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Daniel 9: A Prayer and a Prophecy Print E-mail
Monday, 05 November 2012

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How was your time with the Lord this week? Did you take the time to read His Word and commune with Him through prayer? If you did, were these times refreshing? Did the Word encourage you and challenge you and convict you? In your times of prayer, what did you pray for? Did you focus on personal needs or the needs of others, physical or spiritual needs, or maybe something else? Did you spend time reflecting on Godís greatness and goodness toward His people? Did you confess your sins and cling to the cross? How was your time with the Lord this week?

Daniel 9 gives us a glimpse into the spiritual life of the prophet.  As we have seen already, he was committed to spending time with the Lord, even risking his life instead of giving up thirty days of prayer (see Daniel 6).  For years, Daniel had set aside three times every day to meet with the Lord.  Yet, what did he do during these times?  Did he read the latest devotional or try and think positive thoughts or strive for inner peace?  Daniel 9 describes at least what he did on one particular day, which I would argue was his normal practice.  Look at verses 1-3.  Once again, Daniel identifies when all of this is happening: In the first year of DariusÖ  Darius was the ruler who came in and took over in Babylon, killing the former ruler Belshazzar.  The first year of his reign would have been around 539 BC, the year the Babylonians were losing their power to the Medes and Persians. 

So what is Daniel doing?  He is reading the word of the Lord.  In particular, he is reading the book of Jeremiah and discovers his fellow prophetís prediction that the Exile would last around seventy years (see Jeremiah 25:11-12).  Jeremiah even speaks of the punishment of Babylon which will follow the Exile.  Daniel perceives that this prophecy is coming true even in his own day.  Not only that, but Jeremiah writes that God will restore the people of Israel and bring them back to their land.  So how does Daniel respond to the word that he is reading?  He prays.  He longs for these prophecies to come true and so he prays.  Yet, what does he pray for?  Letís consider his prayer together this morning.

Danielís Prayer (v. 4-19)

Danielís prayer can be broken up into three major sections.

First, he begins with confession.  Look at verses 4-10.  Daniel contrasts Godís greatness and righteousness with the wickedness and rebellion of Israel.  God is great and awesome, but they have sinned and done wrong.  God keeps covenant and steadfast love, but they have acted wickedly and rebelled.  The Lord is worthy of praise and adoration, but they are full of shame and regret.  He has graciously given them His commandments and His prophets, but they have ignored them and gone their own way.  What is interesting is that Daniel is confessing on behalf of all Israel.  Daniel looks back on how Godís people have disobeyed him and is honest about their sin.  Yet, he is not pointing the finger as if he is innocent.  He does not say Ďthey have sinnedí but Ďwe have sinned.í  He recognizes his own wickedness along with the rebellion of Godís people.  He is broken and contrite and humble before God.  He wants the Exile to be over, but he does not deny Israelís sin.  They are not worthy of restoration, which is why He is crying out to the God of mercy and forgiveness.

Second, he speaks of Godís justice in sending calamity to Israel.  Daniel is not coming before the Lord and crying out: ĎUnfair, this is unfair, Lord, you have to do something different because this is too much.í  No, he recognizes Godís justice in punishing Israel.  Look at verses 11-15.  Daniel references the curse that is written in the Law and states that God is simply carrying out what He said He would do if Israel disobeyed.  What is he talking about?  After giving Israel the Law, God told them of the blessings they would receive if they obeyed and the curses they would face if they disobeyed.  These are recorded in Deuteronomy 28, where God tells Israel that disobedience would lead to them being cast out of the land (v. 25, 36, 52, 64-68).  Israel was told that if they disobeyed God, then He would send in the nations to scatter them, which is exactly what happened with the Assyrians and the Babylonians.  God has brought this promised calamity on the people of Israel because of their sin.  Daniel recognizes that God is righteous in bringing this calamity to pass on Israel.  He does not grumble or complain, but simply acknowledges Godís justice in punishing His people for their disobedience. 

Third, Daniel cries out for mercy.  Daniel knows that God is a just and righteous God who is punishing His people for what their sins deserve.  Yet, he also knows that God is merciful and kind.  Thus he prays for mercy and kindness in verses 16-19.  Look at those with me.  He prays that God would turn from His wrath (v. 16) and listen to their plea for mercy (v. 17).  As we have seen before in this book, Daniel bases his prayer not on Israelís worthiness but on Godís mercy and Godís concern for His own name.  God had placed His name on Israel, they were His people.  Thus, Daniel asks God to show them mercy for the sake of His own name.  Their good (rescue from Exile) and Godís name were connected together.  Godís deliverance of a people was for their own good and His great glory.  We see this connection throughout the Scriptures, even in our own salvation through faith in Christ.  Daniel prays: ďSave us for your Name, O God, for your glory, so that the nations will know that you are a God who can save your people, even when they do not deserve it.Ē 

Gabrielís Prophecy (v. 20-27)

While Daniel is still praying, God sends the angel Gabriel to him once again.  Look at verses 20-23.  Gabriel is sent to give Daniel insight and understanding.  Why was Gabriel sent to give understanding to Daniel?  Gabriel tells us: for you are greatly loved.  The Lord loves Daniel.  He has heard his confession and his pleas for mercy.  And so the Lord sends Gabriel to give Daniel insight into the plight of Godís people and their ultimate rescue from Exile.

