Psalm 104:14–15 (NKJV)
14 [God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth, 15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
As we anticipate moving soon to our new facility, I’d like to take a momentary break from our meditations on the Ten Commandments to prepare for our move. We have rented from the good folks here at the Seventh Day Adventist Church for almost three years. In an effort to respect the convictions of our brethren, we have refrained from the use of wine in communion. But when we move into our new building, we’ll be resuming the use of wine and wanted to give a brief defense. After all, some of you joined us while here at the SDA building and may not even know that we use wine in communion. So in the interest of no surprises I wanted to address the issue.
It is always a temptation for us as the people of God to substitute our own wisdom for the wisdom which God has given in His Word. We can be tempted either to permit things that God has forbidden or to forbid things that God has permitted. It was in the midst of addressing this latter temptation, the temptation to forbid things that God has permitted, that Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:4-5:
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Paul reminds us that God has fashioned and molded the world and that we are to receive the things that he has given with gratitude and thanksgiving. So notice the psalmist doing what Paul articulates:
[God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
Within the American church, there has been a strong impulse to edit out the first half of verse 15 and eliminate the psalmist’s praise of “wine that makes glad the heart of man.” Vegetation – yes! Oil – yes! Bread – yes! But wine? We’re not so sure. Grape juice yes; but wine?
Our reticence often stems from the frequent abuse of alcohol – and make no mistake that the abuse of alcohol, drunkenness, is a sin. Paul commands us, “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” But the same Scriptures that identify drunkenness as a sin also identify wine itself as a gift from God – a gift to gladden the heart of man.
Jesus testified to the blessing of wine at the wedding of Cana when he turned the water into wine and brought joy to the bridegroom and the bride. And it is wine that Jesus drank with his disciples on the night he was betrayed – and so it is wine that we will use when we are at liberty to do so in our own building.
So why is it that we often create these extra strictures and forbid things that God permits in His Word? One reason is our persistent temptation to identify the cause of our sinfulness in something outside of us. If alcohol is the problem, then my heart is not the problem, my desires are not the problem, my love for someone and something more than God Himself is not the problem.
But the Word of God does not let us off so easily. My problem, your problem, is not outside of me or outside of you – our problem is in our hearts. Out of the heart proceeds drunkenness, our abuse of the good gift of wine that God has given. So why does God give us wine in the Supper? He gives us wine to remind us that Jesus died to rescue us from our sinful inclinations and to enable us to use his gifts aright. So reminded of our propensity to twist God’s good gifts and use them for evil, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.