When we looked at the first three verses of Daniel nine last week, we saw that Daniel realized when reading the writings of Jeremiah that the seventy year time of the desolations of Jerusalem was nearly over. Upon this realization, Daniel gave his attention to the Lord in prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
In our second study of this chapter, we now see the content of Daniel's prayer.
Daniel tells us that he prayed to the Lord and confessed. At first, it may sound like an unnecessary repetition, to say "to the Lord." But remember, people are often praying to someone else instead of the Lord.
In Luke 18, Jesus was talking to some guys that were very religious. They thought they had a handle on righteousness, so they looked down at others with contempt. He began to tell them a parable.
He said, "Guys, once two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee - very religious guy. The other was about as low as you can get - he was a tax collector."
Luke 18:11-12 "The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'"
Notice that the Pharisee was praying thus to himself, not to the Lord. Of course, he said, "God, I thank Thee..." But who was his god? He was praying to himself.
Daniel's prayer to God was not a list of all the righteous things he had done. Rather, it was a confession of sin. In Jesus' parable, the Pharisee stood in stark opposition to the tax collector. Not only to whom he was praying, and the bodily position of his prayer, but the content of his prayer. Jesus went on to tell this religious group,
Luke 18:13-14 "But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Notice too, that Daniel does not say, "Lord, this nation has turned its back on you." "God, my country is full of rebels." No, he says,
Dan. 9:5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances.
Although we call Daniel a righteous man - certainly more righteous than we - he knows that he is guilty of sin as well as his nation.
In addition to the peoples outward sins that Daniel listed in verse five, they were also guilty of not listening to the prophets that God had sent.
Now, many of us are guilty of pointing our fingers at the White House, the Supreme Court, and the Congress, and saying, "Look at how our leaders walk in opposition to the Word of God!" But let's be fair. Daniel said that the prophets spoke to "our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land." Not just the leaders, but all the people. We are all responsible for what we have heard.
Of course, the writings of Jeremiah were fresh in Daniel's mind, and he certainly knew that no one had listened to him, either. Instead, the officials had become angry at Jeremiah and thrown him in prison (Jer. 37).
The story was very much the same for nearly everyone God had sent. As a matter of fact,
Stephen rhetorically asked the High Priest and the Council,
Acts 7:52 "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?..."
And Jesus said it far more bluntly when he told them,
Matt. 23:31 "...you are sons of those who murdered the prophets."
I love the fact that Daniel doesn't put even a hint of blame on the Lord. He knows that God is righteous, and they had been unrighteous. He knows that God is faithful, and they have been unfaithful. They were driven from the land because of their behavior.
Many people look at bad circumstances and immediately blame God. How many times have you heard the phrase, "How could a God of love...?" But the fact is, there are consequences for sin. There are too many times that people have blamed God for a bad situation, when in reality, it was their own sin that took them there.
Daniel acknowledges that their captivity was their fault, not God's. The shame for this terrible predicament was upon Israel's face, not the Lord's.
This is another great thing about Daniel. In the midst of his captivity, he recognizes that God is compassionate and forgiving. He realizes that if God were not, they would all be dead.
The Lord had warned Israel time and again of the consequences of rebellion. Not just through the prophets, but also in the Law that was delivered through Moses.
For example, the first thirteen verses of Leviticus 26 are spent speaking of the blessings they will receive if they are obedient. The next thirty verses detail the curse and punishment they will bring upon themselves if they reject the Lord.
Lev. 26:17 And I will set My face against you so that you shall be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you shall rule over you...'
Lev. 26:31 I will lay waste your cities as well, and will make your sanctuaries desolate...'
Lev. 26:32-33 And I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.'
Deuteronomy 28 is a similar chapter, when the Lord reminds them yet again of the blessings and curses, depending on their behavior toward Him.
Again, Daniel admits that it is WE, not THEY, who sinned. Saints, I have noticed a big lack of willingness among a lot of Christians to admit their sin. And frankly, there are few people that I like less than Christians who cannot admit that they are guilty of sin.
Guys that walk around like they've got it all together and they don't have a problem with sin. Gals who act as if they are perfect. "Nope, not me. Not my sin. Never touch the stuff."
These are not people I can relate to. Because frankly, I'm a sinner, and I know it. If I didn't know it, I'd be worried, because John wrote,
1John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
If this is what the Bible says, then why are so many Christians so dead set on pretending that they've got a handle on holiness?
It is a terrible thing to point the finger at others when we have not looked at our own lives. Jesus said,
Matt. 7:1-5 "Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
May we never be guilty of a "holier than thou" attitude - looking down our noses at the sin of our brothers and sisters while we have not even admitted to our own wrongdoing.
Now Daniel appeals to God for deliverance. Not because of his merits, nor because the people of Israel deserved God's compassion, but based on the Lord's righteousness, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, and His grace.
Saints, this prayer should affect how we relate to God. If you have been coming to God for blessings based on your righteousness, you've been doing it wrong. If you've been afraid to come to God for blessings because of your unrighteousness, you've been doing it wrong. The way we must always approach God is in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging that God wants to bless us in spite of ourselves.
James 4:7-10 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
This is what Jesus meant in the Beatitudes when He said,
Matt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Next week, we will look at the final eight verses of Daniel nine, with some of the most detailed and intriguing prophecy to be found in the Bible.