Under Gods Command

Proverbs 23:31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!

Wine is very good (Gen 1:31). God created it to cheer the heart of man (Pr 31:6; Ps 104:14-15); Moses commended it for family worship (Deut 14:26); Jesus drank it and supplied it for a wedding (Luke 7:33-35; John 2:1-11); Paul endorsed it for communion (I Cor 11:20-22); faithful ministers defend its moderate use (I Tim 3:8; 5:23; Tit 2:3).

But unguarded or excessive affection for wine is condemned. Any thoughts toward drunkenness are sin (Pr 24:9; Eph 5:18), and only fools drink without sober regard for the danger and results of drunkenness (Pr 20:1; 23:29-30). Wine can be dangerous, if it is not kept in its proper place and used for its designed purpose, just like other creations.

After his warning about wine, there are two other lessons – how Pharisees pervert God’s word, and how to rightly divide it. Solomon wrote, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red.” Pharisees are literalists – they cannot see a figure of speech, even if it were in blazing neon! They condemn even looking at red wine from a Bible verse like this!

Assume their perversion of the verse is correct. If so, you may freely guzzle red wine as long as you do not look at it! Bring out the blindfolds and pass me a bottle! You may both look at and guzzle white wine! Bring out the white zinfandel! The chardonnay! The sauvignon blanc! The Riesling! Their perversion of scripture is obvious to thinking men.

If you literally apply this clause to looking at red wine, you condemn God, Moses, Jesus, Paul, and faithful ministers. The literalists are wrong.  Solomon did not condemn looking at red wine. He condemned unguarded or excessive affection for any wine, but he used the color of the basic wine of Israel, which was very red, like blood (Deut 32:14; Is 63:2). There is a figure of speech here, whether you see an ellipsis or a metonym of the adjunct.

Job said about marriage, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1). Did Job never think about his maids? Could he think about a maid when hiring her? Could he bless her on her birthday? Could he think about giving her a raise? Of course! The condemnation of thinking there is to be understood sexually. Job’s covenant of marriage did not allow sexual thoughts or fantasies about a maid.

Jesus said about mental adultery, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman – hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt 5:28). He did not condemn simply looking at another woman, for that is approved and necessary in ordinary society. But He did condemn looking at another woman “to lust after her.” And it is this sense that is the proper and true sense of the proverb here. Let God be true!

Wine in Solomon’s day had several attractive features – red color; depth, reflection, and shades of color in a good cup, and bubbles moving to the surface. These same features make wine visually attractive today, especially in a beautiful wine glass with appropriate sunshine, room lighting, or candlelight to enhance it. He admitted a strange woman may be beautiful (Pr 6:25); he admitted wine has an appeal you must soberly guard against.

This proverb is in the middle of a passage where Solomon condemned drunkenness (Pr 23:29-35). He did not condemn moderate drinking, which God and the Bible approve and commend: he condemned those who “tarry long at the wine” (Pr 23:30) and those who have the symptoms of severe drunkenness (Pr 23:29,34-35). If a man’s religion is based on the Bible, he knows God commends moderate drinking, but condemns drunkenness.

The Bible does not recognize alcoholism – is there such a thing? Alcoholics are properly called drunkards in Scripture. Drunkenness is drinking past reason until your senses no longer rightly recognize good and evil. Your imagination and speech are degraded to folly and sin (Pr 23:33) – the opposite goal of this book of wisdom. Because drunkenness is deceiving, it is often only others who can perceive your drunkenness.

Reader, take heed. Wine is very good. It is beautiful in a goblet. Its properties to relax your central nervous system and cheer you are very pleasant. But Solomon taught wisdom in Proverbs, and wise men will guard against excessive infatuation with wine and drink it only with prudent discipline. Abuse of wine can make a wise man a fool, quickly.

The lesson of this proverb applies indirectly to all creations and their abuse also. Pasta or pizza is just as dangerous as wine, in that gluttony is as much a sin as drunkenness. Infatuation with food or intemperate eating must also be avoided, for a person preoccupied with eating, or often eating more than he needs, will sin with this blessing. Godliness is moderation and temperance in all things (Eph 5:18; Phil 4:5; I Cor 9:24-27).

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