Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights,
and your mind will imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?”
Gaze... Look... See...
The eye is a pretty remarkable organ.
I was reminded of that recently as we took our Jonathan in to the eye doctor for a follow-up after an eye injury a few years back. He'd been playing in the trees (obviously, you can make a monkey out of Jonathan!) with his buddies when a branch snapped back and poked him in the eye. He had several splinters embedded in the cornea. The ophthalmologist in Niger said one splinter had completely pierced the cornea and had started to enter into the globe of his eye (sorry if my "English" vocabulary for this is all wrong). His eye doctor had said surgery was the next step when, miraculously we believe, those last two splinters worked their way out of the cornea. At this recent check, his vision is still 20/20 in that eye. He has two scars, one the doctor said was very deep, on his cornea; both are right on edge of his field of vision. If either of those scars were even the tiniest fraction closer to the center of his eye, his vision would have been significantly impacted - as in reduced.
These remarkable eyes, physically and metaphorically speaking, can be used for remarkable bad, or remarkable good.
These verses in Proverbs, demonstrate how lust and desire for something can grow wrong when we allow our look to longingly linger... when we gaze.
Here, the look lands on wine... it lingers... it desires... it partakes... it forgets moderation... it sins resulting in drunkenness. But this story doesn't have to be about wine. It can be about a person... a job... an outfit... a home... a song... a movie... a pet... anything that can begin to consume our thoughts, take over our affections, and direct our worship away from God. I just read a very thought provoking blog post by Francis Chan (Remember him - those of you who were in Bible study with me our last home assignment?) discussing how marriage can become a dangerous obsession. Chan's own words here: "Remember that the Bible is not a book about marriage; it is a book about God... remember that the goal is to be completely devoted to God. Marriage can be used as a means of improving our devotion to Jesus. Let’s not get it backwards and think of him as the means of improving our marriages."
In our church culture, in our fight to value marriage and to keep it defined as God defined it... has it become somewhat like that wine where we gaze too longingly, too long... and become "drunk," or consumed, with something that lasts only this lifetime when we have an eternity to consider?
Don't misunderstand me. Marriage is important,wonderful, God-ordained, a mystery and a picture of Christ and His bride - but a good marriage is not the end all or even the most important goal. It is temporal. When it... or anything else... supersedes God and becomes the end all, an idol, a wine we imbibe so ravenously and uncontrollably and immoderately that we become drunk on it, losing the ability to reason and think wisely, then we need to cry out just as Solomon does at the beginning of these verses.
His cry? Well, I love how Mathew Henry puts it:
Verse 29 begins "Who hath woe? who hath sorrow?" In the Hebrew, that is rendered, "lemi oi, lemi aboi" where oi and aboi are interjections of pain or grief. In other words, it reads like this:] Who hath Oh? who hath Alas?"
That will be the cry... some day, some time... when we allow those looks that longingly linger... at whatever... desiring something else more than God.