Forum Class #6 6/20/04
The Seventy Years in Babylon: The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: "From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the LORD has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. "And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. "They said, 'Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. 'Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.' "Yet you have not listened to Me," says the LORD, "that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Because you have not heard My words, 'behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the LORD, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. 'Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 'And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 'Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,' says the LORD; 'and I will make it a perpetual desolation. 'So I will bring on that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied concerning all the nations. (Jeremiah 25:1-13)
For thus says the LORD: "After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive." (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
Notes from Ray C. Stedman, Daniel 9: The ninth chapter of Daniel centers clearly upon the person of Jesus Christ and is one of the few places in Scripture where God ties himself to a definite timetable of events. This passage is therefore one of the strongest evidences to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible.
Many of you are frequently asked why you believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and it is helpful to know certain passages which clearly set forth predictive elements that are unmistakable and which do indicate the ability of the Bible to predict events far in the distant future. This could only be by divine power.
The passage we are looking at is that kind of passage. It pinpoints the exact moment in history when the Jewish Messiah would present himself to the Jewish people, and it does so over five hundred years before the event took place. It is so plain and detailed that it has always been an acute embarrassment to Jewish commentators.
In the seventeenth century a very learned Jew published a book in which he set forth the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Jewish Messiah. In the preface to the book he told how he himself had been converted by listening to a debate between a knowledgeable Jew and a Christian convert from Judaism over the meaning of this passage in Daniel 9. The moderator of the debate was a learned rabbi, and as the Christian pressed the claims of this passage home it became so clear that the passage was pointing to Jesus Christ that the rabbi closed the debate with these words: "Let us shut up our books, for if we go on examining the prophecy we shall all become Christians."
This prophecy is not a vision nor a dream. It was not given to Daniel through means that we have seen already in the book, but it is a direct message to the prophet from the angel Gabriel. This is the same angel that appeared to Joseph and to Mary, as recorded in the opening chapters of the New Testament. The angel Gabriel was sent to the prophet Daniel to give him a clear and undisguised look into the future in answer to a prayer of the prophet. The first part of the chapter is taken up with that prayer, which we shall not repeat here, for we want to focus on the prophetic elements of the chapter, but do read the prayer through.
It occurred, Daniel tells us, "in the first year of Darius the king, the son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede." Therefore, at this time the Medes and the Persians had taken over the former empire of Babylon.
Daniel was himself an old man, almost ninety years of age. He had been reading, as he tells us, the prophet Jeremiah. It is interesting to note that Daniel also studied the Scriptures. Though he was a prophet and God spoke to him directly, yet he learned many things from the Scriptures. Where God has spoken in writing, he does not add a vision. From his study of Jeremiah, Daniel realized that he was nearing the time of the end for the predicted seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Daniel himself had lived through this whole period for he was but a teenager when he was captured and taken to Babylon. Now, almost seventy years later, he realizes that the time of predicted deliverance was near, and so he begins to pray on the basis of the promise of God.
That is very revealing, and it tells us an awful lot about prayer. Prayer is not merely an exercise in asking God for things; prayer is primarily a means by which we get involved in God's program. When Daniel learned what God's program was he prayed that he might be involved in it, that he might have a part in it and thus to cooperate with what God was doing. This desire is reflected throughout this beautiful prayer. He did not simply say, "Well, it is all going to happen anyway so there's no use in worrying about it or praying about it." Had he said that the predicted events would have happened, but Daniel would have had no part in them. Thus this is a means by which the prophet gets involved in God's work.
This prayer is one of the most impressive in the Bible. It is a model prayer for any who are concerned over national decay. If you are concerned about the state of our country today, I suggest that you read Daniel's prayer through and see how beautifully and wonderfully he gathers up the whole situation, realistically appraises it, and lays it before God. He did not pray, as some of us do, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep." This is a searching, penetrating prayer of confession, of praise, and of earnest petition to God. To read it is a moving and powerful experience. (* see below)
But Daniel was interrupted as he prayed and never finished. His report of that interruption is in Verses 20-23:
While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God; while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and he said to me, "O Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and l have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision." (Daniel 9:20-23)
Notice especially the exhortation of the angel to understand the vision. "Consider the vision," he says, "think it through and understand it." This is especially significant in view of the reference Jesus himself makes in his famous prophetic message delivered on the Mount of Olives just before his crucifixion and recorded in Matthew 24. There he refers to this prophecy of Daniel and says, "So when you see the desolating sacrifice spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place" (Matt 24:15a), thus indicating how they would know that the time of the end had arrived. Matthew adds in parenthesis these words "(let the reader understand)" (Matt 24:15b). There is thus a clear exhortation on the part of both the angel Gabriel and the Lord Jesus Christ that readers should carefully consider and understand this passage. Someone has properly called it "the backbone of prophecy." Everything else must fit into the outline of this great prophetic revelation in Chapter 9.
There are two general parts to the prophecy. It occupies but a few verses (24 to 27), and is divided into two sections. There is first a listing of the objectives that are to be accomplished during the course of the prophecy; and, second, there is a three-fold division of the time set forth. We have the first section in verse 24:
"Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place." (Daniel 9:24)
There are three wonderful things to note about that first section: First, there is a specific time period decreed. "Seventy weeks of years," says the angel Gabriel. As we know, a week of days is seven days, and a week of years would be seven years, thus there would be seventy periods of seven years. If we multiply seventy times seven we have a total period of four hundred and ninety years which are decreed (literally, cut off or apportioned), unto a certain specified people; "your people," said the angel to the prophet. Daniel's people would clearly be the nation Israel. Furthermore, the prophecy would concern Daniel's holy city. There is only one holy city that Daniel was interested in and that was the city of Jerusalem.
So, as the second point of interest, we have a clear limitation of this prophecy to a time period involving only the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. In other words, this timetable has no effect if the Jews are not in Jerusalem. It is operative only when the Jewish people are in Jerusalem.
Third, there are six goals which are detailed to be accomplished during this stretch of four hundred and ninety years. They divide into two halves. The first three deal with the work of redemption: "to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity." Notice that they all have to do with solving the problem of sin. The next three deal with the final realization of the hopes and dreams of men. They are, specifically, "to bring in everlasting righteousness," i.e., to establish the kingdom of God, the kingdom for which we pray in the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thy kingdom come, thy will he done..." (cf. Matt 5:10). That is what it means to bring in everlasting righteousness. Then, "to seal both vision and prophet. " Now the Hebrew phrase, "to seal" means to complete, to bring to an end. It means that all predictions are to be completed, fulfilled, and there is no longer any need to predict a future event. Finally, "to anoint a most holy place" can only refer to the temple in Jerusalem. It is clear from this that there must be a temple in Jerusalem in order for these four hundred and ninety years to be fulfilled.
