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Daniel

Prayer and Prophecy

Daniel  9

Daniel’s Prayer

In this section, we see what kind of man it is to whom God entrusts prophetic vision. Indeed, we shall see a model of repentance as the basis for his standing in God’s sight. In a way, it is a shame that those who divided the chapters and verses did not separate this prayer from the prophecy which follows; the prayer is (perhaps excepting Psalm 51) the finest model of repentance in the Old Testament. The prophetic section is the backbone of prophecy. Let us take it piece by piece.

How to get in touch with God

(Dan 9:1-2 NIV) In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom-- {2} in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.

Daniel is about to begin his prayer -- but before he does, he enters the Scripture. We shall see how important this is. Indeed, it is necessary to read what Daniel was reading:

(Jer 29:10-14 NIV) This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. {11} For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. {12} Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. {13} You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. {14} I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

Note well the point. God declares that he will bring them back after seventy years of Babylonian captivity -- when they pray to Him. So Daniel prays -- according to the will of God. I would point out these items:

·        Daniel finds the will of God in the Scripture; the prayer is after studying the words of Jeremiah.

·        Daniel’s prayer is in accord with the will of God; indeed, he is asking Him to fulfill that prophecy.

·        Even though the prophecy is that they will call on Him, Daniel does not hesitate to do just that -- he doesn’t leave it to someone else. He is not a spectator of prophecy; he is a participant.

A point for us to consider: the Scripture clearly teaches that the Gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). Do we pray for that end? Do we work for that end? Or are we sitting back just waiting for it to happen?

(Mat 9:37-38 NIV) Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. {38} Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Are you asking the Lord of the harvest to send out workers? Are you praying for the workers He has sent?

The character of the righteous penitent

(Dan 9:3 NIV) So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

Notice how Daniel begins: not with words but with action. If you write a novel, you create character not with description but with action. See what Daniel does:

·        He “pleads in prayer.” There is no sense of prayer as a bargaining session here!

·        He deals in “petition.” He is begging; not demanding.

·        He goes before his God fasting -- he makes a sacrifice before he makes this prayer.

·        He goes about in sackcloth and ashes -- the sign of mourning and repentance. This is no private petition (“our little secret, God.”) This is public, committed service as the pedestal on which prayer is raised.

The character of God

(Dan 9:4 NIV) I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands,

Daniel now acknowledges the character of God. If you are going to have a personal relationship -- that is, a relationship between persons, and God is three persons -- you must build that relationship on a sound knowledge of the other person. Daniel brings out two chief characteristics:

·        First, he shows the greatness of God (“great and awesome.”)

·        Next, he relates the faithfulness of God. Daniel genuinely trusts Him.

·        Finally, he appeals to the basis of his relationship with God: His covenant with the Jewish people. It is a covenant of love.

This covenant of love is worth some time. There are two points we need to see:

·        The covenant defines a group, not a singular, relationship. If my group, under the covenant, sins, I have sinned. It is not just “me and Jesus in the telephone booth.”

·        The covenant is one of love. Even in the Old Testament, it is clear that God is love. His love for us is the basis of our relationship -- our personal relationship.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

You asked for a loving God; you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked , the “lord of terrible aspect,” is present; not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels himself responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as an artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

Understood in this send, we can see how the God whose covenant is a covenant of love can be so furious with the ones He loves.

Acknowledgment of Sin

(Dan 9:5-6 NIV) we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. {6} We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Daniel now enumerates the ways in which he and the people have sinned. It is the point of confession, and Daniel rings the changes well:

·        We have “sinned and done wrong.” That is, we have violated the obvious moral law which God has placed in all mankind.

·        Beyond that, we have rebelled. Now, how can you have a rebellion unless there is an authority against which you rebel? Thus, by admitting rebellion as wrong, Daniel acknowledges God as the supreme moral authority of the universe.

·        To get more specific, Daniel acknowledges that they have transgressed specific commands and laws. God has spoken; men have written; the sinner has chosen to ignore.

·        Finally, after all this, God has sent prophets to warn us (publicly and privately) -- and we have not listened.

Contrast: God and men

(Dan 9:7-8 NIV) "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame--the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. {8} O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.

In this section, Daniel contrasts the righteousness of God with the sinfulness of men -- and comes to the inescapable conclusion: the reason we are in this mess and covered with shame is because we have sinned against you.

What bothers me about this passage is the word “shame.” We don’t have shame any more. Our hearts are hardened; Daniel’s is tender, and he feels the shame of his generation. How many of my generation can feel ashamed of what we have done? A sense of shame is necessary to repentance.

The appeal to Mercy

(Dan 9:9-10 NIV) The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; {10} we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.

Daniel now begins his appeal. Even as he acknowledges again the sin of Israel, he makes his appeal on the only basis available to him: the mercy of God. No hint of self-righteousness appears in this verse; only God’s mercy allows our appeal.

The righteousness of punishment

(Dan 9:11-14 NIV) All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. "Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. {12} You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. {13} Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. {14} The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

Daniel now acknowledges the righteousness of the punishment. How difficult this is! We are sometimes persuaded to admit that we have sinned, but how often are we persuaded to say that we deserved what we got? Listen to Daniel:

·        We were warned by the Law of Moses (which predates this by about a thousand years) -- specifically and in great detail.

·        Despite it, we have not “sought the favor of the LORD” by turning. We are indeed wicked; not only do we sin, we ignore the punishment for it.

