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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Preface


Wine is a recurring, if not a constant, theme in Scripture. The Bible speaks of the following: vine, vineyard, vinedressers, watchtower, grape, grapes, grape-gathering, vintage, winepress, wine vat, wine, new wine, sweet wine, sour wine, vinegar, strong drink, drink-offering, winebibber, drunk, drunkard, drunken, and drunkenness. Over 600 times these words are found in God’s Revelation, in every Old Testament book except Jonah and in fourteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books. Without question the great number of references justifies an investigation of the Biblical material relating to wine.

The title is derived from Joel 1:5 where God addresses the “drinkers of wine” and instructs them to “wail” for His judgment has cut off “the new wine” from their mouths. Additionally, because of the Lord’s punishment “the field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails” (v. 10). Thus, there is no wine for “the drink offering” which has been “cut off from the house of the Lord” (v. 9); and the vinedressers are to “wail” because the harvest has perished (v. 11). Such privation brought great anguish to the nation; the prophet announced: “Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men” (v. 12).

The “drinkers of wine” had no wine. It was not just a select few wine drinkers that the Lord confronted through the prophet Joel, but the entire nation; for the nation of Israel drank wine, it being a common beverage that was used daily by the descendants of Abraham. To be deprived of the fruit of the vine was a great loss, as it was tragic to be without wine. But to be blessed with wine was to be blessed by God and to enjoy His provision. God’s people have been and can be “drinkers of wine.”

Personally, this has been a long and evolving journey. Raised by parents who practiced total abstinence, I was taught that all alcoholic beverages were taboo. I did not drink, and I preached forcefully against it in the churches where I served as pastor. I would constantly point out the dangers of drink, always referring to the well-known passages that affirm the evil of drunkenness. I never gave thought to the meaning of the word “wine” in Scripture, unconsciously, I suppose, equating it with some sort of grape juice. For me, abstinence was the Christian position; it was the only possible option. There were no other choices. My mind was not open, though I did not realize it; and my study was not careful and complete in this area.

During a trip to Israel in 1987, I observed a group of Lutherans, along with their pastor,  enjoy a glass of wine with their evening meal each day. A pastor and his people were drinking wine together! “How can they do that?” I asked myself. That was the first time I began to wonder if there was something in the Bible that could justify such an open and blatant practice.

I began to search the Scriptures honestly and sincerely. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the prominence of the theme in Scripture. As I studied I realized that neither Testament can be properly interpreted without an understanding of the part the vineyard played in the history of God’s people. Slowly over the next ten years my mind was opened to understand and view the Scriptures in a different light. Through study of the Bible I have moved from abstinence to moderation.

It is hoped that the reader will approach this study with an open mind, not being captive by a peculiar position that questions the plain teaching of Scripture because it does not coincide with his previous ecclesiastical instructions or current individual practice. It is much too easy to become a captive of the particular belief system of which one is a part. All systems must be evaluated by the only absolute standard, which is the Written Word.

Before the authority of God’s Revelation the believer is to be teachable, embracing and practicing the illumination that the Spirit brings. Truth does not enslave; it sets free. Truth is not to be feared but to be accepted with all earnestness, for it never leads one down the wrong path. All I desire is that the reader will honestly and sincerely peruse and consider the Scriptural facts. I feel no burden to prove or convince anyone of anything; according to God’s plan that will be accomplished by the Scriptures.

Abbreviations are as follows: King James Version (AV), New King James Version (NKJV), New Geneva Study Bible (NGSB), English Standard Version (ESV), New International Version (NIV), and the New American Standard Version (NASV). References to the number of times various Hebrew and Greek words are used in Scripture are obtained from Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, twenty-second edition. Young’s is based upon the AV while the quotations from Scripture used in the present work come from the NKJV unless otherwise noted. This explains why some translations in this present work are different from those found in Young’s, such as the Hebrew word, shekar, translated mainly “strong drink” in the AV but “similar drink” and “intoxicating drink” in the NKJV.

The following material is not designed mainly to encourage one to drink; though it is hoped that if a believer desires to drink wine after studying the matter, he will be able to do so without feeling guilty. It is written that wine “makes glad the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15) and “cheers both God and men” (Jud. 9:13).

This study, however, is an attempt to present the varied ways in which the wine culture of the Hebrews is reflected in and influences the message of Scripture. Throughout the history of Israel wine has been an important part of its national life, and its significance is seen in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus drank wine, and the early Church used wine. Paul issued warnings and endorsements. Wine was considered a blessing or a curse, depending on its use. This paradox is found in historical incidents, in teachings about wine, and in the metaphorical use of wine.

Drink in itself is a good creature of God
and to be received with thankfulness,
but the abuse of drink is from Satan;
the wine is from God,
but the drunkard is from the Devil.
Increase Mather

O blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, King of the Universe,
who bringeth forth the fruit of the vine;
blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, King of the Universe,
who bringeth forth bread from the earth;
blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, King of the Universe,
who putteth compassion into the hearts of men.
Old Table Grace

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