Weekly Newsletter – April 1, 2019
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR JACK VAN IMPE
Don’t Look Now, but There’s Something on Your Wall
DANIEL 5:1 – 4
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.
Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.
They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
Another title for this chapter could be “The World’s Wildest Party,” hosted by playboy millionaire Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and number two in command in Babylon. It was a drunken orgy where the women were in abundance and the wine flowed like water-a graphic example of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” With one small correction: They would not die tomorrow; they would be attacked, defeated, and murdered that very night by stealthy troops already assembled deep beneath the city.
Before we slip into the celebration to see what was really going on, let’s look at the man Belshazzar. Who was he? What were his credentials? It’s important to note that for many years, liberal interpreters of Holy Writ pleaded their case that there was no such person at all. Scholar Ferdinand Hitzack, in 1850, said that no one by the name of Belshazzar had ever existed, and therefore the Book of Daniel was a farce.
However, just four years later, J. G. Taylor was on an archeological dig in southern Iraq where he dug up artifacts that contained sixty lines of cuneiform-a system of writing used for a number of ancient Near Eastern languages from c. 3000 B.C. until the first century A.D. Primarily a Mesopotamian system, cuneiform was inscribed on clay, stone, metal, and other hard materials. This was a key discovery for Taylor and the Christian world, because one of those sixty lines of cuneiform prayed for the health of Nabonidus, and his son Belshazzar.
In 1924, Sidney Smith did some excavating of his own in the region and he, too, unearthed an artifact that stated Nabonidus gave the kingship to his son Belshazzar. Again, liberal Bible scholars do not have a position at all. In fact, those who wish to appear foolish need only to suggest that the Bible has errors in content, history, or personnel. The answers may not be immediately observable, but the truth will always emerge, even as it did in the case of Belshazzar, whom some say was a phantom.
Nabonidus was a great military warrior, always away on a mission to add territory and subjects to his mighty Babylon, and always returning with the booty and spoils of the conquered. In his absence, Babylon was left in the control of his son, Belshazzar. And when the cat’s away, we know what the mice do: They play and play and play-as if there were no tomorrow.
And that’s where we pick up our story-and perhaps the wildest party ever held in Babylon. This was no little soiree in a small drawing room with a few guests. The hall for the festivities was enormous-176 feet long and 56 feet wide. Some of the dinners held in that room had as many as ten thousand guests, with the largest banquet in history having an invitation list of 69,800 people. That’s a lot of folks, and I’m sure that much of the celebration had to be celebrated outdoors. This is the enormous physical environment of chapter five. Big party. Big spenders. Big orgy. Big trouble!
The problems started when young Belshazzar made the mistake of using the holy vessels that his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar stole from the temple in Jerusalem. As far as we know, Nebuchadnezzar committed no sacrilege with these hallowed temple vessels-to his credit. But Belshazzar? He could not have cared less. He wanted to drink, and he didn’t care into what kind of cup his servants poured the brew. Imagine the scene: Young Belshazzar is in charge of the affairs of state, but tonight he figures it’s time to have a party. He goes over the guest list, and probably says, “Well, with Dad out of the country on another campaign, this is my night to howl.”
And howl he did, starting by desecrating the Jewish temple vessels-goblets that told the story of God’s redemption through blood. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins].” The Jews also believed that blood makes an atonement for sins (Leviticus 17:11). These were holy utensils, not everyday cups and saucers. But Belshazzar ordered them to be filled with booze of all descriptions, much to the delight of his pagan friends who drank, laughed, and danced the night away. But no party lasts forever, and this one would be especially short-lived. Belshazzar would pay dearly for his sacrilege.
Booze was about to become a problem for the young ruler. Have you noticed in the age in which you and I live, that liquor is no less a problem? More than half of all our automobile accidents are alcohol-related. Booze has destroyed more families than anyone can imagine. Drinking has ruined careers, crippled relationships, and left otherwise sane people mentally incompetent. The warnings about alcohol have been in the Bible for thousands of years, and I think it’s important to quote a few verses to indicate what God thinks about the issue.
What God Says about Strong Drink
Proverbs 20:1 says,
“Wine is a mocker strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
Proverbs 23:29 reads,
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.”
That’s why Proverbs 31 commands:
“Look not on the wine when it is red.”
Juice was called wine. The writer of Proverbs said that when the wine turns red and ferments, don’t look at it!
It’s also the message of Proverbs 23:20,
“Be not among wine bibbers [drinkers].”
Habakkuk 2:15 says,
“Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also.”
The judgment of God is upon those who drink, upon those who get drunk, and equally, upon those who serve strong drink to others to get them intoxicated. First Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21 state that no drunkard can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he repents of this sin and turns to God.
