Summary: In outlining the future God is lovingly conveying to Daniel (and us) the sense that he is in control so that even though there are rocky times ahead, we can have tangible and real hope.
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Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation.
An outline from the Message Guide printed in the bulletin is included at the end of the textual portion of this sermon.
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I need to tell you up front thatthat I am NOT particularly fond of this last part of Daniel 9. And it’s not because I think that it is any less the Word of God or that the message in here rubs me the wrong way.
It’s just that it’s so complicated!
I prefer to have everything laid out in plain and simple terms.
But this is apocalyptic literature – heavy in symbolism but lite in interpretative tools.
And to make matters worse, because the passage is so complicated it has become extremely controversial. Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about what all of this means – including myself!
But the problem with that is that whenever we come to this passage the tendency is to look for things in it to reinforce our interpretation of it. It has become polemically loaded.
Consequently, since we’re so busy trying to sort through the details to prove our positions – we tend to gloss over the point of it all. We miss what God is really saying to us through this text.
Well, this morning I want us to hear what God is saying through the last 7 verses of Daniel 9.
But it order to do that we will have to wade into the water a bit to sort through what was actually being said back there in the 6th century BC.
Now, we could spend hours on this but really we have only 15 or 20 minutes this morning. And hopefully, I have your attention for at least some of that time.
So what I’ve done is put together an outline chart that is on the message guide in the bulletin. And I am going to run us through the text very quickly – using that outline -- realizing that I can’t do any kind of justice to the arguments or the nuances of the text.
But I simply want to get us to the point where we can hear what God is saying through this passage to us. So let’s take a look at the text.
If you remember from last week we talked about the fact that Daniel had been reading the prophet Jeremiah and consequently he had become aware that the time was about right for the return of the Jewish people from exile back to Judah and Jerusalem.
He begans a fervent prayer of repentance on behalf of himself and the people – a prayer of preparation.
Look at verse 20 – "I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sins of my people, pleading with the LORD my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. He explained to me, ’Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. I am here to tell you what it was, for God loves you very much. Now listen, so you can understand the meaning of your vision.’"
This is an affirmation of God’s love for Daniel. As a matter of fact this particular construction of the phrase “God loves you very much” is used in the Old Testament in other places to convey desire for someone – a deep object of affection.
In other words, "Daniel, you’re so right on the money with what you’re doing I can’t tell you how much this pleases me. I can’t tell you how much I want to be with you and have you with me. This is exactly what I’ve been hoping for," says God. "And because of this love for you I want to fill you in a bit on what is going to be happening."
Thus verses 24-27.
First of all, Gabriel tells him that God has ordered a period of time where there will be 70 sets of 7.
That may mean 70 sets of 7 days. Again, I think the numbers 70 and 7 are significant for their figurative value rather than their literal value. Seven was the number of completion in Hebrew thinking. 70 sets of 7 suggests that the time is really complete.
So there is going to be a period of completion – and whether these numbers also work themselves out in a literal way is up for debate. I’ll talk about that in a minute.
And during this period six things are going to happen.