Sunday School 03 10 2013

 

“Daniel’s Prayer”

Lesson Text: Daniel 9: 4-14, 17

Background Scripture:Daniel 9

Devotional Reading:James 5:13-18 

 

Daniel 9:4-14, 17 (KJV)                                                                                                     

4And 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;

5We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

6Neither 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.

7O 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.

8O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

9To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

10Neither 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.

11Yea, 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.

12And 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.

13As 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.

14Therefore 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.

… 

17Now 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.

 

OBJECTIVES

To understand major components in Daniel’s prayer of confession.

To know that confessing our sin to God is important, and that He holds His people responsible for their behavior.

To make sincere, specific confessions and intercessions to God, with the realization that you are totally at His mercy.

 

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                   

Confession and Apology

   The terms confession and apology are an interesting pair. They are used most often in their negative senses, although each also has a positive sense. Negatively, to apologize is to say that one is sorry; positively, to offer an apology is to offer a defense of one’s position (as in the word apologetics). In both instances, the focus is image management. We do not want people to think that our true identity is represented by a particular wrongdoing, and so we say we are sorry. We do not want them to think that a position we hold is flimsy, and so we offer an apology to convince them that it is intellectually respectable.

   Confession in its negative sense is more intense than saying we are sorry; it means admitting that what we did was wrong. In so doing, we are affirming the existence of a moral order that is larger than ourselves and submitting our plea to the mercy of the one we have wronged. Confession in its positive sense is to affirm what we believe or the way things should be. To confess “Jesus is Lord” is to confess in a positive sense. We confess Christ because we are so convinced of his lordship and its implications for all creation that we cannot help but share this good news with everyone. There is a time and place for both confession and apology. The sixth century B.C. of Daniel’s day was a time for confession by the Jews.                                                                    

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

Time: 539B.C.

Place: Babylon

   Daniel’s prayer in today’s text is best understood when viewed through a wide-angle lens. The national identity of the Israelites had its roots in God’s promise to Abraham (who, ironically, was originally from Babylon) that he would become a great nation and that through him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).

   An important element of this promise was God’s deliverance of Abraham’s descendants from slavery in Egypt (about 1440 B.C.), bringing them into the promised land. The people’s well-being depended on their keeping God’s law. Should the Israelites fail in that, God vowed to deliver them into their enemies’ hands (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

   By Daniel’s time many centuries later, that is exactly what happened. The Israelites had forsaken God’s ways, and God had kept his Word to judge them. Judgment was not, however, God’s last word. He also foretold that should the Israelites return to him wholeheartedly, then he would restore their blessings (Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Jer. 29:10). This is the most important background to Daniel’s prayer in today’s text.

   The events of Daniel 9 took place during the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede (Dan. 9:1). That began in 539 B.C., the year Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Persians. Daniel had been in captivity for 66 years, since 605 B.C. At this time, he would have been about 82 years old. The last date recorded in the Book of Daniel is 536 B.C., “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (see 10:1). Media was a region northeast of Babylon (which is today part of northwest Iran).

   Daniel apparently knew that the rise of Darius paved the way for the return of the Israelites to their homeland. Daniel understood from Jeremiah’s prophecies (which the elder statesman regarded as being verbally inspired) that the 70-year exile begun by the “desolation of Jerusalem” (9:2), was nearing its end (see Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10).  God's truth humbled Daniel, and moved him to worship and to pray (Daniel 9:2-3).

 

Confession and Intercession (Daniel 9:4-6)

1. What is unique about Daniel's approach to God in this prayer (Daniel 9:4)?

     Daniel prepared himself to pray, (Daniel 9:3) because he knew that his prayer would affect the future of the Jewish nation and the lives of the Jewish captives in Babylon. He humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes; he fasted; and he directed his heart and mind to the Lord. Preparation for prayer and worship is as important as prayer itself, for without a heart that is right with God, our prayers are just so many pious words. Daniel met the conditions for answered prayer set forth in Leviticus 26:40-45 and 2 Chronicles 7:14.

   Too often we rush into God's presence and ask for things, without first pausing to worship Him. Daniel prepared himself for prayer, as did Ezra (Ezra 9:3-5) and the Levites (Neh. 9:5-6). It's important that we focus on the character of God and not become too preoccupied with ourselves and our burdens. The "invocation" to Daniel's prayer is a primer of biblical theology (Dan. 9:4). His words describe a God who is great and faithful to keep His promises, a God who loves His people and gives them His Word to obey so that He can bless them. He is a merciful God (9:18) who forgives the sins of His people when they come to Him in contrition and confession. This is also the way Nehemiah prayed when he sought God's will concerning rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:5).

What Do You Think?

