The book of Daniel is where we are together. If you’re with us for the first time in this series, welcome. We’re nine weeks into this. I want to tell you my original intentions in going through Daniel is I planned the sermon series way out in advance. I could tell you where we’re going to be in the months ahead, but with Daniel my original plan was to go through this pretty quickly. And then I realized, as I got into this, just how much this section of Scripture is abused. And I looked around at some other churches in teaching this and quite honestly was shocked when I looked around churches throughout let’s say America. And just looking at how they taught through Daniel and found out a lot of the churches don’t approach this book.
And one of the reasons they don’t approach it is because it’s a controversial book. It is a difficult book. And I don’t think that’s what God wants us to do. I think he wrote Daniel for a reason and I’m not afraid to approach Scripture. So we’re approaching this and we’re looking at some difficult passages of Scripture. In fact, I will tell you, next week we’re going to look at the most difficult passage within the book of Daniel. It’s a prophetic passage, Daniel 9:24-27.
Today we’re going to look at Daniel chapter nine, all the way up to verse 24. We’re going to stop just before verse 24 because I believe today’s passage tempers the attitude that we should carry in next week’s passage. Next week’s passage is the prophetic section of Scripture that theologians refer to as the backbone of prophecy in the Old Testament. And there are, in these short verses we’re going to look at, there are more theological views on this passage of Scripture than I think anywhere else in all of the Bible. And so we’re going to just tackle it all and you’re going to come out the smartest Christians ever related to that passage.
But more importantly, I hope it’s worshipful. I’m not interested in just pumping you up full of intellect. At the end of the day that’s not going to get you anywhere. I care about your relationship with Jesus. Now I think truth is the catalyst for life change but ultimately if it’s divorce of relationship, I don’t care how smart you are when it comes to Scripture. I would rather you have a relationship with Jesus. But truth is important because that lays the foundation for us.
Daniel’s an important book of the Bible because of where we find this in historical context and how it relates to us today. This event takes place starting in 605 and lasts about 70 years, the book of Daniel does. And Daniel is one who is uprooted from his culture and thrown into another culture. And that culture tries to influence him to walk contrary to God. But Daniel wants to walk consistently with the Lord. And so when you read the book of Daniel and see those challenges, the first six chapters, it was the narrative of Daniel in dealing with that and the circumstances he faced. The last six chapters are prophetic, where Daniel’s looking forward into how God’s people can continue to walk with the Lord. And so we’re in that part of prophecy now where Daniel’s looking forward and seeking God’s face on what’s going to transpire for his people in the future.
The reason this book is so relevant for us today is because when you get to the New Testament, the writers in the New Testament continue to refer back to the story of Babylon. And they refer to the time in which they live as Babylon. And so Peter does that, John does that. They want people to really see Daniel’s story as their story, how we continue even today as God’s people, we live as aliens in this world in a culture that conflicts with the nature of God and how he desires for us to live in this live. And so when we look at Daniel’s story, we ask the question of how when we collide with our culture can we live for God’s glory in this world? When we face adversity, how do we endure, and not just simply endure, how do we thrive?
And in chapter nine you really see two answers to Daniel’s life in this question now because Daniel’s still praying. At this point in the story, he’s in his 80’s and he’s saying to God, “God, our people are still in captivity and we’re trying to figure out how we can live for your glory but we’re not in the Promise Land to see that happen. And God, you’ve promised things in your Promise Land, so how can this transpire? I mean the Messiah’s supposed to come from there. And so how is this going to work?” And so Daniel needs, in order to endure in this culture, there’s two things in chapter nine we’re going to find. He needs strength for today and he needs hope for tomorrow. In verse one of chapter nine to verse 23, you really find him seeking that strength for today. And in verse 24, then God supplies for them the hope for tomorrow.
It’s kind of sort of punting the question when you face trials in life like you ever have someone pass away? It’s sort of diminishes their feelings in that circumstance to say, “Well, there’s always heaven, you know?” It kind of ignores how they feel now when you just start talking about what’s ahead without just being honest with their suffering. As the Bible says, “Weep when they weep.” So when it comes to enduring hardship in our lives, we need strength for today and we need hope for tomorrow. We need both of those things. But I think in the moment of the difficulty, we need strength in that moment and so we can take our eyes beyond that moment and look forward. And so you see that with Daniel in this story.
And Daniel helps us to experience that strength that he’s finding in this moment through prayer. Daniel starts praying to God and seeking God’s face. And I want to look at this context of the story in order to relate it to ask that question, how we can experience God in our struggles? You think 2017, maybe for you there’s some remorse, maybe there’s some reasons to celebrate, the whole gamut. You could go through today and just perspective. You think about next year. But in all of that, what I prefer is to put the past in the past and look forward to what God has called me to in the future. And I want to know as I go through this circumstance, how can I walk with God in it? How can I experience him?