Well, with that fusillade of verses on what God thinks about wine and strong drink, we note that Belshazzar was not only inebriated as he sat there on his elevated platform, surrounded by his many concubines who encouraged all-night drinking bouts with the guests, but he also added sacrilege to indignity by drinking his kingly brew out of precious vessels of redemption-goblets and temple-ware that represented eternal salvation. To top it off, he and his guests “drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (Daniel 5:4).During this orgy, God was watching the scene from the portals of heaven, and He was not pleased.
And we will pick-up our study next week with the handwriting on the wall.
FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
WHY HUMILITY IS SOMETHING GOOD
Is it a paradox that many people seemingly enjoy outward success in terms of money, recognition, and prestige despite a decided lack of true humility? Perhaps, although the blessing of God is not measured by immediate or outward accomplishments. Let us examine this more carefully.
The life of pioneer missionary David Livingstone is beautiful proof of this. When Livingstone was a young man, he informed his brother, Charles that he planned to become a missionary. His brother scoffed, saying that he preferred to stay in England seeking fame and fortune. He wanted recognition from his peers, and that was not possible, he said, for a missionary in Africa.
David went to Africa where he labored untiringly among the people as a doctor and preacher. The Lord gave him the desires of his heart, and many people came to know Jesus Christ through his humble ministry. His brother, who stayed in England, did indeed find fame and recognition, and accumulated a great deal of wealth as well.
When David Livingstone died, his heart was buried in Africa and his body shipped home to England for burial in Westminster Cathedral. Later, his brother was buried next to him. We visited this great edifice several years ago, and my heart was deeply touched as I read the inscriptions on the brothers’ graves. Above David Livingstone’s burial vault was this poem:
He needs no epitaph to guard a name
Which men shall prize while worthy work is known;
He lived and died for good-be that his fame:
Let marble crumble; this is Living-stone.
The inscription above David’s brother’s grave simply states: “Charles, the brother of David Livingstone.”
This illustration, more than any I know, reflects the truth of 1 Peter 5:6-Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.
THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST
No attitude or character quality was more emphasized and exemplified by the Lord Jesus than humility. He told his disciples-whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (Matthew 20:26-27).
Shortly after He gave that lesson, Jesus met with His disciples in an upper room to eat what we have come to call the Last Supper. In those final hours before He was taken away to be tortured and killed, the Lord took time to teach the disciples one more lesson about the importance of humility.
As they entered the room where they would eat that final meal together, they found that everything had been prepared for them, with one exception-a servant to wash their feet. In those days of dirt roads and sandals, washing feet regularly was an essential custom. Since it was not a pleasant chore, it was normally the duty of the lowest slave when an individual entered a house.
After everything Jesus had taught them about humility, it would seem that one of the disciples should have volunteered to accept the responsibility, or at least arranged for a servant to do it. However, none did. Perhaps they were involved in one of their arguments about which of them was the greatest.
Consequently, Jesus rolled up His sleeves, took the basin of water and a towel, stooped down and began to wash the disciples’ feet. They were so shocked by His actions that they became speechless. Jesus told them-Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:13-15).
There is a great and important lesson here for all of us. If Jesus could leave heaven and come to earth to die, and on the night before His crucifixion assume the position of the lowliest of slaves, without reservation we should follow His example of humility.
Have you ever met someone who seemed to exhibit a kind of false humility which did not in any way glorify the Lord? It was lowliness put on to impress others. It was not a genuine humility but rather a shallow, external façade that actually sought to put others down.
False humility can take various forms. For example, by refusing to graciously accept a compliment (how embarrassing to the one giving it) and by discrediting one’s own accomplishments, the person actually seeks to draw more praise to himself. This is pride in disguise-not meekness of spirit.
Such hypocritical humility is like the sin of the Pharisees. They put on sackcloth and ashes when they fasted so that everyone would notice how “spiritual” they were. They stood on the street corners to pray just to make certain that no one missed their display of holiness. What they really wanted was the praise of men, and Jesus said that was all the reward they would get for their human efforts.
Humility that calls attention to itself is not humility at all-it is pride. And what makes pride so insidious is that we are most vulnerable to it just when we think we have conquered it. The minute we begin thinking how humble we are, we had better think again. No one who considers himself a paragon of humility knows the first thing about the virtue.
On the other side of the coin, however, neither is a poor self image the same thing as humility. I have known people who did not like themselves very much, but they were so self-centered that they made it difficult for anyone else to like them. The truly humble person can accept himself. He feels good about himself because he is not consumed by the desire to prove himself to others-to convince them that he is something that he is not.