   How is knowing God’s character important for the way you pray? What adjustments do you need to make in this regard?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Exodus 33:13; 34:6, 7; Nehemiah 9:19-23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Hebrews 4:15; 6:10; 12:29;1 John 1:5; 4:16

2. Why is confession important to Daniel in his prayer (v. 5)?                

   Daniel recognized that the exile in Babylon was God’s judgment for Israel’s sin. The prophet also understood what God’s covenant with His people required if they were to receive forgiveness, restoration, and divine blessing. The people of the nation had to confess their sin and obey the commands of God (Dan. 9:4-5). In this knowledge, Daniel confessed the sins of the people, not once but four times (vs. 5, 8, 11, 15). He included himself as if he were personally involved in Israel’s wickedness, rebellion, and disobedience. Even though God had graciously sent the prophets to turn His people back, the nation as a whole had ignored their message. According to Daniel, all Israel was guilty before God (vs. 6, 8-11).

3. How did God show His longsuffering characteristic (v. 6)?

   Daniel did not hesitate to affirm the Lord’s faithfulness to the Mosaic covenant. As it happened, God remained more loyal in His devotion to His chosen people than they had been with Him. Daniel recognized that the Israelites ignored Gods prophets, whom he sent to warn his people over and over again of their unfaithfulness. God did not simply give his law to Moses, retreat to Heaven, wait for his people to violate it, and then judge them when they did. Out of compassion, he sent prophets time and again as they strayed. God had given the Israelites plenty of chances to rethink their unfaithfulness and get their lives in conformity with his will before things fell apart completely. The Lord’s prophet’s spoke as His representatives in the authority of His name to a wide audience of people, including monarchs and princes who ruled the inhabitants of the promised land (v. 6).

 

The Shame of God’s People (Daniel 9:7-8)

4. What were the consequences of the nation's rebellion (vs. 7-8)?

   Daniel continues to contrast God with his people. God is the one who is entirely in the right. He has done nothing wrong in judging his people as he has. He has made the terms of his covenant clear. He has established the consequences of rebellion. Now, they became a sinful people, a people covered with shame ("confusion of face,"Dan. 9:8), and a scattered people. Their land was overrun by enemy soldiers, their great city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and their holy temple was desecrated, robbed, and burned. No wonder the Jews were ashamed! But it was their own sins that had brought these disasters, because their kings, princes, and priests had disobeyed God's laws and refused to obey God's prophets.

   The leaders and the people knew the terms of God's covenant, but they deliberately violated them. The Jews were unfaithful to God's covenant, but God was faithful to keep His Word. If the nation had obeyed, God would have been faithful to bless them (Ps. 81:11-16); but because they rebelled, He was faithful to chasten them.

 

The Mercy and Forgiveness of the Lord (Daniel 9:9-10)
5. How does Daniel express God's merciful and forgiving characteristics (vs. 9-10)?

    Daniel also knows that divine righteousness is not the only factor. God has also revealed Himself to be a God who is merciful and forgiving. The Israelites have rebelled against God many times: by worshipping a golden calf (Exodus 32), by fearing the inhabitants of the promised land (Numbers 13), etc. Yet time and again, God worked through the sinful choices of His people, offering a way forward to His ultimate purposes for them.

   It is worth remembering at this point why God sent prophets to urge his people to keep the laws he gave them (Dan. 9:10): God relentlessly pursues his people, not because they are special in and of themselves, but because he has called them to an important mission. They must walk in God’s ways so the nations will see those ways and be drawn to God (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

   God is faithful when his people are faithless because God loves the whole world. His plan for saving this world involves forming a people to be His witnesses. The Israelites are not called to save the world; only God can do that. Yet even imperfect people can be used as witnesses to God. Why would the nations believe the witness of God’s people if those people merely live like everyone else? They have to be different if they are going to make a difference. God knows that the credibility of His witnesses is crucial to the world’s acceptance of their witness.

What Do You Think?

   How can you express gratitude for God’s mercy today in ways other than prayer?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   In interactions with fellow Christians | In interactions with non-Christians | In financial priorities | In entertainment choices | Other

 

The Punishment of God’s People (Daniel 9:11-12)

6. Discuss Daniel's view of God bringing disaster on Israel (vs. 11-12).

   Although Daniel continues to confess God’s righteousness in bringing disaster on the Israelites, he further recognizes that there was a time when Israel could have averted it. Not only could the people have averted God’s judgment by not sinning to begin with, they also could have averted it by reversing its course, once they had started sinning.

   Notice in these verses that the Israelites need to do more than apologize for letting God down. When God’s people sin, they need to turn from their sinful ways. Only in turning from sin do God’s people show that they understand God’s truth. God’s truth is not simply an abstract set of intellectual principles to affirm or deny. Understanding God’s truth means embracing the life to which God calls His people. This is made clearest in Jesus’ claim to be the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Confessing Jesus requires reordering our lives according to God’s will. Anything short of this is a sham (see John 14:15).

