Summary: When hopes are delayed, turn to the Bible, pray, and look to the future. The final fulfillment is in Christ, (Daniel 9:24) "...to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness..."
THIS MAY TAKE A WHILE—Daniel 9
The family is on a road trip, when one of the kids starts the incessant refrain, “Are we almost there?” The parent replies, “Not yet; we have a ways to go.” Ten minutes later, the question and answer are the same.
“Are we almost there? Are we at least making progress? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we are! In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yet we don’t see righteousness prevail, and we don’t see the degree of transformation in the lives of Christians that we hope for.
We pray for our nation, for justice, truth and peace. We pray for our world, where so many are oppressed and without hope or opportunity. Yet we have so far to go.
We pray for people, maybe those in our family, hoping for transformation and growth, healing and restoration, but the answer doesn’t come on our timetable.
We pray for ourselves, seeking a job, healing, or the love of our life. We seek wholeness, victory over sin and evil, success and prosperity, or a breakthrough in relationships, it takes so long, and it is not quite as we hoped.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN OUR HOPES ARE UNFULFILLED?
Daniel and the people of Israel had been in exile in Babylon for almost 70 years. The covenant blessings promised to Abraham, Moses, and David were on hold. The people had been taken to a strange land, far from the land God promised to Abraham. The temple was gone, along with the sacrifices. There was no king on David’s throne, and no kingdom of prosperity and social justice.
The reason for all this was clear, as Moses warned in Deuteronomy 29:25-26, “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them.”
Daniel understood why it happened, but in his old age he trusted that somehow God, in his faithful love, would fulfill his covenant promises and restore his people.
Yet it has been almost 70 years, and Daniel is getting old. Although Daniel has a comfortable life, he is troubled by the condition of God’s people in exile, and the unfulfilled promises of God.
DANIEL TURNS TO GOD’S WORD.
Read Daniel 9:1-2.
We can imagine how thrilled Daniel is, as he reads in his daily devotions:
Jeremiah 29:4-14, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:…When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Daniel does the math. If he was taken to Babylon in 605, and it is now 539, 66 years have passed. Even if he starts counting from the final destruction of the temple in 587, that makes 49 years—close enough. Jeremiah’s prophecy gave Daniel hope—hope that the exile will soon end, and God’s people will be restored to their home.
Read Daniel 9:3-19.
This is a great prayer.
Daniel begins with praise to God: “great and awesome, who keeps his covenant of faithful love…” (The Hebrew word is “hesed”—steadfast, covenant love.)
Then he confesses the sins of the people. Daniel was a great man of God, but he recognizes that he too is not guiltless. He gives no excuses, and he is specific about the sins that have been committed. Over and over again, he acknowledges that God is righteous. He shows a profound understanding of God’s righteousness, for God’s righteousness does not just punish, but save: (Daniel 9:16) “Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill.”
Throughout his prayer, he appeals to the character of God: “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving,” (verse 9) and, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (verse 18)