And I want to teach us that fight in the idea of Daniel’s prayer here. And so to add the context to it today, Daniel 9:1 starts this way, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Midian 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 desolation of Jerusalem, namely 70 years.”
So let me tell you what’s happening here. Daniel is saying, “Okay, I was under Babylonian captivity. That captivity lasted 70 years. Now I’m under a new king, Darius, who’s a part of the Medo-Persians.” And so Daniel’s praying to God in this season of life. He’s in mid-80s now, offering this prayer to God. And he’s saying what drives him to this prayer. And what’s driving Daniel to this prayer is the concern for his people and the truth of God’s word. Because what Daniel’s done is he’s started to seek God’s face in God’s word. He’s in a circumstance he does not enjoy.
I got this question last week. I did answer it over the holiday season. We’ll make a blog post out of it. But someone asked, “All this bad stuff happening in the world, where is God in this? If there’s a good God but bad things, how do those fit together?” And Daniel’s really in that same prayer. “This bad stuff’s happening God, I’m looking at your promises. God, I’m trying to see how you and your goodness are working here.” And so Daniel was driven to Scripture to see the character of God and the promises of God laying out in God’s word.
And one of the things that he had turned to is the prophet Jeremiah. And in Jeremiah 25:11-14, Jeremiah said to the people before they were taken captive, “You’re going to be taken captive by the Babylonians and that captivity is going to last 70 years.” And so now Daniel’s looking at the scope of this captivity and he’s realizing, “Hey, I’ve been in captivity for about 70 years.” And so now he’s taking God’s truth and he’s holding to the promises and he’s saying, “God, show yourself faithful.”
And so Daniel’s doing this during the Medo-Persian reign having read the prophet Jeremiah. And it tells us at the end of this passage, if I were just to … Well, let me read these next verses. It starts to lead into his prayers. It says, “I gave my attention to the Lord”, so Daniel’s taking the truth of God and he’s now praying before God. “Jeremiah chapter 25, God, verse 11 says this, 70 years.” And so Daniel’s praying this to God. He’s holding to the truth. When you look at the captivity, it started in 605.
And Cyrus actually delivers the decree to tell the Jews they could go back to their promise land in 536. So 70 years transpire in that as God’s prophecy had fulfilled in Jeremiah. And in 586 the last wave of captivity started. So when you study historically, captivity started in 605 and the Babylonians went against Jerusalem on three separate occasions. 586, the last captors are brought into Babylon. And if you look at the 586 captivity, in 515 the temple in Jerusalem’s finally rebuilt. So however you look at the scope, 70 years transpired until this prophecy is fulfilled. And so Daniel was warning God, though he doesn’t know this yet, exactly how God’s going to work, so he’s coming to God claiming this prophetic statement from Jeremiah before God had ultimately fulfilled it.
And then look at his attitude in prayer. “He came to God seeking him by prayer and supplication with fasting in sackcloth and ashes.” This is the Jewish traditional way of saying in repentance. The sackcloth and ashes is an attitude of humility before God. And the reason he’s telling us he’s coming in repentance is because of what Jeremiah’s taught him. Let me read on and I’ll explain that to you. He said, “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, oh Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant and loving kindness for those who love him and keep his commandments.'”
The reason he’s praying this pray is because Jeremiah when he said Israel would be in captivity for 70 years was because of their disobedience to what is called the Sabbatical year. God told the Jews when they went into the Promise Land that they could plant seed and harvest for six years, and on the seventh year they were supposed to leave the ground empty. They weren’t supposed to lay any harvest to it. There were to let the ground rest. And they were disobedient to that. And they were supposed to do it every seventh year. And on the 50th year, the jubilee year, they were supposed to do that. And so God accumulates every year they were disobedient to him and it equaled 70 years. And so they went 70 years into captivity because of this. And so Daniel now, in seeing Jeremiah’s prophecy, is coming to God repentantly knowing that they have broken God’s law or God’s rule to the Jewish people.
And then you see his attitude he’s carrying in all of this as well. You see his attitude in the humility with sackcloth and ashes. And then it tell us this. At the very end of the book, in verse 21 he says, “While I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘Oh Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications, the command was issued and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. So give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.'”
