Bible Ballistics: Praying With Compassion!!! Vol. 6#22
Well, today we are going to consider the first part of Daniel chapter 9. While the end of the chapter is one of the most familiar passages in all of scripture, we must keep it in it’s context and the context of Daniel 9 will be our focus for today.
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:2
Here Daniel sets the scene for us—it’s the first year of Darius the Mede, the kingdom of Babylon has fallen and the Medes and the Persians are ruling over the captives of Israel/Judah (which parallels chapter 6 and Daniel’s encounter in the “lion’s den”). It’s during this first year of Darius, that Daniel receives the vision of Daniel 9, but before he receives the vision, we discover the great prayer life of this man of God. Daniel had a burden of grief, which he took to God in prayer. A grief over his people and their unrepentant condition; as well as praying for God’s compassion toward a people who are not spiritually ready to return to their homeland of Judah and Jerusalem, to obey and follow the Lord God Almighty. Oh, that we could have a heart of compassion like Daniel, as we pray for our people, our nation, and our world. A world that is in need of God’s salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Daniel was also motivated by reading the Word of God, particularly the writings of Jeremiah which revealed the 70 years that God had declared for the captivity of Judah. Why would this bring Daniel to a place of such deep grief? I believe that because Daniel knew the days of the people’s return to Judah was near at hand, even at the door, he knew that they were no different than when they were taken into captivity. Remember he had lived through the latter years of Jeremiah’s prophesying and was in the first group to go into captivity. We also remember from our study of the first 6 chapters that Daniel had been faithful and devoted to God, yet he identified with his people in their sin. Do we have that kind of empathy and compassion for our people? Or do we slam others for their weaknesses, their shortcomings or lack of understanding or comprehension of God’s Word? Do we see ourselves as part of the problem? Or do we blame everyone else but ourselves for the condition of our world, and plead for God’s mercy and grace that others might see him, even as HE brought us to see HIM and the cross? I think Daniel teaches us the way we are to relate and identify with our world, and to seek God on their behalf. To be the ones who will stand in the gap.
One of Daniel’s contemporaries talked about standing in the ‘gap’!
“The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. 30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. 31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel 22:29-31
We can learn from Ezekiel and Daniel the importance of “standing in the gap” for others. God told Ezekiel that judgment came when it did because not one was willing to “stand in the gap” and intercede for a sinful people. Let’s examine what Daniel calls us to. Are we willing and ready to be that one who will ‘stand in the gap’ for our people? What does it require? Let’s dig into Daniel 9 and find out!
“And I set my face unto the Lord God,
to seek by prayer and supplications,
4 And I prayed unto the Lord my God,
and made my confession,
O Lord, the great and dreadful God,
keeping the covenant and mercy
to them that love him,
and to them that keep his commandments;
5 We have sinned,
and have committed iniquity,
and have done wickedly,
and have rebelled,
even by departing
from thy precepts
and from thy judgments:
6 Neither have we hearkened
unto thy servants the prophets,
which spake in thy name
to our kings,
and our fathers,
and to all the people of the land.” Daniel 9:3-6
What does Daniel show us? First and foremost Daniel set his face unto “the Lord God”—the only place that we can confidently go is to God. Daniel knew that he couldn’t fix the hearts of his people, but God could. So first of all, we must determine to seek the face of God—not man!! Then we find Daniel committing to seek God not only through “prayer” but also to commit himself to prayer and supplication (asking and petitioning God), fasting (refraining from food for focus and single-mindedness toward God), and sackcloth and ashes (the attire of those who wanted to make known their earnest commitment to seek God’s face in prayer, and to express their deep grief) over his requests to God. Daniel’s heart was broken over his people and their unrealized need for God Almighty, even as we saw Daniel rehearse the character of His God in Daniel 2:20-23:
“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever:
for wisdom and might are his:
21 And he changeth the times and the seasons:
he removeth kings,
and setteth up kings:
he giveth wisdom unto the wise,
and knowledge to them that know understanding:
22 He revealeth the deep and secret things:
he knoweth what is in the darkness,
and the light dwelleth with him.
23 I thank thee, and praise thee,
O thou God of my fathers,
who hast given me wisdom and might,
and hast made known unto me now
what we desired of thee:
for thou hast now made known
unto us the king’s matter.”
