Drinking to excess is NOT for kings. But it does have a place; for those who are dying or in bitter distress. That’s when wine is advisable. And let another take up their case.
King Lemuel’s mother had firm standards as far as wine and strong drink were concerned. She didn’t demand none ever be drunk. Instead, she passed on to her son the why and when for drinking. I’m still thinking that this conversation pertains to drinking to excess instead of never letting wine touch the lips. Wine was, and still, is part of society. Not everyone drinks it but most don’t view it as and absolute No-No for everyone. What most of us agree on is that drunkenness is a serious problem.
There is a time and place for saying, “It doesn’t matter.” I would go so far as to say that most people agree that a person who is at the end of their life deserves to be free of pain as much as possible. This is a standard for Hospice services. Those who are dying are often times heavily medicated just to make their last days bearable.
In Solomon’s days, “strong drink” would serve the same purpose for the dying that our heavy pain killers do. It would alleviate the suffering of those who were dying. Even in Jesus’ time, those who were being crucified were offered wine or strong drink to decrease their suffering. Jesus refused this relief when He was hung, until the very last minute. When He said He was thirsty, bitter wine is what they gave Him. I wonder if He was asking for water. By that point He had finished His work and He let go of His Spirit.
The second reason for wine or allowed by King Lemuel’s mother was bitter distress. I’m not exactly certain of her parameters she set for its use. Did she allow the person in “bitter distress” to get drunk and stay drunk so they could forget their problems all together? Did she say it was for a current crisis only? And what did she consider bitter distress? I don’t believe she was saying that being drunk all the time was acceptable for the poor.
When I think about this verse, it brings up memories of times when I or someone I know would qualify as in a time of bitter distress. I’m pleased to say there have not been many of these times in my life. I have had low seasons that felt like “bitter distress” while I was in them but few specific instances that I would say counts as what King Lemuel’s mother would say would be a fine time to get drunk to forget.
The only personal time I can remember is when I was told by my husband at the time; “I don’t love you anymore. There’s nothing you can do about it. I want a divorce.” If I would have been a drinking woman, I might have hoisted the bottle that day. Instead, I deflected with humor. I asked him if he would go lay down in the driveway and let me run over him because it would hurt less. He declined.
My brother-in-law and his wife lost their son in a drowning incident. THAT was a night of bitter distress if there ever was one. The pain still hasn’t gone away and it never will. That night and maybe a few days later though would be days that one would not be faulted if they retreated into oblivion to deal with it. But you can’t stay there.
A friend today was dealing with his income tax bill. He thought he owed a total of 12,000 between state and federal. When I pointed out that the 12,000 was for federal, on top of 3,100 for state, he entered an even deeper time of bitter distress. When he left my home he said, “I need to go drink… some water.” He has recently stopped drinking at all. I’m proud of his resolve, even in the face of such news.
Those in moments of bitter distress need someone to take up for them while they deal with the pain. Someone to come along side and help with some of the day-to-day things until the immediate pain passes. When there is a death, many people bring food so the task of preparing meals when you can barely function won’t be an issue. This also makes it easier on the family members to coax the grieving person to eat something as it is readily available.
Another help during times of death is someone coming alongside and helping with funeral arrangements, notifying family members, and assisting with household decisions. This has been helpful for my children when their father died unexpectedly. He hadn’t spoken with any of them or his own brothers and sisters in more years than we can count, but they had to deal with the “what now” questions. His brother came beside them and took care of all that needed done, including paying for the cremation. My children are settling his accounts now and have paid his brother back.
King Lemuel’s mother goes even farther than caring about the immediate help needed. She calls for her son to speak up for the rights of the “destitute.” She charges him to “judge righteously” and “defend the rights of the poor and needy. He is justice better NOT be for sale. Don’t feel so bad for the poor and needy though that you give them favored treatment. Judge righteously. Don’t be silent on the behalf of those in need of justice, no matter their state or status.
These are things that we all can do to render comfort to those in bitter distress. Be willing to do what you can and don’t feel guilty if all that entails is sitting beside someone so they won’t be alone. Be the friend you would like to have if the roles were reversed.
Father God, THANK YOU for watching over me. THANK YOU for bringing me through my seasons of bitter distress. THANK YOU for protecting me from my own despair during those times. THANK YOU for those who were willing to stand for me when I couldn’t stand and for those who simply sat with me when I needed it. THANK YOU that the time did NOT last forever!!! You returned joy to my soul! For that alone, I will FOREVER praise You.