Drink Thy Wine with a Merry Heart
by Stuart DiNenno
There are some among today’s professing Christians who will tell you that it is wrong to consume alcoholic beverages even in small quantities. And if you listen to them, then you will either have to abstain from drinking wine, or you will have to drink your wine with a heavy heart, thinking that you are sinning. But if you listen to the voice speaking to you through the Holy Scriptures, then you can drink your wine with a merry heart knowing that, not only is there no sin in the moderate use of it, but that it is good for your physical health and spiritual well-being, and that it is God’s gift to man.
Wine is God’s Blessing
Though there are many today who portray alcoholic beverages as some kind of curse, wine is repeatedly referred to in the Holy Scriptures as a blessing.
The Israelites, through Moses, were promised blessings for being faithful to God. One of those blessings was wine:
“And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.” (Deuteronomy 7:13)
A similar promise is expressed in the Proverbs:
“Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)
When Isaac blessed Jacob, his blessing included plenty of wine:
“And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine.” (Genesis 27:26-28)
Wine is just as much God’s gift to men as is oil and bread:
“He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” (Psalm 104:10-15)
The biblical prophets used wine to symbolically represent the blessings of God:
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:11)
“Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.” (Jeremiah 31:10-12)
“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.” (Joel 2:21-24)
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” (Joel 3:18)
Wine Was Required by God in the Old Testament Sacrifices, Feasts, and Tithes
The Old Testament drink offering was, according to the Mosaic law, always required to be wine, the feasts that were required by God in the law included wine drinking, and the Israelites were by the same law required to pay a tithe of their wine production. Apparently, the God of the Hebrews did not consider wine an unholy thing.
The drink offering (wine only) was offered with the twice daily sacrifices (Numbers 28:3-8), the sabbath day sacrifices (Numbers 28:9-10), and the monthly sacrifices (Numbers 28:11-15).
“And their drink offerings shall be half an hin of wine unto a bullock, and the third part of an hin unto a ram, and a fourth part of an hin unto a lamb: this is the burnt offering of every month throughout the months of the year.” (Numbers 28:14)
When the Israelites were to have a feast before the Lord, that feast was to be supplied by a one-tenth portion of their produce, which included a tenth of their wine:
“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household” (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)
The Israelites were to offer tithes of all their substance to God. These tithes included wine:
“The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.” (Deuteronomy 18:4)
“And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.” (2 Chronicles 31:5)
“Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.” (Nehemiah 13:12)
Jesus Christ Made and Drank Wine
Clearly, not only was wine drinking not forbidden under the Old Testament, but wine was considered to be the blessing of God, and it was even required to be offered and drunk by the Israelites. But did this attitude toward wine change at the coming of Christ? No. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself clearly approved of its moderate use, and even required it to be used by the church in a ceremonial function.
At a marriage feast, Jesus miraculously turned water into wine. This He did when His mother told him that the guests had no wine to drink:
“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. (John 2:1-8)
This miracle was performed, it appears, not at the beginning of the feast, but after other wine had already been consumed:
“When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” (John 2:9-11)
When Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples —and instituted the Lord’s Supper — they drank wine as a representation of His blood:
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
And He commands Christians to do the same:
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
It was only the slanderous religious hypocrites who portrayed His moderate use of wine as something evil. They called Jesus a wino because He drank wine:
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34)
Excessive Wine Drinking Condemned in the Bible, Not the Moderate Use of Wine
As is the case with all of the gifts which God has given to man, wine can be used improperly. Drinking alcoholic beverages to the point of drunkenness is condemned by the word of God as sinful and foolish.