THE ESSENCE OF TRUE HUMILITY
What constitutes true humility? Jesus himself answered this question when He washed the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. Genuine humility is, you see, a willingness to serve others.
Nobody is more lonely than a “self-service only” individual. In fact, the most dissatisfied persons I know are those who are selfish. Because they are so wrapped up in themselves-their own needs, their own desires, their own preferences, their own problems-they cannot reach out to others for the very fellowship that would dispel their loneliness.
Of all the disciples, Andrew best pictures the meaning of true humility. Andrew had a servant’s heart. He does not seem to have been involved as James and John were in the constant disputes about who was the greatest. Instead, whenever we see Andrew in Scripture, he is bringing someone to the Master.
Andrew began his ministry of soulwinning and discipleship by seeking Peter, his brother. In fact, perhaps the greatest thing Andrew ever did was bring Peter to Jesus. Peter became the leader of the disciples, and after Jesus ascended into heaven, it was Peter who preached the great sermon at Pentecost where so many were converted to faith in Christ.
If you had a brother like Peter, would you have brought him to Jesus? Surely Andrew knew that Peter, with his bold, forceful personality, would inherit the position of leadership among the disciples. He must have realized that he would eventually take a back seat to his brother. Yet Andrew was not concerned with those things. He saw only his brother’s need and knew that Jesus could fill it. In a sense, Andrew did fade into the shadows as Peter came into prominence. But he also continued to bring others to Jesus. One of those he brought was a little boy with a sack lunch-and the Lord used those few loaves and fishes to feed a multitude. Take heart-your seemingly small talent can be used and magnified for God’s glory because He both desires and rewards humble service.
GOD GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE
What does humility have to do with satisfaction which will dispel bewilderment? Humility is a channel through which the Lord can bless us. Pride, on the other hand, isolates us from God. First Peter 5:5 urges-be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
God’s grace is manifested in a special way to those who are humble. If a person seeks to serve others, he receives multiplied blessings from the Lord. If he seeks only to serve self, however, he closes the door to the possibility of such blessings.
Too many who claim to be working for the Lord see the ministry only as a platform on which to display their own talents and abilities. My husband and I believe that our service constitutes a high and holy privilege, and our prayer has always been that God be glorified in all that we say and do-not only in public, but in our private lives as well.
As a result of this belief, we have always felt strongly that we should not push open doors to try to expand our ministry. Everywhere we have gone and in every situation where we have ministered, we have endeavored to wait until God himself opened the portals of increased opportunity. In fact, sometimes we have been so cautious that He has had to push us through them! Still, the peace of mind and soul we have experienced in knowing that God has brought each new phase of our outreach to pass far outweighs any sense of human accomplishment. It also confirms in our hearts the fact that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalm 127:1).
Through our years of ministry together, I have also appreciated and learned from Jack’s meek and tender spirit. When we conducted our local city-wide meetings, we were inevitably the last ones to leave the auditorium following a service. My husband always had time to answer one more question or sign an additional Bible, no matter how late the hour. As I stood with him, often ministering with him, my heart smiled within me to know that this one who had the power to deliver such authoritative and convicting messages from God’s Word also had the ability to understand the deepest burdens and personally minister to the hearts he touched. Today, our office doors are open to students, pastors, and young evangelists who seek to share the wisdom, counsel, and direction the Lord has given us in conducting our international ministry.
I shall never forget our very first visit to Tennessee Temple Schools in Chattanooga. Jack and I were tremendously excited (and a bit nervous) about ministering in a college environment, not to mention being in the presence of such a respected man as Dr. Lee Roberson, the president. I had never met him and was eager to make his acquaintance.
We arrived in the city several hours ahead of time and drove to the auditorium in order to unload and set up our equipment. We were met by several students and staff members, including a distinguished looking, gray-haired gentleman who helped us carry the heavy pieces to the platform.
Much time was spent placing everything into position, making the proper electrical connections, and testing for operation and sound level. At last our task was completed. I turned to the gray-haired gentleman and thanked him for his assistance. “And when shall we be able to meet Dr. Roberson?” I asked.
The man smiled softly and gently took hold of my hand. “I am Dr. Roberson,” he replied.
That evening, as Dr. Lee Roberson stepped to the podium to welcome the students and guests and introduce us to them, he appeared ever so much taller, broad-shouldered, and distinguished. Silently, I bowed my head and prayed a prayer of rejoicing, thanking God for allowing me the privilege of meeting a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a great deal of true satisfaction in service to others. The servant of God is actually a kind of funnel through which God pours out His love to a needy world. The person who is involved in humble service is vibrant and alive. He can sense the love of God flowing through him, and he is constantly getting a firsthand experience of the wonderful ways God works.