That gives us an overall view of the prophecy. The full course of it would cover four hundred and ninety years, and at the end of that period the problem of human sin would be solved, and the problem of human suffering would have ended. All this is to take place within the predicted time period. The second section marks out for us a three-fold division of the four hundred and ninety years. The first two divisions are described in Verse 25:
"Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks..." (Daniel 9:25a)
The is in error here. The King James version is right in that it does not make a period after "seven weeks." It should go right on to read:
"...there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time." (Daniel 9:25b Modified)
What is Gabriel talking about here? He says there is a definite starting point when the four hundred and ninety years would begin. It is a clear-cut, precise act, recorded in history. It is the time when a decree should go forth to build the city and walls of Jerusalem.
In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are recorded several decrees by Persian kings concerning Israel, but two of them clearly relate to the building of the temple. The temple was built before the city walls were restored. There is only one decree (recorded in Nehemiah, Chapter 2), that gave permission to the Jews to rebuild the walls and city of Jerusalem, and that decree is precisely dated. It reveals one of those remarkable "coincidences" which are really not coincidences at all, to learn that the historian Herodotus (who is called the father of history), was a contemporary of the king, Artaxerxes, who issued that decree. Both Herodotus and the other famous historian of those ancient days, Thucydides, record the career and dates of this king, thus he is one ancient king whose dates are clearly and unmistakably recorded for us.
According to Nehemiah 2, the decree was issued in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes. We can pinpoint that precisely as occurring in the year 445 B.C. If you read some of the commentators you will find that they pick a different starting point. They recognize the same event, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, but they date it at 454 B.C. That is because they are following Bishop Ussher, the seventeenth-century Irish bishop who took it upon himself to insert dates into our Bible. But, like a young teenager, he had a great deal of trouble with his dates. It was he who dated creation at 4004 B.C. Bishop Ussher has been proved wrong in a number of cases, and the interesting thing is that no secular historian has ever accepted the date 454 B.C. for Artaxerxes' 20th year. The secular historians all give the date 445 B.C. That is the correct starting point of the four hundred and ninety year period. Those who use 454 B.C. as the starting point find the termination for the first 69 weeks at 29 or 30 A. D., which is sometimes regarded as the date of the crucifixion.
The angel also indicated that this 490 year period would be divided, first into two divisions, one of seven weeks, and then sixty-two weeks. Seven weeks of seven years each is forty-nine years. During that forty-nine year period the city was to be built again, "with squares and moat, but in a troubled time." History has clearly fulfilled that. The city of Jerusalem was built again. The walls were repaired and the entire city was restored once more. That carries us down to the close of the Old Testament period. Then would follow sixty-two weeks of years, which would be a period of four hundred and thirty-four years. Add this to the forty-nine years and there is a total of four hundred and eighty-three years unto the coming of one here called "an anointed one, a Prince." Now anointed one is the Hebrew word for Messiah. There are no articles in the Hebrew at all. It is not "an anointed one, a Prince," but it is simply, "Messiah, prince." [mashiach nagid] So what the angel says is, from the going forth of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem unto the coming of Messiah Prince would be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, or a total of four hundred and eighty-three years.
Now that is very precise, is it not? You do not find a more precise timetable of events anywhere in the Bible. If it began in 445 B.C., and you add to that four hundred and eighty-three years, to the exact month (because we know that the month in which the edict to rebuild Jerusalem was issued was the Hebrew month Nisan, which corresponds about to our April), then it brings us down to April, 32 A.D. It is necessary to allow for a four-year error in dating the birth of Christ (4 B.C. rather than 1 A.D.), and to use, as the ancients did, a year of 360 days rather than 365. If we work this out carefully, as certain chronologists have done, we find that the four hundred and eighty-three years (seven years short of the full four hundred and ninety), was fulfilled on the very day the Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, with the multitude of disciples bearing palm branches in their hands going before him crying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" Thus he fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy,
"Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass." (Zechariah 9:9b)
Luke tells us that on that occasion the Lord said a most significant thing. Luke says,
And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!" (Luke 19:41a)
What kind of a triumphal entry is this? "He wept over it!" And what does it mean, "Would that even today..."? Why "today"? Because that very day was the fulfillment of the four hundred and eighty-three years. Jesus went on to say,
"But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you." (Luke 19:41b-44a)
Here is our Lord's prediction of the destruction of the city, fulfilled by Titus, the Roman general, forty years later. Then he said these very significant words. All this will happen, he said,
"...because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:44b)
They should have known. Daniel had indicated very plainly, exactly to the day, when Messiah would come, but they "did not know the time of their visitation." They prided themselves on being students of Scripture. Jesus had said to them, "You search the Scriptures and think in them to find eternal life, but you don't seem to understand that they testify of me," (cf. John 5:39). Thus they missed the time of their visitation.
That brings us then to the remarkable events that follow, for, in the next section of Daniel 9, we read of what occurs after the four hundred and eighty-three years, but before the seven-year period begins. It is a very strange interlude.
"And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one [the Messiah] shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed." (Daniel 9:26)
"After the sixty-two weeks (i.e.. after the four hundred and eighty-three years), Messiah shall be cut off, and shall have nothing." The gospel accounts record that it was one literal week of seven days after the triumphal entry that the Lord Jesus was crucified on the little hill that stands outside the Damascus gate, north of the city of Jerusalem, and literally "had nothing." As John tells us in the opening words of his gospel, "He came unto his own, but his own received him not," (John 1:11 KJV). He came to offer himself as king to the nation that had learned of his coming for many centuries from the prophets, but instead of a crown he received a wreath of thorns; instead of a scepter, a broken reed was put into his hands; instead of a throne, he hung upon a bloody cross. He "had nothing" for which he came. But in that crucifixion the redemption of the nation Israel and of the whole world was accomplished. There he made an end of sin, he finished transgression and atoned for iniquity. That first part of the predicted accomplishments was fulfilled when our Lord was "cut off" on the cross, after the sixty-two weeks.
Then, Daniel was told, "the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city." That occurred in 70 A.D., forty years after our Lord's crucifixion. If the seventieth week, the final period of seven years, had followed the sixty-ninth week without a break then the whole period of four hundred and ninety years would have ended sometime in the period of the book of Acts. But there is no account in Acts to indicate when this period ended. It is very clear that there is some kind of gap between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week, a gap of indeterminate length. There is a long period during which the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Roman people. As we shall see, "the prince to come" is a reference to the Antichrist who, as we saw in Chapter 7, is a Roman, the last Caesar of the Roman world. But the city was not to be destroyed by him, but by "the people of the prince who is to come." That the Romans would destroy the city, but not the final Roman head, is very clear from this prophecy.
