Daniel’s Model Prayer | Message 7 | Daniel 9:1-19 | January 7, 2018

Introduction

Background to the Passage. This event occurred shortly after chapter 5 and probably near the time of chapter 6 and the lion’s den. Daniel was around 80 years old and was reading from the book of Jeremiah.

This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. (Jere 25:11–13, Cf 29:10).

Since captivity began in 605 BC, the end of seventy years of captivity would be around 536 BC. If Daniel was 12 or 13 when he went into captivity, and he is now about 80, he would only have a few more years until the seventy years is complete.

Josephus wrote that Cyrus was shown the following passage in Isaiah, and as a result desired to fulfill that prophecy.  “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:28). It appears that this passage played a part in Cyrus freeing the Jews from captivity to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild Jerusalem, the walls, and the temple.

A simple outline of Daniel’s prayer.  (1) Daniel humbles himself as he prays (9:3-4). (2) The sins of Israel are acknowledged (9:5-6). (3) God’s character is acknowledged (throughout). (4) The divine, just punishment for sins is accepted (9:7-14). (5) Deliverance is requested (9:15-19).

Balanced view of sin and grace. Having read through Daniel’s prayer, we notice that much of it is an acknowledgment of Israel’s sinfulness and a plea for God to be merciful. As we wrestle with the truths concerning our sin and God’s mercy, we can error in two ways. First, we can error by focusing singularly on our sinfulness and fail to ever get to the hope that is found in Christ. It is most definitely true that we are sinful, but we must never communicate that without offering hope. Secondly, we can error by ignoring our sinfulness and focusing on just the grace of God and freedom in Christ. There is a problem with this approach. While it is more pleasant, our immense appreciation for God’s grace only comes through an understanding of our sinfulness. Paul wrestled with both these realities in Romans 7 and 8. Paul writes in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” We could err and focus our thoughts on how wretched we are, but this would be a travesty, for Paul continues by writing, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1 ESV). Paul desired that we move on from the shame and guilt that come in our failure to meet up to the law and instead look to the hope that is found in Christ. So then, I desire that we get to the hope that we find in Christ, but . . .

Purpose Statement. We will only fully appreciate God’s grace once we have wrestled with the reality of our sinfulness.

We are devastatingly sinful (9:4-6).

Their sin was his sin. As I consider the following verse, I see a quality in Daniel’s prayer that is probably atypical.  Daniel includes himself as he admits the guilt of his nation. “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules”(Dan 9:5). I am most amazed by the complete selflessness of Daniel in this prayer.  He does not attempt to exclude himself from the rest of sinful Israel. He accepts the plight of Israel as his own. He is as concerned if not more concerned for others than he is for himself. Most of us would probably agree that we live in a self-centered culture. Many argue that narcissism is at epidemic highs in this social media and selfie driven culture. We struggle to acknowledge anything negative about ourselves, let alone acknowledging having any part in the weaknesses and sins of others. Added to this, for believers, is our New Testament perception of a more personalized faith and individualized relationship with God. As a result we may at times find ourselves content with our own spiritual strength and be dismissive of  Christian brothers and sisters around us. We may hurt for them and pray for them, but we don’t necessarily feel any sense of duty or obligation for their sin and brokenness. Daniel prays to God concerning the sinfulness of his entire nation. And even though Daniel would not be characterized by the sin of his nation, he included himself as he says, ‘we have sinned.” Of course we cannot repent for someone else, and we have a different relationship with each other than the Israelites did with one another. Still, we ought to be concerned about the sin we see in each other’s lives and claim some responsibility in fighting it with them. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1).

Our sin is multifaceted. In verse 5, Daniel uses a number of words to describe sin, and in so doing offers a multifaceted look at our sin. He begins with the generic and all-encompassing term, sin.

We sinned (missed the mark). Sin is the reverse of accomplishing the task of reflecting the character of God. One aspect of glorifying God is that we reflect His character or communicable attributes. Anything that falls short of accurately reflecting the communicable character of God is sin. In summary, sin is missing the mark of true godliness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Done wrong (twisted and distorted truth).  The nuance we find in this word is that in our sin, we twist or distort the truth. There as well seems to be an awareness and purposefulness in this type of sin. The term for “done wrong” seems to deal with the sins of commission.   With these sins there is a purposeful or planned affront to the character or laws of God. It is this twisting and distorting of truth that we see in the garden with Satan and Eve. Both of them took God’s words and twisted them to mean something slightly different than what he actually said. This kind of distortion is what Peter warns against in 2 Peter 3:16, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

