Devotional Reading: James 5:13-18
Lesson Scripture: Daniel 9:4-19
Lesson Aims: To summarize the components of Daniel’s prayer; own up to your sins individually and collectively; pray with a humble heart; and always trust God to forgive.
Background: Babylon’s conquest of Judah was in three attacks. Each time they invaded, they took captives from the upper classes. The deportations were in 605, 597 and 586 BC. All told, there were approximately “70,000 displaced Jews” (Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook). The captivity was God’s judgment due to their disobedience.
The punishment, however, was not cruel. Richards’ Handbook suggested that the Jews became a part of the third class, the Mushkenu, who were freemen in that lower class. Some of them thought that rebellion was the answer while others simply lost hope because their God lost to the pagan gods. The captives couldn’t understand how this happened. Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge,” is one of the most upright personalities in the Old Testament. He remained faithful to God and met his responsibilities to the Babylonian government. After the initial vision (last week), the prophet prays to God on behalf of his people.
Lesson: Jeremiah prophesied in his book that God’s Judgment on Judah would last 70 years (29:10). Some 64 years have passed since Judah fell to Babylon. During that time, the Medes (Cyrus) sacked Persia and marched on Babylon. They surrendered in 539 BC without putting up a fight. The Medo-Persians, as history calls them, remained in control of that vast area until Alexander the Great of Macedonia gained control around 350 BC. Cyrus allows the first wave of captives to return to Judah to rebuild the temple. Daniel’s prayer is offered at this point. The prophet recognizes that the end of God’s judgment is near. He fasted and wore sackcloth and ashes (signs of humility) to petition God on the behalf of his people. First, he acknowledges God’s power and faithfulness. With a humble spirit, his confession is made. This is much more than being sorry; it entails a deep sense of guilt. In the Bible, confession is made to God for forgiveness. Christ taught that confession is made to those who are harmed as well. Notice that Daniel includes himself as a rebellious sinner. God knows exactly what sins they committed and who did them. For the person to specifically name the sins acknowledges their role in the sin. The Jews turned from God on all levels of society. They ignored God’s prophets. They are full of shame; they have no honor! Daniel honors God who is righteous all the time. Every step of the way, God warned them and He kept His Word. It is entirely their fault for their predicament. They have no excuses! Yet, God is merciful! Even though He judges; He forgives His wayward children. Daniel admits they got what they deserved. The prophet now praises God for all that He’s done for The Chosen (vs. 15). He petitions the Father to turn away His anger against them, His city (Jerusalem), and their fathers. Daniel’s request isn’t because the people are righteous, but because God is merciful!
Application: There is power in prayer. We pray because we know who God is and what He can and will do. There is no room for haughtiness for all have sinned. As we pray, we must also recognize and appreciate His grace and mercy. God knows so don’t try to jive Him with your wordiness and cute phrases. Acknowledge your wrong doings and the role you play in corporate (group) sins. When we humbly pray, God heals, forgives and starts afresh with us again.