In recent weeks, I’ve been stirred to do a word study on the making of new wine and the wine of the wrath of God as portrayed throughout the Holy Bible. Since the word ‘wine’ is used more than 200 times in scripture, no doubt it was a subject important to the Biblical Patriarchs.
In some religious circles there is much discussion if wine in Biblical days was fermented or just ordinary grape juice. Surely we are instructed not to become intoxicated with strong drink but with the many other teaching resources available on this subject, it is not the author’s intent to discuss whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian to drink wine. This article will focus on the spiritual aspect of ‘new wine’ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
Since the turning of water into wine at a wedding was the first miracle of Jesus Christ, it is important for us to learn from the Master winemaker himself. (John 2:2-11) While we do not know if the water in the pots was pure or polluted, John’s gospel indicates that Jesus took very ordinary water and changed it into the very best wine.
One day, while sitting near a well, Jesus Christ revealed himself to a Samaritan woman with “…the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14b)
Jesus later spoke of the promise of the Holy Spirit, “He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) Christ’s promise to all who believe in him is they too will have rivers of living water flowing through their hearts and spirits.
Could it be the LORD is trying to show us how we too, can turn His living waters into New Wine!
Jesus identified himself as the vine, the source from which grapes grown, and when they are ripe, can be picked to produce new wine.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
There are many scriptures that signifies the spiritual meaning of “new wine” is connected with joy. Jeremiah, the prophet foresaw a day of joy: “…they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, Streaming to the goodness of the LORD – For wheat and new wine and oil…” (Jeremiah 31:12)
When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Jesus’ believers, his disciple Peter recognized it as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy: “For these are not drunk….I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh..” (Acts 2:14-21)
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia gives some interesting observations, one most noteworthy, “Three years was a about the longest time for which such (new) wines could be kept, and “old wine” meant only wines that had been stored for a year or more.”
This three year cycle is specifically significant when one considers Jesus earthly ministry was only for three years before he began his heavenly ministry.
There are other Biblical stories which indicate there was a three year time lapse before God moved his people into a different phase, i.e., Elijah and the drought; three years without war between Aram and Israel; Isaiah went barefoot and naked for three years as a sign.
Could it be that if WE, as the Body of Christ are going to continuously have fresh new wine flowing through our spiritual beings, than we must realize that wine-making is a constant process. We must be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change us, or after a three-year cycle we will become religious and the new wine insipid.
Wine in Ancient Times
Here are some brief points on wine and the making of new wine:
- It was denied to the Israelites in the wilderness, that they might know the LORD was their God (Deut 26:6).
- It was forbidden to Priests while on duty (Lev 10:9) and to the Nazarites (Num 6:2,3).
- In the temple service, the pouring out of wine of the drink offering at the morning and evening sacrifice was the signal for the Priests and Levites to begin their song of praise to God.
- But when they came into the promised land, they inherited vineyards which they had not planted (Joshua 24:13, Deut 6:11)
- Watchmen were stationed in a tower to watch over the vineyards.
- Abundance of wine was a special token of blessing (Gen 27:28) and extraordinary abundance would be a token of the Messianic age.
Different Phases of Wine-making
- Vintage –
The ground soil chosen to grow vineyards is the first and most important decision in the wine-making process. Jesus taught his disciples that the Word of God is the seed and man’s heart determines the condition of the soil.
“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
There is a time of special happiness when the grape season comes. There is the building of booths during the Feast of Tabernacles (Isaiah 16:10); and fragments of vintage songs seemed to be preserved (Isaiah 27:2; 65:8)
This great holiday season and the joy of vintage is to be carried over in our spiritual lives to the end of the ages. The prophet Zechariah foresaw the day when the Feast of Tabernacles would become the most important Feast of the nations.
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.” (Zechariah 14:16-17)
Even today there are a great number of believers in Jesus Christ who understand the significance of this prophecy and take the annual fall trek to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles week long celebrations with their Jewish brethren. A few years ago I was blessed to visit Jerusalem during the fall feasts. I must say, there is nothing quite like the spiritual joy one experiences when acknowledging and celebrating the great feast of the Lord in the city of our God.
