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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Drinks on the House!
Text:Esther 1:1-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Lord, Thou Hast been Our Dwelling Place

Another Year Is Dawning

He Leadeth Me

Take Time to Be Holy      

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
Drinks on the House!”
Esther 1:1-12
In the 1920’s, during the temperance movement in the United States, many Christians worked with temperance movement leaders to outlaw all sales of alcoholic beverages. From a biblical point of view, that is a little surprising. While the Bible certainly portrays drunkenness as a sin, and a sin which leads to many other sins, it never condemns the use of alcohol entirely.
In Psalm 104:15 the Psalmist thanks God for wine, which gladdens the heart of man. In the New Testament we find the Apostle Paul telling the young minister Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach and not to drink water only. And Jesus Himself not only drank wine with His disciples but took ordinary water and transformed it into the best wine anyone has ever tasted.
It is not drinking alcohol itself that the Bible condemns, but excessive drinking which leads to drunkenness and all the other sinful behaviors that branch out from it. The truth that excessive drinking leads to other sins is certainly evident in this passage of Esther, as we see where Xerxes’ excessive drinking led to pride and lust.
Admittedly, King Xerxes had a problem with his puffed-up pride long before he uncorked the first bottle of wine. Anyone who sets aside six months to display their wealth for the admiration of others has a pride problem! But when the alcohol began to flow, that pride problem grew bigger for Xerxes. The drinking also allowed the pride to be bruised more sharply, as is often the case.
We see the link between excessive drinking with lust as well as with pride. When alcohol loosens the inhibitions, people will say and do things that they never consider when sober. That was also the case with King Xerxes. Verse 10-11: On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him, to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.
Many commentators believe that King Xerxes was commanding Queen Vashti to parade her beauty wearing nothing but the royal crown. While we don’t know for sure that that was the case, excessive drinking and loose morality go hand in hand. That is especially important for you young people to bear in mind, and especially important for you girls to remember.
Because alcohol affects us by body weight, girls are usually more quickly affected by drinking than are guys. We read or hear in the news way too often about girls who are assaulted because they drank too much and passed out. Or the person who assaulted them put something in their drink to make them pass out.
There used to have a saying about that: “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” It’s not a very pleasant saying, but it reveals the sinful mindset that would encourage someone to drink in order to get their clothes off. And that has been going on since the dawn of history. The prophet Habakkuk spoke about that in his day: Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink - you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness!  (Habakkuk 2:15).
Some of you might reason: “Pastor, we don’t need a message like this. We are good, church going people.” One reason I like to go through books of the Bible with expository preaching, is that by doing so subjects are addressed that I wouldn’t include if I was preaching topically. By going systematically through a book of the Bible, we can’t help but deal with the subjects that are there. They are obviously topics God wants addressed or they wouldn’t be in His Word.
If a godly man like Noah could drink too much and make a fool of himself by taking off all his clothes, don’t think that alcohol won’t trip you up if you abuse it. And there are alcohol abusers in almost every church, both young and old, both in the pews and in the pulpits.
It’s not just Roman Catholic priests who at times have been exposed with drinking problems. It happens with Protestant pastors, too. I knew one pastor who had to leave the pastorate because of his drinking problem. But that forced him to admit the problem, repent of it, and get the help to overcome it. After his recovery he became a pastor to pastors, and probably did more good within God’s kingdom ministering to pastors than he did when he ministered to those in the pews.
If you, or someone you know, has an addiction – whether to alcohol or any other destructive behavior – then seek help. Alcoholics Anonymous has done a great work for many people. So has a twelve-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous called Celebrate Recovery. It is distinctly Christ-centered and has helped many who were in bondage to alcohol, drugs, and other addictions. Celebrate Recovery has helped many people overcome their destructive lifestyles and find grace, forgiveness, and sanctification through faith in Jesus Christ.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an addiction, talk to me or contact those groups directly. They are totally confidential. And when I receive confidential information, I talk to no one except the Lord, because He is more than willing to forgive all who come to Him in repentance, and He is able to heal and sanctify. But He uses means to an end. And the means that He uses are often other Christians who have gone through the same type of addictive lifestyle and are thus able to help those who are trying to come out of that lifestyle.
Alcohol and Broken Relationships
A second truth we see from Xerxes’ excessive drinking is that it led to broken relationships. One of the ironies of the advertising world is that they often portray alcohol as having just the opposite effect of what it really has. Every year when “Super Bowl Sunday” approaches we see more and more beer ads. Almost all the ads stress that drinking beer together, especially a lot of beer together, builds great friendship. There are always ads showing “drinking buddies” having a great time together watching football.
Yet do you know what Sunday of the year most arrests for fighting take place? It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl Sunday is a Sunday that police departments across the nation don’t look forward to. They know they will be extra busy breaking up fights and being called to settle domestic squabbles.
We see the same alcohol-fueled conflict in Xerxes’ life. In verse 10-12 a huge domestic problem develops from his drinking party. The relationship between the king and the queen is “on the rocks” and the source of the problem is in the flow of liquor.
There is nothing new under the sun. Over indulgence in liquor, whether beer, wine or hard drinks, still shatters so many lives, breaks up so many families, and sets “drinking buddies” fist to fist against each other.
Anger Fueled by Alcohol
A third truth we see about excessive drinking, here in Esther 1, is that anger is often fueled by drinking. Drinking is often like adding the highest octane fuel to the fire of a hot temper, making everything explode. The most mild mannered person can become a raging, furious drunk under the influence of alcohol. And one who already has a problem with their temper will see that problem intensified with every drink.