Acted wickedly. As a result of twisting the truth, they have acted wickedly. The term used here intensifies the grip of sin by viewing the sin as a lifestyle or habit.  It is not that Israel just struggled and at times they sinned and committed iniquity. They were habitually sinning. Their lifestyle was characterized by outright sin. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes this wickedness as “the negative behavior of evil thoughts, words and deeds, a behavior not only contrary to God’s character, but also hostile to the community and which at the same time betrays the inner disharmony and unrest of a man . . . [1]

Rebelled. They were rebellious. They had revolted from the commands of God and they were living consistently in wickedness. “Whether the rebellion is being spoken of positively or negatively, it is, obvious that what is meant by the term is rebellion in the sense of an attempt to nullify or abrogate a covenant on the part of the vassal.”[2] In this case, Israel didn’t want to keep up to the expectations God had for them in their covenant relationship. They rejected his law and ignored his commands. We do the same thing. The Word of God directs us as to how we ought to live, and we often don’t really care for those commands and guidelines. We would prefer to do life our own way. In so doing, we rebel against the commands of God.

Turning aside. This term summarizes Israel’s incremental departure from God and the truth. Over time, Israel slowly turned from God to the point of completely abandoning the truth. Once we have twisted the truth, resulting in a lifestyle that no longer reflects an appropriate relationship with God, we find ourselves on a different path. We’ve turned away from walking with God and we find ourselves in a different place, on a different course, a different trajectory.

Rejection of God’s Spokesman. At these points, God graciously reached out to Israel and called them back to a healthy relationship with him. He sent prophets to direct them and offer steps to restoration. They rejected these prophets. The same can be true of us. When we come to the point of rejecting God, he reaches out to us through His word and through other people. We have a similar opportunity to positively respond to his calls of grace, and sadly, we too often respond like Israel and reject those opportunities.

Our sin rightly results in our open shame. In verse 7 and 8, Daniel tells us the result of our sinful descent into rebellion and rejection of God. “To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame. . . To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you” (Dan 9:7–8 ESV).

Shame, what a horrid weight. Everyone of us has experienced it and we all concur that we would be happy to live without it. Daniel has already talked about guilt. Guilt is an awareness of failure against a standard.[3] God had clearly communicated his laws and Israel broke them. They were guilty of breaking the law. Guilt is pretty clear and objective. Shame, on the other hand is a little less objective. Ed Welch writes in reference to shame and guilt. “Guilt is black or white. You did wrong or you didn’t. . . . Shame, on the other hand, can be more difficult to trace to a specific act or act done to you. With shame, we feel like we did wrong, but we can’t always identify what that wrong was, or we can identify a thousand wrongs, though none of them might be the actual trigger for shame.”[4] The Baker Encyclopedia quotes David Ausubel’s article in the Psychological Review and defines shame as “an unpleasant emotional reaction by an individual to an actual or presumed negative judgment of himself by others resulting in self-depreciation…”[5]

Shame from ourselves. We place expectations upon ourselves and when we do not meet those expectations we feel shame.  Maybe we don’t look a certain way or weigh a certain amount or exercise as much as we think we should.  Maybe we get up later or go to bed later than we think we should.  Maybe we do not get the grades or the raise that we think we should. In all of these instances we can feel shame.

Shame from others. We may feel shame from someone else because they communicate disappointment or criticism[6], directly or indirectly.  We sense shame when we think we may have disappointed someone or did not meet up to their expectations.  They may not have even shared their expectations; but as we sense their disappointment, we feel shame. This sense of shame from others is very challenging to deal with because the expectations are often unknown or unclear.

Shame from God. We as well feel shame due to the failure of meeting up to the expectations that God has placed upon us. This is the only appropriate place in which shame should be felt. In like fashion to that of Ezra 9:6, we ought to be “ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” We ought to feel shame when we fail to meet God’s expectations, and yet we complicate shame by placing standards upon ourselves and feeling the weight of other’s expectations.

This is why shame is so confusing at times.  Even different theologians and authors of the same biblical persuasion write about shame in such drastically different ways. For example, Ed Welch writes, “I hate shame. I know there is a place for it.  Utter shamelessness is not what we are after.” He goes on to make a distinction between being humbled and humiliated, and then defines shame.