So then, what does Gabriel reveal?  Before we look at these verses, I should go ahead and note that these verses are some of the most difficult in all of the book.  Many different interpretations have been offered and none of them seem to be completely satisfying.  Greater minds than my own have wrestled with this text and come up with various approaches.  Thus, although I do think some conclusions can be drawn and agreed upon, I do admit that there is some mystery in these verses and whatever interpretive decisions we make should be made with much humility.

So then, letís walk through the verses.  Look at verse 24.  In verse 24 we are introduced to the idea of seventy weeks, or Ďseventy sevens.í  As we will see, some take this literally and see it as a reference to a period of 490 years.  Others see these numbers as symbolic, which seems to be the way that they were intended since this is apocalyptic literature.  Either way, we are told of the reason for the seventy weeks in verse 24: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.  The first three deal with sin and Godís plan to bring it to an end by offering atonement for it.  The next three are more positive and speak of God bringing in righteousness and confirming the words of the prophets and anointing a holy place, or person.  Daniel has been confessing the sin of Israel and looking to Jeremiahís promise of restoration.  This vision of Gabriel tells us that sin will be dealt with and redemption will come to Godís people.  That much seems to be clear from this verse.

Gabriel then divides the seventy weeks into three sections: seven weeks (or 49 years), then sixty-two weeks (or 434 years), then one final week (or 7 years).  Before we look at these sections and the verses, I should mention that most interpreters view this in one of three ways.  Some see it as being fulfilled in the time of Antiochus, who we spoke of last week.  Yet, the purposes identified in verse 24 make this approach seem unlikely.  The second approach is that these weeks are all leading up to the first coming and the death of Christ.  The third view also sees the weeks as speaking of the coming of Christ but also see it stretching to include His second coming as well.  I have a tendency to agree more with the last of these views, although certain parts of the verses are still difficult to reconcile with this view. 

So then, letís walk through the verses with these three views in mind.  Look at verse 25.  The word here could refer to the heavenly word that went out when Daniel started praying (v. 23) or a word from a particular earthly ruler.  The anointed one in this verse possibly refers to Cyrus, who would let the people return to Jerusalem and begin construction on the city, which will take place over the sixty two weeks time.  Now look at verse 26a.  I think this is an obvious reference to Christ and his crucifixion.  He is the anointed one who will be cut off after the sixty two weeks, or sixty nine total.  This much seems pretty straightforward.  Yet, look at the rest of verse 26.  This is either referencing the particular destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD or the general destruction that will take place between the two comings of Christ or even the destruction that will take place at the very end. 

It is difficult to decide which is being described.  To complicate matters, look at verse 27.  This is either a reference to Christ and the new covenant that He made through his death.  Or a reference to the covenant that will be made by one of Godís enemies in the last days.  I have a tendency to view this as a reference to the end of days since John picks up on this language in Revelation.  What we can see is that Gabriel is pointing Daniel to the future redemption of Godís people by sending an anointed One who will deal with sin, put down Godís enemies, and restore Godís people.

What does all of this have to do with us?  I think Daniel 9 has much to teach us about prayer, even the prophecy which is difficult to understand.  What conclusions can we draw? 

First, we must let the Word inform our prayers.  Daniel is meditating on Jeremiah and breaks into prayer on account of what he is reading.  Thus, we should read the word on our knees.  We should pray for Godís promises toward His people to be fulfilled.  This coming week, open your Bibles, read the Word, and pray in response to what is written.

Second, we should let humility characterize our prayers.  Do you want to avoid grumbling and complaining in your prayers?  Then begin with confession.  Admit that you are a sinful person who lives and worships with sinful people.  Pray that God would give us brokenness for our sins and turn our hearts to Him.  Pray this for yourself and for your Church and for the Church at large.  Let humility characterize all of your prayers. 

Finally, we should let Godís plan encourage our prayers.  Daniel was given encouragement by being told of Godís future plans to redeem His people.  How much more have we been shown?  We know the name of the anointed One who would come and be cut off for our redemption: Jesus Christ.  He lived a perfect life and died on a cross for our sins, only to be raised from the dead three days later.  We know that He is coming again to rescue all who turn from their sins and trust in Him.  He has promised us that He will return.  Thus, how much more should we be laboring in prayer for the fulfillment of all of His promises?  We should be praying for the salvation of men from every tongue, tribe, and nation.  We should be praying for the purity of the Church, including one anotherís sanctification here at Trinity.  We should be praying for our own souls that we would be zealous in preaching the gospel and living in obedience to Christ.  May we join with Daniel in looking to Godís promises and praying for the good of Godís people and the glory of Godís Name!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 12 November 2012 )

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