The Scriptures caution against excessive drinking, which is said to lead to many troubles:
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 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. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. 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. 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.” (Proverbs 23:29-35)
The Proverbs also teach that whoever is deceived by wine and strong drink is foolish:
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)
Heavy drinkers are condemned by the Scriptures:
“Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” (Isaiah 5:11)
“Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink” (Isaiah 5:22)
In the Bible, excessive drinking led to other sinful behavior. Noah — most likely because he was drunk and became careless — became uncovered in his tent, which led to his son’s sin:
“And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” (Genesis 9:20-25)
And Lot’s drunkenness led to further sin also:
“And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.” (Genesis 19:30-36)
Jesus Christ warned His disciples about drunkenness:
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 21:34)
Paul cautioned both the Romans and the Ephesians to avoid excessive drinking:
“Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (Romans 13:13)
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)
But Paul also counseled Timothy to drink “a little wine” for his health:
“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (1 Timothy 5:23)
Paul also made clear that elders who oversee the church are not to be “given to wine.” This must mean that they were not to be excessive drinkers, rather than be teetotalers, otherwise it would contradict the passage directly above and many other passages previously quoted in this document:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous” (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre” (Titus 1:7)
The older women also are told to be moderate in their use of wine, presumably so that they may be an example to younger women. Notice that this verse specifically states that which is implied in the two verses listed directly above. That is, that they must not be given to MUCH wine. The Scripture does not say that they are not to drink ANY wine:
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3)
Peter taught that excessive drinking is a practice that should be only in a Christian’s past, but he does not condemn drinking altogether:
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:3)
In the Proverbs, men in positions of authority are cautioned against drinking. But this passage seems to be prohibiting the immoderate use of wine, rather than forbidding wine drinking altogether, because only excessive drinking would cause one to “forget the law” and “pervert the judgment.” Interpreting this passage to teach total abstinence would contradict many other Scripture passages:
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. (Proverbs 31:4)
Wine Forbidden Only in Two Cases Which Do Not Apply Under the New Testament
There are only two circumstances in the Bible under which men were expressly forbidden to drink wine, and both of these pertained to Old Testament ceremonial functions which are no longer to be practiced under the New Testament. One was when the priests were to go into the tabernacle or temple:
“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations” (Leviticus 10:8-9)
But not only were they allowed to drink wine at other times, but God even made provision for them to receive wine from the offerings made at the tabernacle or temple:
“All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.” (Numbers 18:12)
The other circumstance in which wine drinking was explicitly prohibited, was during the time that a man was under a Nazarite vow. While he was bound by the vow, he was not only forbidden to consume wine, but also forbidden to eat anything from the vine — even grapes, whether dried or moist. He was also forbidden to cut his hair or come near a dead body. Obviously, these prohibitions were only symbolic in nature because it is not morally wrong for a man to eat grapes and raisins, cut his hair, or touch a dead body. Likewise, there is nothing morally wrong in drinking wine:
“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. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.” (Numbers 6:2-6)
In fact, after the days of the Nazarite’s separation were fulfilled, and he had appeared at the tabernacle or temple to offer certain sacrifices, he was allowed to resume the drinking of wine:
“And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.” (Numbers 6:20)
So we see that the Scriptures do not forbid the drinking of wine. Far from it. The word of God teaches that wine is the blessing of God; that God required it as part of the Old Testament feasts, tithes, and offerings; that Jesus made wine, drank it, and required its use; that the drinking of “a little wine” is good for one’s health; and that although excessive drinking is condemned many times, total abstinence is only required in two cases which no longer apply today.
Why then do so many believe that there is something wrong in drinking alcohol? The simple answer is that they don’t know the Scriptures, as is made evident by so many other erroneous doctrines to which modern professing Christians adhere. But there is more to it than just ignorance of the Bible. Often, there are also other elements which cause people to hold to such an interpretation.
One element is a superstitious belief that certain substances have some sort of power in them to take control of a person through “addiction.” This is an error popularized by modern psychology. But there is nothing in any material thing that causes one to abuse it. The only thing that drives a person to overindulge in certain substances, is his own lust for them. It is one’s own desire for the feelings that he derives from the substance he consumes which drives his so-called addiction. Those things which produce a more intensely euphoric feeling, such as heroin, are only more “addictive” because the user has that much more of a lust for them. It is not wine which causes one to become an “alcoholic,” it is his own unbridled sinful lust for the feeling which is produced by consuming wine.
Another element is disbelief. This disbelief is manifested by the fact that those who demand total abstinence deny the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the believer and subdue his lusts. God has promised that sin shall not have dominion over true Christians and that through the power of His Spirit they shall be enabled to live holy lives. Those who demand total abstinence do so out of an inordinate fear — caused by a lack of trust in the sanctifying power of God — that Christians who partake in a small quantity of wine will be overtaken by their own lusts and become drunkards. But the Scriptures condemn gluttonous feasting just as they condemn excessive drinking, and a true Christian is in no more danger of becoming a drunkard from drinking a couple of glasses of wine, than he is in danger of becoming a glutton by eating a piece of pie.
Finally, there is the element of self-righteousness. Those who have not truly submitted to the righteousness of God go about to establish their own righteousness by various means, and eventually set up their own system of rights and wrongs that they seek to impose on others. This was true of the Pharisees in Christ’s time and it is just as true of many professing Christians today. It is always the case that those who add to the word of God by making their own commandments — such as by requiring abstinence from alcohol — also subtract from the word of God by ignoring scriptural commandments. And after they have established their own laws, and thereby set aside the word of God, in time they come to trust in the keeping of their own laws as the basis for their righteousness, and they judge others as sinners when they do not keep them. This is the case with zealous prohibitionists who become puffed up with pride over the fact that they never touch a drink, while they look down on those who do. But all the while they ignore numerous commandments of God on other points, and many of them also hypocritically consume such things as stimulant drinks (coffee and tea), and pain-killing, tranquilizing, and anti-depressant drugs.
So the next time that you, O man of God, partake of “a little wine,” you need not fear that you are doing anything wrong. You can drink your wine with a merry heart as long as you heed the word of God rather than listen to those who, whether out of ignorance, superstition, disbelief, or self-righteousness (or all four), condemn you for doing so.
“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)