Daniel’s Prayer of Intercession
In Christian bookstores around the world there will be a section dedicated to books on prayer, it is a popular subject. Many Christians seeking to develop a deeper relationship with God through prayer, will scan the numerous titles wondering which of the authors will best suit their needs. If a Believer wants to learn more about prayer, the first place they should go to is their Bible, and read how the men and woman of scripture related with God. Way back in time, when I was at school, I had to study English literature, the famous plays of Shakespeare and the books of Charles Dickens etc. I was not a diligent student, so I would not read the books, but instead relied on “crib books” (study aids), that would explain the great men’s works for me. Consequently, I understood the gist of the books, but I was never able to plumb the depths of these talented writers. That is how we should view books on prayer, they should never replace reading the Bible. One of the best examples of a man of prayer in Scripture, besides the Lord Jesus, is Daniel, with four out of the twelve chapters recording Daniel’s prayers. So, in Chapter 9 we are able to study a man who had a dedicated prayer life, and to draw from his experience. Daniel was so committed to praying, that even when he was threatened with death if he prayed to God, he continued to pray three times a day. One of Daniel’s prayers even resulted in angelic warfare in the heavenlies, with the demonic powers of the “prince of Persia” in conflict with the archangel Gabriel, attempting to inhibit the answer to Daniel’s fervent prayers. Daniel’s persistence in prayer saw his answer come through (Daniel 10:12-13). Indeed, a study of Daniel’s prayer life holds great value for the Believer, it is not only a valuable teaching on prayer, it allows us the intimate insight of being able to listen in on the prayers of a Godly man.
Prompted to Prayer by Prophecy (9:1-2)
“1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes), by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) — 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years”.
Daniel starts chapter 9 by giving context to his prayer for Judah, explaining that it took place in the first year of the reign of Darius, which would have been 539 BC. Daniel had been reading the book of Jeremiah when he came across God’s judgement on Judah, which was recorded in 605 BC:
“This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste” (Jeremiah 25:11-12).
Note: When working out time periods in Scripture it is important to remember that the Bible works on the Hebrew lunar year of 360 days. So, after seventy years with 5¼ days less a year, there is over a year’s difference between the lunar and solar calendars:
- Solar year: 365 X 70 = 25 567,5 Days
- Jewish lunar year: 360 X 70 = 25 200 Days
- Difference: 367,5 Days
The Hebrew lunar calendar consisting of twelve 30-day months, needs to adjust to the shortfall of 5¼ days a year, and does so by adding an additional 13th month when the first month moves from being in Spring (Nissan being the first month of the year). Daniel would have understood Jeremiah’s prophecy to be a time of 70 lunar years, with no 13th month added.
In the introduction to this series on Daniel, I mentioned that Daniel was a member of a Judean aristocratic family, or even possibly a member of King Josiah’s family, growing up in the royal court. Remember also that Daniel was born in 620 BC, so he would have been aged 15 during the siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC, when Jeremiah gave his prophecy. Therefore, Daniel had first-hand knowledge of Jeremiah’s prophecy, he could have even been present in the royal courts of Jerusalem when Jeremiah delivered the prophecy. It is then possible that Daniel had kept this prophecy in his heart for the last +/- 67 years, even counting down the years as they passed. So, with 67 cuts on his door frame, and with around 3 years to the deadline given in the prophecy, Daniel’s mind turns to how the prophecy will be fulfilled. Daniel reads the prophecy, and then brings God’s promise before Him in prayer.
To explain why God set the time of captivity at seventy years we need to study the covenant relationship the Jews had with God, recorded in Leviticus 25:4:
“But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard”.
Every 7 years the Israeli farmers were to give their fields a sabbath rest, the fields were to be left fallow. The farmers of Israel had not done this for 490 years, consequently, the land was owed 70 years of rest. Judah was being punished for their continuous rebellion against God, worshipping pagan idols, and not keeping the covenant agreement that their forefathers had made with God. The punishment God set for the Jews therefore included a time limit that restored the covenant agreement.
An interesting sidenote, is that there are farmers in modern day Israel that still obey the commandment in Leviticus 25:4, to leave a field fallow every seven years. In 1993, I was hiking across the Jordan valley East of Mt Gilboa, when I passed by a grapefruit orchard. I was stunned to see large numbers of ripe grapefruit lying on the ground under the trees. I came to the conclusion that either there was something very wrong, or this was the laziest farmer in the country. I was approaching the problem from a Western mindset, with a cultural bias. Fortunately, a little light bulb went off in my head, and I realised that this farmer was allowing his field a sabbath rest, the grapefruit were left to fall to the ground, thus allowing the soil to receive nutrients from their decay.
