The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying, “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations— and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.”
Immediately preceding this morning’s verse, two of Aaron’s sons had offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them (v 1). What, exactly, that means is somewhat unclear. What is clear is that fire came from the LORD and both of them died. Aaron and his other two sons were not permitted to mourn, because they were in the midst of their consecration as priests. The whole situation was a mess. It is in this context that God speaks this morning’s verse to Aaron. And there may be several reasons why God commands Aaron and his lineage not to drink wine or strong drink … when [they] come into the tent of meeting.
Several ancient religions had a god or gods whose worship involved drunkenness. Bacchus and Dionysus come to mind from the Greco-Roman pantheon. It would not be surprising to find that the land into which the Israelites were going had similar worship practices. Much of The Law is about making the Israelites distinct from everyone they are surrounded by and this may be along those same lines.
Wine and strong drink have a tendency to fuddle the mind. The command, I notice, is not that they will refrain from drink at all times, but only when they are entering the tent of meeting. When they come to speak with God and then take His Word to the people, He wants them to do so with a clear mind.
Along the same lines as the preceding, strong drink muddles our perceptions. God wanted them to have clear perceptions so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses. Clear perception would enable them to inspect the animals brought for sacrifice and ensure that they met the requirements among a host of other things.
These things should have a direct application for me as a believer. The New Testament has several places wherein believers are called priests. The ideas, so far, are to be distinct, be of clear mind, and be of clear perception. And all of this is in relation to the consumption of strong drink. Let me be distinct in my consumption, not drinking as an act of idolatry or to the point where my thought processes or perceptions are impacted. Let me drink, if I partake at all, with thanksgiving to God and only so much as leaves me lucid and perspicacious.
Thank You, Father, that You have made believers free to choose not to do things; that You have made us free to keep our heads clear.