Wine or Water


Wine or Water

February 18th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM

Daniel 1:8-16

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
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Daniel 1: 8-16

2-18-68    8:30 a.m.


            On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor preaching from the first chapter of the Book of Daniel.  These days and for these continuing Sundays we are preaching through the Book of Daniel.  Next Sunday we begin in the second chapter, which is one of the tremendous chapters in all the Word of God, the sweep of human history, the course of empire down to the consummation of the age.  This morning the sermon is from the first chapter and is entitled Wine or Water

            The story in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel begins with the captivity of these four young Judeans.  And the king speaks to the master of his eunuchs that he bring certain of the seed of the royal family of Judah, that they might be trained in all Chaldean lore and wisdom.  And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat and of the wine which he drank.  "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank" [Daniel 1:8].  And Daniel said, "I beseech thee; let them give us pulse to eat and water to drink" [Daniel 1:12].

            I call your attention to the fact that it is not an "either-or," it is not a "both-and," but rather, it is an "neither-nor."  Give us water to drink.  Daniel did not purpose in his heart that he would not eat so much of the king’s meat as to make himself sick, nor did he purpose in his heart that he would not drink so much of the king’s wine that he could not walk straight, but he purposed in his heart that he would neither eat the king’s meat, which was unlawful for him as a Jew, nor would he drink the wine.  It was an absolute abstention.  I will not drink the wine.  I will drink water.

There sat two glasses, filled to the brim,

On an old man’s table, rim to rim. 

One was wine and red as blood, 

One was water from the crystal flood. 


Said the glass of wine to the paler brother:

As they told their tales the one to the other.

I can tell of banquets, revel, and mirth,

And the proudest and grandest souls on earth

That fell under my touch as though struck by blight.

Where I am monarch and rule in might.

From the heads of kings I have torn the crown;

From the height of fame I have hurled men down.

I have blasted many and honored name;

I have taken virtue and given shame;

I have made the arm of the driver fail,

And sent the train from the iron rail.

I have made good ships go down at sea,

And the cries of the lost were sweet to me.

Ho, Ho! Pale brother, laughed the glass of wine,

Can you boast of deeds as great as mine?


Said the glass of water, I cannot boast

Of a king dethroned or a murdered host,

But I can tell of a heart once sad

By my crystal drops made bright and glad;

Of thirst I have quenched and brows I have laved;

Of hands I have cooled and souls I have saved.

I have slept in the sunshine and dropped from the sky

And everywhere gladdened the landscape and eye;

I have eased the hot forehead of fever and pain

I have made parched meadows grow fertile with grain.

I can tell of a powerful wheel of the mill.

That ground out the flour and turned at my will.

I can tell of manhood debased by you

That I have lifted and crowned anew;

I cheer, I heal, I strengthen and aid;

I gladden the heart of men and maid;

I set the chain of wine captive free,

And all are better for knowing me.


These are the tales they told each other,

The glass of wine and its paler brother,

As they sat together filled to the brim,

On the old man’s table, rim to rim.

["The Two Glasses," by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1872]


Water or wine?  And Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the wine the king drank, and said, "Give us water to drink."

            There was every inducement and every enticement for Daniel and his three friends to drink.  One: they were away from home and in a strange land, away from mothers voice and father’s eyes and friend and family.  Again, they were courtiers in the palace of the king.  And it was the custom for everyone to drink.  Why should they be peculiar or set apart?  Why should they be alone?  It was the habit of the day for all of them in the king’s palace to drink.  Again, success and preferment and favor was wrapped up in their conformity, and again it was offered and commanded by the king himself.

            Even the prince of the eunuchs dared not take it away lest he lose his head – offered by the king himself, at whose hands their lives depended.  There is many a man who would refuse a glass of liquor from the hand of an inferior, but who will take it from the hand of a successful executive, and especially his boss.  There is many a man who would refuse a glass of liquor passed over a bar, handed out by some beefy and dull bartender, who will take it from the dimpled and jeweled hand of a social queen.

            Thus with Daniel, it came from the king himself.  Drink it.  But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.  He had given himself to the great Lord God, and his body was a temple of the Holy Spirit.  And he refused to defile it.

            One of the great physicians of all time was Dr. Adolf Lorenz of Vienna, Austria.  At the turn of the century, Philip Armour – the head of the great packing family and packinghouse in Chicago – Philip Armour had a little boy who was born crippled.  And he invited Dr. Lorenz of Vienna, Austria to come to the United States and paid him the unheard of fee of thirty thousand dollars – an astronomical sum in those days – to come and to see if he could heal his crippled boy. 