This, of course, is exactly what happened. Roman armies under Titus came in and surrounded the city and its end came with a flood. One of the most horrible sieges of all history is recorded for us by Josephus, the historian who was present and saw it as an eyewitness. He describes the terrible days in which Jerusalem was under siege by the Roman armies, and how starvation and famine stalked the streets of the city; people died by the hundreds and bodies were stacked up in the streets like cord wood. Mothers ate their own children in order to survive. But finally the city was overthrown. The walls were breached and the Romans entering in were so angered by the stubborn resistance of the Jews that they disobeyed the orders of their general and burned the temple, melting the gold and silver so that it ran down between the cracks of the stones. In order to get at the metal they pried the stones apart with bars and thus fulfilled our Lord's prediction that not one stone would be left standing upon another.
All this is history and it all happened during a time gap in the seventy weeks. The seventieth week has not even yet come. The gap has covered over 1900 years. This is not new teaching. There are some who would say that Dr. Scofield originated this and put it in his reference Bible and all of us have been following him ever since. But Dr. Scofield did not originate this teaching. It was held by some of the earliest church fathers. For instance, at about the beginning of the third century Hippolytus, speaking of this very prophecy said. "By 'one week' he meant the last week which is to be at the end of the whole world." So it is very clear that there is to be a gap in time of indeterminate length. That brings us to the last week.
"And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." (Daniel 9:27)
Who is this strange individual referred to as he? "He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week." He must have already been referred to in this prophecy or the angel would not have simply used a pronoun to identify him. The nearest antecedent and the only one which matches grammatically, is the reference to "the prince that shall come." "He shall make a strong covenant with many [this refers to the nation Israel, the mass of the Jews] for one week", i.e., for seven years. In the midst of that seven-year period, after three and a half years have run its course, "he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease", and set up what is called here "the abomination which makes desolate." That is what Jesus meant when he said, "When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place...[then don't wait; get out of Jerusalem as fast as you can] for there will be a time of trouble such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never shall be." (cf. Matt 24:15-21)
This clearly indicates that this last week of Daniel's prophecy lies yet unfulfilled. We can expect to see the rise of a Western confederacy of nations, which may even be taking shape today, and which will ultimately be dominated by this strange individual who has appeared in these prophetic sections. He will make an agreement with the Jews as a nation, possibly to allow the construction of a temple once again. This is why the whole Christian world is watching Israel constantly and hanging on every rumor concerning the building of a temple again on the ancient site. There must be a temple in the days when these final events occur.
"He shall make a covenant with many," evidently refers to an agreement to allow the restoration of Jewish worship in Jerusalem. In the midst of the week, after three and a half years, "he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease," and, as we have learned from previous prophecies, shall set up an image in the temple, an image of himself, the Roman ruler, to be worshiped as God. This is what Jesus called "the abomination of desolation." This shall go on "until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." We know what that end is. Both John, in Revelation, and Paul, in Second Thessalonians, have told us his end will be at the appearance again of Jesus Christ. Zechariah says, "On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives" (Zechariah 14:4), the very Mount from which He left the earth. He will wreak vengeance upon the nations assembled against Jerusalem and especially against this blasphemous individual who has come into control of the world.
This all fits in very closely with other prophetic portions. We do not have any doubts about its general thrust. The passage is so tremendously significant because it already has been partly fulfilled in precise accuracy concerning the first coming of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, we can rest assured that the rest of it will be as fully and accurately fulfilled as the first part was. This is a helpful passage to use with those who deny the supernatural element in the Scriptures.
But, someone may ask, how do you explain this long gap? Why does this great parenthesis of time come between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week? The only explanation seems to be that there is a note of contingency about God's predicted events. God says that something is going to happen, and the ultimate fulfillment of it is sure, but the time of its fulfillment relates to the behavior of those concerned and their reaction to the prophecy.
You have this clearly set forth in the book of Jonah. Jonah went to Nineveh and prophesied, "Yet forty days and the city will be overthrown," (Jonah 3:4). But the people of Nineveh repented. They stopped dead in their tracks, and from the king down to the humblest citizen they put on sackcloth and ashes, stopped all the business of the city, and repented before God of their wickedness. The result was, forty days went by and nothing happened. God delayed, postponed, the fulfillment. As you know, Jonah was unhappy about that. He did not like God's postponement, but God showed him that his own heart was hard and callous.
All this confirms what we have here. There is a strange element of contingency in prophecy. Perhaps a word of Peter's from the third chapter of Acts will help us here. Remember that after the day of Pentecost, Peter was preaching to the people in connection with the healing of a lame man at the temple gate. He said a very unusual and strange thing to them, as recorded in Acts 3:17:
"And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and then he may send the Christ [Messiah] appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old." (Acts 3:17-21)
This is the reason why the gospel historically was preached to the Jew first and then to the Greek, as recorded in several places in the epistles of Paul. It had to go to the Jew first, after the day of Pentecost, in order that these people be given an opportunity to repent. Had they done so, this whole prophetic scheme of the full seventy weeks would have been fulfilled in that day, and long, long ago earth would have moved into the millennium. We would be beyond it now for a thousand years would have been over by now. But God's program in time hangs upon human reaction.
This is very important to see, for once again we are facing the likely fulfillment of these things. What will happen? Is it all going to be fulfilled in our day? Who can say for sure? We can never say, "Yes, this is the final fulfillment; these events are moving surely and unmistakably to the end." Perhaps not. Enough people may take this seriously and change their lives to set themselves in tune with God's program and stop living for themselves to such a degree that God will change his schedule, hold off the end for awhile, and let us go on. Sometime, of course, the end will come. It will be marked, as Jesus indicated, by a failure of people to take warnings seriously. He said once to his disciples, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Will he find people who believe God, and act accordingly? Who can say what these days are going to bring. It may be that the present turning away, the present refusal to take these warning events seriously is of sufficient intensity to precipitate the final end. Who knows? Only God!
When Israel turned away from God and refused the offer of the Savior, God's countdown stopped. It is like the launching of rockets today, with which we are so familiar. There is a final countdown, but at any moment something can go wrong and delay the countdown and it is not resumed till the trouble is corrected. God has been counting ever since the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, counting away year after year. Four hundred and eighty-three years ran their course, and then the Savior came. It was almost the end. Seven more years were to follow, but something happened and the countdown has been delayed. It will be resumed again when there is a temple in Jerusalem and an agreement between Israel and the Western ruler.
