Summary: Daniel's prayer is about God, about His Kingdom, about restoring His people so that God will be glorified.
Lent Week 1: Feb 26, 21012 Dan 9
It is dark.
But I kind of like it.
Not that it is good; no, it is cold, it is lonely, it is lifeless and it is light-less.
But it is familiar.
I am used to it.
No matter that I am not free.
I am used to it.
I hear a voice: Come forth! Awaken!! The light shines in the darkness!
A moment of hope – could things actually change? – but then
the darkness again.
at what cost?
If I leave the darkness, where will I be? I don’t know.
and if I don’t know, how can I know it will be better?
Someone else must do it.
They must bring the light, shine the light, they must dispel the darkness
after all, it was probably someone else’s fault anyway.
What do you mean I must open my eyes?
It is my darkness.
Change takes too much energy.
What do you mean someone else already did it?
It is (by my best guess at least) 539BC. It is the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede. I don’t expect you to remember, but 3 weeks ago when we opened the book of Daniel, and we found four young Jewish men being carried off into exile, it was 605BC. Do the math – 66 years have passed. Daniel is now an old man; probably 80 or more. 2 During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years.
Another important bit of math - who knew that reading the Bible with understanding meant remembering math? It is getting close to the 70 years. It is probably around year 66 of 70; a few more to go; and Daniel has read the word of the LORD as revealed to Jeremiah.
What did he read? We have those same exact words still today, on your smart phone and through your internet connection and even in that actual physical book.
Jeremiah 25: 8 And now the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Because you have not listened to me, 9 I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy. I will bring them all against this land and its people and against the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. 10 I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. 11 This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.
12 Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins, says the LORD.
Can you imagine how Daniel felt reading that? He has lived it! His entire life has been spent in that period of time that God describes as devoid of happy singing and laughter, no joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides, no mills, no lights, the land a desolate wasteland, serving the king of Babylon for seventy years.
He could get angry. What a waste of his life! After all, why should he have suffered for the fact that the previous generations, the ones in power in Jerusalem before he was born and while he grew as a child, refused to listen to Jeremiah?
Or he could get vindictive. I stopped reading from Jeremiah, but the passage continues and describes some pretty awful things God is going to do to the Babylonians, and we could find Daniel getting pretty excited about seeing them punished. Bring it on, God! Get them! Smite them but good! But Daniel doesn’t do that. Instead, he does a very Lenten thing.
3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.
Interesting, don’t you think? I decided to jump ahead to Daniel 9 this week; we will come back to the earlier stories, just because there is such an incredible prayer of repentance here that I thought would be a great kick-off to our season of Lent. But I had no idea, until I got into it on Friday, how perfect it is. For lent. For us. We pray that God will guide our journey; this was huge proof to me that He is!
We just came through Ash Wednesday, and here I find Daniel. Not just with an ashen cross on his head; but covered. Immersed. And at prayer. Prayer near the end of exile; prayer knowing, believing, that the end of an extremely difficult and painful part of the story of the people of God was almost done. But it isn’t, yet. I actually laughed out loud when I read, near the end of Daniel’s prayer, his plea that God would smile again on your desolate sanctuary (9:17); just at the humor of God as we meet here in the school, half a block away from our own desolate sanctuary to which we will soon return.