            Dr.  Lorenz came to the United States, and he was heralded by the press from one side of this nation to the other.  The American Medical Association met in New Orleans that year of 1903.  And a group of men here, doctors in Dallas, urged Dr. Lorenz to come to this city.  He did.  And on the twentieth day of May in 1903 they held a banquet here for Dr. Lorenz. 

            Dr. George W. Truitt, the pastor of this church brought the main address at that banquet, and out of that session and out of that convocation came the founding of the great General Hospital of our Baptist people in Dallas, which is known as the Baylor University Medical Center. 

            Dr. Lorenz was at another banquet at which they were serving wine and he pushed his wine glass back.  And the companion next to him asked him why he did not drink.  "Are you a teetotaler?"    And Dr. Lorenz replied, "Yes, I am a teetotaler.  I am not a temperance agitator.  I am a surgeon; my success depends upon my brains being clear, my muscles firm, and my nerves steady.  No one can take alcoholic liquor without blunting these physical powers, which must be kept on edge.  As a physician, I must not drink."


            Miss Frances Willard one time asked Thomas Alvin Edison, "Why don’t you drink liquor?"  And the great inventor replied, "I have a better use for my brain." 

            This is according to the Word of God.  In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Proverbs and the first verse, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."  And again, in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Proverbs: 

Who hath woe?  Who hath sorrow?  Who hath contentions?  Who hath babbling?  Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?  

They that tarry long at the wine;,

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup,…

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. 

[Proverbs 23:29-32]


            This verdict of the Holy Scriptures has been confirmed in the endless story of human history.  Belshazzar, in the fifth chapter of this Book of Daniel, Belshazzar loses the Babylonian Empire in an orgy of drunkenness and lust.  Alexander the Great who conquered the entire civilized world died at thirty-three years of age in a drunken debauchery. 

            When the "Iron Duke" of England, Wellington, was marching his army across the peninsula, word was brought to him that ahead of him was a vast store of Spanish wine.  He stopped his army.  He sent his staffers ahead and they blew it up.  Then he marched his army on. 

            It is said that the reason Napoleon Bonaparte lost the battle at Waterloo to the victorious Duke of Wellington, was because the night before Marshal Ney tarried too long over his favorite glass of wine, and the next morning his head was clouded and his mind not steady.

            When France fell in this last World War II against Hitler, Marshal Pétain  said France was defeated because its army was drunk.  And the Vichy government of 1940 said the reason for the collapse of the moral fiber of the French army was due to alcohol, and it is the greatest of the four problems that faces France today.  Yet France is pointed out to us as a nation where the people have learned to use alcohol moderately.  There is no such thing as a people using alcohol moderately.  Eighty percent of the criminals of France today come out of their alcoholics.  And America is fast steeping itself in the sin of drunkenness and debauchery.  This thing continues on and on. 

            John L. Sullivan, who was the champion boxer of the world, was a man born with a tremendous physique.  And he was a tremendous fighter.  But he had a weakness.  He drank alcohol.  There was another man by the name of Jim Corbett.  Jim Corbett as a boy was weak and sickly, but he studied foods, and he took care of his body.  And upon a day when he was grown, Jim Corbett challenged John  L. Sullivan to a fight for the world championship of the ring.  And John L. Sullivan was insulted, and in anger he said, "With one blow I will mash him flat". 

            The fight raged over an hour, and this was in the day when they did not pad the glove.  The fight raged for over an hour and when it was done the championship passed to Jim Corbett.  After the fight was over John L. Sullivan put the blame where it belonged, on liquor, and thereafter became a temperance and prohibitionist advocate, going up and down the land making speeches to young people against drinking liquor.

            Not too many years ago in the Sugar Bowl the number one team of the nation, one of the great university teams of America, a state university, was playing Baylor, who by no means was one of the leading teams in the nation at that time.  And that university team said, "We will blot Baylor off the map".  So both teams went down to New Orleans and the state university team spent its time on Bourbon Street drinking liquor and watching all of the things that go on, on Bourbon Street.  And the next day – the day the game was played, Baylor nailed their ears to the wall.  Baylor mashed them into the ground.  This is no unusual thing; this is the story of human history. 

            I could not but be somewhat impressed by this letter that I cut out of the daily paper, the readers who write in, and this is from a doctor at Parkland Hospital, and this is the letter that he wrote to the editor:

Recently we saw another preview of hell in the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room: a woman struck down by a drunken driver.  A college student lying semi-conscious, following a head-on collision with another drunken driver, who himself was critically injured.  The drunk’s companion was dead, four other drunks with lacerations and stab wounds waiting to be treated. 

Night after night, year after year, the same bloody trail of horror: major auto accident and injuries, stabbings, rapes, wife beatings – the nightly emergencies treated and released or admitted to the hospital or pronounced dead on arrival – and almost always the bloody trail is led by that honored man of distinction, the weekend drinker, almost always the moderate drinker, not the alcoholic. 

