Monday, November 18, 2013

Daniel and his Prayer , Part Two

In the previous article, the context to this great prayer was presented. In this article, Daniel begins his long prayer. It is here we find the heart of Daniel as he goes before God with all his heart. We see with Daniel that there is abiding in God and His Word as he seeks out what God commands them to do in Deuteronomy 6:4 in what is called the ‘shema’ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God is One!” The hearing aspect is followed by the ordinance of keeping Scripture on the forehead and hand (6:8). They are a special people set apart by God to listen to God’s Word – they are the people of the ear. This is the heart of abiding in God, abiding in His Word. Daniel has just read why they were in captivity and how long they would be there. As a result, he is deeply moved and calls out to God. 

Daniel’s Prayer (9:4-19) 

Daniel 9:4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 

In verse 3 Daniel sets his face before ‘Adonay’ (my Lord, Master), here he says he prayed to ‘Yahweh’ (“the existing one”). The term ‘Adonay’ is used ten times in the book of Daniel. It is used nine times here in chapter nine! This is appropriate for Daniel whose Lord is Yahweh, as he pours out his heart. This is equivalent to the Greek word for Lord, ‘kurios.’ Though the Greek of the Septuagint lacks the Hebrew clarity, there is no mistaking who Daniel’s Master is, as he recounts, I prayed to the Lord my God (lit., and I intensely prayed myself to ‘Yahweh’ my God). Daniel continues in the intensive reflexive, And I intensely confessed myself and said, pray now, O ‘Adonay’, the great and fearful God. This is the same ‘Adonay’ Daniel introduces in chapter one as the one who gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his (Nebuchadnezzar) hand (1:2). 

Daniel first acknowledges God’s greatness, and His awesome power. He experienced God’s greatness and awesome power, first hand. Nebuchadnezzar himself acknowledged this, but now Daniel recalls the God who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. This statement is found in the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses who also had been fasting when God told him: 

Then God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Ex. 20:1-6). 

Notice Daniel’s two great prayers in this book. In the prayer of chapter two, Daniel’s prayer focuses primarily on praise. Notice the outline of the prayer: 

A. God’s name be praised (2:20)
B. God is all powerful and wise (2:21)
Power over heaven and earth (2:21a)
Power over kings and kingdoms (2:21a)
Power over individual’s knowledge (2:21b-22)
C. Daniel acknowledges God as source of his blessings (2:23)

D. Daniel acknowledges God gave him understanding of the dream (2:23)

In chapter nine, Daniel’s prayer is more a model of intercessory prayer. It starts out with praise, then confession, and then he pleads for mercy. The prayer’s outline is as follows:

A. Daniel acknowledges who God is (9:4).
Great and awesome – Sovereign, Omnipotence (All powerful) God (9:4a).

God keeps His covenant – Faithful, Immutability (Unchangable) (9:4a).

God has lovingkindness – Mercy, Love (9:4b).

B. Daniel acknowledges the nation’s sin (9:5-7).

Their rebellion (9:5).
They departed from His precepts and judgments (9:6).
They did not heed His prophets (9:6).
All Israel is guilty (9:7).

C. He acknowledges the curse written in the law (9:11).
D. He confirms God’s prophecy of judgment had been fulfilled (9:14).
E. He pleads for mercy (9:16-19).
Upon Jerusalem (9:16b).
Upon Your holy mountain (9:16b).
Upon the Temple (9:17b).
Upon Your people (9:19).

