Do not keep company with either someone who drinks a lot of wine or with someone who overindulges in eating food. The drunkard or glutton will lose all they own. Their laziness or inability to work will result in them wearing nothing but rags.
23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Consider truth as a thing of the highest value, and spare no pains, cost, or sacrifice to obtain it, and, when gotten, keep it safe; do not barter it for earthly profit or the pleasures of sense; do not be reasoned out of it, or laughed out of it.7 This also holds true for wisdom (practical knowledge), instruction (moral culture and discipline), and understanding (discernment - the central faculty of proving and distinguishing). The father that has a wise child shall be proud of him. He will ask of his son to give him his heart (mind - the center of thought and commitment) and to observe his ways.
29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
His further advice to his son is as follows. If you choose to drink too long, and subsequently too much wine, then you will become like those who look with desire upon its beaded bubbles. You will become like them as a people who feel miserable and sorry for themselves, get into difficulties when arguing, complain with regards to regret for lost fortune, ruined health, alienated friends8, and that receive injuries in brawling (fighting) that could have been avoided.
32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Overindulgence will eventually bite you like a serpent, having painful and deadly outcomes, and will sting you like a poisonous snake.
33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
Your eyes will behold weird things. In other words, you will have mental problems, and your heart will talk nonsense.
34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
You will be off-balance physically, swaying back and forth.
35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
Your bruises or wounds that you have received when you engaged in quarreling, you won’t feel, and when you awake you will start this whole process all over again.
So, remember what was said earlier. If you truly want to avoid being enslaved by alcohol, then buy the truth and sell it not. Let truth be the priority of your endeavors. Get it, keep it for yourself, and don’t give it away in exchange for fleshly desires.
What a beautiful psalm in regard to a father imparting to his son words of wisdom with respect to the excessive use and consequences of drinking alcohol.
We can find out more about alcoholic consumption by proceeding to the book of Isaiah.
Overindulgence in anything (e.g., alcohol consumption, being greedy for gain, living apart from God’s commands, etc.) will bring about personal and national discipline.
H. OVERINDULGENCE IN ANYTHING RESULTS IN LITTLE OR NO OCCUPATION WITH DOCTRINE
Suggested Reading: Isaiah 5:8-13, 20; 6:10
Leviticus 25:10, 13 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year,… In the year of this jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession.
Mentioned here are the many sins of the men of Judah that resulted in personal and national divine judgment. They were becoming greedy for gain owning more land and houses to the detriment of their fellow Jews. While these transactions might have been legal, the year of Jubilee, “the fiftieth year”, in which every man and family would be restored to their former possessions, was not being adhered to according to the admonition found in the book of Leviticus.
Isaiah 5:11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
They also rose up early in the morning and began drinking continuing all day into the night while being entertained with music at their feasts. They cared nothing for the deeds of the Lord such as rising up early for morning prayer. They took advantage of other people, caring only for their own pleasures.
13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Some of the tribes of Israel, whose conduct was as such, had already gone into captivity with more to come. This punishment from God was due to their total neglect of the Law. If they had chosen to retain its instruction, the knowledge of their God, they might have been preserved. However, because this was not the case, their captivity will involve hunger and thirst (a deprivation of food and drink).
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Their depravity caused them to destroy moral standards by new definitions of sin.9 Whenever a person, whether Jew or Gentile that believes in God is occupied with over-indulgence of any kind, the results will be that they will evidence neglect of God’s Word, will live for themselves only and will experience divine discipline, that will come upon them unawares.
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
The solution for their dysfunctional spiritual state was to hear and respond to the word spoken to them by a prophet. God sent Isaiah in this regard to speak to His people. Most of them became irritated or enraged because of the word spoken and chose to not listen to it, thereby not acknowledging what was said. However, not all was lost. There were some who listened to what was being said, acknowledged it as being true, repented (turned back to God), and recovered (the chastisement or discipline from God would be removed).
As we are able to see, excessive use of alcohol has devastating effects both individually and nationally. With these instances in mind, it is understandable as to why some churches might teach that the assembly should not partake of alcohol under any circumstances. But should this be legislated?
There is someone of note who decided that he was not going to drink wine under any circumstances. Hint: in an unrelated story, he was thrown into the lion’s den? I’m sure you know who he is.
Please turn to the book of Daniel.
Why was it that some of the Jews refused to partake of certain foods or drink?
I. DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS
Suggested Reading: Daniel 1:3-21
This story took place in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, in approximately 606 BC. At this time, the nation of Judah was under the dominion of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, the son of King Nabopolassar of Babylon defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish. (Jeremiah 46:2) After which, he decided to invade and subsequently prevail over the Southern Kingdom of Judah. King Jehoiakim of Judah was allowed to stay in power as long as he gave tribute to Babylon.
As a consequence of this siege, Nebuchadnezzar decided not only to take the holy vessels of the temple back with him to Babylon, but he also took several Israeli youths of noble lineage, one of whom was called Daniel. While there, these youths were educated in the science and wisdom of the Chaldeans in order to provide service in their court.
Daniel and the other Israeli youths were appointed by the king a daily portion of meat and wine. However, Daniel determined that he would not defile (make himself ritually unclean according to the Mosaic Law) himself with these provisions, because of the following prohibitions of the Law.