What does this do to you? It says to me that it is time to take seriously the days in which we live. It does not make any difference whether we are in the last days or not, we are responsible to act according to the Word of God, and to understand that God's program is going to run its course exactly as predicted. Our relationship to it will be determined by how seriously we identify ourselves with what God is doing in our day and give ourselves to the advancement of his work, not ours. (God's Countdown by Ray C. Stedman, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/daniel/0366.html)
Ray Stedman on Chapter 10: In the tenth chapter of the book of Daniel we turn from prophecy to a study on prayer. Some may feel a bit let down by that, for prophecy is very exciting. There are many today who are furiously reading Jeanne Dixon and Edgar Cayce and other modern "prophets" to see if California is really going to slide off into the ocean this month. Some of you are hoping it happens before the fifteenth, when you have to pay your income tax! But in many people's minds, compared with prophecy, prayer is rather dull and prosaic -- unless, of course, California does begin to slide! Then we will find great interest in prayer meetings. In the tenth chapter of Daniel, Daniel calls a prayer meeting. And he calls it for the same reason that we call prayer meetings -- because he is in trouble. This what he says:
In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. (Daniel 10:2-3)
That sounds almost like he was observing Lent. He had given up all delicacies, all special desserts, low calorie, as well as any other kind. He had not eaten any meat for three weeks, or had drunk no wine. He had not even taken a bath for three weeks, as is suggested by the words, "nor did I anoint myself at all." Why did he do this? It was because he was troubled. We give up things because we want to win favor with God (we think). We celebrate Lent because we think it gives us additional stature in God's sight. Even then we tend to give up things we are not doing anyhow, such as wearing overshoes in bed, or eating catsup on ice cream. Many years ago I gave up giving things for Lent and so have had no trouble with it since. But the prophet Daniel gave up things because he was deeply troubled and wanted to show to others the depth of his concern. He stopped eating the foods that he would normally eat in order to give himself to prayer and partial fasting through a three weeks' period. He tells us what he was troubled about in the opening verse of the chapter.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. (Daniel 10:1)
The date in this first verse is very significant. This word or vision came to Daniel in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia. That meant it came right at the time the prophet Jeremiah had predicted when the seventy years during which the people of Israel would be held captive was up. The seventy years had been concluded at this time, and yet nothing was happening. The people of Israel were showing no signs of leaving Babylon. When they were in Palestine they had been an agricultural people; they kept herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. But when they were captured and taken to Babylon, they could no longer do that so they turned from a nation of sheep keepers to a nation of shopkeepers. They had founded Macy's, Gimbel's, and the Emporium of Babylon and they were making so much money that many of them did not have any intention of going back to Palestine. But Daniel knew that it was God's program for his people to return and that they could never find any blessing or fulfillment of the great promises God had made this nation unless they returned to Palestine.
So Daniel was greatly concerned about this. He gathered some of his friends together, as we will see later on in the chapter, and called a prayer meeting in order to lay hold of God to stir up his people to return to the land of Palestine. Doubtless they came together with long faces and deep concern to pray together. But as they were praying an amazing thing happened. Daniel says,
On the twenty-fourth day of the first month as I was standing on the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with gold of Uphaz. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the noise of a multitude. (Daniel 10:4-6)
What do you think would happen at your prayer meeting if something like that happened? It would really turn the place on, wouldn't it? That must have happened also to Daniel and his friends. Here they were praying together in a rather dull prayer meeting by the river, but suddenly there stood in their midst this amazing figure whose appearance was as Daniel describes it here. Who can this be?
It immediately makes one think of the experience John the Apostle had on the isle of Patmos which he tells us of in the opening words of the book of Revelation. Let me read them to you and you can see how similar his experience was. John says,
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like the son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:12-16)
To Daniel, alongside the Tigris river and to John on the island of Patmos, many centuries later, as they were praying, the curtain dropped that separated them from the invisible spiritual kingdom and they were able to see the very One to whom they had been speaking in prayer. Now that Person was there all the time -- it was not that he suddenly appeared -- but Daniel and his friends could not see him until the curtain suddenly dropped and their eyes were opened. They then saw the invisible world of spiritual beings around them and especially this great figure whose eyes were like flaming torches and whose face shone like the sun in its strength. Actually, if we can equate this figure as one whom Daniel and John both saw, it was the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to them in this marvelous way, unveiling the glory and majesty of his being.
There is a similar story in Second Kings, Chapter 6, concerning Elisha the prophet. Elisha and his servant were in the little city of Dothan in Palestine, and the king of Syria was angry with Elisha. He sent down a great army by night, when Elisha was asleep, and surrounded the city. In the morning when the servant of Elisha woke and saw the armies of the Syrians all around the city, he came running in to his master and cried, "Elisha! Elisha! Look out there!" Elisha saw the armies of the Syrians surrounding the city. The servant cried, "What will we do? What will we do?" Elisha said, "Don't worry. Those who are with us are far more than those who are with them." The servant said, "What do you mean? There's no one here with us. We're all alone in the city." Then Elisha prayed, "Lord, open this young man's eyes." And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw that the mountains were full of horses and chariots of fire. Then he realized what Elisha meant when he said, "They who are with us are more than they who are with them," (2 Kings 6:15-17). This is what the New Testament means when it says, "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world," (1 John 4:4). There are greater forces on behalf of those who know God and are servants of his, than there are against us. What had happened to Daniel was simply that the curtain had dropped and he saw the One to whom prayer was being addressed.
In the next two verses there is recorded something very similar to the experience of the Apostle Paul. Daniel says,
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me; my radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. (Daniel 10:7-8)
Remember that Saul of Tarsus, before he became the Apostle Paul, was a violent persecutor of the church. He was on his way to Damascus to bring the Christians of that city to Jerusalem to stand trial for their faith in Jesus. Suddenly there was a light brighter than the sun that shone around him and he saw the Lord Jesus. He fell to the ground just as Daniel did. The men who were with him did not see the Person of Jesus but heard only the sound of his voice speaking to the apostle Paul. Paul reacted the same way as Daniel. He was overwhelmed, he fell to the ground, and had no strength left in him. Of course, there are some who try to explain what Paul experienced as nothing but an epileptic fit. When that was reported to the great English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, he said, "O, blessed epilepsy! Would that every man in London could have epilepsy like that!"
So it was also with Daniel. He was overwhelmed by what he saw and by the greatness of the One whom he saw. He couldn't believe that suddenly he was in touch with the mighty One who was behind the ministry of prayer. Verse 9 adds another note:
Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in a deep sleep with my face to the ground. (Daniel 10:9)
Does that sound like a church service? Many seem to say, "When I heard the sound of his words I promptly went to sleep." But this is not a church service; it is a prelude to revelation. The prophet Daniel is being prepared to learn something remarkable from this majestic being. He has already seen the majesty of Jesus Christ; now he is to be taught something of the mystery of prayer.
