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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alcohol And The Christian

Isaiah 28:1-8
1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is on the head of the fat valleys of those who are overcome with wine!
2 Behold, the Lord is a mighty and strong one, like a hailstorm, a destroying storm; like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, He casts down to the earth with the hand.
3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trampled under foot;
4 and the glorious beauty, on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the first-ripe fruit before the summer; which the beholder of it swallows up while it is yet in his hand.
5 In that day Jehovah of Hosts shall be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, to the rest of His people,
6 and for a spirit of judgment to him who sits in judgment, and for strength to those who turn back the battle to the gate.
7 But they also have sinned through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way. The priest and the prophet have sinned through drink; they are swallowed up by wine; they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
8 For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness; no place is clean.

Ephraim was a son of Jacob (Israel) and, therefore, became a tribe of Israel. The land that was assigned to this tribe in Canaan (the Promised Land) was a fertile area. Ephraim's name came from fruitfulness, their soil was very fertile and the products were abundant and the best; they had a great many "fat valleys." Samaria, was it's city on a hill, on the head of the fat valleys. Their country was rich, fruitful, pleasant. Their harvest was corn and vines.

But what God had given as a blessing, they had perverted and abused. Using it to fuel their debauchery. The good land He had given them and the blessings of the harvest He had bestowed had been used to provide food and drink for debauchery. Becoming gluttons and drunkards, having drinking contests, cheering each other on in shameful drunken parties.

Ephraim was notorious for drunkenness and excess just like we think of New Orleans (Mardie Gras), Ft. Lauderdale (Spring Breaks), Las Vegas (What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas), etc. Big drunken parties where anything goes. People come from all over to get drunk and do what they normally wouldn't do. They behave shamefully and are egged on by those around them. Laughing, jeering, mocking, saluting, toasting, rewarding those who drink the most. Drunkards make fools and dumb brutes of themselves, either behaving ridiculously or being a mean drunk who is dangerous to themselves and others. There is no sound judgment, no wisdom, no quick reactions. Which is why drunks drink and drive. They have no sound judgment. They make stupid decisions because alcohol has addled their brain. And when they drive they can't make quick decisions and react in time which causes accidents. Alcohol fuels domestic violence and innocent spouses and children are hurt emotionally and physically by the drunk. Alcohol starts quarrels and blunts their perception of danger so that they fight and brawl like ally cats.

Alcohol breaks people. It overcomes them and brings them into bondage. They become addicted, bound by their desire for alcohol. It rules them. They have to have it, their body screams for it. It's constantly on their mind. "How can I get it? What can I do to get it? Where can I drink it? How do I get away with it? How can I hide the fact that I drank alcohol? Where can I hide the bottle? What can I do to placate my loved one so I can continue drinking?"

If they don't get it they get angry, resentful, mean. Then they get sneaky and they lie. Then they get desperate and begin pleading and begging. They will resort to theft and violence if need be. They will do what they never thought they would do. Shameful, sinful things in order to get to the alcohol. Their lust for alcohol controls them.

They may think that they aren't as bad as so-and-so, they aren't in the gutter like whosis, they don't drink every day, they won't ever get that bad, they won't lose their job and their home. Sometimes I wonder if the AA meetings don't have a few in every meeting thinking those things as they smugly look on. But alcohol has already bitten them and every alcoholic is the same whether they want to admit it or not. They may drive to the meeting in a Hummer and wear a silk suit but they aren't any better than the drunk that rolled in out of the gutter. It's just where they happen to be in the alcoholic walk of life. Every alcoholic will lie, will hide, will be sneaky, will try to placate and say whatever it takes to sooth their hurt loved ones. And every one of them is controlled by alcohol and could lose everything in blink of an eye. They are led captive by it, and the captivity is more shameful because it is voluntary. They do it to themselves.

2 Peter 2:12-22
12 These people (the unsaved), like irrational animals, are mere creatures of instinct that are born to be caught and killed. They insult what they don't understand, and like animals they, too, will be destroyed,
13 suffering wrong as punishment for their wrongdoing. They take pleasure in wild parties in broad daylight. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceitful pleasures while they eat with you.
14 With eyes full of adultery, they cannot get enough of sin. They seduce unsteady souls and have had their hearts expertly trained in greed. They are doomed to a curse.
15 They have left the straight path and wandered off to follow the path of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the reward he got for doing wrong.
16 But he was rebuked for his offense. A donkey that normally cannot talk spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet's insanity.
17 These men are dried-up springs, mere clouds driven by a storm. Gloomy darkness is reserved for them.
18 By talking high-sounding nonsense and using sinful cravings of the flesh, they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error.
19 Promising them freedom, they themselves are slaves to depravity, for a person is a slave to whatever conquers him.
20 For if, after escaping the world's corruptions through a full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled and conquered by them, then their last condition is worse than their former one.
21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and turn their backs on the holy commandment that was committed to them.
22 The proverb is true that describes what has happened to them: "A dog returns to its vomit," and "A pig that is washed goes back to wallow in the mud."

The fact that we are Christians means we should know better. We are warned. The Holy Spirit within us and the Bible warn us. We should behave better than the world so as to bring others to Christ. We don't need to give God a bad reputation by our bad behavior. We know better and should give a better example. The Holy Spirit within us is whispering constantly telling us to go to the right or to the left but if we ignore His leading, we can follow our way straight to disaster. This is our fault, not God's fault. God sent Jesus to die for us and set us free from sin, but, too often, we return to our vomit or our mud hole. God wants us to be set free from sin but we love our sin too much. It has a hold on us.