An important point to remember, is that Daniel identifies the seventy years literally, he does not attempt to spiritualise the number. So, in Revelation 20 when John writes about a 1 000-year millennium, that is a literal 1 000 years, and is not to be spiritualised as an amillennialist would do.
Praying into Prophecy
The book of Daniel contains the most powerful, and informative End Times prophecies in the Old Testament, and Daniel chapters 7 and 9 are two of the greatest chapters of prophecy in Scripture. Of great significance for the Believer, is that chapter 9 actually starts with Daniel’s reading Jeremiah’s writings, and praying into the prophecy revealed within. The obedience of praying into prophecy is totally lacking in the Church today. I have even been told that I was in error when I stated this necessity as part of a debate I was having on the importance of prophecy with an elder of a church I attended – and, this elder was in charge of the Bible School! He would not teach prophecy as, according to him, prophecy is divisive! Unfortunately, churches that allow the deceptive doctrine of Replacement Theology in their churches, will have to recognize the many End Times theories that it has spawned as being legitimate, such as Amillennialism, Post-millennialism, Preterism and Poetism. With Pre-millennialism being distinct from these other views, there will be conflict between the supporters of all the different End Times theories. These churches therefore focus on evangelism and not discipleship – the church is required to teach the full Gospel message, which includes prophecy. Unfortunately, even those pre-millennial churches who study prophecy, tend to do an overview, and do not pray into prophecy. The Church needs to understand that prophecy is for participation, not for passivism – a study of Daniel 9 makes this clear.
“Come soon Lord Jesus,” is an often-said phrase at the end of a prayer of concern over the problems of the world. It is said in recognition that Jesus will stop all things wrong, and put all things right on His return to earth. This is about the only prayer I have ever heard Christians pray regarding prophecy, which is an appalling indictment against the Church, who have been commanded by our coming King to be alert for the signs of His return. We should hope for His return, we should expect His return, and pray for His return!
“Watch and pray,” the Biblical command to watch is combined on a number of occasions with the command to pray in Scripture. Just as prayer is important, so too is the need to watch, to understand prophecy, and be vigilant to the unfolding of world events. When Scripture commands us to “watch,” it means that we are to stay awake, metaphorically meaning we are to be continually alert. When Jesus said to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Jesus was emphasizing that it is spiritual watching combined with prayer that gives an individual the strength to survive attacks from the enemy. Paul equates being awake to righteousness, with not falling into sin (1 Corinthians 15:34), as a warning that even committed Christians can be spiritually asleep at times. With the End Times drawing near, it is time that the Church woke up out of its slumber and started to pray into God’s revelations for the Last Days Church. The more time that passes and the closer we get to the return of Jesus for His Bride, the more urgent it is for the Church to be awake: “know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). If there was ever a time for the Church to awake, that time is now! “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching ” (Luke 12:37).
The scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus warned His disciples to “watch and pray,” (Matthew 26:41) is a shadow of the reality still to come. The disciples did not keep watch in prayer, but were fast asleep when Judas arrived, and, were subsequently scattered in a panic. The disciples are a type of the End Times Church that does not follow prophecy. Judas is a type of the Antichrist, and the temple guards are a type of the apostate religious authority of the last days. The Last Days Church that ignores prophecy, will be unprepared and suffer a collapse of their congregations, when the apostate church begins to persecute those churches that do not compromise their fundamental belief in the Scriptures as the Word of God.
The above typology is also mirrored in the narrative of the conflict between Absalom and David. Absalom, being restored to the palace in Jerusalem, becomes the consummate politician, putting into motion a plot to overthrow David by gradually winning the loyalty of the people. In Biblical times it was customary to bring disputes to the king for judgment; Absalom took advantage of this practice by standing at the gate of the city and intercepting those who were on their way to the king for justice. Looking to win their loyalty through deception, Absalom would make inquiries into their case, and tell them that they should be entitled to a verdict in their favour. But then he would bemoan the weaknesses of the king’s judicial system and promise, that if he were appointed judge, he would bring justice. Absalom repeats this tactic consistently for four years. His subtle disloyalty to his father is some how overlooked. David probably chooses to interpret Absalom’s interest in justice as good training for a future king. He has no clue that his son is seeking to undermine him in the eyes of the people.