- Unclean beasts (such as swine) were forbidden to be eaten. Leviticus 11:45-46
- Animals that were not properly drained of blood could not be eaten. Leviticus 7:27; Jeremiah16:8
- Food and drink that were offered in sacrifice to pagan gods if consumed would in effect be the same as participating in the worship of idols. Leviticus 26:1
Daniel 1:13-16 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
So, Daniel in lieu of these restrictions asked the prince of the eunuchs, if he would grant permission to him and his fellow Jews to be able to eat vegetables and drink water for the next ten days with the hope that after this time had transpired the eunuch would notice that their countenance was more pleasant to the eyes and well-nourished than those who had partaken of the king’s provisions. So it was, that after ten days Daniel and his fellow Jew’s countenance were fairer and fatter than those who ate of the king’s menu. As a result, they were relieved by the eunuch of the duty of having to partake of the king’s meat and wine.
That was quite a bit of information which we looked at. Let’s read the summary that follows and take a look at what the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist would say in regard to the question, should Christians be commanded to abstain from drinking alcohol?
A Brief Summary
- It was forbidden for the high priest and his sons to enter into the tabernacle while being intoxicated. If they entered the tabernacle in this state, they would be subject to the consequence of physical death. Leviticus 10:1-10
- The Nazarites, who are people involved with some religious observances over varied periods of time, were not allowed to consume alcohol while they were under their religious vow. However, once their vow was completed, they were allowed to drink wine or strong drink. Numbers 6:1-21
- The children of Israel did not eat bread nor drink wine during their 40 years in the wilderness wanderings, because God wanted them to live according to grace (by that which He provides). However, when they entered Canaan, they would be able to make and eat bread, grow crops, and grow vines, which would produce grapes in order to make wine. Deuteronomy 29:1-9; Deuteronomy 8:1, 8-9
- Wine that was diluted with water can make a person glad. Psalms 104:1, 10-15
- Some of the effects of overindulgence in alcohol are that a person can become argumentative, aggressive toward others, and no longer be in control of themselves. Proverbs 20:1
- King David provided sound instruction to his son Solomon in regard to alcoholic consumption. He said to him set your mind on what the Word of God has to say and don’t let anyone or anything else take its place. Do not keep company with someone who overindulges with drinking wine being infatuated with its beaded bubbles as you could become affected by its effects as some already who have might become lazy (won’t work); poverty-stricken, miserable and feeling sorry for themselves, argumentative that results in getting into difficulty, a complainer in regard to regret for lost fortune, ruined health, alienated friends10, injured from brawling, mentally disturbed, seeing weird things, a talker of nonsense, and being enslaved by it, thus wanting to engage in it all over again on the next day. Proverbs 23:19-33
- Overindulgence of alcohol caused the Jews to have no regard for the welfare of their fellow Jews. There were no longer any moral standards. Self-centeredness replaced observance of God’s Word. The solution for the dysfunctional spiritual state was to listen to the spoken word of God, acknowledge it as being true, repenting (turning back to God); and then and only then will they recover (the chastisement or discipline from God would be removed). Isaiah 5:8-13, 20; 6:10
- Some of the Jews, who were in captivity in Babylon, refused to eat certain foods and drink wine because if they did this, it would make them ritually unclean according to restrictions of the Mosaic Law. Daniel 1:3-21
So, depending on the church you are attending and whether those in leadership would be considered as being dispensationalists or non-dispensationalists would determine the theology presented on any biblical topic.
If your leader/Bible teacher is a dispensationalist, how might he/she use the information from this age in determining whether a New Testament believer is allowed to drink alcohol, albeit in moderation or whether they should abstain entirely?
A dispensationalist would not use any of the ideas concerning drinking alcohol as mentioned from this dispensation as a basis for supporting or not supporting the practice of abstinence in the Church Age because the idea for drinking alcohol they would suggest should be determined separately according to what the Scriptures reveal for each dispensation. What the dispensationalist might say in response to the Scriptures cited during this time period is that it was apparent that there were some instances in which the drinking of alcohol along with the eating of certain foods was prohibited. It could be further concluded that drinking in excess had dire consequences while drinking in moderation could be physically beneficial.
If your leader/Bible teacher is a non-dispensationalist, how might he/she use the information from this age in determining whether a New Testament believer is allowed to drink alcohol, albeit in moderation or whether they should abstain entirely?
A non-dispensationalist would point out that excessive use of alcohol has dire consequences, and therefore he/she would recommend that the drinking of it of any degree should be avoided. In other words, it’s best to abstain, as abstaining would avoid any hardships or misgivings. The basis for thinking this way could have its’s basis from the story taken from the Age of the Gentiles concerning Noah and his son Ham and was reinforced by taking Scriptures from this age relating to the following incidents such as the Lord’s warning to the priests and high priest to not be intoxicated when entering the tabernacle Leviticus 10:1-10, to wine being a mocker (Proverbs 20:1), and to King David’s instruction to his son Solomon (Proverbs 23:19-33). It’s pretty easy to understand based on what we have learned so far that if those in the leadership positions of any New Testament church are non-dispensationalists then probably, they would advocate abstinence in regard to the drinking of any type of alcoholic beverage.
I hope that you are beginning to grasp the idea that depending on what verses are used in support of any topical biblical view will provide evidence to the congregation as to whether those in leadership are dispensational or non-dispensational in their outlook. In the next dispensation that we will look at, that being the time when Christ lived on the earth, it will be interesting to find out whether He abstained from drinking alcohol.
6“Why I Am Not A Dispensationalist? - The Alcohol Content of Wine in the Bible”. On-line. Internet.01 Jan. 2014.Available: http://dispensationalist.blogspot.com/2007/11/alcohol-content-of-wine-in-bible.html
7The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 01 Jan. 2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
9The Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989, 05 Jan. 2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
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