Do Not Be Defiled
I started teaching through the book of Daniel last night at our local congregation and I can see already that it is not only going to be educational but also enjoyable. When you "sink yourself" into an entire book of Scripture, studying the book verse by verse and sometimes word by word you really come away with a much better knowledge of what the text means.
Daniel was most likely a young man, not even above 20 years old, and was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians. During the beginning of his "sojourn" in Babylon he was given a new name (Belteshazzar) and was told to learn the literature of Babylon. He was also given the meat of the King of Babylon to eat and the wine of the King of Babylon to drink. It is at this point that Daniel drew the line. The Scripture states (Daniel 1:8) that he had purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portions from the Kings table and thus made a request to the Kings chief official that he might not defile himself but rather be given food and drink suitable to his way of life.
Picture yourself being in a strange land, governed by a very powerful ruler, and being chosen to serve in this rulers palace. Now picture yourself being so dedicated to Yahweh your God that you refuse to eat and drink what this King had given to you. That is dedication.
You know though, Daniel did not just march in and point his finger at the chief official, he made a request of him (Daniel 1:8). His humility in the situation helped gain him respect with the chief official, and Daniel was able to eat the diet he chose for 3 years time (Daniel 1:5, 8-18).
Why did Daniel refuse the Kings meat? It is possible that the meat was unclean and forbidden for a Judahite like Daniel. The Torah gives us a menu of the animals that are permissible and that are forbidden (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). But what about the wine? The Torah does not forbid the drinking of wine, only drunkeness is condemned. Could it be that the wine had been used in worship (as a drink offering of sorts) to the many gods of the Babylonians?
However we understand Daniel's refusal we need to learn that even in our circumstances where we may think we do not have the option of remaining true to Yahweh's law we just may have to step out on faith and refuse to defile our self. Daniel did, and he was given knowledge 10 times greater than all the wise men in Babylon (Daniel 1:20). This meant that he was given a "top seat" in the Babylonian government.
I've recently been told - again - that drinking alcohol in any amount is wrong for the believer in Yeshua to do. At least this time the fellow who told me this said that he could not say drinking wine was a sin.
For anyone who is truly interested in studying this issue with due diligence I want to recommend to resources. First a book (pictured above) by author Ken Gentry. This book is extremely exhaustive and yet very easy to understand. He tackles arguments from those in opposition and each chapter is designed to deal with specific issues involved in the subject. This book can be found HERE.
Secondly, I would like to recommend three sermons preached by Pastor John Weaver of Freedom Ministries. If you haven't heard Pastor Weaver preach you are missing out majorly. Few preachers even think of venturing into some of the subjects this man teaches about. His Sermons can be found HERE.
Wine Maketh Merry
We need to be able to read the Bible with are eyes wide open. I have found that people generally (not always) read Scripture from the perspective of their upbringing. Baptists read the Bible as though it was written by Baptists, Presbyterians as Presbyterians, Sacred Name groups as Sacred Name groups. It is difficult for most to read Scripture apart from what they were or are being taught Scripture states. What we've have to learn to do is to read Scripture in the original context in which it was written. We must also understand the author of the text, the people to whom the text was written to, and the culture at the time. When we are not commmitted to reading Scripture in this way we will often come away from our Bible reading thinking that this verse or that verse really shouldn't be in our Bibles. It's not our "denominational" way, so to speak.
One verse that may seem out of place to some is Ecclesiastes 10:19. The Scripture reads (KJV), "A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry, but money answereth all things." Alot of people will be able to "stomach" the portion of this text that talks about a feast. I've attended many a feast in my life, a get together of sorts with family and/or friends where there is much, much food to the liking. When a feast like this is held there will inevitably be laughter, and why not? It is enjoyable to laugh with others in a clean, fun way. It is enjoyable to here someone say or speak of something that is humorous to the ear. The Bible agrees and not many will argue - a feast is made for laughter.
The next sentence in the passage says that wine maketh merry. This is more difficult to swallow for the average Bible reader, but is it not just as true as the sentence previous to it? If we have no problem accepting the first part of the verse what makes us what to rip out and throw away the second part? And after all, doesn't wine make merry the heart? According to the Psalmist it does.
