The Drunkard’s Morality

The prophets repeatedly used the metaphor of drunkenness in describing godless leaders of nations abusing power. Examples abound.  Here are just a few.

In Isaiah 19:13-14, the prophet said of Pharaoh and his counselors:

The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have made Egypt stagger.  The Lord has mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.

Jeremiah had this to say to the political and religious leaders of Jerusalem:

Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem’ (Jeremiah 13:13).

This prophetical language was not limited to the Old Testament.  The apostle John said of the kings throughout the Roman Empire:

The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk (Revelation 17:2).

Why is drunkenness such an apt description of wicked leaders and the people who follow them?  In part, as Isaiah indicates above, a nation can drink of the power it has to the point she has “mingled within her a spirit of confusion.”  Like a boozer, politicians can become confused.  They become blind to their own misdeeds while at the same time being quick to start picking fights with others they perceive are committing injustices.  The prophets warned all the nations of their day, from Assyria to Zion, against their inebriated thirst for political and military power that lead them to dally in the affairs of other countries.

I could not help but think of this as I read the stance our leaders have taken about the events in Syria, particularly as they are seeking to make the case that our nation should intervene.  Though we are still waiting on fuller confirmation, it appears that chemical weapons were used in the middle of the night in the civil war in Syria, leaving up to 1300 people, including women and young children, dead, and thousands of others horribly injured.  This act, if true, is chilling and horrific, and we should desire justice to be served.

Yet is it our nation’s place to bring this justice?  Consider what our Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated about this as reported by BBC News:

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” Mr Kerry said at a news conference on Monday.  “Make no mistake, President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”

How can Mr. Kerry say this “defies any code of morality” when every day in his own country, with his approval, thousands of unborn children have chemicals used against them?  How can President Obama believe Syrian leaders must be held accountable for using “the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people” when he will not even stand against vulnerable babies being partially born only to have the back of their heads punctured and their brains vacuumed out?  Before they breathe another word about what they think needs to be done in Syria, they should take their own spiritual  breathalyzer test.  It would show the only explanation for this confusion is that they are drunk with a power far beyond any moral – and, for that matter, constitutional – limit.

The prophets used this metaphor for another reason, and this is truly chilling.  Notice again that both Isaiah and Jeremiah tell us who was the bartender for these nations. Isaiah said the Lord had mixed the drink for Egypt.  Jeremiah said the Lord kept giving Jerusalem more.   When a nation starts drinking the potent liquor of turning deliberately from the true God and warring against the reign of his Son, he will let them drink their fill with all of its awful consequences (see Psalm 2).  If our country, with so much blood on its own hands, wants to go shed more in a nation where we do not belong, we should not be surprised when other nations are raised up that want to do likewise to us.  After all, our fellow drunks like to fight also.

The Lord does give a remedy for our drunken stupor.  As he told Judah, it is to become sober-minded by listening and giving glory to him.

Hear and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord has spoken.  Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness (Jeremiah 13:15-16).

How we need to pray that this deep darkness does not come.  How we must pray the light of the Lord’s glory would shine again in this land, and preach the gospel to that end.  How we must keep proclaiming to our leaders they need to put down the cup, for they do not realize how strong the mixture truly is.


  1. Riley Frost August 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Interesting post. I posted something on this topic a while ago; baring in mind what you’ve written you may be interested.

  2. David Carr August 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks for another excellent incentive to pray.
    Similar concepts:
    Psalm 2: Kiss the Son or be destroyed
    Romans 1: God gave them up to their immorality

    BTW In our culture of manufactured events, facts and news, we must be careful what we think about reports of events that have not or cannot be independently verified.
    In contrast, our bloodguiltiness as a nation has been freely admitted by both the proponents and opponents of abortion on demand.

  3. Jeff Kessler August 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    A diversion perhaps. We can’t have the country thinking too much about the ObamaCare disaster fast approaching.

  4. Pete Smith August 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    So we have no obligation to protect the defenseless civilian population in Syria? Many of those in Syria are brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church has an ancient history in that part of the world. Do we have no responsibility to intervene in any way? This is a very hard question for sure, but this post seems to dismiss that option or duty out of hand because of our own bloodguiltiness. What might the Just War doctrine say to this situation?

    • Barry York August 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      Pete, here are three thoughts in response. I readily grant that these come from limited knowledge of what is taking place and no experience in dealing with matters of such great significance.

      My main point is that we should learn to protect our own defenseless civilian population here first, i.e., the log and splinter principle, before we go running around the world trying to help others. I do believe our own blood-guiltiness should slow us down in our moral crusading as the world’s self-appointed policeman. Our hypocrisy is sowing seeds of anger in that part of the world.

      Secondly, the sword should be used to punish evil and promote righteousness, of which protecting the church would be one faithful use of it. However, clearly that has not entered into the thinking of our leaders if their words are any indication. If they do decide to intervene, of course we should pray that the Lord would use it to that end and pray for the church’s deliverance regardless.

      Finally, just war theory would allow intervention in order to stop the wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians. However, the scope and source of these actions in Syria do not seem to be clearly identified, nor does a righteous alliance with Syrians under a lesser magistrate seem clear, either. Yet our leaders are already talking military strikes. Another key component of just war theory is a strong belief that military action would lead to greater peace. I do not see how at this point US military involvement could bring that about given our recent record in the Middle East.

  5. Jeff Kessler August 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Barry, my comment above was a bit in jest. I’ll be more serious this time.

    Foreign affairs are always harder for me to a have a firm opinion as often it is much harder to get the necessary info and facts. That said, I lean pretty hard on the side of the US not getting involved in Syria.

    However, if we do, it should be done constitutionally. With a congressional vote.

    The following is from Pat Buchanan: “The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history. Congress should cut short its five-week vacation, come back, debate and decide by recorded vote whether Obama can take us into yet another Middle East war.”

    • Barry York August 28, 2013 at 10:42 am #


      I agree wholeheartedly that action against Syria should only be done by congressional vote. That is what I meant in the post when I said our president is drunk with power beyond constitutional limits. As you know, in the powers granted to the Congress in the Constitution, Section 8.11 says it has the power to declare war. The Constitution then grants the president the right to execute a duly-declared war, but it is a usurpation of power for him to act without receiving this permission.

      As many are also pointing out, what illustrates his moral confusion further is that President Obama appears to be using the same rationale for engaging Syria that in 2008 he campaigned strongly against regarding our involvement in Iraq.

  6. Summer August 28, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Wow. This is an amazing and thought-provoking post. Very well written! My heart goes out to the victims in Syria. My heart wants to help them and bring them justice. But you are correct: America has a huge plank in our own eye–abortion, and many other sins. Let’s heal our own country before we try to go fixing others.


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