Daniel 9:5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 

Daniel’s confession is not a generic prayer, simply stating, “we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled.” Daniel is specific, he points out exactly what the problem is, as he had come to the understanding that they “turned aside from Your commands and ordinances.” Daniel acts here as the national leader of the nation as he is the top leader of the three supervisors of the providence (6:1-3). His prayer, as he comes before God confessing the nation corporately saying, “we have sinned.” They have missed the mark, and are twisted, distorted (Hebrew ‘avah’ – committed iniquity, distorted, twisted). The English word iniquity is from the Latin ‘Iniquus’ meaning unjust. ‘Iniquity’ is the traditional translation, but the better sense of the word is to pervert. They have twisted or perverted what is right, and have done wrong (NIV’s translation). They have acted wickedly, literally, ‘caused wicked acts’, as the Hebrew causative is used.
There is a scribal addition noted here. The original literally says, “We have sinned and have committed iniquity, and we have caused wicked acts.” Conversely, the scribal note says, “We have sinned and have committed iniquity. We have caused wicked acts, and rebelled.” That is, the Scribes thought the wicked acts were the result of them having twisted what was right and just in God’s law. 

Daniel acknowledges the source of what is true and holy as he says, “even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.” This is the law that was given to them by God. It is not only the Ten Commandments given to Moses, but all the commandments (Hebrew – ‘mitzvah’, commandment, with the meaning of a charge, or given orders) and ordinances (Hebrew – ‘mishpat’, judgement, ordinance, from the verb to judge). In verse four, Daniel acknowledges God as merciful to those who love him and keep His commandments. Here, he acknowledges their departure and turning aside from God’s commands. 

Daniel acknowledges God is just and righteous with their captivity in Babylon. What is the source of their trouble? The source of their trouble is their sin. This is true repentance that we see in his confession. 

Daniel 9:6 Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
For some 300 years the nation did not listen to the prophets that God sent. We have a record of some of those prophets and their message preserved for us today, but there were many more who were sent that we have no record of. The pre-Exilic writing prophets started in the ninth century B.C., these were Obadiah and Joel. Then God sent the eighth century prophets – Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Isaiah and Micah. All these writing prophets left a record of God’s message to their respective generation. Daniel includes himself with the nation, and confesses the sins of the nation. Even though he was not alive for most of that turning aside, he includes himself as a participant in the crime. Indeed, he was there in Jerusalem as a boy of royalty before the nation was taken captive. He acknowledges the legal commands given (9:5), God’s loving kindness to those who keep the legal commands (9:4), and the kindness and patience God has for them in sending prophets for so many generation (9:6). God’s law given through His prophets are true, and God is immutable. 

Daniel 9:7 Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. 

Daniel proclaims ‘Adonai’ as righteous. The Hebrew word for righteous is the same as justice. This is a legal, just, judgment of captivity for seventy years. They, however, are open shame (lit., “unto us [is] shame of the face”). The addition of “as it is this day” reflects the shame they are experiencing in captivity even to that day, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against God. The same belongs to the divided nation (Judah and Israel), Jerusalem and all who have been scattered throughout the far lands. John Gill writes: 

To every man of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; who once dwelt in that land flowing with milk and honey, and now in a strange land for their sins; and to every inhabitant of that renowned city of Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation, the seat, of the kings of Judah; yea, the city of the great King, where the temple stood, and divine worship was performed, but now lay in ruins, through the iniquity of its inhabitants, and therefore had just reason to be ashamed... shame and confusion of face also belonged to the ten tribes of Israel; to such of them as were mixed with the Jews in Babylon, or were in those parts of Assyria that lay nearest to it; and to those that were at a greater distance, in Media, Iberia, Colchis, and other places; yea, in all kingdoms and countries where they were dispersed for their trespass against the Lord; particularly in worshiping the calves at Dan and Bethel, and other acts of idolatry and impiety 

Daniel 9:8-11 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.

Daniel repeats the statement of shame to them that day, then the shame of the past. To the kings, princes and fathers, because of sin against God. There has been generation after generation of shame upon the generations of their fathers because of the sins of the nation. They were given covenant blessings and curses based upon obedience to the law (Deu. 28-30). God had upheld his word and the fathers have experienced shame. This should be a lesson for us today. We can bring shame upon our family, upon our father’s good reputation by our bad actions, our bad reputation. 

In verses 8-11 all the verbs are perfect tenses (completed act) except for the curse which continue to be poured out upon them. This is an imperfect (incomplete act). Their curse will continue to be poured out upon then until the seventy years are up. 