Welch. Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated. Or, to strengthen the language, You are disgraced because you acted less than human, you were treated as if you were less than human, or you were associated with something less than human, and there are witnesses.[7]

Welch seems to emphasize the feelings of shame and the lasting and negative consequences of shame within the context of shame generated by ourselves and others.  On the other hand, Thomas Watson, in his book The Doctrine of Repentance, establishes that shame is the main ingredient of repentance. He concludes that sin “breeds shame…[that] in every sin there is much unthankfulness, and that is a matter of shame…[that] our sins have put Christ to shame [and that should put us to shame]…[that] sin…turns men into beast…[and that] in every sin there is folly.”[8] For each and all these reasons we should feel shame.  Welch focuses on the shame we feel from ourselves and others.  This sense of shame can be debilitating and does not lead to godly repentance.  On the other hand, Watson focuses on the shame we feel in not meeting up to God’s expectations.  This shame does and should lead us to biblical repentance. There are certain expectations that God has for us. When we break those we ought to feel guilt and shame, guilt for breaking the command and shame that we disappointed God.

God is breathtakingly gracious.

O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Daniel 9:18–19 ESV).

God’s grace is revealed in His forgiveness. So then, we are sinful. We don’t deserve God’s mercy. We do deserve open shame. And yet, to those who deserve open shame, he removes their shame and extends compassion, love, and forgiveness. “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him” (Dan 9:9). We have the great gift of mercy extended to us when we are told that we can receive forgiveness of our sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God’s grace is revealed in His promise keeping. I find it interesting that Daniel establishes that God “keeps his covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (Dan 9:4), and then immediately goes into how the people of Israel didn’t love him or keep his commandments. This logically leads to the conclusion that Daniel draws. God has every right to rid himself of these rebellious people. And yet God keeps his promise to love the people of Israel. Why? Because God’s promise to love Israel wasn’t based upon their spiritual value, spiritual fidelity, or robust faith. It was instead rooted in his own character. Daniel doesn’t come to God pleading for mercy based on the righteousness of Israel. He must come to God with an entirely different appeal.

God’s grace is rooted in the value of His name. In one rather crude sense, God preserves and saves his children because if he doesn’t he looks bad. It is this same reality that Moses appeals to when God threatened to destroy Israel following their idolatry with the golden calf.

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (Ex 32:9–14 ESV).

Here in Daniel 9 we find that same logic. Daniel writes, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Dan 9:19 ESV). What a great deal of confidence can come in the reality that the ongoing certainty of my salvation is not founded upon my ongoing righteousness but instead on the credibility of God to preserve His people.

Longman. Though the plea for God’s mercy follows the confession and could not proceed without it, it is wrong to think that the confession is the basis of God’s restoration.  Daniel knows that the people are still sinful and if there is any hope for them, it is in God’s righteousness and not their own (vv. 16, 18).  Daniel’s appeal is ultimately based not on the people’s plight but on the reputation of God himself.[9]

Conclusion

God extends forgiveness to you as well. What an encouragement it is to know that our eternal state is not resting in our own righteousness. God is going to keep his promise to hold us fast until the end, not because we are inherently deserving or because our righteousness has credited that status, but because God desires to be glorified through our salvation. Even the Corinthians received this assurance from Paul. “who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:8–9 ESV). That reality ought to bring us great comfort.

Never let this assurance lead you to spiritual apathy towards God’s expectations towards holiness. We so emphasize God’s grace and mercy that it could be logical for someone to conclude that “no matter how much sin [they] committed, and whether or not [they] ever repented of any of it, [they were] completely safe.” This is not only complacent but spiritually defiant and not a reflection of a true believer. [10]

 

 

[1] G. Herbert Livingston, “2222 רָשַׁע,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 863.

[2] Victor P. Hamilton, “1240 מָרַד,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 525.

[3] David Powlison, Julie E. Lowe, and Andrew Ray, What Is the Difference between Guilt and Shame?, 2012, http://www.ccef.org/resources/podcast/what-difference-between-guilt-and-shame.

[4] Ed Welch, “The Many Faces of Shame,” Blog, Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, (January 31, 2011), http://www.ccef.org/resources/blog/many-faces-shame.

[5] Benner and Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling, 1114.

[6] Powlison, Lowe, and Ray, What Is the Difference between Guilt and Shame?.

[7] Edward T. Welch, Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012), 2.

[8] Thomas Watson, Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), sec. 353–387. Kindle Edition.

[9] Tremper Longman. Daniel: The NIV Application Commentary. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 225.

[10] Andrew Wilson. “The Relationship between Warnings and Assurance: Don’t Fumble It” (The Gospel Coalition, January 3, 2018). Accessed January 5, 2018. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/relationship-warnings-assurance-dont-whiff/

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