In addition, the truly humble person has all his relationships in proper perspective. He does not think more highly of himself than he ought to think (see Romans 12:3). He does not look down on others, use them for his own benefit, or ignore their needs. Most importantly, he is in right relationship to God.
GOD HATES PRIDE
Many of us are familiar with the children’s story about the frog who wanted to fly. As he sat on his lily pad watching for insects day after day, he often spied the birds of the forest gracefully winging their way through the air. Their freedom and ability to travel quickly from one place to another began to disturb him, and he soon became completely dissatisfied with being a frog-he wanted to fly!
One day the frog went to his friend, the robin. “Mr. Robin, will you teach me to fly?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, but that’s impossible,” said the robin. “You’re a frog. Frogs were not created to fly. Frogs were made to hop.”
Next the frog approached the cardinal. “Mr. Cardinal, please teach me to fly,” he pleaded. To his dismay, the reply was the same.
Then the frog conceived a brilliant idea. He hopped to the robin and to the cardinal. “Robin, Cardinal!,” he shouted enthusiastically. “I have the answer! If you two will pick up a stick and hold it tightly in your beaks, I will grab the stick with my mouth and travel with you as you fly.”
Although somewhat skeptical, the frog’s feathered friends agreed to give his idea a try. They found a sturdy stick, grasped it tightly in their beaks, and the frog clamped his mouth in the middle. Then off they flew-up, up, higher and higher, swiftly skirting the trees of the forest, out across the meadow, and back once more.
The frog was jubilant. He was flying!
One by one, the other animals appeared at the forest’s edge, gazing in disbelief at the sight before them. As the triumphant trio made another sweep past the growing crowd of spectators, the deer exclaimed, “How clever! Who ever conceived such a perfectly ingenious idea?”
The frog, swelling with pride, shouted, “I did! It was all my idea!”
As he spoke, he lost his grip on the stick and hurtled through the air to the ground. Splat! Alas, the frog’s dream and delight proved to be his demise. His life was snuffed out in a moment of time. The sin of pride had claimed another victim-just as it will claim you and me if we do not deal honestly and firmly with it, refusing to allow it any opportunity to rise up.
Remember, God says, Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
Why is pride so deadly? For one thing, pride was the sin that led to Satan’s fall. Caught up with his own beauty and wisdom, willfully forgetting the fact that it was God who made him that way, Lucifer began to see himself as something to be worshipped above God. When he said, I will be like the most High (Isaiah 14:14), he lost everything that was his.
Later, Satan succeeded in getting Eve to sin with the same promise with which he had deceived himself-ye shall be as gods (Genesis 3:5). And when Adam and Eve sinned, they, too, lost everything God had given to them. Most devastating of all, they were sent forth from His presence. Ever since that day, the human race has been plagued by the sin of pride and the consequent loss of blessing that comes with it. Like the frog, humanity desperately seeks satisfaction but at the same time stubbornly refuses to renounce the pride that makes dissatisfaction inevitable.
Some would have us believe that pride is a virtue. In recent years, a number of best-selling books have appeared, telling us how to assert ourselves, how to get what we want, how to increase our self-esteem, and how to intimidate others. Humility is viewed by many as a weakness. The “me first” syndrome has spread throughout society like a plague.
In such an atmosphere, it is little wonder that so many are dissatisfied, for it is in giving, not receiving that we are blessed. It is in serving, not being served, that brings fulfillment. And it is in humility, not pride, that we open ourselves to receive the grace of God.
God hates this sin of pride (see Proverbs 8:13). Pride is a denial of God’s right to glory. It is a challenge to His sovereignty. It is a deification of self over God, and it leads to contempt for others for whom Christ died. It is as morally perverse and debasing as any sin known to man, for it can lead to many other kinds of sin. And inevitably, the prideful will experience the frustration of feeling baffled, bewildered, and befuddled.
How damaging and hurtful pride is! It increases the desire for satisfaction and at the same time pushes the possibility of personal fulfillment further and further away. May God give us the grace to be truly humble.
CHANGED LIVES-one at a time
Hi Jack and Rexella.
I can’t help thinking that you are a modern day John the Baptist! God Bless You!
Dr Van Impe I’ve watched your program for a lot of years and it’s been uplifting to know when we die in Jesus we will see Jesus and your programs make it very clear about salvation. A lot of years ago you and Dr Rexella were at the First church of the Nazarene in Flint and I remember you playing an accordion and Rexella singing what a great, both of you will have a boat load of crowns to place at Jesus’s feet. I am looking forward to seeing you both in heaven soon.
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