Daniel 9:12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 

The sense of the incomplete verb tense means that God is still pouring out the curse and this pouring out of the curse continues in verse 12. God continues to confirm His words (incomplete act – of Jerusalem’s destruction), which He had spoken (completed act - His word which was spoken by the prophets) against us, and against our rulers, who ruled us in the past (completed act), bring us (causative infinitive) to this great miserable state we are in. 

This is a tremendous verse, for Daniel confirms God’s characteristic of immutability. Immutability means that God is unchangeable and hence, unchanging. It means that He is never inconsistent. What the Lord says never changes. There is a problem with this characteristic. If God is unchangeable, how can He repent (Gen. 6:6; Jon. 3:10)? The root meaning of the Hebrew word ‘nacham’ used there is “to be sorry, be grieved, comfort, repent.” By context there is no change in mind of God, so He does not repent in the sense of changing the mind, but shows emotion, hence, He is grieved. This unchangeable quality of God serves as a comfort and assurance to us, as God’s promises will never fail. 

Immutability with respect to sin, reminds us that God’s attitude towards sin does not change, and, just as the covenant people had a covenant promise and curse, we who have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit today, must not grieve the Holy Spirit by continuing in our sin, but we must be transformed, by the renewing of our minds. We must repent! We who are saved and continue in our sin face consequences. These consequences range from a damaged relationship with our Lord and those who we sin against, to separation from our church family and even physical death (1 Cor. 5:5). Israel experienced separation of corporate fellowship with God as the nation no longer having access to the Temple and the land. 

This revelation is given to us today as an example (1 Cor.1:10). We should read Daniel’s prayer and be convicted. This and all the Old Testament is given for an admonition. These events should make us sober minded. All of Israel sinned. How? They were into the world, seeking those things which looked good, sounded good and felt good. They were to be separate from the world, but the world was too enticing. The lust of the flesh was too much for them. They worshipped Baal, participated in the ritual sex, ritual killing of the first born children, even offering up praise to foreign gods for what the fields brought in! We today are called to be separate. What worldly sins do we participate in? Do the examples given us serve as a warning? Do we praise God for what we have? 

The nation’s sin was so great that Jerusalem’s destruction is described as “for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem.” Jeremiah recounts the destruction of Jerusalem, recording his lament in the little book of Lamentations. The destruction was terrible, the Babylonians cruel, as they sacked the city. This is a bold statement though. Is it to be taken as, no city has ever been plundered as Jerusalem had been by the Babylonians? Or, are we to take this to mean that no city which had so much truth and patience ever had this happen to them before? Since whole cities have been destroyed before (e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah). The Lord God was patient with them in sending prophets describing their sins and how they could properly return to the Lord. For 300 years God sent His prophets. 

Daniel 9:13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 

Daniel points to the law of Moses as the source of their calamity. It is not known which books of the Old Testament Daniel had. Daniel as a young lad was brought up with the books of the law and the rest of the sacred writings. He knew the law. He knew the source of the law and Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles served as the source of this great prayer of repentance as he either searched the scriptures he possessed or reflected upon those he knew by heart. Either way, Daniel knew what Moses had written and the result is great emotional mourning. 

Daniel understands what is required by God, “yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God.” Daniel writes in the intensive because repentance must be sincere (lit., We have not intensely prayed before ‘Yahweh’ our God). The word for pray is ‘chalah’ meaning “to be sick, be grieved, become weak, be sorry, to pray”. The idea is to pray with grieving or sorrow for what has been done. There was not a turning from their twisted ways (Hebrew ‘avon’ – perverted, iniquity, what is twisted or bent), and there was no “wise understanding” of God’s truth, or as the causative would imply, they did not “give attention, or heed” God’s truth. Abraham left the land of Ur (this very land) some 1000 years before heeding God’s truth. 

Daniel 9:14 Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. 