There are plenty of stories in the Bible about how drunkenness led to disaster. See Noah in Genesis 9:21; Lot in Genesis 19; some of the Kings of Israel (Hosea 7:5)

Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever goes astray by it is not wise.

Proverbs 23:29-32
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has fighting? Who has babbling? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?
30 Those who stay long at the wine, those who go to seek mixed wine.
31 Do not look upon the wine when it is red, when it gives its color in the cup, when it goes down smoothly
32 At the last it bites like an asp and stings like an adder.

Eph 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit,

In Isaiah 28, we see that God brought judgment against Ephraim. He was completely just in taking away their plenty. The plenty that they were so proud of fades like a flower. Here today and gone tomorrow. He used the King of Assyria to take them captive and they lost everything.

Matthew Henry's Commentary:
"He shall throw it down to the ground, to be broken to pieces with a strong hand, with a hand that they cannot oppose. Then the crown of pride, and the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under foot (Isaiah 28:3); they shall lie exposed to contempt, and shall not be able to recover themselves. Drunkards, in their folly, are apt to talk proudly, and vaunt themselves most when they most shame themselves; but they thereby render themselves the more ridiculous."

The inhabitants of Ephraim were so proud of their land and their richness. They did not glorify God and give Him the praise due Him but were proud of themselves. They thought their wealth was by their own hand. Then they began to abuse their God-given wealth by using it for the lust of the flesh, in drunkenness and partying, in perverted pleasures. Rather than repenting and turning back to the Lord, asking his forgiveness and trying to live in ways that please Him, they rejected God and followed their own heads and it led them straight into bondage and the horrible consequences of their sins. None of this was what God wanted for them. It was not His will for them to be slaves to sin and have ruin on their heads. He provided the way out for them through Jesus and warned them through His Spirit and His Word.

You can be a Christian, be saved and a lover of God, and still be a sinner. We all are. We still have to struggle against our human nature. All of us are weak in some area or another of sin. For some, they have an addictive personality and struggle against alcohol, drug, gambling, gluttony, smoking, sex, etc. For some, they are weak in sexual areas and struggle against pornography, homosexuality, adulty and fornication. For some, they are weak in faith because they are normally timid, afraid, insecure. For some, they are weak with their mouths. They curse, or gossip, or speak negatively, etc. They have a hard time keeping their mouths shut or under control. Just because we have a weakness towards a sin, does not mean we can stop struggling and just give up to it. "It's just the way I am." God knows how horrible the consequences can be and He knows how miserable we will be when we become so bound up in our sin. He doesn't want that for us. So He tells us to struggle against it. We may fall, but He forgives, so keep struggling against it. Don't give in to it. It will cost you in ways you don't want to know about. You don't want to go there. It's horrible and the longer you continue on in that sin, the harder it is to ever get out.

We can be understanding to a sinner because we all have weaknesses and we can relate to how hard it is to overcome our sins. We all have one thing in common...we are sinners saved by grace. But understanding and being kind to a sinner should not give the sinner license to continue on in their sin. On the contrary, Christians should continually try to lead the sinner back to Jesus, to repentance. Because we love the sinner, does not mean we encourage them to continue sinning because that is the road to certain destruction. What kind of love is that? If we truly love them, we will do whatever we can to stop them and turn them back to the road to life and freedom from sin. We should do this lovingly and not in a mean spirit. We should also be cautious about enabling them. For instance, giving money to a drug addict is enabling them to buy more drugs. When dealing with someone you don't want to step in the way and try to be their Holy Spirit. That is God's job. If you are constantly getting them out of trouble or trying to take on their burdens...you become the one they depend on and lean on. You have become their Holy Spirit and this is not your job. You cannot do what only God can do. Only God can reach their innermost being and bring about the changes they need in their life. And only God knows when and how and where they can be reached. For some, it is at the bottom of the pit. And if we keep stepping in to keep them from this disaster...we may be prolonging their misery. If I had a deep wound, I would much rather go to the doctor and endure the pain of stitches and sting of a antibiotic so that I can get well quicker and be strong again. But some of us allow our wounded loved ones to linger with festering wounds because we don't want them to endure the pain of stitches and sting of antibiotics. They are dying slow deaths. We are really causing them more pain. And, yet, co-dependent loved ones still keep stepping in to try and prevent them from feeling any pain, hoping they will get well without any pain. Parent's who pay bail money to get their son out of jail for DUI; wives who take the calls of creditors in order to protect their husbands so they won't drink due to the pressure; children who lie to teachers at school so they won't be put in foster homes and separated from drunken Mom and/or Dad. All these are ways that enable an alcoholic or drug addict to continue on in their sins. And the cycle of misery continues. There are also very hard situations such as who takes care of the grandchildren when their parents are so addicted that they can't be relied on. If you take the children, you are enabling them to continue in their behavior and which will most likely bring more unwanted children to your door and, yet, if you don't, the innocent children suffer. I don't pretend to know what to do in all situations. This is why I say pray, pray, pray and let God lead you. God knows what you should do in every situation so let Him lead you.

I don't have a problem with alcohol. There are some who can drink occasionally and responsibly. I've been one of those. But I also know that you never know who has that weakness for it. If you never take the first drink then you will never have to discover you are one of those and have to begin that horrible, life-long struggle with it. If you don't take that first drug, you will never be addicted. I've seen first hand how awful addiction can be and what it can do to those you love. It's not a pretty picture. But God can redeem any situation and can help you if you repent and turn to Him. He wants to set you free and He wants you to walk in freedom and victory!

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