Upon reading about Jeremiah’s prophecy,
“ In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” (Daniel 9:1,2)
the first thing that Daniel did was to seek the Lord in prayer. “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer.” There is little good that can come from reading God’s word if it is not accompanied with heart felt prayer. The Scriptures are clear in themselves, but mean little to the man whose heart is not being changed by the Spirit of God. We should always begin with prayer when seeking to understand God’s word better; it is never a bad idea to assume that we begin in ignorance. We all sin and the first great characteristic of sin is to blind the eyes of the one it holds captive.
In (9:3) we read that Daniel gave himself to seek the Lord, not the meaning of the prophecy primarily, but the Lord Himself. Great wisdom and understanding were not his primary concern in prayer but the Lord Himself. It is all too easy to miss God in an attempt to be “spiritual.” There is no truth, understanding, or anything else for that matter without God. A tell tale sign that we are truly focused upon the task at hand is fasting, thus we read, “…with fasting”. Many times I have been so involved on a project at home that I forgot to eat, and that was how Daniel fasted. His focus was on God. He did not seek a blessing through fasting, he merely forgot about his stomach because he was so involved with the meaning of the prophecy, truth, and wisdom. He therefore sought God Himself with all his heart to the exclusion of his stomach. When writing to the believers at Galatia about their misunderstanding of the Gospel the Apostle Paul said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). It was not truth or the gospel that Paul considered the people in Galatia to have abandoned first and foremost but Him (The Lord). Daniel’s fasting was accompanied with humility, which is witnessed by his self abasement by wearing sackcloth, and sitting in ashes. “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
“I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Daniel 9:4). Daniel sought the Lord through humility, he was led to counteract the effects of sin through the very opposite condition that sin creates, which is blindness through pride. Daniel sought for understanding and he did so through honestly humbling himself. Daniel began his prayer by first confessing that God is great a awesome, which means he first placed God in a category that belonged to Him alone. The great sin is to think of God as though he were like sinful men, which is not true. There is one God and there are none like Him, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isiah 45:5) . The very first thing that separates God from all others is that He keeps his covenants. No created being has the power to do what he says he will do because we cannot sustain our own existence apart from God, let alone carry out our plans. God alone sustains Himself by His own power and might. Therefore, God alone can make a promise and by His own might keep it. All that an honest man can say is I will do this or that by the grace of God or if the Lord will that I live to do so (James 4:15). God is separated from all His creatures because He alone has the power to carry out what He promises by His own power to exist. You and I cannot even take our next breath if it were not for God sustaining us.
The second great thing that sets God aside from all His creatures is His righteousness. All men sin and from among sinners God in His grace chooses to save some, which is in the bible is known as the grace of God. He does not choose according to something intrinsically good in man because the bible makes clear in many passages that there are none good and none that seek after God (Romans 3:9-18). Therefore, when Daniel refers to God keeping his covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, he is referring to God saving the unrighteous and there after making them holy and righteous. No man is saved because he is righteous, but neither is any man saved and then left in a state of sinfulness without also entering the process of becoming righteous by God’s presence and power.
There are two striking elements in the person of Daniel as revealed in the book by his name, first is his integrity and second is his humility. In previous posts we have looked at Daniel’s uncompromising approach to keeping the law of God. He was unwilling to break the commands of God even though it might mean his death at the hands of his captors. Daniel’s integrity, therefore, placed him in a different category than those who sent Israel into captivity. However, Daniel did not reason that he was better, but instead took his place with those who sinned against God and caused Israel’s captivity. We see the humility of Daniel in his use of the words “we” and “us” in his prayer, as recorded in the following verses. “We” have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances” (9:5), “we” have not listened to Your servants the prophets…” (9:6), “Open shame belongs to “us” …because “we” have sinned against You (9:8),“To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for “we” have rebelled against Him” (9:9), “nor have “we” obeyed the voice of the Lord our God (9:10), “so the curse has been poured out on “us” …for “we” have sinned against Him (9:11), “Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against “us”… (9:12), “Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on “us”; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but “we” have not obeyed His voice” (9:14).
Many years ago I sat at lunch with a pastor, as I looked across the table and made reference to our generation (we being the same age) as a rebellious generation and turning from the morality of our parents, he retorted, “I didn’t rebel.” I don’t know the motivations or the hidden things in a man’s heart, but at the same time I find it very hard to believe that any man can be completely perfect. Humility is a rare commodity among sinful people, and it is very difficult, impossible actually apart from God’s grace, for a sinful person to be truly humble. However, humility is undeniably necessary in order to understand things that are hidden from the proud. This truth is revealed by the Psalmist, “An evil man is rebellious to the core. He does not fear God, for he is too proud to recognize and give up his sin” (Psalm 36:1, 2). Daniel was not too proud to give us his sin, by God’s grace, and as a result was given to understand the prophecy as recorded by Jeremiah.
The 2 elements to godly prayer are integrity and humility. Integrity is what a man does when no one else is watching. Integrity is that inward character that fulfills the plan of God to make men in His own image. Integrity is what the Holy Spirit produces when He brings forth of the fruit of the Spirit, ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). Integrity is another way of saying that a man is made righteous by God’s righteous, and as a result of his righteousness he can pray effectively. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
May we all take humility to heart as we focus out attention upon the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for sinners and who suffered, died, and rose again to accomplish the work of holiness that no other man could. Daniel read the prophecy of Daniel and as a result sought after God in the most profitable way, which was through humble prayer. No greater profit can come from the reading of scripture and prayer than to meet with God in the secrecy of holiness, forgiveness and love.