David should have been aware of Absalom’s attempts to undermine him, and taken steps to protect himself and his kingdom. This narrative is a second example for the Church today, just as Absalom took the place of authority at the gate of Jerusalem, so too will the ecumenical church usurp the authority of the Church as it progressively follows the philosophies of man – meeting the worldly needs of the people. As David’s neglect was very costly to him, so too will the neglect of the growing power of the ecumenical church be for the “sleeping” Church. The Church needs to “watch and pray,” to take a stand against the deception and liberalism that is contaminating God’s Word.
David ignored the threat of his son Absalom, and as a result ended up walking over the Mount of Olives bare foot and weeping, with Shimei throwing stones at Him (2 Samuel 16:6). The Church ignoring the Antichrist spirit presence within its body will also be humiliated when the apostate church turns on them.
All Believers should be open to the leading by the Holy Spirit with regards to prayer. Areas of prophecy that an individual could pray into are:
- The return of their King to take His rightful seat on the throne of David in Jerusalem. Jesus repeatedly emphasized that His Bride should hope for His return, just as any bride would long for the day of her wedding. Believers are expected to pray for His return. Just as a bride becomes more excited as the day of her wedding draws near, the Believer’s anticipation and excitement should increase as the fulfilment of prophecy becomes more evident. The early Church of the apostles would greet each other with “Maranatha” (“come Lord Jesus!” [1Cor. 16:22b]), the Church of the last days needs to pick up this habit.
- All prophecy is connected to Israel, and Believers should be praying for Israel (Psalm 122:6).
- To pray for the salvation of friends and family during the Tribulation, that people may still have access to Scripture and be provided with the knowledge and understanding to reject the lies of the Antichrist.
- We should be praying for the Tribulation saints who will be required to endure the persecution of the Antichrist.
- The Churches should pray against the demonic strongholds in their community, and the rise of the apostate church, with the many false teachers and false prophets, whose deceptions and lies are preparing the way for the Antichrist. The spirit of the Antichrist is preparing the way for the false messiah.
- The Church should be praying for wisdom and strength to cope with the coming pressure to compromise our moral stand as servants of Jesus. It is these Churches that will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and be able to face the persecution of the apostate church. Jesus will refine His bride before the rapture, and we need to be prepared.
An extremely significant revelation for the importance of praying into prophecy, can be found in the history of the Protestant Reformation in Britain. During the 16th century the English Christians (Puritans) held the correct belief, that the nation of Israel would be reformed in preparation for the return of Jesus. Connected to this, they believed that Jews would return to the newly formed nation of Israel from all nations (Ezekiel 36:24). The problem for these pre-Millennial believers, was that there were no Jews in Britain! In 1290 Edward I, a good Catholic King, had kicked all the Jews out of England. In the understanding of these Puritans, this meant that Jesus could not return until Jews were once more allowed to live in Britain. The Puritans prayed into this dilemma, which in time resulted in Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan, defeating Charles I in 1646, and Cromwell subsequently invited the Jews to return to England. The results of the praying into prophecy by the Puritans, was remarkable, with God blessing Britain, not only that the nation would become the world’s greatest empire, but that Britain would also be given the responsibility for the restoration of the nation of Israel.
Confession of Israel’s Sins (9:3-4a)
The well-known theologian Charles Spurgeon noted that “God loves to be believed in” and Daniel is well aware of this as he approaches the throne of Grace, and petitions God on behalf of his people, with the focus on the promised return and the restoration of the covenant bond.
“3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God (Adonai Elohim), seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession…” (9:3-4a)
Verse 3 records the determination Daniel had in his desire to come before the Lord in prayer, when he states that he “turned his face to the Lord”. He had read God’s Word, he believed God’s Word, now it was time to pray into God’s Word. Daniel’s prayer was not an afterthought, he was a man of prayer who had developed a close relationship with God, and he knew God’s love for His chosen people, he therefore fervently desired to be involved in the healing of this severed relationship. James, the brother of Jesus wrote that, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5:16b), and this applied to Daniel, he would seek God’s face till an answer came.
The seriousness of Daniel’s petitioning of God, is made clear by the revelation that he did so in sackcloth and ashes, which was a method of humbling oneself before God, also used in times of mourning. The individual would wear clothing made from material used for the manufacture of sacks, the rough material would be course against the skin, symbolising their humility. Then they would sprinkle ash from the furnace over themselves, which was a symbol of sorrow for their sins. Daniel was giving a physical display of his emotional state:
- He recognised that he was a sinner coming before a Holy God.
- He was aware that he needed to approach the throne of Grace in humility.