I wonder if there is that much joy to be gained from the total consumption of all the beers and whiskeys ever made, to ever equal even the small fraction of the innocent sufferings; the damaged bodies, the broken marriages, the discarded children, the total brutalities and crimes that inevitably accompany its use.  What a quiet place our emergency room would be if beverage alcohol were ever abolished from our city. 

            Signed by the medical doctor, Parkland Hospital, Dallas Texas.


            Wine or water?  Could anybody bring me some kind of a reason why you want to drink alcohol?  Well, that raises the next part of this sermon this morning.  Are their uses for alcohol?  Yes, there are.  According to the Word of God there are.  One: alcohol can be used as a sedative for a condemned criminal who is ready to be executed.  In the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Proverbs, I read these words, the words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him: 

What, my son? And what, the son of my womb?  And what, the son of my vows?

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. 

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish. Let him drink.

[Proverbs 31:1-6]


            Now people will read that and say, "See, in the Bible you’re to give drink to those who are ready to perish, that he might forget his judgment."  It is the opposite!  What the mother of King Lemuel said was this: "It is not for you, my son, to drink.  But drink," this mother said, "is for this man who is condemned and ready to die."  And it can be used as a sedative to somewhat palliate and soften the horror of his execution.  So if you’re going to be executed, you’re going to be placed in the electric chair, if you are going to be hanged on a gallows, that is one use for alcohol.  It can be used as a sedative for a condemned criminal. 

            There is another use for alcohol in the Word of God.  Timothy was a teetotaler; he would not touch it under any condition.  So Paul wrote him an admonition and said, "Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities" [1 Timothy 5:23].  

            So, there is a medicinal use for alcohol.  And I think any doctor and any pharmaceutical firm would avow to you that without alcohol medicine would be almost impossible.  It is a solution in which those medicinal effective units and chemical potions and compounds and formulae can be dissolved.  It is a disinfectant.  Alcohol is most useful in medicinal treatises and prescriptions. But alcohol as a beverage, as a drink, is impossible; it is a poison according to any kind of a reputable doctor.  Well then, can it be used for merriment and for mirth?  And always the story of Jesus turning water into wine is used. 

            What about Jesus turning water into wine? [John 2:1-11].  Well, I have this comment to make.  When Jesus did that miracle which had nothing to do with drinking at all, it was a sign, the apostle John called it a sign, filling up the water pots of the old law, the foot tubs of the Jews, and then carrying this new and wonderful drink to the master of the feast.  What kind of a drink was it that they carried, that Jesus had made?  The master of the feast said it was different from anything he had ever tasted before.  It was different.  It was a new thing.  Well, what was it that Jesus made?  I think it was this.  According to the Word of the Lord in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord says, "I will drink no longer of this fruit of the vine until; I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom" [Matthew 26:29].   And in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation is described the marriage supper of the Lamb, when all of God’s children are gathered around the festive table of the Lord and we eat and we drink at the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

            What kind of a drink will that be up there in heaven?  Will it be like these people say?  Will it be a concoction, an alcohol, to make people drunk?  Will it be that?  No.  What you are going to drink at the marriage supper of the Lamb is that wondrous drink that Jesus made at the marriage supper in Cana of Galilee.  And it is going to be that wonderful drink that Jesus spoke of when He instituted the Lord’s Supper and said, "I will drink no more of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom."  And that kind of a drink that Jesus made will not hurt anybody, but it will be celestial; it will be marvelous.  And the master of the feast said, "I never drank anything like this before.  I never tasted anything like this before."  This is what God did. 

            But oh, what a far cry from what Jesus has done and what we shall enjoy in the world and land that is to come, from the liquor industry today that depends, for its existence and for the making of money, on the debauchery of our youth.  How are they going to continue unless they teach our young people to drink? 

            So they are waiting for the little fellow that is growing up in my home, and they are waiting for the boy and the girl growing up in your home.  And if they don’t succeed in getting that little boy, and if they don’t succeed in getting that little girl, they will cease to exist.  They’ll go out of business.  So the plan and the program of the liquor industry is they must teach that boy of yours and that girl of yours to drink.

You’re starting, my boy, on life’s journey,

Along the grand highway of life; 

You’ll meet with a thousand temptations –

Each city with evil is rife.


This world is a stage of excitement, 

There is danger wherever you go; 

But if you are tempted in weakness,

Have courage, my boy, to say no!


Be careful in choosing companions,

Seek only the brave and the true,

And stand by your friends when in trial,

Ne’er changing the old for the new;


And when by false friends you are tempted

The taste of the wine cup to know,

With firmness, with patience and kindness

Have courage, my boy, to say no.