And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on hands and knees. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved. give heed to the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you." While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and l have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come." (Daniel 10:10-14)
A second being now appears, an angel sent to help Daniel. It does not seem likely that it is the same person he first saw, the man clothed in linen with eyes like flaming torches. The rest of the vision indicates that this is an angel sent from this great Person to help Daniel. He touches Daniel and helps him to his feet. Daniel stood up, trembling and shaking, and then the angel begins to reveal to him certain things about prayer. Surely all this is given to us in order that we might learn what takes place behind the scenes when we pray. The same great Being is there, and the helping angels are there too. The New Testament tells us that angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation," (Hebrews 1:14). They are at God's beck and call, to run his errands, do his work and to carry out his will on earth.
We heard today about a young soldier whose life was saved when a bullet was stopped by the New Testament in his pocket, the bullet stopping right at the 91st Psalm. What made that happen? Surely it was not an accident; it was an angel. The ministry of angels is continually occurring, though we are not aware of what is happening. What we think are ordinary coincidences are oftentimes the result of the ministry of angels. Daniel now has his eyes opened so that he can see what lies behind prayer. This angel comes to help him and to show him two great things.
The first thing is revealed in the words, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard." When Daniel began to pray the answer was sent immediately. This is the first thing Daniel is taught about prayer. Answers are absolutely sure when we pray. The angel said, in effect, "Daniel, the very moment that you people began to pray, three weeks ago, God heard you. The answer was on its way the minute you began to ask." Of course, Daniel was asking on the basis of the will of God. Prayer is not a way by which we get God to do what we want; prayer is a way by which we get involved in what God wants. Prayer is a way by which we become caught up in the exciting activity of God, doing what he plans to do in this world. As we pray about it we become involved in the whole exciting program. God works through us to ask for what he wants.
That is what Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount. He says we do not need to persuade God, to set up a picket line around him to force him to give in to us. Prayer is not a protest demonstration before God. We do not need to harass him, harangue him, or twist his arm and besiege him with a flood of words until he gives in. No, Jesus says that is the way the pagans pray, using vain repetition. But your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Therefore prayer is not to tell God what he ought to do. We need to understand that. Prayer, rather, is to involve us with what God wants to do. He desires to have us involved. He wants us to ask him to do what he says he will do and he oftentimes will not do it at all unless we ask him. That is why James says, "You have not because you ask not," (cf. Jas 4:2). If you would ask, God would do what he promises to do.
But now Daniel is told that answers are immediate and sure when you pray on that basis. Jesus said this also. He said, "Ask -- seek -- knock." These are three forms of prayer. Ask: simply ask him. Seek: that involves some investigation, a little study, some trying to understand what God is doing. Knock: that involves repetition, coming back again and again.
So there are three kinds of circumstances which require different types of prayer. We are to ask for some things, such as the things we need for personal strength: wisdom, love. power, grace -- all these things. James said, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not, and it shall be given him," (James 1:5). But ask, seek, and knock -- all have the same guarantee: "ask...and it shall be given; seek...and you shall find; knock...and it will be opened unto you." "For," says Jesus, "to every one that asks shall be given. And every one who seeks shall find. And to every one who knocks, it shall be opened," (Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 11:9-10). The answers are absolutely sure when prayer is made on the basis of what God has said he will do. This is what the angel made clear to Daniel. "The minute you began to pray," he said, "the answer was given."
But he goes on to show that delays are possible. Although the answer from God was sent immediately, it did not arrive for three weeks. Why not? What held it back? The angel says, "The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days." He is revealing that there are not only great and good angels of God ready to help us, but there are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, that are ready to oppose what God is doing. In some remarkable way they relate to the nations of earth. Surely this is one of the most amazing passages of the Bible, for it helps us understand what is going on as reported in our daily newspapers.
Why are we going through such a worldwide outbreak of riot, violence, demonstration and unrest? It is not simply because students are not taught certain things in school, or that they are different from those in previous generations. Such explanations that are being offered today are most superficial. They do not get at the heart of the matter. The explanation is right here: Men are not the final issue; their actions are not the final explanation of what goes on. Behind men are invisible powers at work, controlling the minds and thoughts of men. That is why things happen in the world the way they do. Remember that Paul warns us in Ephesians 6 that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, i.e., people are not our problem. We think they are. We always seek certain people that we can blame. The students blame the faculty; the faculty blame the students. The administration blames both. The government blames the people; the people blame the government. Capitalists blame labor; labor blames capitalists. Parents blame their children; children blame their parents. Everyone blames everyone else, and no one ever says, "It's me; I'm the one that's wrong." That is the problem in the world.
Paul says we are quite wrong when we say it is people who are the trouble: "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, wicked spirits in high places, the rulers of the darkness of this world," (Ephesians 6:12). That is what the angel is telling Daniel. He says that behind the affairs of earth is an invisible hierarchy of evil. They are assigned various countries to be under their control. Thus the evil angel who had authority over the kingdom of Persia came and withstood the angel who had been sent to Daniel, and held him back for twenty-one days. We do not know how he did it, but the angel said that Michael, the chief prince (the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of heaven), came to help him and with his added power the answer was brought through to Daniel who knew nothing of what was going on behind the scenes.
Undoubtedly there is today an evil angel assigned to the United States to stir up all kinds of trouble. Doubtless he's been promoted lately! There is one also assigned to Soviet Russia, and to Red China, and to all the other countries of the world. These evil angels somehow relate to the countries of earth. That is the revelation Daniel was shown. There are also angels who are ministers of good, of justice and truth, and they are in conflict, the one with the other.
Thus, delays can occur in prayer. The next time you have a prayer which is not answered as quickly as you think it ought to be, remember that you are engaged in a conflict. There can come delays, but no delay can ever throw God's schedule off. God is never too late. Never! He can always muster whatever force it takes to break through, and he will do so as long as faith remains. That is why prayer is so vitally important. It is for this reason that the New Testament tells us to pray for those in authority and power, in order, it says, that we might lead peaceable and godly lives, (1 Peter 2:1-2). If you really believe in prayer, and believe what the Bible tells us about the other side of prayer, then you will express it by praying a great deal more. This is the philosophy behind our church prayer meetings. We will look at the third lesson Daniel was taught by this angel, in Verses 15-17:
When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was dumb. And behold, one in the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, "O my Lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me." (Daniel 10:15-17)
This vision had a terrible physical effect upon Daniel. The prayer, the mourning, the fasting, the waiting for three weeks, all this had taken its toll of him. This tremendous vision, so emotionally gripping and overpowering, had simply drained away all his physical strength. It reminds us that prayer can often be a very costly thing. It is hard work at times, spiritually costly. It is not always easy. Sometimes it is agony to pray.
