Summary: Daniel is shown to be a man who depended on the Scriptures and prayer, the secret of his relationship with God, equiping him for a prophetic ministry.
DANIEL 9 - A PRAYER AND A PROPHECY
There are two themes in this chapter - prayer and prophecy. The setting of the narrative is in the reign of King Darius of the Chaldeans. Daniel was a thinking person and he began to wonder what lay ahead for his nation, and as he did this, he revealed the kind of man he was. He offers a useful model for us to follow. We see first he was:
A MAN OF THE WORD
In his desire to discover God’s purposes for his beloved people Israel, we find Daniel poring over what he describes as "the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet" (2). This is significant. Daniel was a man well versed in visions and their interpretation, but they were periodic happenings, the timing of which were not under his control. When he wanted some guidance from the Lord, he did not wait until a vision came. No, he went to the divine source already available to him, the word of the Lord. Daniel’s life was moulded by the revelation of God as it had been committed to writing in "the Scriptures".
Daniel’s conduct from when we first met him as a young man exiled from his homeland was measured against the law of Moses regarding the dietary laws to be kept by the people God had set apart for his service. The written word of God was especially precious to him now that he was in Babylon, deprived of the temple worship. It must have been a cruel stroke to be cut off from this means of grace, because its ritual and teaching and sacrifice had been the means of bringing them into the presence of God. But God had not left the exiles without a means of access into his living presence.
The exiles discovered to their great joy that the books, or perhaps I should say "the scrolls", of the law and prophets were an equal place of encounter with the living God. As they listened or read, in groups or even alone, they found themselves listening to the same living voice as their prophets and priests had so often claimed to hear and bring them. Why was this? It is because the inspiration of the Spirit of God which first brought the Scriptures into being lives on, and when they are approached in reverence and trust, the same Spirit makes them alive and relevant in the current situation.
This is why we are encouraged to read the Bible every day, to feed our souls with the living bread. We can thank God that our "books" are much more complete and clear in their witness to him than were those that Daniel had before him in Babylon. Visions, of course, are not to be despised. On the other hand we must be careful as they may seem to offer more excitement and reality and current relevance than the written word of God. In charismatic circles it often manifests itself in "pictures" formed in the mind which are seen as a form of prophecy. They can be helpful in receiving a word from the Lord, but Daniel’s experience and example show us that the Scriptures are a more excellent and certain way. The New Testament teaches that visions and prophecies must always be subjected to the standard of the Scriptures.