In the mornings, my guys and I read a portion of the Bible, and we discuss it. Really, we all take turns reading a couple of verses from a passage, and my husband teaches on it. I add a little here and a little there. It is like we cook a meal together. My husband has the main meal, and I season it. The boys consume it up, and they let us know what they got out of it. Well, that is the analogy that I can come up with right now.
The passage we looked at this morning was in Daniel 9, verses 1 through 19. It is the prayer Daniel presents before God. Daniel comes to God, knowing what God says is true. He knows that when God said that the Israelites would be enslaved in Babylon for 70 years, He meant it. And Daniel knew that God is faithful to His word. He means what He says. God had sent many prophets, like Daniel, to speak to His people through the years, but their messages were ignored. The truth was too painful to hear. Today, God still speaks infallibly and authoritatively through the Bible, and He also speaks through preachers, teachers, and concerned friends. Sometimes the truth hurts, and we would rather accept soothing falsehoods. If you are unwilling to listen to God’s Word, maybe you are trying to avoid making a painful change. Don’t settle for a soothing lie which will bring harsh judgment. Accepting the truth even it is painful can bring beneficial changes to your life.
So after studying the different books (scrolls), he saw that it had been 70 years since God had given the prophet Jeremiah the words that said, “and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11).” Here we are 70 years later, and Daniel comes to God as if to remind God that it is time to do what He said He was going to do. Now, God does not need reminding. He was praying to God aloud. This reminded himself and the people of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, and it was a hope looking forward to God saving them from their long and arduous situation.
Reading verse 3 and the first part of verse 4 gives us insight into how Daniel postured himself. It says, “And I set my face unto the Lord, God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth”. He readied himself by humbling himself. He did not come before the Almighty Creator of the Universe in a prideful, puffed up way demanding action. No. The first thing he did was acknowledge his status as the created servant of the Ruler of everything. And he sought the One who is capable of fulfilling His words. God said in Jeremiah 29:10, “That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” Daniel knew God is true. He would release them from this punishment at the right time.
Daniel began his prayer by acknowledging God’s status. He is “great and dreadful… keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments (v 4).” He recognizes the truth and faithfulness of God. God’s people are protected by God’s love and mercy. And we show that we are God’s people by keeping His commandments. Don’t hear what I am NOT saying. I am not saying that you have to do works to be saved. What I am saying is that Daniel is reminding us that God’s people, there in Babylon, are still loosely following God’s commandments. However, as noted in the next couple of verses, they are not keeping all of them in obedience with the covenant they made that we read about back in Deuteronomy.
Daniel begins his prayer, and in verse 5 he confesses “we have sinned…” He did not say they have sinned, but we. He did not point fingers to those around him without acknowledging that he is in this group as well. He says that we have done wrong and been disobedient. We have rebelled. We have not listened to those God had sent before this to remind us of our covenant with Him. Daniel brings before God the truth that we are not worthy of rescue, help, or mercy. He admits to the group’s wrong-doings and actions. Again, God knows all of this, but this is an action recognizing ourselves that we are not worthy.
In the verses that follow through about verse 14, Daniel continues to lay out for us all of these ways that the people did not deserve God’s mercy. He states that they knew the law and the covenant that they made with God, and yet they disobeyed and rebelled anyway. They are ashamed and rightfully so. He said in verse 14, “The Lord kept the terrible things ready for us – He made them happen to us. The Lord our God did this because He is fair in everything He does. But we still have not listened to Him (ERV).” This was their punishment for disobedience. And remember that punishment is not to hurt or get back at someone for the wrongs that they do. Punishment is for the sole purpose of teaching. God was teaching them cause and effect, in essence. He was teaching them what could happen if they do not do what God had told them to do for their own sake. God is fair and righteous. AND He is our loving Father. He was keeping us from hurting ourselves even more.
This reminds me of a time when my son kept trying irritate his older brother. I would tell him that if he doesn’t stop, he was likely going to get hurt. Over and over, he would say his brother’s name or interrupt him while he was speaking. He would do little brother stuff, but I was teaching him to treat his brother how he wanted to be treated. A couple of days go by, and he still keeps pestering his older brother. By this time, his brother got fed up and pushed him down after saying loudly, “Stop!” After that, my son came to me and told me what his brother did as if to get him into trouble. After reminding his brother not to push his brother down, I punished my son by having him write sentences stating, “I will not bug my brother,” 50 times. I did not have him write so that his hand hurt. I had him write so many times so that the message would stick, and so that he would remember the lesson being taught: “Treat others as you want to be treated.”
In verse 15, Daniel reminds us of the mighty act of salvation that God did for His people. He saved them from the land of Egypt, and yet the people still didn’t obey. Then he begs for mercy. He doesn’t ask for help because he knew His people didn’t deserve God’s help. God sends His help, not because we deserve it, but because He wants to show great mercy when we need Him. If God refused to help us because of our sin, how could we complain? But when He sends mercy even though we have sinned, how can we withhold our praise?
Daniel ends the prayer in verses 18 and 19 with, “…I am not saying that we are good people… I am asking these things because I know You are kind (merciful)… do something now for Your city and Your people who are called by Your name (ERV).” He recognizes that it is not by our intrinsic value. The people have truly missed the mark by focusing on themselves and forgetting God. They have disobeyed and rebelled against the very precepts that were given to them to keep them safe and flourishing. God gave us rules and boundaries not to keep us from having a good time, but to keep us thriving and flourishing in light and love.
One thing that really jumped out at me in this passage was the picture of a child talking to his father. It’s as if the child has been grounded, and he is asking his father, “can you please go light on me? I know I messed up. And I know it is right that I was grounded, but, as my father, your son, can I please be done with the punishment? I have learned my lesson.” And when the father saw that the son was sincerely apologetic, the father said, “Ok. You can be un-grounded, but remember what I said about what you did. Keep my rules and you will be okay.” One of God’s attributes is that He is fair. In the Bible this word is righteous, which is the “perfection or holiness of His nature; exact rectitude; faithfulness.” He is perfect in His actions and judgments. When he doles out punishment, He is right in doing so. Like mentioned earlier, “how can we complain?” He does what is good and right, and it really is for our sake.
Gotta go fill up my cup…..