I. The Foundational Importance of the Fear of the Lord (Verses 17-19). Sixteen times in Proverbs the writer mentions a spiritual benefit that comes from the fear of the Lord.
A. The fear of the Lord is the “beginning of knowledge” and those who “hate knowledge” do not “choose the fear of the Lord” (1:7, 29). The fear of the Lord constitutes true knowledge and must be of greater importance to us than any other thing (2:5). Fear of the Lord cures arrogance and alarms one of evil’s devastating purpose (3:7; 8:13). The fear of the Lord opens the gateway to wisdom, knowledge, and a long meaningful life (9:10; 10:27). The fear of God gives confidence and refuge when forces of this world seem to have the advantage (14:26). The fear of the Lord is fundamental to repentance from sin and the desire for true life, even eternal life (14:27). The fear of the Lord makes the value of earthly possessions virtually irrelevant for true joy and meaning (15:16). The fear of the Lord gives continual instruction for wisdom in every phase of life reaching even to eternity and prepares the heart for seeing the consummate wisdom of the incarnation [humiliation and exaltation] (15:33). The fear of the Lord leads a person to true repentance (16:6). Likewise, the fear of the Lord leads to saving faith and eternal life and escape from condemnation (19: 23). The fear of the Lord, which naturally establishes humility, also establishes all the traits that give stability and pleasantness to life (22:4). The fear of the Lord establishes a zealous purpose in life to shun the way of sin and embrace the hope of eternal life (23:17, 18). One who does not respect governing authorities can expect consequences on earth while one who does not fear God can expect consequences for eternity (24:21).
B. Because of the nearness of how the events and pleasures of this life appeal to the tendencies of our fallen affections, one can be deceived into desiring perversion of pleasure rather than true pleasure. God has given us affections as an element of our natural makeup in the image of God. We can seek fulfillment of these affections in the immediacy of the created order irrespective of the commandments of God—this is idolatry. We can realize that the most consummate fulfillment of these affections will be found only in eternity in an ever-expanding way through a reverent regard for God’s goodness and holiness and a loving obedience to his commandments. This is the fear of the Lord. “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in [set your desires on] the fear of the Lord always” (17).
C. Time moves along, and death puts an end to all supposed pleasures of this life; but then we stand before God. To live in the fear of the Lord makes death an expansion and fulfillment of hope. “And I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12: 4, 5).
D. The person who listens with true discernment to the voice of wisdom will put his heart in the interests of eternity, not in the quickly-passing pleasures of this world. “Surely there is a future [hereafter]” (18). He or she will develop a set purpose to seek those things that are above where Christ is; he is seated at the right hand of God and when he appears again in his glory, those who have learned what it is to fear the Lord and have directed their heart in the way of truth and life “will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4) “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way” (Verse 19).
II. An example of habits that impede spiritual sharpness (verse 20, 21). A triple indemnity resides within drunkenness and gluttony.
A. Drunkenness and gluttony have a tendency to spoil the productivity of a person. Both energy and hours become consumed in the over-indulgence of food and drink; the mind is dulled, productive hours are diminished both in length and creative incipiency. This reduces the effectiveness and so the desirability of a worker. He is passed over for promotion of any sort and might be in a position to lose his means of livelihood for himself and his family. “The heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty” (21).
B. Drunkenness and gluttony show a love for the world. Its evaluation of pleasure sets the bar for a meaningful life. Purely sensate experience takes over and life is measured in terms of what the world says is desirable and will give us friends, influence, and enjoyment. It leads to an egregious manifestation of worldliness of the kind that is warned against as a demonstration of lack of love for God and for the pleasure that comes only through knowing him. “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
C. Drunkenness and gluttony dull the senses, not only for maximum effectiveness in this life, but for the knowledge of God and for mental and spiritual sharpness to be wise as serpents while being harmless as doves. Learning Scripture requires close attention and extended thought that is made dull by sinful indulgence. A proper grasp of Scripture that leads to a saving knowledge of God includes the full canonical development of truth concerning salvation and the Savior, justice and justification, holiness and sanctification, law and final judgment, the merited consignment to hell and the gracious granting of heaven. Walking a path of truth and holiness requires one’s full faculties uncompromised by dietary sloth. “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of faith” (Hebrews 12:1, 2) “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
III. A Rhetorical drama about the foolishness of undisciplined consumption of alcoholic beverage.
A. Solomon asks six rhetorical questions to point out some problems (Verse 29). He puts these in the form of questions to make the reader consider each consequence in the various shades of reality resulting from a drunken state.