- The Winepress –
Many of the ancient winepresses remain to the present day, including one located in the beautiful Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. If solid rock was available, a winepress would be made by hewing two excavations to a depth of 2 or 3 feet. Wherever possible, one rectangular or circular excavation was higher than the second, and connected by a pipe or channel. The upper vat was always wider and shallower then the lower and was used as the press where the grapes were thrown and crushed by the treader’s feet. The juice flowed down the channel into the lower vat, from which it was either removed into jars or vats, or allowed to remain during the first fermentation. A press vat might also be made from wood and wooden beams were often used to finish the pressing.
Team work was needed in the winepress, and as the treaders stomped on the grapes, juice would often splash their garments. Using the winepress imagery, the prophet Isaiah paints a startling picture of the Lord in both judgment and salvation:
“Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes, …I looked, but there was no one to help, And I wondered That there was no one to uphold; Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;..” (Is. 63:3-6)
- Grading –
Winemakers understand the less pressure on the grapes the better the product.
The juice which flows from the weight of the grapes piled in the winepress is kept separate from the liquid obtained only under heavy pressure. This process gives us great understanding in the differences of the ‘new wine’ which is produced by the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-24) vs. the pressures from religious activity and works of the flesh.
- Fermentation –
In Israel’s hot climate, fermentation begins almost immediately after the juice has been pressed out. First a slight foam appears on the surface and then the action becomes more violent. During the fermentation process, the liquid must be kept in jars or a vat, for it can burst even the newest and strongest of wineskins.
“Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; It is ready to burst like new wineskins” (Job 32:19)
- Storage –
About a week after first fermentation, liquid was transferred to other jars or strong wineskins to undergo a secondary fermentation. At the bottom, the heavier matter or ‘lees’ was collected. While certain kinds of grapes were left undisturbed to age on their lees and were thought to be all the better for doing so, they had to be carefully strained for storage or transport.
Jesus told his followers that new wine was not to be put into old wineskins (religious structures) as the hard and brittle skins would crack and the wine would pour out. Instead He instructed, “But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Luke 5:38)
Now, this concept of the fermentation and lees is really the background to another truth the Holy Spirit has unfolded.
Reaping the Grapes of Wrath
The book of Revelation warns that there is a time of God’s judgment upon the earth. The angels will come out of the heavenly temple to “..Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth…. and throw them into the great winepress of the wrath of God.” (Rev. 14:17-20)
Jeremiah 48 speaks about the judgments coming against Moab for his pride and arrogance. The Moabites were descendants of Lot from his sexual relationship with his daughter. Rather than protect his daughter and find her a proper husband, Lot took advantage of his own flesh. Today we can look at those having a Moabite spirit as one likened to a haughty incestuous spirit, caring only for their own desires and not acting as a proper Father to their offspring.
“We have heard the pride of Moab (He is exceedingly proud), Of his loftiness and arrogance and pride, And of the haughtiness of his heart.” (Vs 29)
But it was an earlier scripture which really caught my attention, and while the translation may be different in various Bible versions, the concept is that of the straining of wine from one vessel to another, to remove the sediment/lees.
“Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs (lees) And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed. Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will send him wine-workers Who will tip him over And empty his vessels And break the bottles. Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, As the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.” (Jeremiah 48:11-13, NKJV)
It is the Wine-workers who the LORD will use to tip over the Moabite spirit.
The Lord wants to instruct us how to become wine-makers so that in return, we can teach others who are in our midst, to make ‘new wine.’ Every follower of Christ has their own assignment in the making of his ‘new wine.’ Some might act as watchmen in a tower overseeing the vineyards.
Some will be picking the grapes, some trampling in the winepress, and others helping to make the new wineskins.
Whatever ‘place’ the LORD may have you positioned to work, consciously allow His living water to flow through your innermost being. Be attached to Jesus and you will produce good fruit which when crushed, produces the fruit of the vine.
Let the LORD Jesus Christ include you in His miracle of changing water into new wine!