As a result of the nation’s lack of faithfulness, they turning from ‘Yahweh’ the ever existing true God, to the gods of the world. Thus, the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us. Daniel acknowledges the source of their calamity and declares ‘Yahweh’ God as having justice (Hebrew - ‘tsaddiyq’, just, lawful, righteous) in the deeds which He had done (their deportation from the land, plunder, and separation from Temple worship), and he acknowledges they did not obey his warnings. The reason the writing prophets are called ‘the word of God’ is because that is how Daniel understood them to be. Daniel calls it His voice. The Hebrew literally says, “And ‘Yahweh’ shall watch all the evil and He brought it upon us.” In other words, since they wanted to worship foreign gods, let them be in bondage with them! The word for watch is ‘shaqad’ meaning to “keep watch”. God kept watch over them in their idolatry all those years and continues (incomplete act) to keep watch in their bondage. What they desired in the land was false gods, so false gods they received. 

Idol worship extended to many generations, but the number and diversity listed in the Old Testament is astounding. Most of the gods are not named, we only know of them by a statement like “the gods of Syria (Jud. 10:6),” and etc. The following is a short accounting of the surrounding nations of Israel: 

1. The gods of the Ammonites (Jud. 10:6).
2. The gods of the Amorites (Josh. 24:2, 15; Jud. 6:10; 1 Kgs. 21:11).
3. The gods of the Assyrians (Nah. 1:4).
4. The gods of the Babylonians (Isa. 21:9; Ezr. 1:7).
5. The gods of the Canaanites (Jud. 3:5, 10:6).
6. The gods of Egypt (Ex. 12:12; Josh. 24:14; Jer. 43:12-13; 46:25).
7. The gods of the Edomites (gods of Seir; 2 chron. 25:14, 20).
8. The gods of the Hittites (Ex. 23:23-24; 34:11-15; Jud. 3:5-6).
9. The gods of the Moabites (Num. 25:1-2; Jud. 10:6; Ruth 1:15; Jer. 48:35).
10. The gods of the Philistines (Jud. 16:23; 1 Sam. 5:1-7).
11. The gods of the Syrians (2 Kgs. 17:31; 18:34; 2 Chr. 28:23; Isa. 36:19).

The offense that idol worship has upon the Lord can only be seen by His own words. In the following passage, God likens Israel to a prostitute in the harshest of ways: 

Then it came about after all your wickedness (’Woe, woe to you!’ declares the Lord GOD), that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square. You built yourself a high place at the top of every street and made your beauty abominable, and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry. You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry. Behold now, I have stretched out My hand against you and diminished your rations. And I delivered you up to the desire of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd conduct. Moreover, you played the harlot with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied; you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. You also multiplied your harlotry with the land of merchants, Chaldea, yet even with this you were not satisfied (Ezek. 16:23-29). 

Daniel 9:15 And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. 

The freedom from bondage in Egypt is so great that the Hebrew God was known throughout the region. His name continues to be made as the incomplete act of the verb mood, ‘making’ suggests. His name is great and continues to be made great as the events of this book reflect that building of a reputation through great miracles presented in Babylon and the eventual conclusion of the captivity. Even the Babylonian kings acknowledged the great name of God. The term “great name” implies a mighty God with a “mighty hand” (often translated “great power”). 

The contrast between God’s act of mercy (deliverance from bondage in Egypt) and their sin is prominent here. God’s act of mercy results from His great name. Their sin is seen as wickedness. As before, their wickedness brings shame. 

Daniel’s great confession here saying, “we have sinned,” serves as the second great pillar to prayer – confession of personal sins. In 1 John 1:8-9 the apostle John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Greek word for confession means to “call it like another.” That is to say, we come before God and call it like God calls it. This is what Daniel does and as a result, he speaks of their deliverance and the satisfaction of their time in bondage that is approaching. 

Their sin caused a loss of completeness in fellowship with God and others in Jerusalem. But God is faithful to His word and He will bring them deliverance from their bondage. Just as with Egypt, their release from Babylon will be by the hand of God alone and they will return with the help of the foreign power. In the next article we conclude with Daniel’s final aspect of prayer – recalling the righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness of God.