Monday, December 9, 2013

Daniel and his prayer – Part Three

 In the previous article, we saw the two great pillars of prayer: acknowledging who God is, and confession of personal sin. Now, Daniel covers the final pillar of intercessory prayer – pleading for mercy. Being a special people set apart to God means taking responsibility. Responsibility means abiding in truth, abiding in truth means abiding in the Spirit of truth. Abiding in God and His Word is all important to knowing God. The more one abides in the Word of God, the more one grows in the grace of God.  

Notice, how Daniel when he pleads for restoration, addresses responsibly, God’s Word, compassion, and mercy.

Daniel 9:16  O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us.

The time is coming soon when they will be released from their bondage in Babylon and return to the land as Daniel understands the timing. He requests God to act “as” or “like” (hence, the NASB’s translation “according to”) God’s righteousness. The addition of “all” reflects the fact that God is righteous in all He does. He is right in sending them into exile, and He is right in delivering them. It is time for God’s anger (nostril is the root word in the sense of breathing through the nose in anger)  and wrath (lit. heat) to turn away from Jerusalem and God’s holy mountain. Again, God’s reference is Jerusalem and the Temple. Daniel is moving back through the ideas of sincere worship and faithfulness, repentance and acknowledgement of the sins of their fathers, Jerusalem (as the place where the offense occurred) and the people.  

The righteous acts that Daniel speaks of is consistent with what Samuel said when he addressed the nation at the coronation of Saul in 1 Sam. 12:7. The righteous acts referred to here were a cycle of the people’s unfaithfulness, resulting in bondage; their repentance, resulting in deliverance. What is left for Daniel and the nation is deliverance.

Daniel’s request for God to turn away His anger and wrath will serve to make right and reverse the reproach they had become to the surrounding nations. The word for reproach is ‘cherpah’, meaning reproach (that is, “resting upon a condition of shame, disgrace”), or scorn (“taunt, scorn upon an enemy”). Some have said they had become the object of scorn, or shame as Gill writes, “their neighbors, the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Tyrians, and Philistines; who rejoiced at their destruction, and jeered at them and their religion, and scoffing said, ‘where were their temple of which they boasted, and their God in whom they trusted?’ The cause of all this is owned to be their own sins, and the sins of their ancestors, which they their posterity continued in; and therefore do not lay the fault wholly upon them, but take the blame to themselves.” (John Gill)   Others interpret, as Dr. Unger writes, “Reproach on His people brings reproach on God, for the pagans would say that the Lord was not able to save His people. So he pleaded for help ‘for the Lord’s sake’.” (Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament)

Daniel 9:17  So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.

The plea for God to hear his prayer is in sincere desperation as Daniel uses the adverb now along with the chain of imperatives (listen! cause to shine!) here and continuing in verse 18.  Daniel is God’s servant. Darius in desperation, rushed to the lion’s den after a sleepless night saying, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions? (Dan. 6:20)”  Daniel’s actions and faithfulness to God have shown him to be a servant of God, even to those who are the captors.  And because Daniel is a servant of the Lord, his prayer is for the Lord’s sake. It is for the desolate Temple. May God’s face again shine upon the Temple, the sacred place of God. Daniel uses this metaphor “to shine” as is used so often in the poetry books (particularly, Job & Psalms) to mean “to invigorate”, “be glorious and bright”, “be bright and renewed.” 
Daniel 9:18  O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.

The chain of imperatives continues as Daniel pleads, “Give ear! Hear! Open your eyes! See!” Hear my plea! See our desolations and the city which is called by your name! One of the saddest events in a person’s life is when one’s sin becomes so great that it overtakes them. To look upon someone who has fallen to the bottom because their sin controls them. That is the picture we are given on a very personal level here. What makes it more of a shame, is if that person professes to be a servant of Christ and their sin has overtaken them. It is a reflection upon God. How terrible is the picture of a Christian caught up in the world, and the world knows the Christian should not be in the world, but should be separate, set apart from the world. The offense against God is an attack against his name. Daniel’s plea is not on account of their merits (lit., For [it is] not about our righteousness [that] we present our supplications before you).  Daniel’s plea is on account of Your great compassion (lit., but on account of your many mercies).  God had spoken through his prophet Joel about these mercies, “Yet even now, declares the LORD, Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. (Joel 2:12-13)”  
Daniel 9:19  O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.

 Daniel’s last plea culminates in another set of imperatives – Hear! Forgive! Take action! Which is introduced by intense personal crying out. “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive!” Then, as if to clarify his prayer, Daniel says, “O Lord, hear (attend the ear) and act!” Again the purpose is given, and is stressed in the Hebrew by placing “by your name,” first. It literally says, “For your name has been called upon your city and upon your people.” The plea is for God’s good name.

The Seventy Sevens Prophecy

While Daniel was intensely praying, the angel Gabriel came to him in a vision. There are two angels spoken of by name in the Bible, both are spoken of in the book of Daniel - Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel is mentioned by name only here in the Old Testament and Luke in the New Testament (Dan. 8:16; 9:21; Lk. 1:19; 1:26). Likewise, Michael is spoken of only here (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1) and in Jude 9 and Rev. 12:7. It is significant that Gabriel is here giving understanding about this prophecy.  Gabriel is known as the messenger of God, whereas Michael is known as the archangel, the protector or guardian angel of Israel. The messenger of God is about to give Daniel an extraordinary message. 

Daniel 9:20-21  Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.

