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The Christian Counter

   
SEGMENT 6 DANIEL 9
page 1 of 9

Segment 6 - Daniel 9
“God’s Timing Is So Perfect”
____________________

“… Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the
the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God
apart from me, a righteous God and Savior; there is none but me.”
Isaiah 45:21

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Introduction

Some of the chapters in this book of Daniel are not in chronological order. For example, Daniel 7 occurred chronologically before Daniel 6. This point is mentioned because the prayer recorded in Daniel 9 occurred during the year that Daniel was sent to the lions’ den (Daniel 6). Even though the prayer recorded in Daniel 9 was left unfinished because of Gabriel’s unexpected visit, it was included in the book of Daniel for at least two reasons:  First, the Bible tells us that God sent an answer to Daniel while he was praying. This information assures us that God hears the prayers of His children and He responds according to His infinite wisdom. Second, this special prayer has been preserved in the Bible because of its amazing content. Daniel states many profound truths in his prayer that everyone should thoughtfully consider.

Part I

The story in Daniel 9 occurred in 538 B.C. and Daniel knew the seventy years of captivity were drawing to a close. He was deeply concerned about Israel’s release from captivity and was anxious to fulfill whatever role the Lord might want him to play. Therefore, Daniel turned to the Lord with humility, fasting and prayer. “In the first year of Darius the [grand] son to Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by the books the number of years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” (Daniel 9:1-3, KJV, insertion mine)

Commentary on Part I

Consider some of the concerns and concepts that must have been in Daniel’s mind before he began to pray:

  1. Daniel knew that god had set the descendants of Abraham apart from the other nations for a glorious purpose. (Exodus 19:4-6; Isaiah 42:6)
  1. Daniel knew why his people were captives in Babylon.
  1. Daniel knew that Israel’s deliverance would have to be “an act of God.”
  1. Daniel knew that God kept vigil, and He would not forget His promise to free His people from captivity. (Exodus 12:42)
  1. Daniel knew that God had set a date for the release of His people and “the Friday year” of 536/5 B.C. was the seventieth year of captivity.
  1. Daniel believed he had been placed in a high administrative position to somehow facilitate the release of his people, but he did not know what to do.

Now that some of Daniel’s concerns have been identified, carefully examine Daniel’s confession and prayer:

Part II

“And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

“O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces [shame and embarrassment], 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. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness’s, though we have rebelled against him; 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.

“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. 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. 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 our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.” (Daniel 9:4-13, KJV, insertion mine)

Commentary on Part II

Daniel’s fasting and prayer must have been motivated by three factors. First, fasting is something we can do when we want God to consider the intensity of our heart’s desire. Second, Daniel humiliated (embarrassed) himself with sackcloth and ashes to show God that he was willing to do anything God wanted him to do to facilitate the release of his people. Third, Daniel knew about Solomon’s prayer, which the Lord confirmed by sending fire from Heaven when Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon prayed: “When they [Israel] sin against you – for there is no one who does not sin – and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.” (2 Chronicles 6:36-39, insertion mine)

Given the content and eloquent language in Daniel’s prayer, it is possible that Daniel prepared this prayer for a specific worship service. It is also possible that he prepared this prayer to meet one of the conditions required for deliverance! Notice what the Lord had said when He gave the covenant to Israel at Sinai: [If you rebel against me] You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. Those of you that are left will waste away in the land of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their fathers’ sins they will waste away. But, if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers – their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies – then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:38-42, italics and insertion mine)

Daniel’s prayer indicates that he well understood the terms and conditions of the covenant between Israel and God. Daniel acknowledged that God had afflicted Israel with a curse as the covenant stipulated. Daniel knew that Israel deserved captivity because of rebellion. Daniel justified God’s righteous actions and he openly confessed that Israel has insulted God. He prayed, “… 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 [the Lord our God].(Daniel 9:11)

Bilateral Covenant

The curse that God placed on Israel is difficult for some people to understand, so some background information may prove helpful. God made a unilateral covenant (a one-sided unconditional covenant) with Abraham. God promised Abraham that a) all nations would be blessed through him, b) his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and c) they would inherit a specific parcel of land. At the Exodus, God made a bilateral (a two-sided or mutually agreed upon) conditional covenant with Israel, and it may be summarized with these words: “If you will be my people, I will be your God.” (Leviticus 26:12) However, “if you chose to love other gods and rebel against my laws, I will destroy you.” (Leviticus 26:14-39) The Bible indicates that God began destroying Israel with the first generation that came out of Egypt. The first generation was put to death in the wilderness because of rebellion! The nation of Israel could uphold their end of the bilateral covenant only if a majority in Israel loved and obeyed the Lord. Moses knew this was a crucial point. In his farewell address to the second generation of Israel – the generation that entered the Promised Land – he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) He also wrote, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18) According to Jesus, these two commandments were the greatest commandments spoken by Moses. (Matthew 22:36-40)

