Daniel 9 – Advent Love

 

nov_15c_detailDo you think folks generally take responsibility for their actions or not? I think thats a hard question to answer. However, we can all think of examples around us of people who have not taking responsibility. For instance, There was one story about a burglar who sued a family after getting locked in their garage while trying to rob their house. Supposedly he was stuck there for eight days since the family was on vacation, forced to live on dog food and warm Pepsi. Another example told of a woman who sued a furniture store after she tripped over a misbehaving toddler and broke her ankle. The only problem was that the toddler in question was her own son. Maybe the best story was of the man who sued Winnebago when his 32-foot RV crashed after he set the cruise control and then went in the back to make a sandwich.[1] We can all think of times in our own lives when we have not taken responsibility. When we have made poor choices, and then wondered why a situation was not working out. It is a matter of who we are trusting in.

In this season on the church calendar we take a moment to reflect upon the coming of JC, and look forward to His return. In practice, this season often feels busy. We feel the stress of ensuring family is happy. We feel obligated to give good gifts those around us. In practice it may feel like we are going through the motions, and become too busy and apathetic to the intentions of the Advent season. And so it feels necessary to ask in this busy season: Why is His coming good news? In the face of our trust issues and busyness, why is the coming of our messiah actually something to celebrate?

 

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Today we are going to look at Daniel 9 and see if we find an answer to this question. So grab a Bible and turn to Daniel 9. The book of Daniel calls Gods people to be faithful and obedient during times of hardship.[2] In Daniel 9, we see a picture of this faithfulness, seen in the person of Daniel.

So lets read Daniel 9 in parts. 1st, lets look at vs. 1-19, which gives us the context of the passage, and Daniels response to the situation of the Jewish people in exile.

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom 2-in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

7 Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame -the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

15 Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

Looking at these 19 verses, we ask: What are the movements? I see 3 primary sections. 1st in v. 2, Daniel is reading from Jeremiah and is convicted by the word. Daniel gives us an awesome example of faithfulness here. His people are in exile. He is discouraged by their plight, and where do we find him? We find him seeking wisdom in Gods word. As he does so he discovers the reason for his peoples exile – Sin and disobedience. In the 2nd section, in v. 3, we see Daniels response to this discouraging word. Daniel could have given up. Daniel could have raged and schemed a way to liberate his homeland. But where do we find him? We find Daniel humbling himself. He prays and fasts. He acknowledges that the only way to freedom is to submit to Gods will. And then in the 3rd section, in vs. 4-19, we see Daniels prayer. He starts his prayer in v. 4, w/ praises God for His greatness. As we offer prayer of any kind, we do well when we 1st acknowledge the greatness of the one we pray to. It is only by His power and allowance that we receive mercy and grace. In vs. 5-15 we hear Daniels confession of guilt, for himself and his people. They have historically ignored Gods commands to goodness, and His warnings, and now, they are reaping what they sowed. Here we see the great example of Daniel to us. He is taking responsibility for his actions, and the actions of his people. And he has postured himself toward God, the only one able to bring about mercy.

If we were to outline the entire chapter of Daniel 9 it might look like this:

*Convicted (v. 2)

*Confession (v. 3-19)

*Vision (v. 20-27)

After Daniel prays, God blesses Daniel w/ another apocalyptic vision. Lets read these remaining verses in sections. First lets look at vs. 20-23:

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill- 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me: Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

So the angel Gabriel appears and is about to give Daniel the vision. The section that follows is one of the most challenging pieces of scripture in the entire Bible. The vision of vs. 24–27 is full of interpretative difficulties, and the primary difference between interpretations is where in time an interpreter places the vision. Options include during the time of Antiochus IV, the guy who looted the temple we talked about last week. Another option is around the time of the destruction of Herods Temple, by the Romans in ad 70, or finally, in the time before the return of JC. All these options have to do w/ how one might interpret the numbers in the vision. Gabriel is speaking in a highly symbolic manner, mentioning 70-7s. And the question before every reader of scripture is: Should the numbers be interpreted literally or symbolically?[3] And I will not plan on answering that question in this time, but focus on the overall message that was given in response to Daniels prayer.

