Wine is unique in that it is both divine and human. Bacchus, also known as Dionysus, was the liberating god of wine and mad religious ecstasy in early Greek and Roman society. Some conjure that the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana was to signify that an even greater god of wine had arrived.
Wine, mentioned 521 times, is deeply rooted and metaphorically woven in the Old and New Testaments. It was considered a necessity of life, an indispensable provision of the fortress. It was used as an offering, a festive drink, a disinfectant, a miracle, a symbol of prosperity, and as a medicine.
The Bible also mentions the evil effects of drinking too much wine – it leads to violence, mocks a man, makes one poor, bites like a serpent, impairs the judgment, inflames the passion.
The inspired scribes of the Bible employ the vivid imagery of the vineyard as instruction for the entire gamut of life – birth, sickness, health, vocation, romance, hope, despair, death, damnation and resurrection.
For example, Song of Solomon sensually links wine and vineyards to courtship and marriage. “Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, there I will give you my love.” Words very similar to the ones my wife recently spoke when she learned I had a speaking engagement in Napa.
There is something uniquely comforting and spiritually symbolic in how wine is deeply woven into the fabric of our daily and spiritual lives. For me, my dance with God’s gift of wine has become an elegant window on my soul. Intoxicated with the Gospel, I discover that it is only through Christ that I can say with the Psalmist, “My cup runneth over,” spilling recklessly, lovingly, into the lives of others.