Drunk, but Not on Wine

In recent years several frightening and bizarre cases of bird deaths have alarmed people around the world. In Vienna, Austria, dozens of songbirds fell from the sky, prompting rumors of the deadly bird flu.

In Portland, Oregon, fifty-five robins suddenly dropped dead within a few nearby backyards. At Atlanta’s international airport, one of the busiest in the world, cedar waxwing birds were causing myriad problems. “There were these little birds that kept flying around and acting crazy. They were flying all over the entrance road and disturbing people as they drove into the airport,” said the environmental compliance manager at the airport.

Despite speculation about disease or even paranormal activity, the results of bird autopsies all revealed the same thing: the birds were drunk!

In Austria, the livers removed from the dead birds showed so much damage from drinking that “they looked like they were chronic alcoholics,” according to a spokesperson for Vienna’s veterinary authority. Weather patterns, especially cold snaps late in the spring, allowed ripe berries to stay on the shrubs or tree longer and ferment. Some birds died of ethanol poisoning while others “flew while intoxicated” and broke their necks after smashing into windows and other solid objects.

We live in a day when people are out of control and often under the sway of powerful adversarial influences. God spoke clearly about this through the prophet Isaiah:

“They become drunk, but not with wine, they stagger, but not with strong drink.” (29:9, NASB)

Through the prophet, God asserted that powerful, controlling forces in the spirit realm were influencing the nation of Israel, His chosen people. Isaiah used the analogy of those who stagger and stumble under the debilitating influence of alcohol, like the birds, to illustrate the control that spiritual forces can have over people.

The story of Israel is the narrative of a people freed from Egyptian bondage (a metaphor for any bondage to the world’s mentality) and led toward blessings and freedom in the Promised Land. But even though they were physically liberated, their minds were plagued by fear and unbelief. Consequently, they wandered in circles for forty years, then finally the faithful few who believed the truth entered the Promised Land and defeated their enemies through the supernatural power of God. Centuries later the same chosen ones, because of their disobedience to God, became prisoners again (see Nehemiah 9:36).

This slavery-freedom-slavery scenario is repeated today among many in the church family. These believers live in as much or more bondage as they did prior to their deliverance from the world. The enemies in the spiritual realm are called “principalities” and “rulers of the darkness” by the apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:12, KJV). These demonic forces can deceive and captivate even the most influence members of the body of Christ.

Isaiah went on to say that truth cannot be understood because people draw near to God with their words and honor Him with their lips, but their hears are far from Him (see 29:11-13).

Much of the church and many in our country are trapped by a spirit of mechanical repetition regarding truth. Prayers are offered, but often they are merely insincere collections of words that go no higher than the ceiling. We sing songs but have forgotten their messages. We go through the motions of worship but live in defeat. We hear sermons but seldom apply them. We have become hearers and not doers of the Word.

Again, God spoke through Isaiah to His people, calling them to repentance and promising them freedom:

Therefore, please hear this, you afflicted,
Who are drunk, but not with wine:
Thus says your Lord, the Lord, even your God
Who contends for His people,
‘Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling,
The chalice of My anger;
You will never drink it again.
I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
Who have said to you, ‘Lie down that we may walk over you.’
You have even made your back like the ground
And like the street for those who walk over it.” (51:21-23, NASB)

God said to His people and to those with “ears to hear” but who refused to receive the message that they would reach a point of intoxication by the spirit of deception, distraction, and defeat and the enemies of life and freedom would command them to lie down while tormenting forces walked over them as trampled ground. Drunken birds end up with broken necks; people intoxicated by evil end up with broken spirits. But salvation also is revealed in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Awake, awake,
Clothes yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothes yourself in your beautiful garments…
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck…
You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.”
(52:1-3, NASB)

Redemption and freedom come through the precious blood of the Lamb. That goes not only for gentiles but also for every Jew. The true Zion is the restored, redeemed, blood-bought people of God. And we can deliver the good news. We can announce peace. We can announce salvation. We can say to Zion, “Our God reigns…not only in word but also in deed.”

As watchmen, we can lift up our voices. We can shout joyfully together, and then the world will see with their own eyes when the Lord restores a broken life. Jesus promised that those who become controlled by His spirit, rather than being intoxicated on the things of this world, will be overcomers and will trample the enemy under their feet.

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  1. Good word, James.

    I’ve appreciated you and Betty for years. I met you way back when I was a college student (at a banquet for supporters). I also enjoyed hearing you speak with Jack Hayford and a couple others in Toronto, and again when I attended CFNI, Dallas. I love your books and programs. Please pray for me as I write about a woman who had an amazing miracle. Her name is Ema McKinley and everybody is moved when they hear her faith-filled story. Thanks for being so real. Continued blessings to you both. And may you always be filled with the Spirit. : )

  2. James,

    Your ministry has blessed me so much in every area of my life through Life Today, the Pray line, and all of the outreach ministries. Everything about Life Outreach Int’l is such a gift to be a part of. It is my hope and prayer that God will heal my body so I will be able to work with my hands that, which is good so I may give more to those who have need. What a pleasure and privilege it will be.

    I have a photograph of you and your precious wife Betty. You sent to me one Christmas or it may have been your 40th anniversary it is in a beautiful frame on my favorite antique desk. You have been a spiritual father to me. Thank you for loving even those you do not know. God bless you and Life Outreach. Anna Ficca