Now what the angel’s saying here is what I want. God hears. The Lord is esteeming him or honoring this prayer before him. And so how can I pray like Daniel in this section? How do I know in my struggles that God hears me in the conflict? You can think in this year coming forward for your life, you think of all the influences you have around you. Maybe on your heart, like Daniel, on his heart was the people, God’s people, and Jerusalem. And he prayed for that and saw the need. And maybe on your heart, your marriage or your family or this valley. How do you know God can hear that prayer? What can you learn from Daniel’s prayer?
A couple of things it tells us in verse 21. I love this picture it paints of Daniel. He’s doing this at the evening offering in extreme weariness. Way back, Daniel 6:10, the Bible told us that Daniel prayed three times a day, and he did so regularly. He did it at specific times. And one of those times it’s telling us was at the evening offering. In Jewish history they had specific times they would go to the temple and they would offer a prayer at the temple as they would make a sacrifice. And Daniel, in those time periods of prayer that they would do in Jerusalem, Daniel continued that on into Babylon. He was faithful. Three times a day he would pray towards Jerusalem seeking God’s face as a way to honor the Lord just as they had done back in their land.
And it tells us he does it with extreme weariness. Now I want you to see this. If you have any translation probably, other than the NASB, if you have the ESV, the NIV, KJV, the blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever translation you might have, you might see if you read that verse, verse 21, rather than say in extreme weariness it’s going to say in swift flight or some sort of traveling. And I want you to know, it doesn’t mean that we don’t know what the test says here, okay? The Hebrew in this passage is not in question at all. There’s a translational difficulty. And I think the NASB has it right. So if you’ve got swift flight, your Bible’s wrong.
Let me just tell you why. By the way, I think this is subject to seeing the argument and figuring out what way is the best way to translate. When translators translate text of Scripture, sometimes they are given these adjectives and nouns that modify certain words within a text. And so what’s happening here is there’s two words being used, [foreign language 00:13:33] and [foreign language 00:13:33]. And one’s an adjective and one’s a noun. And those words modify the subject of verse 21.
Now the problem is, in verse 21 there’s two subjects at hand here. Gabriel and Daniel. And so if they look at these words, the traditional usage of these words are fatigue and weary. Every other time it’s translated in Scripture it’s translated as fatigued or weary, except for in this passage some translators use swift flight. And they use this word to modify Gabriel’s actions. And I don’t think that’s what’s happening here at all because the subject, I think, more focuses on Daniel and his prayer. And so what it’s trying to get us to understand is rather than swift flight, which is the minor translation of this word, the major translation is extreme weariness.
And the modification then, and the angel’s not going to be tired, the modification then is up on Daniel because he’s praying into the evening about this need. And so Daniel’s carrying this weight on him of wanting to see God free his people. And so if Daniel’s approaching God in prayer in this way, faithfully seeking God’s face, wearing the weight of his people, wanting to see God move.
And Daniel then receives an answer from the Lord. And the answer is, Gabriel starts to reveal it, and the answer then later becomes hope also for the future, that God is still working, God’s going to fulfill this as Jeremiah said and God is still working into the future. So Daniel seeks God’s face, he gets strength for the moment in his weariness. He gets hope for the future. And how in the world can I pray this way? How can you pray this way? When you pray, how do you know God can hear?
I like 1st John five, and I want this to be true in my life. It says, “This is the confidence that you and I have, which we have before God, that if we ask anything, according to his will, he hears us.” Do you feel that confident? How can you feel that confident? I think Daniel’s story helps us to find God and the comfort of his strength. In the midst of this circumstance, Daniel begins to pray. Chapter nine, verse three, sackcloth and ashes. And then verse four, it says this, “I prayed to the Lord, my God, and confessed and said, ‘Alas, oh Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant and loving kindness for those who love him and keep his commandments. We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to your servants, the prophets, whom spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.'”
I want to talk about the word covenant in just a moment because Daniel’s tapping into some language here that is rich in history in such a beautiful way, and I want you to see how that unfolds. But I like what he does in verse five. He says, “We have sinned.” Now when you read the story of Daniel, Daniel looks like Mr. Perfect in compared to everybody else, right? I mean the guy stands in the face of adversity, even to the point that he’s facing the lion’s den. He’s like, “So what? I won’t face that lion.” Daniel goes into the lion’s … I don’t think he’s that confident but he’s trusting in God. Daniel is a warrior for the Lord. But when it comes to acknowledging before God the sin, he doesn’t say, “God, what are going to do with those people? That is messed up man.” He says, “We have sinned.” And that’s a mark of a great leader. It’s not about them and me, it’s us together. We’re in this together. And Daniel’s getting his hands dirty in the struggle with his people.
