(Pro 20:1 KJV) Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Although some would disagree, the use of “wine” (3196) is not condemned totally in scripture, but here it admits it is a “mocker” (3917b). Often we see standards of conduct presented like this. We see paradox in possible behavior. This is the glory of the spirit guided life. We do not live on the easy extremes; we live in the stress of liberty. We are expected to look at the options open to us and choose the path that leads to holy living.
How many parts of our life put us in this situation? At some places it is assumed that wine is acceptable, yet it has great danger. What else? Food, sex, money, leisure? Proverbs touches all of these. As a regenerated people we are expected to be able to use our liberty to glorify God, not to satisfy our worldly desires. How do we work this through?
Distilling was not a reality at that time. What is “strong drink” (7941)? Whatever it is, it is a “raging" (NASB brawler) (1993).
Being “intoxicated” (7686) seems to be the problem. How does legalism handle this? The law uses a scientifically measurable level of blood alcohol. Below your are sober; above, drunk. The line is arbitrary but useful in a court of law. The challenge is to see how close you can get, to walk as close to the limit as possible. In court that may be acceptable but in the spiritual walk it is death.
Yet the word does not seem to mean being drunk. It is more misled. You don’t need to be drunk, just to wander away from your path because of the effect of the alcohol. So the call of the believer is to avoid that which tries to mislead us. Don’t even mess with it. This is why I have remained a teetotaler even as an adult. I have enough trouble thinking clearly without adding a straw to the camel’s back.
I may not be wise, but I will come closer sober than with a glass of wine.