“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Daniel.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;
The most interesting thing about this passage is the timestamp, showing how long he’d been away from Jerusalem.
In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
Fascinating. Had he long been aware of this, and merely been waiting until the 70 years elapsed before making his petition? Did he just recently get his hands on Jeremiah’s scrolls, or finally have the time to figure out the timing?
Knowing Daniel, I suspect he didn’t waste any time turning this knowledge into fuel for prayers:
I wonder if Daniel prays like I sometimes do here: long periods of silent/private prayer, followed by a concise written prayer capturing the main points.
Intriguingly, this time of asking and wrestling with God appears to bear fruit in confession:
Importantly, he starts out focused on God Himself, and His character; much like an “Our Father who art in heaven.” I suspect that much of Daniel’s earlier wrestling was simply to connect with who God really was, in terms of the characteristics that would need to be manifest for Him to fulfill His promise. Despite the fact that the destruction of Jerusalem was also in keeping with His character:
We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
This is a profound section of identificational repentance, where Daniel acknowledges God’s justice as well as the sins of himself, his peers, and his ancestors:
Neither 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.
In a sense, he is crying uncle:
O 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.
Because by owning up to his (their) part:
O Lord, to us [belongeth] confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.
He can ask God to live up to His part:
To the Lord our God [belong] mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;
That is, the mercy and forgiveness which are as much a part of his character as justice. Even if it isn’t a part of ours:
Neither 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. Yea, 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.
Importantly, Daniel does not merely confess Israel’s sins, he also confesses God’s justice — even in bringing evil upon them!
And 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.
But — here’s the kicker! — Daniel sees their ultimate sin as failing to pray the sort of prayer he now offers up:
As [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.
In other words, he doesn’t merely bemoan Israel’s past evil. Instead, he attempts to discern the very spiritual truth whose absence led to their downfall, and then do himself what was left undone seventy years ago. Because ultimately he affirms that it was God — not Nebuchadnezzar — that destroyed Israel, and thus can rebuild it:
Therefore 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.
But God is still a God of deliverance:
And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
And His righteousness cuts both ways, to quench his anger as well as fulfill it:
O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people [are become] a reproach to all [that are] about us.
So listen up, God:
* Now 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.
* O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
* O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
And, amazingly, He does!
And whiles 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 for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I [was] speaking in prayer, 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. And he informed [me], and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.
Yow! But why this dramatic visitation?
So, the reason “why” is:
which I presume are three facets of the same reason.
Oddly, though, Daniel doesn’t receive what I would consider a direct answer. True, he does seem to get confirmation that he interpreted the seventy year correctly:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
But — though it may be churlish to begrudge an angelic prophecy! — I was expecting something along the lines of, “Okay, I hear you Daniel. Yes, the time is up, and I will fulfill my word. Good job on being faithful and trusting me. Now go tell king Darius, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Now, let me be clear. My problem isn’t so much that God seems unwilling to answer, but that He’s going way beyond that; to the point where I’m no longer sure he’s addressing Daniel’s question about rebuilding Jerusalem. For example, where does “everlasting righteousness” come in? And why does the angel give a whole new prophecy after (possible) answering the old one?
Know therefore and understand, [that] from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince [shall be] seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof [shall be] with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Whoa. I’ll let others try to make sense of the calculations. What I find most shocking is that the angel is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem — after all the tears Daniel spent on getting it rebuilt! What’s up with that?
Worse, the sanctuary is not merely destroyed, but desecrated:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make [it] desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
And that’s it. Boom, end of prophecy (unless of course there’s more that was successfully sealed up :-). As far as we can tell, the angel gives just passing agreement that Daniel’s prayers were heard, and that Jerusalem will be rebuilt. After that — despite the promise of “everlasting righteousness” — he’s like ‘Dude, they’re going to destroy Jerusalem and set up pagan abominations.’ Then poof, he’s gone.
Is this how God treats his “dearly beloved?”
Or am I missing something?
Well, maybe one thing: a brief but tantalizing glimpse of an “annointed one” (Messiah). Okay, sure this could all be retrospective, referring to Cyrus as the Prince who will enable Jerusalem’s rebuilding. But whether looking all the way forward to Jesus, or merely to a beneficent Cyrus, the phrase Messiah clearly embodies all sorts of hopes, dreams, and promises of God towards His people.
And I wonder… was God telling Daniel to not worry so much about the immediate problem of Jerusalem, but instead on the sure knowledge that God would provide a Messiah? Yes, Jerusalem will be rebuilt, but nothing lasts forever — except this:
I wonder: was Daniel the kind of man for whom that was enough?
God, I thank you that you are a God of justice, even when it is expressed through wrath. Yet thank you that mercy and forgiveness are as much a part of your character as holiness and judgement. Lord, I confess my own sinfulness, and how we as the body of Christ have fallen so far short of your righteousness. Forgive us, Lord. Have mercy on us, O Father. Open our eyes, renew our minds, and soften our hearts, that we may once again see Jesus. And seeing Him, may we be transformed into His image. I ask this in His name, Amen.