Look at v. 24. Gabriel says: 24 Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. So here we see that a period of time is set for the completion of rebellion, and for Gods justice. This verse serves as the overview of the whole vision. Gods purpose in the events of the 70-7s is the subject of the verse, to bring in everlasting righteousness signifies that at the end of the time period an era of righteousness will pervade the earth, which will continue for eternity. Gods people will now be in permanent right relationship with God that will result in living according to Gods will. Only when the kingdom of God is ushered in at Christ’s return will.[4]

Look at v. 25-26:

25 Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

After this time, the anointed will be killed (and as the NLT says: apparently not accomplishing anything). Then Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed by a ruler. Continuing w/ v. 27: He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. Here we see much of what we saw last week. A ruler will end the daily sacrifice, terrible deeds will come to a climax, then the rulers fate will come. This will be a terrible period in the worlds history, but the Lord has decreed that these atrocities will not continue forever. This rulers reign and power will end, b/c the power of God has declared it. The end of the matter is that God wins. Despite all the terrors Gods people face, God redeems and puts down evil.

Daniels message of the 70-7s is one of the greatest prophecies in the Bible. There are several ways to interpret the details, but the result is the same. As one commentator summarizes: the passage predicts the coming of the Messiah, who will die. The city of Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed. At the end of the age an evil ruler will arise who will persecute Gods people, but his wicked activities will not continue, for the same Messiah who died will come again. He will judge and end the ruler. Then that everlasting righteousness and peace, mentioned in v. 24, will come. This is the hope of the vision given to Daniel and us.[5] We are a people of hope. We have hope b/c we know, like Daniel did, that we serve a God of mercy, a God of love. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. We know that b/c of His mercy, God is faithful to redeem.

 

Today

But all too often we do not rest in this truth. Instead of living as He is Lord, we pretend to be lord, manipulating situations, seeking our own solutions that are not rooted in His wisdom. We do not trust in His mercy and love, and we get frustrated when things do not work out. In the face of trials we do not trust in God.

There is a story of an medieval soldier who just got married and was returning home with his wife, whom he loved dearly. They were crossing a lake in a boat, when suddenly a great storm arose. The man was a warrior, but the woman became very much afraid because it seemed almost hopeless. The boat was small and the storm was really huge, and any moment they were going to be drowned. But the man sat silently, calm and quiet, as if nothing was happening. The woman was trembling and she said: Are you not afraid? This may be our last moment of life! It does not seem that we will be able to reach the other shore. Only some miracle can save us; otherwise death is certain. Are you not afraid? Are you mad or something? Are you a stone or something? The man laughed and took the sword out of its sheath. The woman was even more puzzled: What he was doing? Then he brought the naked sword close to the womans neck, so close that just a small gap was there, it was almost touching her neck. He said: Are you afraid? She started to laugh and said: Why should I be afraid? If the sword is in your hands, why I should be afraid? I know you love me, dearly. He put the sword back and said: This is my answer. I know God Loves me, and the storm is in His hands. SO WHATSOEVER IS GOING TO HAPPEN IS GOING TO BE GOOD. If we survive, good; if we do not survive, good, because everything is in His hands and He cannot do anything wrong.[6] Knowing we are loved by a powerful God can make all the difference. It may not solve the particulars of the situation we find ourselves in. But knowing the struggles we face are not the end of our story, gives us peace.

Even when we lose faith, He is faithful. Here we see that b/c of His mercy, God is faithful to redeem. In Advent, we celebrate that His coming is good news, b/c He displays His love by bringing mercy in the midst of apathy. Daniel took responsibility for his actions. Daniel placed his hope of redemption from sin in the hands of God. He was humble, he prayed and fasted, and was blessed w/ the presence of God. And as a result, God has blessed us w/ this great example ad reminder of Gods faithfulness. My prayer is that we would be found faithful, like Daniel, resting in Gods mercy and grace.

 

Amen.

 

 

[1] http://ceo.business.appstate.edu/speakers/where-buck-stops-personal-responsibility-not-me-society

[2] Encountering the Old Testament, by Bill Arnold (1999), p. 429.

[3] Widder, W. L. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Daniel, Book of, Critical Issues. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, pp. 257–273). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, pp. 257–273). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] http://rishikajain.com/2013/01/22/inspirational-short-story-with-moral-trust-in-god/

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