STAND IN THE GAP (DANIEL 9:1-19)
Have you thought of praying for countries in crisis around the world? Increasingly, people are discovering that politics, money, food, medicine, and guns and bombs cannot solve the problems of the world. More than 3 million people have died of starvation in North Korea from 1994. The conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs has escalated almost to the point of beyond repair. Afghanistan is rebuilding after the Taliban misrule and the American invasion. Pakistan is cracking down on Muslim extremists that oppose the Afghanistan invasion. Venezuela is facing a violent strike and Zimbabwe an Aids crisis. http://www.gmi.org/ow/
What in the world can you do for these countries when you are miles away and worlds apart? Can we depend on U.N., U.S. or U.K? How much can be done for them? What basic and major responsibility do we have for these countries?
A Hebrew in Babylon faced such a dilemma. Daniel was a young man when he was taken into captivity. In his adopted country, he rose to political prominence in his adopted country. Besides Darius, Daniel was in the service of four kings, including Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1:1) and Belshazzar (5:13) in his early career, and Cyrus (1:21, 10:1) in his later career. When the end of seventy years of exile, as prophesied by Jeremiah, was in sight, Daniel felt a tremendous relief and burden, which led to his prayer in Daniel 9. His prayer was profound for the reason that he identified with transgressors, identify their sin and identify the offense. The most startling confession of Daniel is the statement “We have sinned against You.”
What is our foremost responsibility to nations in crisis? Why should we care? How can we involve ourselves in the affairs of the world?
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. (Dan 9:4-6)
It’s been said that the six most important words in communications and human relations are “I admit that I was wrong.” Counting down, the five most important words are “You did a great job.” The four most important words are “What do you think?” The three most important words are “May I help?” The two most important words are “Thank you.” The most important word is “we” and the least important word in any language is “I.” (Speaker’s Library of Business of Stories, Anecdotes and Humor)
One of the conditions of intercessory prayer is to put yourself in the place or shoes of others. Daniel did not use the word “They” but the word “We” visibly in confession and intercession (16x “we,” 17x “our” and 9x “us” in NIV).
Daniel confessed of the sins of the Israel from the days of the kings, the princes and the fathers down to his time (v 6). He didn’t have a superior, condescending or self-righteous attitude. He prayed as if he was accountable, guilty and distressed. Sin reaches and touches not only the individual but the neighbor and the community.
Intercession is not to confess to their sins but to confess of their sins. It is not praying for others but praying with them. It doesn’t mean that you have the ability to do the same thing – you did not because you are not there - but that you have the capability to do the same thing. Praying for others is not condoning or commending their sin of insubordination to God, but contradicting and confronting your sin of indifference to them. It does necessarily bring change to a person or country, but it gives glory to God. You’ll end up not working on other people or working on God but working on yourself. In the end, it is not the right words that matter to God; it is the right heart. The Bible did not tell us we have to see eye to eye, walk hand in hand and talk heart to heart with transgressors, but it encourages us to kneel side by side with them.
The word “we” is an admission of the attractiveness, the power and the corruption of sin. It reminds saints of their vulnerability, frailty and trickery of the sin nature. The word “we” is introspective and inclusive. It means that the sin and the fall and chastisement of others have touched us spiritually, cognitively, socially, emotionally and practically. As John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
WE HAVE SINNED
A woman brings home a very expensive dress. The husband says, “Why did you buy that dress, dear? You know we can’t afford it.” She says, “Well, honey, the devil made me do it. I was trying it on the store and he said to me, ‘I’ve never seen you look more gorgeous than you do in that dress.’” “Well, why didn’t you say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’?” asked her husband. “I did,” was the answer. “And he said, ‘It looks great from behind too.’” (Bruce Larson, Luke 83).
One of the sign of a repentant person is to take responsibility and not to make excuses for one’s sins. We are very fond of and good at using and abusing the S-word or –factor. The top excuse is “Satan made me do it.” Another popular one is “Sin made me do it.” The Chinese favorite is “Society made me do it.” People in the Bible are notorious for passing blame. Adam said, “The woman made me do it,” (Gen 12:12) and Eve countered, “The snake made me do it,” (Gen 12:13). Aaron protested, “The people made me do it” (Ex 32:23). Today people from all sorts of life say, “I have no choice,” “I am not perfect,” “I am only human” or “So and so, this and that, he or she made me do it.”
Daniel’s stirring prayer includes four times, in verses 5, 8, 11, and 15, the confession of wrongdoing: “We have sinned.” Daniel’s confession was in the grand tradition of other stirring intercessory prayers. David confessed on behalf of Israel, “We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly” (Psalm 106:6), and Solomon pleaded for God to forgive Israel when they repent and plead, “We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly.” (1 Kings 8:47).