["Have Courage to Say No," by Horatio Richmond Palmer, 1887]


            I was holding a revival meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, and some of the people there took me to eat dinner one evening at a very famous – they said the most famous – and the most patronized of all the restaurants on Highway One, on that entire East Coast.  And when I went in the door, I saw a picture, right as you enter, a large picture of a fine, fine woman.  And as I sat down to eat I said, "Well, this is very unusual, very unusual.  Look at that picture of that fine woman there," so prominently displayed at the main entrance to the large restaurant. 

            And a deacon who took me to dinner said, "Let me tell you about that picture."  He said, "That woman had a son, and maybe other children, and came down to Jacksonville, Florida from Georgia.  They came from the farm.  And she started a little eating-place, and it grew into a wonderful and famous restaurant because she was a wonderful cook, and people came from miles around to eat the culinary arts from her gifted hands.  And upon a day, growing old – she grew sick and to death – and she called the son in and said, ‘Son, the restaurant is turned over to you, but I want you to make me a promise.  I want you to promise me, son, that you will never serve liquor in that restaurant.’  And the boy said, ‘I will not mother’.  Well as time went on, all the liquor people say the same thing, ‘You can’t run a place to eat if you do not serve our beverages.  You’ve got to serve it in order to exist.’  So they came to that young fellow and said, ‘We’re ready to put wine, and whiskey, and drinks, and beer in this place, because you can’t exist without it.’  And that boy said, ‘Before I do that, I’ll go back to Georgia and start plowing again on the farm, for I made a promise to my mother I would never serve liquor in this restaurant.’ And he said, "The boy had the picture of his mother painted and put up there at the front of the restaurant just to remind him and everybody else, that there is no liquor served in this restaurant."

            How did the boy do?  Did he go broke?  Did he go out of business?  There are more people wanting to eat in that place than any other place I ever saw in my life.  You don’t have to serve liquor to succeed and you don’t have to drink to be blessed of God.  And it’s a lie when any executive, or when any industry, or any company tells you that you must drink to succeed.  That is what the prince of the eunuchs told Daniel; but Daniel purposed in his heart, "I will drink water and not wine." 

            This week we have remembered the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  I want to close with a quotation from an address of Abraham Lincoln delivered in Springfield, Illinois the twenty-second day of February 1842.  "Whether or not," said Abraham Lincoln:

The world would be vastly benefited by a total and final banishment from it of all intoxicating drinks, seems to me not now an open question.  Three-fourths of mankind confess the affirmative with their tongues, and, I believe, all the rest acknowledge it in their hearts.

            In that banishment, we shall find a stronger bondage broken; a viler slavery manumitted; a greater tyrant deposed.  In it, more of want supplied, more of disease healed, more of sorrow assuaged.  By it no orphans starving, no widows weeping; by it, none wounded in feeling, none injured in interest.

            If the relative grandeur of revolutions shall be estimated by the great amount of human misery they alleviate, and the small amount they inflict, then, indeed, will this be the grandest the world shall ever have seen.

            And when the victory shall be complete, when there shall be neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth, how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birth-place,of both these revolutions, that shall have ended in that victory.  How nobly distinguished that people who shall have planted and nurtured to maturity, both the political and moral freedom of their species. 


            I turn back to the Book of Daniel.  "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the wine which the king drank.  And Daniel said, ‘Let them give us pulse to eat and water to drink.’" [Daniel 1:12].

            It took us a long time to go back through history to find such a man as that.  We had to go clear back through the thousands of years to the ancient civilization of Babylon to discover him.  But it was worth it.  It’s just great to know that such a man as that one time lived: "Give us water to drink." 

            You’re free; you can do as you please.  There is not anything of an excommunicatory power in my hands or in the church.  You are absolutely free.  You can do as you please.  But I, by the Word of God, avow to you this solemn hour you will please God if you are like Daniel and say, "Give me water to drink."   And you’ll bless your family, and you’ll bless your home, and you’ll bless your business, and you’ll bless every part of your life if you’ll say, "I will take water to drink."  And there will be no heavy hangover, there’s no hurt; nothing but joy and gladness for you, and your wife, and your children, and your home, and your health, and your future, and your business, and everything about you.

            God isn’t hard on us.  God doesn’t treat us mean.  God is not leading us into ways that are not blessed and profitable.  But God’s ways are good ways, and Jesus’ blessings are precious blessings.  We’re free, but we are free to honor God.  Do it in your home, in your work, and in the habits of your life.  See if God is not in it. 

            Now, we must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, while we sing the song, while we make the appeal would you come and stand by me?  "Pastor, today I’m giving my life to the Lord and here I come."  Or, "Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children.  All of us are coming today."  As God shall say the word and as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door, come.  The throng in this balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, make it now; make it today, make the decision.  And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming.  "Here I am, pastor."  Do it and God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.