Xerxes found that out. He was angry that Queen Vashti would not parade her beauty at his drunken feast. And that anger was fueled by the abundance of wine. Verse 12 ends with this sad statement: Then the king became furious and burned with anger. The high octane fuel had been poured on his rage, and the fury of his anger would burn hot, intense, and unreasonable for days to come.
It’s not a pleasant story, is it? Some people have said Esther doesn’t belong in the Bible because it has no mention of God, but it does mention drunken parties and a lot of other things that we don’t expect to find in the Bible.
But Scripture also assures us that the Lord gives us accounts like this one from the book of Esther to teach us. Romans 15:4 says, Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us... And 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. A passage like this one should certainly teach us, young people and older people as well, that excessive drinking always clouds one's mind.
It did for Noah. It did for Lot. And for Xerxes. And it will do the same to you and the same to me if we misuse alcohol. Hosea 4:11 describes how excessive drinking takes away understanding. One reason why excessive drinking takes away understanding is that when you drink excessively you literally flush your brain cells down the toilet. Drinking won’t help your mind; it will hurt your mind. The same is true for all drugs, including marijuana, which has been deemed harmless enough to be legal for “recreational use” in several states.
Yet in a recent study, researchers from Yale University of Medicine and Pennsylvania State University, found a positive short-term correlation between marijuana use and hostile and impulsive behavior. They wrote: “Marijuana use is associated with changes in impulse control and hostility in daily life…” Researchers found that participants were more aggressive on days they used marijuana, and the following day, than on days they didn't get high.
Another recent study on the effects of marijuana use, published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, showed that the drug had an indirect negative relationship with grades among a cohort of college students, which should surprise no one. Young people, if you use drugs, you can be sure your grades will plummet.
During the 1960’s when illegal drugs first became “in” for “recreational use” there were actually people like Timothy Leary who said that LSD and other hard drugs would “expand your mind” and allow you to see more and have real wisdom. That is an absurd lie. Drugs and alcohol will cloud your mind, not enlighten it.
When someone’s mind is clouded – whether by drugs, alcohol, pornography or other addictive behavior – they cannot give the honor to God that each one of us owes Him. Isaiah 5:11-12 warns: Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of His hands.
Another observation which relates to King Xerxes, and anyone else who drinks excessively, is found in Proverbs 20:1: Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
Peer pressure is going to be put on you young people. You’re going to be told that all the cool people get drunk or stoned and that is the best way to have fun. Not only do you have the peer pressure. You have advertising executives in many countries portraying alcohol consumption as though drinking and drinking excessively is truly the “good life.” Don’t believe those lies for a moment. And when you hear them, remember Proverbs 20:1: Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
Sorrow Instead of Happiness
As we leave King Xerxes, there in verse 12, we leave a very sad man. The verse observes, The king became furious and burned with anger. Excessive drinking, along with all substance abuse, brings great sorrow even though it promises happiness. Even though drinking, and drug abuse as well, is portrayed as something that brings real happiness, it instead brings incredible sorrow.
You don’t need to wake up with a terrible hangover to know first-hand that sorrow. Some people might be surprised that one of the most accurate descriptions of the sorrow of excessive drinking, and the pain of a hangover, is recorded in the Holy Bible. Proverbs 23:29-35:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.”
* * *
It’s true that the Psalmist thanked God for wine, which gladdens the heart of man. It’s true that Paul told Timothy to take some wine for his stomach. It’s true that Jesus enjoyed wine with His disciples and is the best wine maker on record. And I do believe in every case that wine had alcoholic content. The wine Jesus made, and drank with His disciples, was not just a “special grape juice” as some Christians contend. But it’s also true that the occasional glass of wine, or the one cold beer on a hot day, can turn into more and more, clouding one’s vision and leading one astray.
May you and I have the wisdom of our Lord and His disciples, that if we drink we do so moderately, remembering that it’s not just the unbeliever who can be tripped up by alcohol. If godly Noah could fall because of the lowly grape, so can you, and so can I.
And though that may not be a pleasant thought to think on, God’s Word bluntly warns of these dangers so that we may guard ourselves and live holy, self-controlled lives of obedience to our Lord. In the words of 1 Corinthians 1:10:12, If you think you are standing firm, be careful; you don’t fall.
But just as Noah was forgiven and recovered, so also for you and for me there is forgiveness for every sin through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is able to forgive. And by His Spirit of sanctification He will restore, strengthen and enable you and me to persevere in living holy lives of joyful gratitude for the gift of salvation through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
                                                     - bulletin outline -
By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way,
for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished. - Esther 1:8
                                                 “Drinks on the House!”
                                                          Esther 1:1-12
I.  The Bible does not condemn drinking alcoholic beverages (Psalm 104:15, John 2:1-11;
    1 Timothy 5:23), but it does warn against drunkenness (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:10;
     Ephesians 5:18). In this passage we see where excessive drinking can lead to:
      1) Pride and lust (4-12; Habakkuk 2:15)
      2) Broken relationships (10-12a)
      3) Anger, fueled by alcohol (12b)
II. Observations and applications:
     1) Excessive drinking always clouds one’s mind (Hosea 4:11) and leads to disrespect
         of the Lord’s deeds (Isaiah 5:11-12)
     2) Those led astray by excessive drinking are not wise (Proverbs 20:1)          
     3) Excessive drinking, along with all addictive behavior, brings great sorrow even
         though it promises happiness (12; Proverbs 23:29-35)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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