Preparing to return HOME!
Most of us have some knowledge of the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den (ch. 6). Daniel has always been the symbol of unfaltering obedience and faith – an example of God’s approval of the righteous. But are you familiar with his ‘homegoing expectation’ prayer?
Daniel was taken as a youth (perhaps age 15 or so) as a captive to Babylon, as foretold by Jeremiah, the crying prophet. Daniel had proven himself over and over as being totally obedient yet incredibly wise in governance (and dream interpretations). Daniel was respected for his integrity and wisdom, and was promoted to high rank under more than one king. Scripture records some jealousies (Ch 3:8, 6:4) culminating in the story where Daniel is accused of praying to his God during a trumped-up declaration of dependency on the reigning monarch. That scheme likely was concocted by some of the local sages, who were once themselves condemned to death by the rage of Nebuchadnezzar for failure to accurately describe the King’s dream and then interpret it. Only Daniel’s plea for mercy to them, along with the correct answer, saved the king’s court elite. Some thanks!
An interesting side note is that even with all the respect given Daniel by the several kings, he still didn’t get invited to the royal parties! They couldn’t deny his channel with the true God, but they also likely didn’t like his straight-arrow approach to leadership. They had to call him in to the banquet in progress to interpret the disembodied handwriting on the palace wall (ch.5). But that’s another story.
In chapter nine, Daniel has been examining the available prophecies regarding the 70-year captivity of Israel (v.2), and he realizes that the projected time is coming to a close (he must now be in his mid-eighties). Daniel should be exulting in the immediacy of God’s promise that it’s time to return to Jerusalem and reclaim the Promised Land. Similarly, we look at scripture to see Jesus the Christ confirming that the generation that would see the restoration of Israel (Matthew 24) would not pass until all the end times and His return would be fulfilled. The scripture is available to all who will read, and “the wise shall understand.” Truly a time for great anticipation as we eagerly await the Lord’s instantaneous call (commonly described as the rapture) to His glory. Tragically, many will neglect this freely available warning.
But the great sage, Daniel, approaches God with quite a different prayer. He does not pray for God’s blessing on his return, nor for success for his countrymen, or a smooth transition and restoration of Israel to its fully enlarged borders and rebuilt temple. Chapter 9 describes a wholly different prayer – one of contrition for his personal sins (v. 20) and the sins of all Israel.
Daniel looked around him, and was saddened by what he witnessed. Many of his countrymen did not share the vision of a restored Israel. Babylon was all they knew, and they were content with it – even all the idolatries, ignorance of the recognized true God, and all the local ways of life. While some were apparently like-minded (gathering later with him to pray at the edge of the river, 10:7), a large number would not return to Israel at all, choosing to remain in this very foreign, sinful culture. Likely, many of them had bowed to the command to recognize the huge golden statue and its representation of the position of the King as supreme (ch. 3). Intermarriage and neglect of the Mosaic law had turned them from worship and obedience to the true God, and they were not eager to give it all up to walk back to the land of their grandparents and rebuild ruined cities and derelict farms.
Daniel’s prayer continues with fasting until evening, so obviously, just a portion is documented in scripture for us. The theme is singular – “Lord, forgive us….”
Daniel confesses his own sins – unnamed in this record (v. 20) but demonstrative of his understanding that all have sinned, and are sinners in the sight of God. He didn’t point to his exemplary career against all odds, but simply confessed. He didn’t crow about his wisdom and interpretive skills saving the day numerous times. He understood his servant position and relation to an all Holy and supreme God.
Daniel pled for his sinner countrymen – still sinning, and potentially never repenting of those sins.
Daniel pled for mercy through the promises of God – that God would fulfill His Word as demonstration of His love and mercy in spite of the waywardness of the Israelite people. Daniel asked God to continue His promise, if only for His name’s sake – a witness to the world of His unchanging nature (v. 17-19). Daniel was wise enough to understand that some might be saved by recognizing God’s sovereign Word and work in spite of the abject failure of His chosen people to learn from their well-predicted punishment.
Daniel got his answer, although not the one we might expect. Not a timeline for packing and returning to Jerusalem, nor how God would handle the new King Darius (still in his first year of reign, and certainly not having full background of the original attack on Jerusalem and the taking of the Jewish slaves). Why would a new king willingly turn lose numerous, well-trained and productive slaves? That might require a miracle reminiscent of the departure from Egypt. No, God did not reveal his immediate plans here, but showed Daniel a much wider prophetic view, up to the end of our present age, when he would return the faithful to eternal home with Him (Ch 12:1).
At the end of Daniel’s final recorded discussion with the angel of the Lord, this man of ‘great esteem’ (Ch 9:23, and 10:11 and 19), is told to go his way (ch 12:13), and ultimately die [possibly buried at Susa, Iran/Persia] to await a faithful servant’s resurrection reward far in the future. This man of high esteem did not get the complete satisfaction of great reward in this life. It is, after all, all about God; and in this life, we should keep our perspective that we are clearly servants, serving our Most High God. We can’t always expect immediate reward, or even justice in this life. But we do have the promise of our allotted portion in the heavenly places.
What is the lesson for us from this passage as we look to the coming together of the signs Jesus described as the end times? While certainly it portends our ultimate rescue and reward, the whole theme is more inwardly focused – on the true plight of our sinful selves, and the horror of the lost condition of those around us. Those in this lost condition include many loved ones, acquaintances, and all living souls nearby and worldwide. The cry of Daniel’s heart should stir a similar cry in our hearts – ‘Lord, have mercy on us all’! We should be pleading for the outpouring of His Holy Spirit to do a new work in all flesh (Acts 2:17) and coming alongside His desire that none should perish (II Peter 3:9). We should be busy with His harvest, spreading His gospel to all mankind.
Where is that zeal within your heart? Are you watchful and understanding of the emerging signs? Are you praying for the harvest of souls? Are you a doer of His Word, and not just a passive hearer (James 1:22)? Are you to be accounted as one of those “few laborers” seeking His harvest (Matt 9:37)? Read the ninth chapter of Daniel, and look for yourself in the story. We are all found in the prayer, and in the heavenly report of what is about to happen:
“So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer, and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 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.
“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. 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. Thus He has confirmed His words which he had spoken against us and 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.
“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. 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. 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.
“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. 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.
“O my God, incline Your ear and Heart! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presentation our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 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!’
“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…..” (Daniel 9:3-21).
The prayer of chapter nine was not a one-time event. The next chapters record similar sessions and include more startling revelations of the future of sinful mankind. Daniel was persistent, focused, and absolutely driven by the fear of the Lord. He set his heart on understanding and humbling himself before His God (Daniel 10:12).
Be sure and assured that you are in alignment with His will for you, according to all that is in His Word. Embrace His counsel. Confess your sins, and truly turn away in repentance. Willingly take the position of obedient servant, and serve your Lord with all your heart. Prepare yourself to “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:15). Focus on the depth of your resolve and service, and let Him decide the expanse of your results. He is coming soon! Maranatha!
The prayer of Daniel – can it be your prayer this week?!