How often do we hear someone say, “A kind and loving God would never punish people like that.” Hear it from one who knew: a kind and loving God will do just exactly that. He will warn you before; He will warn you during; He will remind you after. He will not, however, “hesitate to bring disaster upon us.”

The petition for Restoration

(Dan 9:15-17 NIV) "Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. {16} O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. {17} "Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.

Only now does Daniel make his petition known. He turns from describing God the righteous judge to God the mighty: the one who took the people out of Egypt. He then -- while scrupulously avoiding asking him to be unrighteous -- asks him to

·        turn away his anger, and

·        restore his holy city.

The basis for the petition: God’s mercy

(Dan 9:18 NIV) Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

Daniel now makes his petition, and he does so on one basis only: God’s “great mercy.” He reminds God that Jerusalem is the city “that bears your name” -- a way of putting Daniel into God’s way of mind. But if you care for the city that bears his name, on what other basis can you ask but his mercy? The relationship between God and man is not based on what we’ve done but upon who He is.

Finale: “For your name’s sake.”

(Dan 9:19 NIV) O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."

Finally, Daniel crowns his petition. His repentance must turn to God’s own way of thinking (see the end of Psalm 51). His petition is God’s will, for his heart is a heart after God. Daniel prayed for the prophesied will of God, the restoration of Jerusalem. Do we pray for the prophesied will of God -- the evangelism of the world?

The Answer to the Prayer

After such beauty, we see a swift response -- and a most illuminating one. The opening tells us much of Daniel’s character:

(Dan 9:20-23 NIV) While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill-- {21} while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. {22} He instructed me and said to me, "Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. {23} As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:

You want to be a man to whom God gives insight in such a way? Notice the following:

·        The time of this prayer is at the evening sacrifice. Daniel has been away from the ritual worship of the Temple all of his adult life -- and he still prays at the time commanded. Obedience inside a body of believers is one thing; obedience “on the road” is another.

·        The title “highly esteemed” can be translated into Greek, where it becomes the phrase “beloved.” The only other holder of that title is John the Apostle - the writer of Revelations.

·        The answer was given “as soon as you began to pray.” God hears the heart, not the words.

The Vision - Seventy Weeks of Years

(Dan 9:24 NIV) "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Virtually all scholars interpret the ‘sevens’ as a seven year period. So, what we have here is a period of 490 years. At this point, the scholars begin to disagree. There are two primary views:

·        The bulk of this prophecy has been fulfilled - all except the last week.

·        Even if it was partially fulfilled once, it remains to be fulfilled again in the time of the end. Such fulfillments as have happened are merely types of what will happen later.

Before we get into the specifics, look at what this time period is meant to accomplish:

·        to finish transgression. It is well worth note that after the captivity the nation of Israel never again, except under duress, worshipped any other God.

·        to put an end to sin.

·        In the first view, this is the end of the power of sin at the cross.

·        In the second view, this is the Second Coming.

·        to atone for wickedness. This, at least, was accomplished at the cross.

·        to bring in everlasting righteousness. Can this be accounted for at the cross?

·        to seal up vision and prophecy. According to the first view, this means that there is an interruption - the seventieth week of Daniel is yet to come; the first 69 are accomplished.

·        to anoint the most holy. The “Anointed One” = Messiah = Christ. First or Second Coming?

Prophecy of the Coming of Christ

(Dan 9:25 NIV) "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.

Here comes the timing;

·        The first week of sevens is held to be the time (49 years) Nehemiah and Ezra were rebuilding Jerusalem. This starts at about 445 BC and continues to 396 BC.

·        The next 62 sevens (434 years) takes us to about AD 30 - approximately the time of the Crucifixion.

The dates vary from commentary to commentary, generally because someone is trying to back into a date of either AD 30 or AD 33, or some other date of the Crucifixion (or birth, or baptism, or other event in Jesus’ life).

The Anointed One

(Dan 9:26 NIV) After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

Note that the sixty two sevens (and, previously, the seven sevens) have passed when the Anointed One is “cut off.” This is generally taken to be the Crucifixion (and “after” helps explain the confusion in dates). Following this -- again, note that no specific date is given, the city is destroyed and with it the Temple. The first view then holds to a gap before the 70th week; the second holds that all is yet to be fulfilled.

Who, then, are the “people of the ruler who will come?” From history, we know that the Romans sacked Jerusalem in AD 70. Therefore, “the ruler who will come” is Roman. In the first view, all this tells you is that the Antichrist is from Rome (hence the enduring speculation that it’s one of the Popes). In the second view -- despite the timing difficulties, for this happened ‘at the wrong time’ it is the Roman army which sacked Rome. In either case, this is one source of the idea that the Antichrist will come from Europe.

The Antichrist

(Dan 9:27 NIV) He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."

Jumping suddenly to the ruler to come, Gabriel explains the 70th week. In this vision, he gives a clear sign: In the middle of this seventieth week, the ruler to come (generally identified with the Antichrist, or one of his fronts) will stop the sacrifice and create “an abomination that causes desolation.” This has caused a great deal of speculation. For example, on this passage (and its parallel, Matthew 24:15) many have concluded that the Temple described in Ezekiel will be erected by the Jews in Israel; the sacrifices started again, and that, for their protection, the Jews will conclude a peace treaty with the Antichrist. He would then disrupt this worship after {usually exactly} three and a half years.

The possibilities and permutations are endless. But, as usual, God has given us a clear sign. Remember the abomination that causes desolation.

Finale

All this is prophecy -- but please do not forget what brought it about:

Daniel

·        studied the Scripture

·        demonstrated repentance and then

·        prayed in God’s will.

God still seeks such men today.

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