There is a verse in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians that has always encouraged me. He writes, "Death is at work in us, but life in you," (2 Corinthians 4:12). That is another commentary on prayer. It declares that it is possible for you to go through agony on my behalf. I don't feel the agony but you do, yet I get the blessing of it. You parents can do that for your children. When you see them getting into trouble, and there is no way, seemingly, to stop them; when they are blind or deaf to what you say, and you see something they do not see, you can strive for them in prayer; you can agonize on their behalf. Death can be at work in you, but God will work life in them. Is that not encouraging? And you children can do the same thing for your parents. When they get stubborn and hardhearted, not understanding the situation and fouling up the whole matter (as they can at times) and you cannot say anything to them, you can pray for them. Death can be at work in you, but life in them. That is what the word declares. What a tremendous thing this is, to enter into spiritual combat, this really vital fight of faith, in order to accomplish what would never be done otherwise! But prayer is not all weakness and mystery. There is a ministry to us in it as well. The last scene of this chapter sets it before us:
Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage." And when he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me." (Daniel 10:18)
After the angel's second touch Daniel was greatly strengthened. And we are told exactly how. The angel said to him, "Fear not," i.e., all reason for fear has been removed. Then he gave three factors in that, "peace be with you: be strong and of good courage." That is what prayer does for us. Every time we come to the Lord in prayer it brings peace to the soul, strength to the body, and courage to the spirit. The whole man is ministered to.
Paul says that to the Philippians, "Be anxious about nothing [don't be afraid], but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ," (Philippians 4:6-7). Peace! That wonderful sense that everything is all right, even though nothing has changed. You have peace in your heart, as Daniel had. That also means strength to the body. When the heart is at peace the body is strengthened. And that, in turn, gives courage to the will, to the spirit. You are ready to take up the battle again. That is what prayer does.
There is also another purpose, says the angel to Daniel. "Then he (the angel) said. 'Do you know why I have come to you?'" That is encouragement to Daniel to think a bit. Then the angel goes on to answer his own question.
"But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I am through with him, lo, the prince of Greece will come." (Daniel 10:20)
The implication is, "I've got a lot more fighting to do, Daniel, and I have come to strengthen you that you might fight with me. I'm going back and fight with the prince of Persia, the invisible angel behind the scenes of Persian affairs. And when I am through with him, then the prince of Greece will come. But I have strengthened you, Daniel, that you might stand with me in all this." The second thing that prayer did for Daniel is found in Verse 21:
"But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth:" (Daniel 10:21a)
That is the introduction to chapters eleven and twelve of this book, the greatest vision Daniel was ever given. It is a marvelous unfolding of many of the events that are to come in history, from Daniel's day to the first appearance of the Lord Jesus, and then there is a great leap to the time of the end -- when, in a very vivid passage, Daniel is told what will happen at the end of this age, just before Jesus Christ returns again. We have not even yet come to those days. Daniel's eyes were opened and he was helped to see what is written in the book of truth and to understand it.
What a wonderful promise it is to be told what is inscribed in the book of truth! Jesus said, "When the Holy Spirit is come, he will guide you into all the truth. He will take of the things of mine and reveal them unto you," (cf. John 167:13-14). That is the only way we can know what is going to happen. It is to take: the book that God has given to us, the book that understands us, the book that knows how we think and how we act and what is going on in our thoughts, and ask the Spirit to show us what is in it.
We need to learn from it, how to control and govern the passions that spring up within, how to lay hold of the mighty power that God has made available to us, so that we can know where to get strength to handle these passions, to cope with them and live honestly, openly, powerfully, sweetly and joyfully in the midst of a decaying age.
That is all made available to us as we understand the program of God and the power of prayer. (The Other Side of Prayer, by Ray C. Stedman, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/daniel/0367.html).
* Notes on the prayer of Daniel, Daniel 9:1-23, by Ray Stedman:
"continuing our series on prayer from the Old Testament, let us turn to a passage which deals with the prophet Daniel himself, and what God revealed to him. This section is tied in with a great prophetic passage, but it comes in answer to a marvelous prayer that Daniel prayed. At this time, Daniel was an old man, nearing ninety years of age. He had served through many changes of dynasty in the kingdom of Babylon, having been the virtual prime minister of the kingdom under three successive kings. His great career behind him, he is looking back over his lifetime now. As the account tells us in the opening verses, he is reading the Scriptures to find out what God is going to do. Daniel 9:1-3:
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans -- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years which according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:1-3)
Daniel tells us that he prayed this prayer in the first year of King Darius, the general who had captured the city of Babylon. Darius was a Mede who served under the Emperor Cyrus the Great. So in the first year of the reign of Darius as king over the province of Babylon, Daniel made this discovery in the Scriptures.
Most scholars date this time around the year 537 B. C. According to the chronology of the Scriptures, in 605 B. C., almost seventy years earlier, King Nebuchadnezzar had led a great army against the Egyptians in a crisis battle of history, the Battle of Carchemish, fought along the shores of the Euphrates River. There the Egyptians were toppled from their place as one of the greatest military powers of the day. Nebuchadnezzar then went on to capture Jerusalem in that same year, taking captive certain royal princes of the house of Israel, among them Daniel and three of his friends, who are known to us by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. All that took place almost seventy years before this. Now, Daniel was reading from the book of Jeremiah the prophet, and he came across these words in the 29th chapter.
"For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:10-11)
Those words must have encouraged Daniel, for he realized that the time was right at hand. Almost seventy years had gone by, yet there was no sign that the Israelites in Babylon were at all interested in returning to Israel. They were treated with great respect by the Babylonians, who allowed them a great deal of freedom. In fact, we know from other accounts that they had settled down and had started businesses. They had been sheep-keepers in the land of Israel, but they became shop-keepers in Babylon. Some of them had gone into business -- Macy's, Gimbel's, the Emporium and various other great stores were already profiting from this time! -- so these people were not at all interested in going back to the desolations and ruins of Jerusalem. For this reason, Daniel and some of his companions fasted and covered themselves with sackcloth, in the Hebrew manner of expressing their mourning, and began to pray. Now we sometimes miss the fact that God had told them to do this very thing. If you read on in the prophecy of Jeremiah, the very next verses tell us:
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." (Jeremiah 29:12-14)
That is a very helpful note for us in our own prayer life, for though God announces what he is going to do, he also indicates very clearly that one way he is going to bring it about is through prayer; that as his people begin to pray, he will accomplish what he has announced he is going to do.