And here he is praying before God, and in verse four to six, really I find the theme of humanity since the beginning of history. Humanity gets this confidence of they are the king of the world, they are God in flesh. And so they divorce themselves of God and live life that way. And I think out of any century that’s done that more greatly than any other century, it was the century we just left behind, the 20th century. And when you study mankind, they think that we’re making these great advancements intellectually and how we’ve evolved into this superior race above all races. You know the last century was the bloodiest century in all of history. How much greater are we really? Is separating ourselves from God really paying what we think it will? Is an atheistic, agnostic framework of approaching life, does that really give the answers for why you exist and where you’re going?
And I think Daniel’s prayer here in Daniel 9:4-6, just carries the similar theme. It’s not just the Jews. This is the nature within all of us to make war against God and make it about ourselves and live lives for us. And if we communicate with God at all, we just leverage him like he’s some sort of tool to bless us who rule and reign as kings of our worlds. And so this isn’t anything distinct, but this is pretty common. But I like what Daniel does here. He provokes this language of covenantal way of thinking. He refers to God as the God who keeps his covenant and loving kindness for those that love him.
Now I’m going to read just this next section of Scripture and I want to talk about why Daniel is doing that. But Daniel uses this language and he continues to elaborate on the thought. In verse seven he says, “Righteousness belongs to you, oh Lord, but to us open shame as it is this day to the men of Juda, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away and all of the countries to which you have driven them because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against you. Open shame belongs to us, oh Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers because we have sinned against you.”
What’s happening here? Well, Daniel certainly knows the promises God’s given. Jeremiah 25, verse 11 to 14, right? You’re going to be in captivity for 70 years because of the disobedience to the law of which I’ve given you of the Sabbatical year of land where you’re supposed to let it lie barren to recover. And 70 times you’ve approached that and 70 times you’ve been disobedient so you’re going to go into captivity for 70 years. Daniel knows the promises of God, that God told them to do this and they had not delivered. And so much so that he refers to God as the covenantal God.
And so when you consider what this word covenant means in Scripture, starting in Genesis chapter 15 God established a covenant with the Jews. It started with Abraham. And a covenant is much different than the way we think in our culture. We tend to think contractually. Covenantally is a way that they painted pictures in the Old Testament. There’s a distinction there I’ll make in just a moment. But when you start to read about covenantal language, Genesis 15 is a good chapter to know in Scripture. But God comes to Abraham in this chapter and the promise to Abraham is through him all nations would be blessed.
And God wants to demonstrate his faithfulness to this promise, which depends upon God himself, to Abraham by establishing a covenant with Abraham. And in the days of Abraham when they would establish a covenant, they would take an animal, they would tear it two. And the two people that would make a covenant would pass through this animal and they would say, “If we were to break this covenant, may what happened to these animals happen to us.” This was a blood covenant. And there were only two ways to get out of a covenant. You fulfilled it or you died. Now when God establishes this covenant with Abraham, something interesting takes place. After Abraham sets the platform to establish this covenant with God, God causes Abraham to fall asleep. And God alone establishes this covenant. God promised Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed and God alone was the one who faithfully will fulfill that promise apart from Abraham. But he still works through Abraham.
What I mean is that becomes a picture for us in thinking about the New Covenant with Jesus. It’s why we even say today, you can do nothing to earn your salvation because it’s God himself who establishes that covenant, by dying for you on the cross. He is your substitute. God establishes this covenant with Abraham, Genesis 15. But as that story unfolds, God continues to work through his people. And when you get to the book of Exodus, you’re introduced to this character known as Moses. And Moses is the one that God uses to work through, to set the Israelites free, the Jews free from captivity and slavery in Egypt. And when he sets them free he brings them into the wilderness and they wander as they’re on their way to the Promise Land. And what God does is he establishes the Old Testament law. In Exodus 19 that happens. This covenantal law establishment.
And God repeats it in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus is law, right? This is the covenant of God. And when the book of Leviticus uses the word covenant, it doesn’t use it very often, but the predominant place it uses it is in Leviticus 26. Now here’s the interesting thing, I want you to follow all of this, okay? Remember, Daniel’s praying based on Jeremiah 25. 70 years for disobedience to the Sabbatical law. And when Daniel knows that in Jeremiah, his mind’s going to go all the way back to Leviticus 25. Because Leviticus 25 is where God told his people to obey the Sabbatical law on the land. And then in chapter 26 of Leviticus God says people will be disobedient, my people will be disobedient and I will take then into captivity. But if they obey me, if they turn to me, I will set them free.