   Because Israel had chosen the latter course, the Lord kept His word by doing exactly what He had forewarned. The calamity referred to in Daniel 9: 12 is the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the chosen people to Babylon. As far as the faith community was concerned, no ether disaster on record seemed as horrendous as the tragedy the inhabitants of Judah experienced at the hands of their enemies in 586 B.C. 

 

The Stubbornness of God’s People (Daniel 9:13-14)

7. What did Daniel say about God’s judgment on His people (vs. 13-14)?

   Daniel didn't make excuses for the nation nor did he say that God's covenant was too demanding. Israel had enjoyed great blessings when they had obeyed the law, so why should they complain when they experienced great suffering because they disobeyed the law?

   But there was something even worse than the sins that brought divine punishment to Israel. It was the refusal of the Jews to repent and confess their sins even after being taken captive! They spent their time praying for judgment against Babylon (Ps. 137) rather than seeking God's face and asking for His forgiveness. God's will for Israel in captivity was outlined in Jeremiah 29, but the Jews didn't always follow it. Daniel's approach was biblical: "For the Lord our God is righteous in all his works" (Dan. 9:14). Why would He bring His people out of Egypt and then allow them to waste away in Babylon? Daniel knew that God had purposes for Israel to fulfill, and so he reminded God of His past mercies (v. 15).

 

Appeal to Hear (Daniel 9:17)

8. On what basis does Daniel appeal to God to "hear" his prayer (v. 17)?                                                  

   Daniel 9:15, 16 (not in today’s text) continues the contrast between the nature of God and the sin of the people. With verse 17, Daniel begins his appeal. The final verse of our study is not the final verse of Daniel’s prayer, since it does not end until verse 19. Verse 17 nonetheless captures the substance of verses 17-19. Daniel wants God to act, but Daniel realizes that God must first be willing to hear prayers (compare Lamentations 3:44).

   As Daniel brings his petition to a close, he basis his appeal on the Lord’s own sake, not on the sake of the people. Israel’s disaster means that God’s name—which is attached to his people, his city of Jerusalem, his sanctuary (temple)—has been profaned among the nations (compare Ezekiel 6:21-23). His reputation, in Daniel's understanding, has been tarnished.

   Of course, God is not insecure about what the nations think of him. They have misconstrued who he is for a long time. He is concerned, however, with how the nations understand his unique relationship with his people. This is because his strategy for drawing all humans to himself involves the witness of his people. Although it is important that God disciplines his people when their transgressions compromise his mission, to wipe them out altogether would also compromise that mission. God does not mind being known as the God who disciplines those whom he loves, but he also wants to be known as the God of mercy. Indeed, that’s how Daniel himself knows God (Daniel 9:9, 18). The mercy that God shows his people is the same mercy he intends to show the nations.

   For this reason, Daniel appeals to God’s larger purposes. Daniel is committed to those larger purposes. The partially rebuilt temple is still a disgrace. Daniel calls on God to remember His plan because Daniel wants to renew Israel’s commitment to that plan.

What Do You Think?
   What prayer burden is on your heart today? How have your prayer burdens changed as you have grown in spiritual maturity?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Prayers for yourself | Prayers for fellow Christians | Prayers for non-Christians
Prayers for the church |Other

 

POINTS TO PONDER

1.We serve an awesome and faithful God! (Daniel 9:4).

2.We must confess our sin on this journey of faith (Daniel 9:4-6; 1 John1:8-10).  

3.God is compassionate toward sinners (Daniel 9:7-10).

4.Because the sovereign Lord is characterized by justice and righteousness, sometimes He allows His people to experience difficulties as a result of their constant disobedience (Daniel 9:11-14).

5.As a consequence of the sobering truth of point 4, the only thing we can do is appeal to the Lord on the basis of His mercy (Daniel 9:17), for ourselves and others.  He’s waiting to hear from you! (2 Chronicles 7:14).

 

CONCLUSION
   Daniel’s prayer is a model in teaching us what it means to confess sins with integrity. We do not simply apologize to God. We must reorient our lives around God’s mission. We must be honest about our past and deliberate about our future.
   Daniel’s prayer is also a wonderful example of corporate solidarity. In a world where leaders may not even own up to personal failings, it is remarkable to see someone who identifies with the sins of his people, both in his own generation and in generations past. Daniel makes no distinction between his behavior and that of Israel as a whole. Yet we know Daniel was a moral exemplar among his people. He took bold steps to honor God when his own life was on the line (Daniel 1 and 6).
   But Daniel’s life did not revolve around himself. If his people were not right with God, then God’s mission was at stake. When God’s mission is in jeopardy, God’s people have to join together, confess together, and turn to God together.
 
PRAYER

   Lord, we continually fall short. We confess that we have a lot of growing up (and owning up) to do. Help us keep the bigger picture of your mission in view. In Jesus’ name, amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER  
   Confess sin and return to God.

 


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