I find that many people are very confused at this point. They read in their Bibles what God has said he is going to do, and say to themselves, "Well, God is going to do it. There is nothing for me to do, so I'll just sit and watch it happen." Then when nothing happens they think that God must be faithless to his promise. But God is not faithless to his promise; rather, it is because man has not responded to the part God gives him. One of the things we have been learning in this series is that prayer is God's way of involving us in the program he sets out to do.
We must get rid of the notion that prayer is a way God has given us of making him work for us. Most of us think of prayer that way. We feel we have needs, we have something we want done -- something we find to be beyond our ability to handle with our own manipulative practices -- so we rely on the promises of God. We come before him and say, "You said you would do 'whatever I ask,' now, this is what I want you to do." In that approach we are really saying that God is a kind of heavenly bellboy; that when we push the prayer button he is to show up and take orders for what we want him to do. But that is to totally misunderstand the nature and purpose of prayer. No, prayer is God's way of involving us in what he intends to do.
Prayer is so important in his sight that he tells us he will delay doing what he said he would do until we start responding in prayer, or he will pass us by and raise up somebody else to pray. In the book of James we read, "You do not have, because you do not ask," (James 4:2b). James goes on to say that even when you ask you do not ask rightly, because you just want your own needs satisfied. But here we are reminded that prayer is part of God's program.
Now that is true about the promises of the end days as well. We are to pray that God will bless Israel and open their eyes in the land, and pray that God's purposes will be fulfilled in the kingdoms of the earth. As believers, we have a part in all of God's program. When Daniel read this in the book of Jeremiah, therefore, he obeyed what God said, and began with all his heart to seek God's face in this great prayer. This is one of the finest prayers recorded in Scripture. Let us see how Daniel began. The first thing he did -- and this is always the right thing to do in prayer -- is to take a look at the God to whom he was praying. Listen to these words in Verse 4:
I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, "O Lord, the great and terrible God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments," (Daniel 9:4)
Do not begin with yourself or your problems. Jesus taught us that the way to pray is to begin with God: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name," (Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2). Daniel begins by focusing upon the nature and character of God, and he sees two things:
First, God is a great and terrible God. Those words sound frightening to us because we do not think of God in that way oftentimes. But Daniel has learned something of the awesome majesty of God, of his might, his wisdom and his sovereign power over all the nations of the earth. If you want your view of God enlightened in this regard, I suggest you read the prophecies of Isaiah. There you will see what an awesome Being God is. This too is Daniel's glimpse of him. But notice very carefully that Daniel links this with the gracious compassion and love of God. He sees God as both a Being of awesome majesty, and a Being of infinite, tender love and compassion. That is what God is like, but many of us fall off on one side or the other.
Some of us see God as a Being of such great majesty and power that we seem like grasshoppers in his sight, and that he could hardly be expected to have any interest in our affairs. There are people who pray with that mentality: "O, thou great and dreadful God who sits upon the rim of the universe," they say. You wonder if they are ever going to get around to calling him Father and asking him for something. But, on the other hand, we can get palsy-walsy with God. I remember a movie star a few years ago who said, "God is a livin' doll." God is not that. He is a tender, compassionate Father with a great Father's heart and a Father's love for us, and we must see him that way. But both of these glimpses of God are true. How marvelously Daniel combines these two -- the greatness of God, and the tender mercies of God -- in a true vision of God.
Now there are three elements I want to call attention to in this prayer: First, and most evident, is Daniel's confession of sin. Daniel begins immediately to confess sin. But the remarkable thing is that this man, according to the record, has no sin charged against him. Never once in Scripture are we told that Daniel did anything wrong. Now, I am sure he did wrong things. Certainly, sin must have appeared in his life, because Scripture tells us that no man is without sin, but the record does not give us any account of it. Yet, listen to how Daniel identifies with the sin of his people. Verse 5:
"...we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments and ordinances;" (Daniel 9:6)
Listed there are five different descriptions of wrongdoing: we have sinned; we have done wrong; we have acted wickedly; we have rebelled; we have turned aside from thy commandments and thy ordinances. Furthermore, Verse 6:
"...we have not listened to thy servants the prophets," (Daniel 9:6a)
That is, turning away from the Word of God. Remember how many times Jesus said to the crowds he addressed, "He that has ears to hear, let him hear." Daniel admits, we have not listened to thy servants the prophets,
"...who spoke in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land." (Daniel 9:6b)
Then, in Verse 13, he says:
"...we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God..." (Daniel 9:13b)
So in these specific ways Daniel confesses his own sin and the sin of his people: We have sinned; we have not listened; we have rebelled and not obeyed; we have not entreated the favor of our Lord.
Now this is pointing up something that is often missing from our own prayers. How many times do we include in them a heartfelt, honest confession of sin? There is, perhaps, nothing harder for us to do than to admit we were wrong. All of us, by nature, are like those people in the book of Judges, of whom it says, "Every one did what was right in his own eyes," (Judges 17:6, 21:25). When you look at yourself you always seem right, don't you? But only when you have a standard to compare with can you begin to see yourself.
I am convinced this is why God allows us to suffer from bad breath: it is his graphic way of teaching us that there is something about us, which we cannot see or detect ourselves, which is very unpleasant and very difficult to live with. Isn't it amazing that when you have bad breath you have no idea about it until, perhaps, people start avoiding you? At the dentist's the other day I began to feel sorry for the man, because he has to look right down into the mouths of so many people whose breath is very difficult to handle. And isn't it amazing too how difficult it is to tell somebody about it? We hardly dare mention it to our closest friends. If somebody tells us we have it, we feel devastated, humiliated. This is a graphic picture of this whole problem of defensiveness and unwillingness to see something wrong about ourselves.
Now that is why it is difficult to confess sin, yet to do so is an honest and realistic thing. God does not ask us to confess our sins because he is trying to humiliate us or punish us or put us down. Rather, he asks us to do so because we kid ourselves, we are dishonest about ourselves, we are unrealistic about our own lives, and he is an ultimate realist. God always deals with things exactly the way they really are, and he says there is no way we can be helped unless we begin to do the same thing. He asks us, therefore, to start by acknowledging the areas where we have done wrong.
That is why we have the Scriptures. God's Word is like a mirror. Many of us, however, tend to ignore the Scriptures because we know this is true. If you look into the Word of God, into the mirror of the Word, pretty soon you see exactly what you look like, and it is not always pleasant. Other people too are given to us for that reason. Since we cannot see ourselves the way we are, God graciously puts somebody into our life to help us see ourselves. We can help them in the same way also. That is the whole glory of relationships.