- The first four questions deal with the emotional and mental state caused by drunkenness. He has woe. Personally, his own mind and body experience difficulty with regaining focus and physical equilibrium. He has sorrow. He begins to sense regret that he is in such a physical condition and that he has caused embarrassment to himself and probably to others. Perhaps even he is assaulted by his conscience. He has contention. His condition has caused arguing, an unreasonable demeanor and way of speaking and interacting, and silly or even serious disagreements have been produced by his drunkenness. He has complaining. The aftermath of witless satiation brings complaints from those who were affected by it. Spouse, children, colleagues, business colleagues, observing members of society all feel repulsed and will register either public or private complaints about the irrational and offensive conduct produced by the episode of drunkenness.
- There are physical results also. Who has wounds without cause? Solomon does not mean “without any cause at all.” Drunkenness is the cause. But no noble purpose has brought about the fight and thus the injury. It has not come through criminal aggression on the part of another. No cause other than drunkenness has brought the injuries. Sometimes falls injure drunk people. Sometimes fights come from the contentions and leave bruises or breaks. “Who has redness of eyes?” Bleary vision, bloodshot eyes, a debilitating hangover, and an energiless condition curse the cycle of drunkenness and recovery when one needs sharpness of sight, thought, and action.
B. Solomon gives a succinct answer (Verse 30). Though the answer is obvious, Solomon puts the cause straight up. All of these things come to those who linger long and those who like it strong. The drive to gain the maximum sensual effect of the fermentation shows an undisciplined life and a pleasure-seeking sensuality that takes no cognizance of the long term effects, especially of the mental and spiritual complications involved.
C. Solomon gives a command concerning this problem (verse 31).
- The use of God’s gifts in the earth and the manner in which they are purposefully coordinated with our desires is good of itself. Jesus drank wine and turned water into wine (John 2) at a wedding. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake and his “frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). God has made us capable of pleasure and has given us all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 4:1-4).
- Some might pay more attention to these cases and not take seriously the severe warnings against the devastating effects of drunkenness. If we use them to smother the issues of worship of God and the pursuit of eternal life, we make evil that which is good. If we use legitimate pleasures in an illegitimate way, what is in itself lawful becomes sinful in the use. Paul warned against those who were “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18,19).
- Solomon gives a stern warning against cultivating an insatiable desire for the pleasure of wine. He describes wine that is at the height of its beauty and its immediately pleasurable effect on the palate. “Do no look on” means do not become enamored with it so that it becomes a snare, virtually an object of lust even as Jesus warned not to look on a woman to lust after her (Matthew 5:28). When the desire for wine usurps the affections, it is an idol and will lead to destruction, even as those “whose god is their belly.”
D. Solomon summarizes the sinful result of drunkenness (32, 33). Though it appears beautiful and sparkling and at the first taste it “goes down smoothly,” soon it turns on its consumer and begins to poison both his mind and his body. The senses for which the wine-bibber sought pleasure deceive him and bring not fulfillment but misery. His mind begins to express his loss of inhibition and his speech becomes shameful. Instead of measuring his words and seeking ways to uplift his companions and honor God, he utters “perverse things.” Paul probably has this description of the perverse effects of lusts for wine when he wrote: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, . . . giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20).
E. (Verses 34, 35) Solomon dramatizes how both reason and senses are diminished in capacity by drunkenness. He is like a man at sea in the middle of a storm who goes to sleep in the most precarious position. Unaware of the danger, convinced that he is merely slumbering, when he awakes he finds bruises and contusions. “Why I must be dreaming. How did these wounds come upon me? I don’t remember any of this.” “Perhaps another drink will settle my head.” This person has made himself unfit in mind and body for any productive interaction in society. More seriously—infinitely so—he has rendered his God-given gifts the servants of the creature. He has become a drunkard against whom Paul warns Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11). He has all the moral traits of one who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). His hope is this: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).