Summary: Daniel teaches us how to repent for ourselves and our people
Singing the Songs of the Lord in a Strange Land February 6, 2005
Singing Our Repentance
Narrative to Apocalyptic
We’ve been looking at the stories of Daniel to discover how we should live as Christians in a culture that is increasingly secular and pluralistic. How do we sing the songs of the Lord in our place of work, school, home?
After Daniel 6 there is a huge shift in genre in Daniel, he goes from chronicling his life in the life of Babylon, to apocalyptic dreams and visions. The next 6 chapters in Daniel are not easy to understand and apply. But, I don’t want to shy away from them just because they are difficult. So we are going to leap into the last half of Daniel. I’m not going to start with chapter 7, only because this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a traditional time of reflection and repentance in the church. Daniel 9 is a great example of repentance, so we’ll start here, and go back to Daniel 7 next week. Next week I’ll also deal further with how to read apocalyptic scripture like the last half of Daniel.
The Lead up History
In order to understand Daniel’s prayer, we need to understand the history of God’s relationship with the people of Israel.
As you read the Old Testament, you realize that It takes a while for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to catch on to the fact that their God is not just a tribal deity that they happen to serve, that he is the creator of all that is, that he is the God of all gods. This can be seen by how they start to worship the gods of whatever land that they are passing through in the exodus because they don’t quite trust God to protect them in those places. Even once they have a corporate understanding of who God is, they try to treat him like a tribal god by hoping that they can placate him through ritual worship rather than actually obeying his commands.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God makes a covenant with his chosen people. He has just rescued them out of the hand of Egypt where they have been enslaved for generations, and he is leading them back to the land he promised their ancestor. As he is leading them back he makes a treaty with them about what they need to do in order to stay in the land, and in his blessing.
This is what he says:
1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:
3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
Curses for Disobedience
15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.
18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. …
… 64 Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods-gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot.
The laws set before them are actually not that difficult, as Jesus says their base in found in Deuteronomy 6: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Jesus says: “This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
There are many other Laws, in the Covenant; like the ten commandments, and property and economic laws, criminal laws and family law, but all of these are just expansion on these two great laws. Even so, it appears that the people of Israel almost never served God with their whole hearts – the lure of the power of other Gods, looking out for only themselves because of greed, and other sins of the flesh drew them away from God.