Not only did Daniel confess the “sin of commission” or what they have done in the 5-fold confession of verse 5 – “we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws,” but he also confessed the “sin of omission” or what wasn’t done (in parallel “and not” Hebrew structure):
“We have not listened to your servants the prophets…” (Dan 9:6)
“We have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws…” (Dan 9:10)
“We have not sought the favor of the LORD our God…” (Dan 9:13
“We have not obeyed him…” (Dan 9:14)
Israel did not obey or listen to God’s voice. The southern kingdom heard the prophets (v 6), read the law (v 10), and even witnessed the exile of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. to Assyria, but all the signs, messages, and opportunities were in vain. Four times Daniel attested in Hebrew that Israel did not “listen/obey” (same Hebrew word) God: “We have not listened” (v 6), “We have not obeyed” (vv 10, 14) and “Refusing to obey you” (v 11). They turned a deaf ear to what was written, what was spoken and what was given. They spurned His servants (v 6), His laws and even His voice (vv 11, 14).
Even when the first disasters struck, the people still did not seek the favor of the Lord by turning from their sins and giving attention to His truth (v 13). No wonder Hosea the prophet proclaimed, ““When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.” (Hos 11:1-2)
Unfortunately, as the Chinese say, “The more often you frequent a mountain, the more likely you’ll meet a tiger.” Israel’s sins of commission and omission caught up to them.
WE HAVE SINNED AGAINST YOU
Ted Engstrom, the former head of Youth for Christ International and World Vision International, told of his high school days as the treasurer of the Sunday school. He started taking advantage of his position and began pocketing a quarter or more every time he counted the offering, but the Lord continually reminded him, “You’ve got to make up for that money you stole.” The boy promised, “I will.” To which the Lord responded, “When?”
One Sunday he stopped the Sunday School superintendent, a man towering six feet six inches. Quaking inside and out, he said, “May I see you right after the service?” “Of course,” the man boomed. He was so fearful of the meeting that he scarcely got anything out of the service. When the crowd finally left, he approached the superintendent.
The superintendent smiled warmly and said, “You wanted to talk to me?” Engstrom confessed, “Yes, sir, I’ve got something to tell you. When I was Sunday school treasurer, I stole some money from the offering.” The superintendent looked him straight in the eye, his face a mixture of warmth and sternness. He didn’t speak immediately. Then he asked softly, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” The student answered, “Well, I’m going to pay it back. I don’t have any money now. But I’ll pay it back as best as I can.” “Of course you will,” the superintendent said. “You must do that.” He thought for a moment. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “You pay back what you think you have stolen...that’s very important. Give it to me and I’ll put it in the Sunday school treasury. And only three of us will know about this.” “Three?” the boy responded. The superintendent smiled. “Yes. You and I. And God!” (Ted Engstrom, Integrity)
In verses 5 and 15 Daniel confessed, “We have sinned,” but in verses 8 and 11 he added, “We have sinned against You.”
The word “rebel” (v 5) is not unique to Daniel but the clauses “We have rebelled,” (v 5) and “We have rebelled against Him” (v 9) are. The word “rebel” was used in 2 Kings primarily to record the Jewish kings’ revolt against the more powerful Gentile nations that threatened to conquer them, specifically from the time of Hezekiah onward. The last southern kings, specifically the third to last king, Jehoiakim, (2 Ki 24:1) and the last king, Zedekiah, (2 Ki 24:20) rebelled foolishly, futilely and even fatally against the king of Babylon, who carried the people into exile. However, Daniel asserted that Israel’s rebellion in truth was really against the sovereign Lord, and not the Gentile kings or nations. Daniel understood the commentary of 2 Kings 24:20, which ascribed the exile to the Lord’s anger: “It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence. Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”
Israel’s kings failed in their bid to rebel against Babylon, even with passionate slogans and shouts of “Uprising,” “Independence,” or “Freedom,” because they were doomed from the start. Daniel corrected the wrong impression, the deadly politics and the bad theology the kings fed the people to stir them up. He confessed on behalf of the kings, the princes, Israel’s fathers and all the people of the land that their rebellion was against God; it was nothing short of, nothing other than and nothing but their rebellion against God.
In the end, God’s punishment was worse than the damage inflicted by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The verb “poured out” is occasionally associated with fluids like rain (Ex 9:33, 2 Sam 21:10) or milk (Job 10:10) and is synonymous with fire or wrath, specifically the fierce wrath of God (2 Chron 12:7, 34:21, 25, Jer 7:20, 42:18, 44:6, Ezek 22:20-22, Nah 1:6). Because of God’s anger upon Israel, the land was made desolate (vv 17, 18). The word desolation, over and over again in the Bible, denotes a land that is not suitable to live (Jer 6:8, 9:11, 34:22, 49:33) or for cultivation (Ezek 36:34). The only creatures surviving desolated places were beasts (Ezek 14:15), specifically foxes or jackals (Jer 9:11, 10:22, 49:33). No one cares to settle down, return there (Jer 12:11), or even pass by (Ezek 33:28).
Yet Daniel said that the Lord is righteous (v 7) and is righteousness in everything he does (v 14). God was not unfair to Israel but that Israel was unfaithful to God.
Conclusion: Have you been praying for nations at war, nations in crisis and nations in darkness. Do you pray for your country, your city and your community? Do you use more “we,” “us” and “our” words and less “me,” “mine” and “I” words in your prayer? And less “they,” “them” and “us” words?
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