And so Daniel knows this. This is the covenant of God, the one who gave the promise to bless all nations through his people, the one who continued to establish that covenant with Moses and gave them the Law. And so when Daniel’s praying here, he’s not just praying random words. He’s praying the truth of God’s word. He’s praying, holding to the promises of Jeremiah 25. He’s praying holding to the promises of Leviticus 26, that if my people would repent and turn for me I will heal them, I will bring them back into the land. And if you read Leviticus 26, listen to this, verse 40, “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers with their faithfulness in which they were unfaithful to me and that they also have walked contrary to me, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham. I will remember, I will remember the land.”
That same promise, Leviticus 26, that was the same prayer Moses prayed in 1st Kings eight. Or not Moses, when Solomon in 1st Kings eight, when Solomon’s dedicating the first temple in Israel’s history. He prays this same prayer of covenantal faithfulness to God, of turning to him and God bless. And so he’s holding, Daniel when he’s praying, he’s holding to the truth of God and he’s holding to the promises of God as God delivered himself and God reveals himself in this Old Covenant to Israel. It makes me think. When we talk about praying powerfully like Daniel, where are your promises in God’s word? And what do you hold to? The Bible tells us that for us it’s the New Covenant.
Covenant’s different than contractual language. Contractual language in our culture, we establish those between two parties and if one person breaks the contractual agreement then both parties, somebody might be obligated to something, but the contract is over, right? And then I think in our culture we sometimes try to treat marriage that way. But marriage is a covenant. And when you establish a covenant, that means that you leverage who you are for the benefit of someone else. And in God’s case, when he established this covenant with Abraham, he uses his grace and leverages in our sin who he is for our benefit.
And so when we pray, what it is that you pray? I mean what promises do you hold to? You see in the Bible, Daniel praying according to the Old Covenant, in Jewish history that would be the Tanakh. For us today, we’re New Covenant people or New Testament. Your Bible in fact is divided for that reason. We talk about Old Testament, New Testament and it’s really Old Covenant and New Covenant. But what is that a picture of?
Well, for us it’s a picture of the sufficiency of Jesus. Jesus brought the New Covenant. And what’s that mean? When you think about this in scope and perspective for us to hold to the promises and truth of God, in the Old Covenant it saying to us Jesus did the two things that are required to see a covenant end. Remember, there’s only two ways to get out of a covenant. You die or you fulfill. Jesus did both. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant and he died in your place fulfilling the Old Covenant to bring about the New Covenant for you in a relationship with him. And so when you look at the Old Testament, beautiful picture of God proclaiming himself of what would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus. And so when you think Old Covenant, we see pictures of Old Testament lamb at Passover being sacrificed, which is ultimately a picture of Jesus who was called the sacrificial lamb who came to take away the sins of the world that John the Baptist proclaimed.
In Revelation, he’s pictured as the lamb for that reason. Old Testament, you see this picture of a temple being built. And in the New Testament, Jesus says, “Destroy the temple, in three days I will build it again.” Old Testament, you had the priest, New Testament, Hebrews 4, Jesus is called the high priest. Old testament, you have the Law, and in the New Testament Jesus fulfills the Law. Old Testament, you had the Sabbath day, New Testament, Jesus is called the Sabbath. Everything in the Old Testament was an ultimate picture of everything Jesus would fulfill for you, that you could walk in a relationship with God. So when you claim, when you hold to these promises of God, everything rests in Christ. That New Covenant, that approaching God, is all on the basis of Jesus. By the way, if you want to read a chapter on Old Covenant/New Covenant picture, I would tell you Hebrews 8 does that beautifully.
So when you pray, what promises do you hold to? And Daniel’s mind is dipping into Jewish history, holding to the truth and the promises of God and telling God, “God, we want to see you fulfill this.” How about this? John 1:12, “As many as received him, to them are the children of God.” If you’ve embraced Christ in your life, what he’s done for you, you belong to him. Or how about this, Hebrews four, verse 14 to 16, “That you come boldly to the throne of grace.” Or how about 2nd Corinthians 5:17, “Anyone that’s in Christ is a new creation. All things have passed, behold, all things have become new.” And the same story line in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “He became sin, who knew no sin, that you might become the righteousness of God in him.” So what it’s saying is when God the Father looks up on you he sees the beauty of Jesus covering you.
In John 14:16 is in a beautiful section of Scripture where Jesus is spending the last six hours on earth with his disciples. And in John 14, John 15 and John 16 he repeatedly says this to the disciples, “When you pray, pray in my name.” It’s not that his name is magical, it’s that his name represents authority, that you’re praying under Christ and in Christ and on behalf of Christ because Jesus has covered you in a New Covenant. So what promises do you cling to? You would cling to the identity that you have in Christ. You cling to that truth and you hold to it for life. And so not only does Daniel pray in truth and promises, not only should that be our stand, not only should we hold to that and understand where we fit in this covenant, Daniel also prays in relationship.