Daniel was well acquainted with the character of God and he rehearses it again here in this prayer. When we pray we are always on a good track when we pray scripture—the character and promises of God, as well as the prayers of God’s own, including Daniel, Paul, Jesus. Along with the character of God, Daniel rehearses the sin of his people—but not with accusations and denials of his complicity in their sin, but in identification with his people and their failures toward God. Daniel acknowledges the reality that the people didn’t accidentally slip into sin, but willfully in rejection of the very prophets of God whom He sent to warn them and call them to repentance of their sin and to return to the God who loved and provided for them in every way. How do we often pray? With compassion toward those who are walking away from God, or with a stretched out finger shaming and rebuking them from our lips so that we won’t be stained by their presence? Ouch! Will we take up Daniel’s banner and pray “Lord, WE” have sinned? Or will we stick to our ‘selfie’ culture and pray, “they” have sinned—I have not? (Be sure and go back over this whole chapter and note the pronouns “we” and “us”, and “they” and “them” and learn from them). Let’s see what else Daniel has to show us.
“O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee,
but unto us confusion of faces,
as at this day;
to the men of Judah,
and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and unto all Israel,
that are near,
and that are far off,
through all the countries
whither thou hast driven them,
because of their trespass
that they have trespassed against thee.
8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face,
to our kings,
to our princes,
and to our fathers,
because we have sinned against thee.” Daniel 9:7-8
Daniel again rehearses the goodness of God and the sin of his people—all the people, nationally. Those who were near and those who were far off, those of low degree or of high position. Daniel helps us to understand that God is always good in all his ways, and that we will reap the consequences of our sin.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7
We will reap what we sow. And God is the one who is keeping account, whether we are saved or lost. Just because we belong to Jesus, doesn’t mean that we are not responsible for our actions. God disciplines His own children, and as the book of Hebrews tells us—no discipline=not God’s child. Check it out!
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” Hebrews 12:6-8
Let’s see what else Daniel has to say as we continue on through chapter 9:
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses,
though we have rebelled against him;
10 Neither have we obeyed the voice
of the Lord our God,
to walk in his laws,
which he set before us
by his servants the prophets.
11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law,
even by departing,
that they might not obey thy voice;
therefore the curse is poured upon us,
and the oath that is written in the law of Moses
the servant of God,
because we have sinned against him.
12 And he hath confirmed his words,
which he spake against us,
and against our judges that judged us,
by bringing upon us a great evil:
for under the whole heaven
hath not been done
as hath been done upon Jerusalem.
13 As it is written in the law of Moses,
all this evil is come upon us:
yet made we not our prayer before the Lord
that we might turn from our iniquities,
and understand thy truth.
14 Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil,
and brought it upon us:
for the Lord our God is righteous
in all his works which he doeth:
for we obeyed not his voice.
15 And now, O Lord our God,
that hast brought thy people forth
out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown,
as at this day;
we have sinned,
we have done wickedly.” Daniel 9:9-15
See the contrast between the goodness of God and the sinfulness of man. We have done wickedly—we are reaping what we sowed, just as Israel was reaping the consequences of abandoning their God. But Daniel isn’t through yet, and neither are we!
“O Lord, according to all thy righteousness,
I beseech thee,
let thine anger and thy fury be turned away
from thy city Jerusalem,
thy holy mountain:
because for our sins,
and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people
are become a reproach
to all that are about us.
17 Now therefore, O our God,
hear the prayer of thy servant,
and his supplications,
and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary
that is desolate,
for the Lord’s sake.
18 O my God,
incline thine ear,
open thine eyes,
and behold our desolations,
and the city which is called by thy name:
for we do not present our supplications before thee
for our righteousnesses,
but for thy great mercies.
19 O Lord, hear;
O Lord, forgive;
O Lord, hearken and do;
for thine own sake, O my God:
for thy city
and thy people
are called by thy name.” Daniel 9:16-19
Now Daniel brings it down to the nitty-gritty; only God could help him and his people. ONLY God can help our people and us. But it’s not because we deserve help from God, but because of God’s own great mercy, which He grants to mankind. Only God can change the hearts and lives of people—men, women, boys and girls!!! We deserve judgment, but praise God, through Jesus we can seek and receive mercy. Are we willing to fall down before our God and ask for His provision and deliverance? Will we learn from Daniel to confess our sins—yes OUR sins, and the sins of our people, whoever they may be? Enough for today, we will take up the rest of Daniel 9 next week.
After this time of intense devotion to seeking God and interceding for his people, Daniel receives one of the greatest single eschatological prophecies in all of scripture. Read through chapter 9 this week and we’ll take up the balance of the chapter next week, and see what this earnest prayer resulted in.