What can we learn from a people who allowed their nation to crumble away because of the use of alcohol? Plenty. Just look at the ancient nations of Israel and Judah. They were God’s chosen people who time-and-again rebelled against Him, with alcoholism being much of the problem.* (Thankfully, the Father allowed a faithful remnant to escape His sovereign discipline, ultimately providing salvation for all humankind, but that’s another story.)
The Biblical lesson about the use of alcohol is summed up by the prophet Micah who prophesied dire warnings about it on the one hand and a coming Messiah on the other (note the parenthetical thanks above). These holy words from God’s throne describe for us the character of people who enjoyed using alcohol or at least excused away the desire for it:
– They arise against God as an enemy. – Micah 2:8a
– They bully anyone who passes within their sphere of influence. – Micah 2:8b
– They oppress women and children. – Micah 2:9a
– They reduce the glory of God to nothing. – Micah 2:9b
– They create a culture that is unclean, wearisome, and destructive. – Micah 2:10
According to the prophet, this kind of people deserved as their spokesman a liar, that is, one who claimed that it was fine to use alcohol (Micah 2:11). This reminds me of Paul’s admonition to the Christians in Rome: Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchange the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25)
So, where you find this misleading spokesman – of any sinful vice for that matter – is where you’ll also find people who reject the Lordship of Jesus, who bully others, who disrespect families, and who create a culture of destructive behavior.
Is the context applicable to us today? Yes. God, through Micah, addressed it this way: Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! (Micah 1:2).
Should we question why Godly leaders speak against alcohol? Probably not a good idea: If a man should walk in a false spirit and speak a lie, saying, “I will prophecy to you of wine and drink,” even he would be the prattler of this people. (Micah 2:11)
* Make no mistake: All the prophetic books of the Old Testament regard the consequences of disobeying God. But the theme of alcohol use in each of the 13 prophecies below is revealing, especially in Jonah and Malachi. In Jonah, alcohol or drinking is not mentioned at all. And even though it is not specifically mentioned in Malachi, there’s a great deal of reference to it. Here are the themes regarding alcohol for each:
Daniel – the propriety of drinking alcohol
Hosea – results and consequences of wine used in worship of false gods
Joel – the associations of drunkenness
Amos – unethical behavior associated with drinking intoxicating beverages
Obadiah – the carelessness of drinking in the midst of holiness
Jonah – there is nothing in Jonah about the use of alcohol. Most interesting is the fact that Jonah is the prophet to whom Jesus compared His own three day burial period. It’s interesting because Jonah is the only prophet who doesn’t mention alcohol and the only prophecy who does not mention Israel or Judah, for good or bad. Yet as bad as Nineveh was, God did not single out any use of alcohol or other reference to intoxication, or even to new, sweet, or fresh wine. Certainly, the people of Nineveh used alcohol as they were considered the most barbaric, blood-thirsty, wanton nation on earth at their time.
Micah – the sin of desiring and foolishly neglecting the effects of alcohol
Nahum – drunkenness equated to helplessness
Habakkuk – the folly of getting drunk and getting others drunk
Zephaniah – God foils the plans of the disobedient to get drunk
Haggai – self-centered people can’t get enough intoxicating drink
Zechariah – literal and comparative inhibition and unrestraint of drunkenness
Malachi – defiled offerings to the Lord: a different abuse of alcohol. It could be that offering an alcoholic, fermented wine to the Lord helped to fuel the burnt offering and had nothing to do with using wine (alcoholic) as a beverage. This probability is seen in the context of God’s instructions in making a burnt offering to Him as a sweet aroma. (Throughout Exodus and Numbers, when a wine offering was made, the reference was usually to a fermented, alcoholic type of wine.) Likewise, oil might be a fuel for the fire, too, and was part of the sacrifice (after all, fresh pressed olive oil was used for lamps). However, these are mere speculations. The bigger issue was (and is) being obedient to exactly what God commanded.