It is true. The Bible says very clearly, that God gave wine to “gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15).” I love this verse. Although I am more of a craft brew guy myself, I do enjoy a good glass of wine. This verse adds even more flavor to our drink of choice.
Here’s what it is saying: God invented grapes. He invented tannins. He invented naturally occurring yeast on the grapes’ skins. He knew that if you put said grapes in a bowl under a rock for a few months that the yeast would feast on the natural sugars and he knew that the process would produce alcohol, CO2 and a great flavor. He knew that would happen.
In fact, he intended it to happen. He intended it, in order to let us sit with a steak or a pipe, enjoy good company and let our hearts be glad. He gave us this gift because he loves us.
To me, when I swirl my glass of red goodness, smell the aroma, sip it with my mouth slightly open and let the wine course over my tongue, it is a moment of thanksgiving. I am not enjoying a simply epicurean experience, but rather I know the closeness of God. He sent me a gift that’s a tangible reminder of his affection and my heart is glad. I am not simply stimulating taste buds that elicit a dopamine response in my brain. I am receiving the blessing of my God who wants for me to know pleasure (pleasure was his idea too). Every sip can elicit a gentle and personal return of thanks to the God who gave it.
Wine plays a central role in the story of God’s relationship with man. The Jewish people drank it at Passover and used it in their offerings and sacrifices. Jesus took the cup of wine and told his friends to remember him whenever they drink it. The picture of heaven in Revelation sees those who know Christ feasting with him at the wedding supper of the Lamb. Do you know what they have at wedding suppers? Wine. Wine was meant for us to share communion with God and with each other. What a gift!
However, there is another side to this barrel. The Bible also talks quite a bit about the possible perils of alcohol. For example, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).” So, which is it? Did God give it to us as a gift for us to enjoy or is it a dangerous thing that we should avoid? Well, the difference is in what we are worshipping. God gave us wine so that we could experience pleasure and then return the thanks and praise to the Creator as the source of our provision and pleasure. The trouble comes when we substitute the created thing for the Creator. When we turn to the wine (or beer or liquor or illicit drugs or sex or food) as the source of our comfort, peace, pleasure and joy we turn to a false god that only brings about destruction and emptiness.
We take what God meant as a blessing and make it into a curse. This is where alcoholism and abuse come from. This is what happens when sin skews the plan and purpose of God. It is God himself that brings the fulfillment and wholeness that we are looking for, not the wine. If we mix this up and believe it is the wine that provides, we can drink up Bob and Sheree’s entire stock and only feel worse in the end.
Wine makes a good drink, but a terrible god. So yes, wine and alcohol can be a danger if it is an idol. There are many who shouldn’t touch the stuff. There are perhaps even more who don’t know the real beauty behind the wine that they drink. Trust me, the wine tastes sweeter when you know the vintner, when you drink your wine with the one who made it, when you experience his gracious presence and know his deep affection. I encourage you, next time you uncork a bottle, don’t just taste with your tongue, drink in the presence of God with your heart. If you’ve never met him, he has invited you to his table to meet him. The wine is great and the conversation even better.