It has been said in the book that God’s treatment of Israel is a mirror reflecting how He deals with all nations. The inverse of this statement is also true. Israel’s treatment of God is a mirror reflecting how the human race treats God. The carnal nature of individual Jews made Israel’s corporate behavior rebellious and ungrateful. A grateful company of slaves was willing and eager to enter into a covenant with God at the base of Mt. Sinai. However, forty days later, they were dancing around a golden calf. After two years, this same group of people became so rebellious that God refused to allow them to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 14) God confined that generation to the wilderness for forty years so that all of the adults (except Caleb and Joshua) would die without receiving what had been promised to them. (Hebrews 3:10,11) This is a crucial point. Many people have wondered, “Why did God deal so harshly with Israel? Would it have been easier for Him to abandon Israel and start over with another nation? This almost happened. God almost destroyed Israel when they bowed down and worshiped the golden calf in the shadow of Mt. Sinai, but Moses interceded. (Exodus 32:10) Consider God’s love. From the beginning, God foreknew the offspring of Abraham would fail, so why did He enter into a covenant with them? This is a profound point: God does not treat us on the basis of what He knows the outcome will be. Instead, God deals with His subjects on the basis of love. God loved Abraham and He did everything a heart of love could do to accomplish His plans through Abraham’s children. God wisely put “a destruction clause” into His bilateral (two-sided) conditional covenant with the offspring of Abraham because God had made a unilateral covenant (one-sided non-conditional) with Abraham. In other words, God unconditionally promised the patriarch Abraham that his descendants would inherit a specific parcel of land. God foreknew that Abraham’s offspring would rebel against Him time after time, and the only way He could fulfill everything He promised to Abraham was through a provision in the covenant that would provide for rebels to be destroyed! Every time God destroyed Israel, He started over with a remnant. When Israel rejected Messiah, God did not abandon Israel and turn to the Gentiles. God redefined Israel by making Gentile believers in Christ the heirs of Abraham! (Galatians 3:28,29; Ephesians 2) By doing this, God will be able to fulfill the unconditional covenant He gave to Abraham!

Blessing and Curses

God’s bilateral covenant with Israel was conditional. The covenant began with “If you will be my people, I will be your God.” To motivate Israel to be faithful to the covenant between them, God put an important balance between blessings and curses in the covenant. This balance mirrors the two options from which mankind can choose. Our first option is to love God, submit to His laws and enjoy His presence, favor and blessings. Our second option is to rebel against God, experience the pleasures of sin for a short season, and suffer the consequences of sin and destruction. (Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 28; Ezekiel 18; Romans 8) These are the only options available to mankind, because everything in the universe belongs to God. People who wish to live forever in God’s kingdom cannot live in rebellion against God because God will not tolerate rebellion in His house. God cast Lucifer and a third of the angels out of Heaven because of rebellion, and God cast Israel out of His favor for the same reason. (Ezekiel 28:17; Revelation 12:7-9; Matthew 23:38) Consider God’s words to Israel: “Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land.” (Leviticus 25:18) “If in spite of this [a series of punitive judgments] you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.” (Leviticus 26:27,28)

God has demonstrated through Israel’s long history that perfect laws cannot change a rebellious heart. (Romans 8:7) God blessed Israel with His magnificent laws and promised them every material benefit if they would follow Him, but unfortunately, God’s generosity did not cure their rebellion. Instead of becoming a conduit through which God’s blessings could flow to all the nations around them, Israel selfishly appropriated God’s blessings to themselves. However, we should not condemn Israel too harshly because every nation has followed the same path! Remember, Israel’s treatment of God is a mirror reflecting how mankind treats God. A carnal heart can change. The carnal heart can even do “a good deed” every now and then, but good deeds do not transform the carnal heart into the type of heart that God wants. The root problem with the carnal heart is that it cannot love God and others as much as it loves itself. Believe it or not, selfishness and rebellion against God are genetic! Human beings are born with the carnal nature. This is why everyone who wants to be part of God’s kingdom must be born again. All sinners’ can receive a new heart if they surrender to God’s will. The carnal heart is self-seeking; therefore, we cannot joyfully submit to God’s will until we surrender to His will. If we surrender daily to go, to be and to do all that God directs, He will do something within us that we cannot do for ourselves. God will transform our selfish hearts into selfless hearts through the power of His Spirit. A loving heart does not think less of itself; it thinks more of others than itself. The born-again experience does not occur in groups of people; it occurs within the heart of one individual at a time. Because most people in Israel did not experience the new birth, the nation of Israel corporately failed to reach the glorious potential that God offered. Israel’s history indicates that most people in Israel were constantly rebellious toward God at any given time. Israel destroyed the prophets God sent, and ultimately, God destroyed His temple and His city along with two-thirds of His people. Then He put the survivors in Babylonian exile for seventy years. (Ezekiel 5:11,12)



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