This is why it is so foolish to resist what others are saying to you. If one person says something unpleasant to you, you may be able to dismiss that as coming from a twisted point of view, and you may be right. But, when a half dozen people tell you the same thing, you had better start listening, because they are telling you something that is true that you cannot see. Until you begin to see yourself realistically, you are living in a fantasy world, messing up everything you touch, because you do not see reality, you do not see what is really there. The most helpful thing we can do in our prayer life, therefore, is to take a moment at the beginning of our prayer to face what the Word of God tells us is wrong in our lives -- our lovelessness, our sharpness, our caustic attitudes, our tendency to defend ourselves and put down others. This is where Daniel begins. All this is summed up in one great word found many times in Scripture, the word, "repent." When we repent we begin to set things right in our life; we begin to deal honestly with ourselves and with others. But we have difficulty doing this at times because of the way we feel about God.
Daniel strikes another important note in his prayer, where he goes on in the midst of his confession to acknowledge something more about God. Verse 7:
"To thee, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us confusion of face, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those that are near and those that are far away, in all the lands to which thou hast driven them, because of the treachery which they have committed against thee." (Daniel 9:7)
This is an acknowledgment that God is right in what he has done. We human beings, Daniel says, have been wrong. The sign of it is that we are "confused." Actually, the word means, "frustrated" -- nothing goes right in our life, we make plans and they fall apart, we are constantly finding ourselves frustrated. Those are always signs that we have a wrong perspective on life, that we are not seeing things clearly, that our vision has been blinded and confounded by wrong attitudes about ourselves. The result is "confusion of face," and Daniel acknowledges that.
Furthermore, some of the predicted calamities that the Word of God said would happen to Israel if they turned away from him had befallen them. The Bible says things like this to us too. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we are to agree with our adversary quickly while we are in the way with him lest we be delivered unto the "tormentors" (that is the word he uses), and we shall not come out until we have paid every penny (cf. Matt 5:25-26). This word, "tormentors," refers to a sense of guilt, confusion and frustration. Jesus is saying that unless we face up to the rightful accusations about our conduct and our behavior we will be given over to inner tormentors which will take away our peace of mind and steal away our sleep at night; we will be bothered by neuroses, psychoses and various neurotic manifestations; we will have butterflies in our stomach and we will develop ulcers. We will have all these "tormentors" because we are not dealing with life realistically. But notice what Daniel says about God: "To thee, O Lord, belongs righteousness." Again, in Verse 14, he says,
"Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which he has done," (Daniel 9:14a)
One of the major hindrances to prayer is that most of us are angry at God. We do not like what God has done to us; we think we have been treated unfairly. How many of us have caught ourselves in one way or another saying, "Lord, why are you doing this to me? Why are you treating me like this? What have I done to deserve this kind of thing?" All of that is a subtle way of blaming God, of saying he is not righteous. This is the one thing we must never say to God. God cannot be unrighteous, he cannot lie, he cannot cheat us, he cannot be unfair to us, he cannot be unloving to us. His very nature is love. Therefore, what he does is loving, and what he gives us also is loving.
Remember that this prayer was uttered by a man who was once a prince of the royal house of Israel. Daniel must have had plans, dreams, and schemes for what he would like to be when he came into his inheritance. But all of these plans were rudely interrupted by an invasion of a foreign army. He was taken captive and carried off to Babylon. There, in a strange country, with all his plans shattered in pieces at his feet, Daniel began to learn to walk as a righteous man in the midst of an ungodly people. He had to watch his three friends thrown into a fiery furnace because they stood up for the truth in the midst of great pressure. When he was prime minister of the kingdom, Daniel himself was trapped by some of his enemies and thrown into a den of lions. All these were circumstances in which we think it must have occurred to Daniel, "Where is God? Why does he allow these things to happen to me?" and said, as we often say, "It isn't fair. I've been faithful to God and kept his Word, yet he allows this to happen to me." Have you ever said things like that?
But Daniel has learned that God never does anything wrong. It is we who have to adjust to him. What God is doing is coming to us from a heart of love and wisdom, never anger and hatred toward us. What a tremendous lesson in prayer this is! It is easy to confess your sin to a God whom you recognize to be righteous, not to murmur, complain and argue that God has cheated you or deprived you of some rightful blessing in life. Daniel is now ready to ask God to act, so he comes to his supplications. Verse 15:
"And now, O Lord our God, who didst bring thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast made thee a name, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all thy righteous acts, let thy anger and thy wrath turn away from thy city Jerusalem..." (Daniel 9:15-16a)
Here Daniel comes to the point. He is saying, in effect. "Lord, lift the curse from Jerusalem. Let that city be restored according to your promise made to Jeremiah that after seventy years you would do it. Now Lord, stir people up. Bring this about. Move them back and lift the curse on this great city." Then Daniel goes further. Verse 17:
"Now therefore, O our God, hearken to the prayer of thy servant and to his supplications, and for thy own sake, O Lord [Not for my sake, Daniel says. but your sake, Lord] cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary, which is desolate." (Daniel 9:17)
Daniel's prayer was specifically for the restoration of the city and the temple, the sanctuary. Now notice how bold Daniel becomes as he closes his prayer. Verse 19:
"O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, give heed and act; delay not, for thy own sake, O my God, because thy city and thy people are called by thy name." (Daniel 9:19)
Once we get our own lives straight before the Lord, when we take our proper place before the God of all the earth, then, as the Scripture says, "when we humble ourselves before the mighty name of God, we shall be exalted." That is the promise. God begins to work there. We can come with boldness to ask him to do the great things that are required. Let us very quickly look at the results. Verse 20:
"While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God; while I was speaking in prayer [he did not even get through with the prayer] the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and he said to me, "O Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth [at the very beginning of your prayer], and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision." (Daniel 9:20-23)
Then there follows what is perhaps the most important prophecy in all the Bible. It is called the prophecy of the seventy weeks of years, that is, 490 years that were going to be marked out for the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel. These years stretch from the time of the beginning of the building of the walls of Jerusalem until the time of Jesus, then take a great leap (as almost all Bible scholars agree) to a final period of seven years when the Lord would ultimately return and establish his people and his city in the land. (Prayer's Humility, by Ray Stedman, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/otpray/3742.html).
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel, by Noah Hutchings, http://www.ldolphin.org/70weeks.html
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel, by Thomas Ice, http://www.ldolphin.org/70weeks/
Audio series on the Seventy Weeks by Chuck Missler, http://www.khouse.org/6640/prophetic/BP006.html
Class notes and mp3 audio on Lambert's web site: http://ldolphin.org/daniel/
June 13, 2004. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is the text used in the Stedman messages.