When we came to Methuselah, the alcoholic, we intuitively went to Ephesians 5:18:
“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Here we see that being filled with the Spirit is contrasted – not compared – with being drunk on wine. I think that one of the key things here is that for Methuselah, being filled with the Spirit, walking closely with God every day, learning to live under total submission to the Lord is meant to give him a taste of something that will give deep, lasting satisfaction in a way that no craving or addiction can.
This is similar to the need of the woman at the well. It seems that she was a relationship addict. Christ promised her living water which, when she drank from it, meant she would never thirst again. At this point, one finds oneself thinking “So many of the things we might say about Methuselah and his addiction to drink may well apply to the workaholic and the sex-addict.” In fact, we may see things here that are also applicable to Albert, Juliet, Tom, Gladys and Ethel.”
The Gospel is incredibly good news for Methuselah. Now, remember here that we are not promising a kind of magical, superstitious guarantee that when you become a Christian, you’ll never desire a drop of alcohol again. This would deny all that we’ve said about spiritual warfare and the call to put to death the desires of the flesh. However, I want to suggest that there are three precious things that are going to help Methuselah and those who stand alongside him keep going in that battle.
- God is good and God is love. He is the source of all goodness and joy. We can learn to enjoy him and find satisfaction in him.
- We cannot change our own desires. We have Liberty of Spontaneity not Liberty of Indifference. However, God is the one who is able to. He gives a new heart and this is the basis for the promise that when we delight in Him, He will grant the desires of our hearts. It is possible for us to develop new appetites and new habits: appetites and habits for the Lord and for his ways.
- God foreknew, foreloved and therefore chose Methuselah. This means that he is safe in the Lord’s hands. The Lord will not lose him. Every time that this man struggles and falls, it is this truth that will enable him to get up again. Every time that we see him fail, find him lying in the gutter, smell beer on his breath on Sunday morning or get the tearful phone call, then it will be this truth that will help us to keep loving him, rebuking him, challenging him, encouraging him and sticking patiently with him.