It is at that very moment when Daniel was speaking with God, that the angel Gabriel (“warrior of God”) came to him. Previously, in chapter eight, the angel Gabriel had interpreted the vision for him, Gabriel, it appears, was in the vision. Gabriel is referred to as “the man” indicating he presented himself to Daniel as a man just as before, so that Daniel knew that it was him. Angels, when they take on human form are often represented as men. In chapter eight, when Daniel first saw Gabriel, the appearance was so dramatic that he was afraid and fell to his face (Dan. 8:17). After the interpretation of the vision, Daniel became sick for several days. It appears that both the message and the messenger, were too overwhelming; taxing every bit of strength Daniel had. Daniel was now ready for the conclusion of the seventy-sevens interpretation that is about to be presented. In chapter eight, a horrifying prophecy was revealed to Daniel that no one could understand without interpretation (8:27). Then after a time of rest, study, and contemplation in the scriptures, Daniel comes to understand the 70 week captivity. Now, the time is right for Daniel to be given the incredible historical timeline of Jerusalem – the seventy-sevens.

It was about the time of the evening sacrifice that Gabriel came to him. Though, they were in captivity, and the Temple was destroyed, making sacrifices obsolete, Daniel used this established time for study and prayer. Daniel prayed three times a day (6:10), one more than prescribed by the law (Ex. 29:38-39; Num. 28:3-4).

As Dr. Unger writes,
The ninth hour, or 3 p.m. (c.f. 1 Kg. 18:36). The evening offering consisted of an unblemished lamb, one year old, offered as a whole burnt offering, accompanied by meal and drink offering, prefiguring the future sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the spotless Lamb of God (Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:18-20).     

The restrictions their Babylonian captors placed upon them made it impossible for the Jews to offer sacrifices as in their former days, and this paved the way for the development of that non-sacrificial type of worship. Instead of a burnt offering, Daniel offers up his prayers. R.K.Harrison writes,

From the beginning of the Exile, open-air meetings had been held by the mud flats of the Kabar canal, at which the law was read and opportunities for confession and prayer were provided. Because the absence of a Temple robbed the populace of a central meeting place, it became necessary to improvise in this respect. As a result, house gatherings for instruction in the law (c.f. Ezek. 20:1) came into being, and the sabbath assumed a position of particular prominence as the weekly day of worship. In a prophetic utterance Ezekiel advised the elders of the community to enforce the proper observance of the sabbath (Ezek. 20:20), and because it was impossible to indulge in animal sacrifices as part of the worship of that day, he stressed the place of prayer, confession, and instruction in the law. This became the basic pattern for that type of worship which took place in the synagogues of the postexilic period. 

We come now to the problem of a translational disagreement. There is a difference of opinion between two camps of translators based on one word’s traditional interpretation. The NASB reads, “then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”  Whereas, the KJV (and NIV, NKJV, NLT) reads, “even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.”  The problem is in the root of the Hebrew word ‘yaaph’ meaning “to be or grow weary, be fatigued, faint.” Although, the root may be from  ‘uph’ meaning “to fly.”  Without the traditional interpretation this would read literally, “who being made weary in weariness.“ If, in fact the traditional translation is correct then it is possible that the word is derived from ‘yaaph’ as is proper, and the sense of the word with respect to this angel’s flight is a picture of weariness. How does one fly wearily? With a bouncing slowness, much like a butterfly. It looks like it might fall before it very casually strokes its wings up before resting again, then the down stroke.  The LXX uses the Greek word ‘petomai’ meaning ‘to fly’ which had a large influence on past translations such as Jerome’s Latin Vulgate and the King James Version. The LXX is an excellent reference source due to its age (300 B.C.), but the Hebrew is our source. Whether it is Gabriel, who, as a man has wings and flies, or it is a wearied Daniel, it is the angel, Gabriel, who comes to Daniel for a purpose.  Gabriel either ‘comes’ to Daniel or ‘touches’ him. The word ‘naga’ means, ‘to touch, reach, strike’.

Daniel 9:22  He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.

Gabriel gave Daniel instruction and talked to him. If you want to know the language of this angel, it is Hebrew. Daniel makes it plain (lit., And he understood and intensely talked with me and said, Daniel, now I come forth to cause you to have insight of understanding). Gabriel talks to Daniel in the intensive mood (c.f. Dan 8:18). Notice the comparison to 8:16-19. Gabriel always talks to Daniel in the intensive mood! Gabriel was given a command back in 8:16, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” Here, as it was there, the intensive and causative moods are used. There is no wonder Daniel was so sick! The Hebrew, even without the vision, is so intense it is exhausting. Daniel’s encounter with Gabriel ends in an abrupt way. It is much different from the previous encounter. On the previous encounter, Daniel records a completion of the encounter as he reports his sickness; here, there is no completion to the encounter. The end of the message ends the chapter and the encounter. The ending of the encounter in verse 27 is so abrupt that it says, “this is the end!” Consider it, ponder it.  
Daniel 9:23  At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.
It is revealed that God heard the request and acted immediately, for a command (lit., ‘the word went forth’) was given to Gabriel to give Daniel a message.  Daniel is caused to understand. There is no misunderstanding or hidden thing here, for the causative imperative is given, “so understand [the] word and learn [the] vision.” It may better be understood as, “know [the] message and understand [the] vision.”  The previous vision he is told to seal it up (Dan. 8:26), here he is commanded to “cause to understand, give understanding, or teach it.”

What happens next is one of the most important prophecies in history. The seventy weeks of Daniel provides Israel a detailed overview of all of history. This prophecy started with Daniel abiding in God. Daniel’s prayer is an example to us of intercessory prayer. The answer we receive today is not this detailed. God’s answers prayer to with yes, no, and not now. God’s word was not complete so Daniel receives a most incredible answer and had to be delivered by an angel. Daniel’s prayer is answered in history and involves history.

Daniel 9:24-27: 24 Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.