"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 104:14-15]
Once again, notice the surrounding context here. People will have no problem whatsoever about grass for cattle, and herbs for the service of man. Not one will argue about oil making a man's face shine and bread strengthening a mans heart. However, when we come to the phrase that says wine which makes the heart of man glad we seem to balk. "Oh that can't really mean what it says, can it?" we wonder. Yet the text speaks clearly, agreeing with the author of Ecclesiastes, and with numerous other texts in Scripture. Wine truly makes merry the heart. This is not a statement of sarcasm or rebuke; the author is not here trying to speak in such a way as to warn the reader not to make his heart merry. He is just giving a simple statement of truth, right along with a feast, and right along with grass, herbs, oil, and bread.
The "Bishop" and His Wine
When I was growing up I wasn't accustomed to seeing people drink wine or any alchoholic beverage. This doesn't mean I had parents who constantly drilled my mind with a slogan like, "wine is the devil's juice, son." My parents simply taught me Christian character, and this included the character opposite from a drunk or drunkard.
As I got a little older and was able to see a few people in a drunken state, common sense told me that for a person to be in such a state was unlawful according to Yahweh's standards. This was before I really knew or studied anything the Bible stated on the issue.
I remember the first time I read the passage in Scripture (KJV) concerning bishops and deacons; specifically the part of each ministers requirement as it pertained to the consumption of wine.
"A bishop must be blameless ... not given to wine..." [1 Timothy 3:2-3]
"Likewise must the deacons be grave ... not given to much wine..." [1 Timothy 3:8]
My initial thoughts on these admonitions before ever studying the text was that a bishop (overseer) could not have any wine, and a deacon (servant to the overseer) could have a little wine. When I say wine, I mean alchohol or fermented beverage. In reading the word wine here I never once thought that the word implied grape juice.
I'm aware that certain people believe many uses of the word wine in Scripture are a reference to unfermented grape juice. I will not say that the Hebrew and Greek words for wine never refer to grape juice, but I do believe such people are heavily inaccurate in applying such a definition to the majority of the uses of the word wine in Scripture.
Certainly wine in 1 Timothy 3 wouldn't mean grape juice, would it? If that was the case then according to my first understanding a bishop couldn't drink grape juice and a deacon could only have a little grape juice. Does that make any sense at all?
Why in the world would the Creator prohibit grape juice for bishops, and set forth a standard of moderate consumption for deacons? We would also have to wrestle with the fact that if the text does mean this, then the text (in the immediate context) never prohibits bishops or deacons from having fermented wine! Talk about back-firing on some people.
I think most people will be honest enough to say that the verses are dealing with wine, but we needn't stop there. While the King James Version of the text does seem to lend weight to the belief of some - that a bishop can't have any wine, and a deacon only a little - I do not believe this was the original intent of the verses. Examining the Greek text will show this to be accurate.
The phrase "not given to wine" in 1 Timothy 3:3 is taken from one Greek word, paroinos, and does not portray the idea that an overseer must live in total abstinence of wine. The word is defined by Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as "staying near wine, that is a tippling (a topper)" while Thayer's Greek English Lexicon defines the word as "given to wine, drunken." The standard for the deacon in verse 8 is actually taken from three different Greek words (prosecho, polus, oinos) but carries basically the same meaning as the command to the bishop in verse 3. Each command is dealing with an immoderate use of wine by both ministers. Therefore we could translate the verses exactly as the Holman Christian Standard Bible has done:
"An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach ... not addicted to wine..." [1 Timothy 3:2-3]
"Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect ... not drinking alot of wine..." [1 Timothy 3:8]
This poses no problem for the student of Yahweh's word who is truly interested in knowing what Yahweh's will actually is on this issue. For people who hold some kind of "sacred cow" or have on "tradition glasses" no amount of proper exegesis, context, or linguistic argumentation will suffice. Let us love Yahweh's word, and desire to interpret it in a way that is true to its original intent.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.