And Daniel does something in the text of chapter nine he does nowhere else in the book of Daniel. I want you to see it. Starting in verse two, “The word of the Lord”, verse four, “I prayed to the Lord”, verse 10, “Nor have we obeyed the Lord”, and verse 13, “Yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord”, and it goes on and on. Now Daniel refers to God as Lord throughout the book of Daniel, but when Daniel comes to chapter nine, he uses a specific name for Lord. And there’s a couple ways your Bible writes the word Lord in English that we don’t always understand the Hebrew language.
But if Lord is written capital L, lower case o-r-d, it’s Adonai. It’s a name for God. But if the word lord is written capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D, that’s Yahweh, the sacred name of God. This name is revered by the Jews. In fact, they wouldn’t even verbally say it out loud. And they would sometimes write it. And there were sacred traditions they had around even writing the name of God that they would perform before they would even write God’s name. In fact, the name of God is what’s called a Tetragrammaton. It’s just four consonant letters, Y-H-W-H. And it was so sacred that the Jews in not uttering out loud, truthfully we don’t even know how it’s pronounced today. We just sort of fill in some vowels and think it’s most likely Yahweh. And some linguistic traditions that don’t have Y’s and W’s, they took the Y and the W and they made it a J and a V, and so in some linguistic traditions they translate this as Jehovah. Yahweh and Jehovah, it’s the same word.
But what Daniel is doing here is he’s provoking the sacred name of God. And I think it’s important to just recognize this isn’t something Daniel’s taking lightly. So as he’s approaching God in his prayer, maybe this says to us just think about how weighty this moment is on Daniel because he doesn’t just say God’s name as if it’s a four-letter word he utters out of his mouth, you know? It’s sacred to him. And so this is something that’s deeply impacting him and this is something that he considers very sacred. And so he is approaching God in a very personal, intimate way. This is Yahweh.
And this name Yahweh comes from the verb form to be. And the noun from it literally means I Am Which I Am. In Greek it’s the ego eimi, it’s God’s sacred name for himself. And the way that the history goes with this word is in Exodus 3:14 Moses sees a burning bush and the bush is talking to him, which if that ever happens call me, right? But the bush is talking to him and Moses comes, it’s the voice of God speaking to him and God wants Moses to go back to Egypt before Pharaoh who just tried to kill him recently, or a few decades ago. And God wants Moses to go back and tell Pharaoh to let the Jews free.
And as God’s delivering this message to Moses, he does something really unique. As Moses gets near this burning bush, he says to Moses, “Take off your shoes for you’re standing on holy ground.” And so not only is God recognizing this moment as sacred but I think the reason God calls Moses to take off his shoes is because he wants creature to connect with creation before his Creator. When God formed man, he formed us from where? Dirt, right? And I think God is trying to make this distinction between his identity and authority and man. And he’s saying to Moses, “This is sacred, but Moses you’re just creature in the dirt having opportunity to connect to your God.” And when God tells Moses what he wants him to do, he says, “What am I going to do when I go back? Who am I going tell sent me?” And then God delivers his sacred name, “Tell him I Am sent you.”
Now I’m going to just be honest and say that is weird man. Like out of all the names God picks for himself, I Am. Why didn’t he pick Mr. Amazing or Mr. Wonderful or, I don’t know? Out of all the names, what is I Am? Man, what do you do with that? It’s just odd when you think about it. But when you consider the character of God, it makes so much sense. To be. I’ll tell you a definition of God if you ever try to define God. Good luck with that, but the best thing I’ve ever seen as far as definition goes came from Ravi Zacharias. But it’s this, God is the only being who finds the purpose for his existence within himself. Everything else finds the purpose for his existence outside of itself because everything else was created for God’s glory.
And so when God identifies himself as the I Am, his nature’s really being represented in that because he sustains all things, he created all things and he is everywhere present. He is this sovereign, eternal being. And so I Am fits him beautifully. And so when Daniel is praying in this text, not only is he praying scripturally holding the promises of God, he’s praying relationally. And remember at Daniel chapter six, verse 10 he sought God’s face three times a day. He’s praying intimately.
