A Prayer for an Obedient Faith
After the incident of the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego no longer appear in the book of Daniel. The spotlight turns on Daniel himself to demonstrate unwavering faith and godly courage in pagan surroundings. Much happens in the book of Daniel between last week’s lesson from chapter 3 and this week’s lesson from chapter 9. In , the book’s namesake interpreted a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar, one with an ominous, alarming message of coming judgment on that ruler.
In chapter 5, Daniel interpreted the famous “handwriting on the wall” for the terrified King Belshazzar. That message too was one of pending doom; indeed, Daniel’s words came to pass that very night. Chapter 6 is the well-known account of Daniel in the lion’s den. records a series of dreams and visions granted to Daniel about things to come. Daniel’s prayer of chapter 9, located among these, is the subject of today’s lesson.
When we think of confessing our sins, we typically think of confessing our individual sins. We might confess our lack of faith, our temper tantrum, or our neglect of spiritual life such as prayer and Scripture reading. We might willingly confess some sins. We might - in abstract - admit that we commit sin.
We might resist acknowledging our sins in two ways, however. First, we often think our sins don’t create much harm. We think the other person can get over our temper outburst because “we didn’t really mean it.” Second, we might admit our sins in the abstract, but if someone brings up a specific sin, we become defensive. We make excuses and deflect the blame. We think our dishonesty doesn’t amount to much because the other person did something to us first. We do not escape this pattern of sin. Confessing our sin and repenting forms a core of our faith.
People’s Sins -
People’s Sins -
We do not escape this pattern of sin. Confessing our sin and repenting forms a core of our faith.
I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. “Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.
Daniel offered the prayer of today’s text “in the first year of Darius son of Xerxes. That was about 538 BC. Since Daniel was taken to Babylon in 605 BC, this means that he has been on foreign soil for nearly 70 years. He has become an old man. While tells us of the earthly ruler in power at the time, the verse that follows affirms that the heavenly ruler, the Lord, remains very much in control. That verse also records Daniel’s recognition that Jerusalem’s desolation was to last 70 years, according to . This means the captivity of Daniel’s people is nearing its end.
This awareness stirs the elderly man of God to offer the profound prayer of our lesson. Daniel’s address of the Lord as my God should not be bypassed too quickly. Consider how much Daniel had learned to trust the Lord during all the turmoil in his life and pressures to conform to the surrounding pagan culture. For nearly 70 years, the Lord had repeatedly shown himself faithful. Daniel can truly, genuinely call him my God.
While Daniel has acknowledged the Lord as his God, he is also keenly aware that the Lord is close to many others as well - specifically those who love him and keep his commandments.
The word awesome speaks to a sense of reverence we should have toward God. Just because he is a personal God (my God) does not mean that he can be approached casually or flippantly. Daniel knows this.
How should remembering God’s character shape how we talk to God about our sins? With reference to holiness; with reference to his love; with reference to his faithful consistency.
In verse 5, after exalting the Lord for his majesty and faithfulness. Daniel now begins to confess the brazen unfaithfulness of the people. By the use of the first-person we, Daniel counts himself among the guilty. Those who know the Lord and their character most intimately, clearly are painfully aware of their own unworthiness. Those most self-aware of their own spiritual poverty cannot help but pray the prayer of the publican: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
In what ways would a Christian’s behavior change if he or she assumed personal responsibility for communal sins? Regarding private prayer; regarding public prayer; regarding Christian activism
In verse 6 we see that God had warned the people time and again of the judgment that awaited should they turn away from him. To issue such a warning was the primary duty of the prophets. When the leaders of the people have no desire to hear what the Lord has to say, judgment cannot be far behind.
In verse 7, Daniel contrasts the Lord’s being righteous with the sin of his people. The phrase covered with shame highlights the visible, public disgrace that they have brought upon themselves because of unfaithfulness. The people have gladly, proudly flaunted their disobedience. Since they have not voluntarily exhibited shame associated with repentance, they now involuntarily exhibit shame associated with captivity. No one is exempt from divine judgment. People throughout the lands of Judah and Israel suffer their respective exiles.
Although politically divided for about 400 years by the time noted in , the 12 tribes of Israel share a common rebellion against God. Thus they share a common fate. This repeat of leadership culpability and shame serves to emphasize the problem.
