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.