I think it just really begs the question with us, do you know God personally? Do you have a relationship with God? Has Christ saved you? Are you in the New Covenant? Do you know what it means that Jesus died for you? I mean it’s not just something that happened in history. It’s something Jesus did for you to embrace, that you could approach him personally. It’s not just some event. It’s something that should transform your life. The king of the universe became flesh and died for you. So asking the question and answering within yourself, do you know him personally?, becomes highly significant to eternity so that you can enjoy the presence of God all of your life. Jesus did that for you. And so at some point in your life, if it hasn’t happened yet, man please today just take an opportunity to look to Jesus and say, “Jesus, I know you’ve come as my Savior, you’ve died for my sins, that I could be set free, that I can enjoy you for eternity.”
So to pray in this way, I think two things. One, you need to cling to the promises of God, pray in his truth and personally in knowing him, relationally connect to him as your Savior and Lord, that when you say the name of God it’s not just empty words. It’s this identity of this God who loved you so much he gave his life for you, that you could embrace him and walk with him and enjoy his presence for eternity. And when you pray personally, and I know people ask how do you pray to God? If there’s a Trinity, do I pray to the spirit, do I pray to the Son, do I pray to the Father? I’ll tell you, in the Bible there’s actually examples of all. There’s examples of praying to Jesus, there is examples of praying in the Spirit. But that’s not the norm.
In fact, Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9, “When you pray, pray in this way, our Father who art in heaven, sacred be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So Jesus is saying pray to the Father. And here’s how we do it, we pray to the Father in the power of the Spirit, in the authority of Jesus or in the name of Jesus. That’s how we approach that relationship with God. And the last thing I want to say is this, pray in humility.
And I want to explain what humility means, but I think it’s important because Daniel, in verse three, he humbled himself, remember? In sackcloth and ashes. But throughout the context of this story and remembering of Leviticus 25, 26, Daniel uses … It says in verse five he prayed talking about his sin and iniquity. He prayed acknowledging his rebellion, verse nine. His transgressions, verse 11. God’s righteousness, verse 14. That they had sinned in wickedness, verse 15. About their sins, verse 16. The righteous acts of God, verse 17. And then in verse 19 it says, “Oh God, forgive.” That’s a prayer of humility. There’s different ways you’re going to pray with God. It doesn’t just have to be confession, but there’s adoration, there’s confession, there’s thanksgiving, asking God for supplication. There’s different ways that we pray, but I think in all of it, I think it’s essential that we carry an attitude of humility.
And what do I mean about humility? When I talk about humility, I don’t think you need to think less of yourself, but rather what I’m saying is think of self less. And what that looks like is in our lives when we pray, sometimes I wonder when we approach God if it’s rather just to treat ourselves like Lord and Jesus like our slave. And so the only time God hears from us is just to say, “God, I need this. You better serve me. Here comes my prayer, that’s what you wanted. Now take care of what I need so I can continue to live as god of my life.” That’s not humility, right? And sometimes we approach prayer in that way, where God just exists to just leverage or for us to lob to him our concern and for him to just immediately to deliver and he lives his life to serve me. That’s not what walking in humility means.
Now humility does not mean think less of yourself, but think of yourself less. Let me just paint this picture. When God made you, you will find in your life no better place to magnify the worth of who you are than in the presence of God. Because the only other way you can find worth as a human being is based on what you do. And when you compare that to God, that is not impressive. Because there is nothing you can ever do that’s going to impress God. And when you compare it to this world, it’s not impressive, because there’s always someone in this world that can do better than you. And eventually, even if you are the best at it, one day you won’t be. Beauty, glory, power, it fades. And so when you try to find your worth based on the identity of the things that you do, eventually you will find yourself bankrupt. That path leads in two ways, pride or despair. And pride, God’s not going to communicate to that heart anyway. And in despair, more than anything what you need is the identity of God in your life.
So where do you get your worth from? It’s not in what you do, it’s in how you were formed. God made you in his image. The worth of who you are is already found within you because of the way God has created you. His DNA is all over that. And it was demonstrated in his sacrifice in giving his life for you. It’s not in what you do, it’s in who you are. And so God, in this story, demonstrates or gives you your worth in your identity. And Daniel recognizing that is able to pray in humility. And not because he thinks less of himself, but rather he truly sees his identity in God and he understands the need to think of himself less so that he can see the authority of who God is in his life, which is the very person that gives him the worth of his identity in life. Pray in humility.
And so if I just stop from Daniel for a minute and I just said let me just show you some other examples in Scripture. Now how about this? How about James and Peter, right? You think of some pretty staunch leaders in the history of Christianity. James, half brother of Jesus. I mean if someone’s going to know what they’re talking about, let it me a half brother. And how about Peter, the leader of the first century church? And listen what they say. James says this, but he gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1st Peter 5:5, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Now look at this, a little bit further in the same chapter, just a couple verses different for James. [inaudible 00:43:43] and Peter, look what James says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and look”, hold to this promise, “he will exalt you.” 1st Peter, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at proper time.” And here’s the beautiful part I think in all of this. When you look at James 4:6-10, you look at 1st Peter five and six, the very next verse in 1st Peter and the middle of James chapter four, verses six to ten, they specifically begin to talk about prayer. He says in verse eight, “Draw near to God”, and look at this promise, “He will draw near to you.” So in the backdrop of humility before the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords, this promise given to you in the New Covenant, he will draw near.