The distress of Daniel and his people was traceable, in large part, to their leaders. They had set the bad examples of idolatry and spiritual complacency. Therefore, Daniel confessed to the Lord the sins of such leaders. As Daniel confessed the sins of leaders, he “owned” those sins as his.
God’s Holiness - ,
God’s Holiness - ,
“And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and made your name renowned even to this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; because of our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors, Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace among all our neighbors.
In Daniel continues to call attention to the wide chasm that exists between God’s faithfulness and the people’s rebellion. God has not pulled any surprises on the people in bringing judgement. To the contrary, he warned them through the Law of Moses (9;13) and later through the prophets (9:10). But the people disobeyed anyway (9:14).
In verse 15, Daniel now turns the attention of the reader to God’s actions in history on behalf of his people, specifically the exodus out of Egypt. That event was foundational for Israel’s existence as a nation. The exodus had brought the Lord a name, fame, far greater than it was possible for any other so-called god to obtain. The Israelites were to promote that renown by living in obedience to him and thus being a witness to the pagan peoples around them. But repeated sinfulness had brought shame, not fame, to themselves and to the Lord’s name.
What steps can we take to ensure that we thank God regularly for past rescues? In corporate worship; in private prayers and devotions.
In verse 16, Daniel now pleads with the Lord to continue to act in a manner consistent with his righteousness. God’s righteous acts include not only judgment against sin but also when that judgment has run its course, when “enough is enough.” Daniel begs that the Lord anger and wrath be turned away from Jerusalem.
Daniel Requests -
Daniel Requests -
Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication, and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolated sanctuary. Incline your ear, O my God, and hear. Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name. We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!”
Daniel is nearly three-quarters through his prayer before he starts making requests. His requests here echoes the blessing in that was to be issued by the high priest Aaron and his sons. The time of the “desolation of Jerusalem” is nearing its end. Renewal of the desolate sanctuary will mean worship renewal. As Daniel recognizes this, he prays for it for the Lord’s sake.
What positive changes might result if Christians started to appeal to God to act for the sake of his reputation? Why? Regarding interactions with fellow believers; regarding interactions with unbelievers.
In verses 18 & 19, Daniel asks for God’s full attention to the plight of his despondent people. The basis of Daniel’s plea cannot rest upon the righteousness of the people, since they have none. He knows full well that the only hope for God’s people rests in the Lord’s great mercy.
Daniel concludes his fervent prayer with a staccato of impassioned appeals to the Lord. These appeals can have only one basis: God’s own sake and Name. Daniel now pleads for second exodus. When the Lord accomplishes this, the “great disaster” that has befallen Jerusalem (9:12) will be revealed; everyone will know that such a reversal could happen only by the mercies of God.
What should we do when God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers? Regarding something yet to happen; regarding something that has already happened.
One wonders what Daniel’s posture is as he utters this intense prayer. The Scripture does not tell us. It is not hard to picture the aged saint falling to his creaking knees as he pleads with the Lord on behalf of himself and his countrymen in captivity. As his prayer reaches the especially earnest conclusion in the verse before us, perhaps Daniel falls prostrate to acknowledge total submission to the Lord and complete dependence upon him to answer the prayer.
Within the next year or so after Daniel offers this prayer, the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great issued the decree allowing the Jews who desired to do so to return home (, ). We do not read of Daniel returning to his homeland; most likely both his age and his administrative responsibilities precluded him from doing so.
However, given the date cited in Daniel lives to see the Lord answer the prayer and keep his word regarding the 70 years. We do not read any prayer Daniel offers when the return of the captives happens, but we can be certain that he praises the Lord - with a prayer that is just as sincere and passionate as the one we have studied today.
Daniel’s prayer should prompt us to ask ourselves, “Do we pray like that today? Are our prayer that earnest, that sensitive to the sin and wrongdoing in our lives and to our dependence on the mercy of God?” We may be very keenly aware of the perversion in our culture, but Daniel’s prayer says absolutely nothing about what is going on in Persian society. His focus is on his people’s desperate need for the forgiveness that God alone can provide. But note carefully that Daniel spends much more time acknowledging than asking.
Daniel was moved to prayer by reading and understanding the Word of God that had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah (). May reading the Scriptures today, specifically a prayer such as Daniel’s, stir us to reexamine and revitalize our own priorities in prayer.
We thank you, O God, for grace that forgives and heals us. Help us to acknowledge our sins honestly and maturely. Enable us to accept your forgiveness and grow in ways that will heal all of our relationships; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.