1st Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” He cares for you. You think about the weight of Daniel in these moments, his heart just exhausted for wanting to see God work in his people. Cast all your care because he cares for you. You know, one of the things I’ve loved about this chapter this week for me is that it has been intensely personal. I think over the holidays, my stepmother has been on a ventilator fighting for her life. I have no clue if she’s going to pull through. My dad’s been with her every day. There’s nothing I can physically do with my hands to help. What do I do? How do I know God hears me? What do I turn to in a moment when there is no strength within my body to do anything to contribute to that situation? I pray.
How can I be confident? How can I experience what Daniel’s saying? When I take the truth of God and the promises of God and my personal relationship with God and just in humility before that King I just pray. And God gives the promise that he works all things together for good. I live in that … Even late last night I had a pastor call me. It’s a pastor that’s been a part of supporting our church and seeing it established. And he called me and said they got a lot of snow last night and late last night one of the congregants went to the church and they shoveled the snow for the people to be able to get there. But unfortunately he had a heart attack and he died. And now he’s got to speak to the church in the morning.
And he just calls and he’s like, “What do you say? What do you do?” Now you better have an opportunity to seek to something greater than you in those moments. How can I see the face of God? How can I pray in those moments? How can I know that God confidently hears me? That’s what I’m saying to you this morning. The value of what you have in this New Covenant, approaching this King, lifting up your voice before this God because of the grace that he has brought to you. What a privilege it is.
And here’s one of the beautiful things I love is James says this in James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” What James is saying is, “Listen, everybody doesn’t have to be praying it. But God wants to work through somebody.” And if you look at some of the prayers in the Old Testament, it didn’t take the entire nation praying the same thing or the entire people group praying the same thing. It was just one person. And how much more powerful when everyone joins in unison. But the beauty of that, the prayer of a righteous man, how effective it is. Cling to his promises, seek him personally, pray in humility.
Now let me close with this. Sometimes we wonder in our prayers if they even hit the ceiling. But I want to remind you of the story of Jesus in Mark 15:34. Jesus is hanging on the cross. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, which is translated, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1 here. But I think he’s also fulfilling what the Psalm is in this prayer, he’s genuinely praying this prayer. And why is Jesus praying? Jesus is experiencing hell on earth.
And if you want to know theologically what I believe hell really is, some people talk about, and I think Scripture paints the picture of where the worm doesn’t quench and the fire does not go out. It’s allegorized or it’s allegorical statements when those are stated. But I think there’s truth to the statements that Jesus teaches about hell. He taught about hell more than he taught about heaven. But what makes hell hell is the absence of the gracious presence of God. What makes heaven heaven is his presence. Wherever Jesus is, that’s heaven. And what makes hell is the absence of his gracious presence.
And let me just say it like this, earth, the reason you were allowed to get up today and breath air is because God’s grace is still sustaining. 1st Peter five says that, “God is not long-suffering about his promises, not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance.” Really all turn to him. The reason God’s delaying judgment on this world is to give us opportunity to turn to that grace that’s been merited to us by just existing on this planet and God being gracious to us so that we can walk in relationship with him. God is being gracious to give you time and God is being gracious to give me time.
But Jesus, hanging on this cross, experienced what hell was. He and the Father to this point have walked in perfect relational harmony. But when Jesus took upon sin, his relationship to the Father severed. Jesus experienced what I think hell is, it’s the separation of the presence of God’s grace. Yeah, it’s the separation of the presence of God’s grace because Jesus is taking the wrath of God upon him. Jesus is paying for your sin. And because of that, Jesus in this passage is praying I think the loneliest prayer ever prayed in all of history. And it should forever be the loneliest prayer ever prayed in all of history.
But I think the big point in all of this is this, Jesus did this so that you wouldn’t have to. Jesus took this prayer on, Jesus took this moment on for you so that when you prayed God hears. The beauty of your relationship with God gives you access to him at any moment. And I think the truth of God’s word gives us the foundation of how we pray, clinging to those promises, walking in that relationship with humility because of the grace and identity that we have in him. When you pray, you can walk with the confidence of Daniel. Because what Daniel is doing is living out the truth of God’s word in his life.