- He was mourning for his lost people and their severed relationship with God because of their rebellion. So, Daniel came to God to plead their cause and seek His forgiveness.
Daniel also fasts during this time of prayer, bringing the flesh into submission of the spirit, to ensure that he was in the right spiritual state to petition God. Having prepared himself, Daniel is then able to make confession on behalf of his people.
John MacArthur (1) points out that Daniel sets up the criteria which defines true prayer:
- Characterized by fervency (Da 9:3).
- Characterized by self-denial (Da 9:3).
- Identified unselfishly with God’s people (Da 9:5).
- Strengthened by confession (Da 9:5-15).
- Dependent on God’s character (Da 9:4,7,9,15).
- And, has as its goal, God’s glory (Da 9:16, 17, 18, 19).
(1) John MacArthur, John MacArthur’s Study Bible. HarperCollins brand W Publishing 1997.
Acknowledgement of Sin (9:4b-6)
Daniel begins his prayer by acknowledging the greatness and majesty of God, giving honour and glory, for all the attributes of His divine nature – His power, wisdom, justice and mercy. Jesus when teaching the disciples, the Lord’s prayer, instructed them to begin their prayers in the same way (Matthew 6:9-10). It sets the tone, it is a recognition of who we are in comparison to God, we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from him:
“… ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land’“ (Dan. 9:4b-6).
God is a covenant making and a covenant keeping God, and Daniel is well aware that God’s “steadfast love” for His chosen people will not allow Him to break His covenant with the Jews. This is why the doctrine of Replacement Theology (Supersessionism) is so repugnant to me, it implies that God has broken His covenant with Israel, and that the Church has replaced/superseded Israel, so the Church is the New Israel. Therefore, all the promises that God has made with Israel now belong to the Church. What these Supersessionist don’t tell you, is that if the blessings belong to the Church, the Jews are left with the curses, it is therefore an anti-Semitic doctrine. History has revealed numerous accounts of the persecution of Jews, where Replacement Theology is at the root of the hatred, such as the first Crusade. Although the main goal of the 1096 Crusade is to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims, Jews are also targeted, with Jewish communities on the Rhine and the Danube being totally destroyed. Jews were slaughtered in Europe and wherever the Crusaders found them on the way to Jerusalem. When found in Jerusalem, Jews were locked in a synagogue and the building set alight while the Crusaders celebrated outside by singing hymns in praise of God. The fact that the wealth of the slaughtered Jews was taken to support the Crusade was an added bonus. The Crusades were the first acts of mob violence against the Jews and would set a trend in Europe for hundreds of years into the future. In the modern era, Churches that hold to the doctrine of Replacement Theology view Israel as an apartheid nation and raise funds to support the “plight” of the Palestinians. This money goes into the coffers of Hamas and is used to support attacks against Israel which results in Jews being killed.
Daniel knew that God’s love (Romans 8:38-39) and God’s character would never allow Him to break a covenant promise – the marriage bond which was made at Mount Sinai, and is celebrated as Shavuot (Pentecost) each year by the Jews. That marriage contract had conditions, which included the stipulation that God would be their God as long as they obeyed His commandments, which included not worshipping other gods, and their graven images. Breaking that covenant agreement brought consequences; instead of the blessings of the covenant the nation received the curse of the covenant – exile. This did not mean that the covenant was at an end, God had a plan – He always has a plan – He would eventually restore the Jews back in relationship with Him. Daniel’s prayer was the first step in that process.
Daniel is well aware that his people do not deserve God’s favour, they had “acted wickedly and rebelled,” not only breaking God’s commandments, but also spurning God’s repeated attempts through the prophets to repair and restore the relationship. They had ignored repeated warnings from God over long periods of time, Judah had no excuse.
Daniel makes no attempt at making excuses either, he honestly and forthrightly admits “we have sinned.” As the School Tutor in my last teaching post, I was a part of many disciplinary hearings where teenagers were confronted with the misdeeds that had accumulated demerits. After the infractions of the school rules committed by the student had been covered, the teenager was then given an opportunity to explain their behaviour. Most often we would hear excuses, and even outright lies, very seldom did we receive an admission, with a heartfelt desire to correct the bad behaviour. Unless the teenager is repentant, we were well aware that the discipline problem was most likely to continue. We therefore required a complete admission of guilt, and then a contract was drawn up covering what the teenager needed to do to correct their behaviour, and also what the school could do to help them succeed in their efforts. Just as the disciplinary committee was aware of the need for the proceedings to bring about a change of behaviour, by instilling the correct values and working to strengthening the individual’s character, God uses His disciplinary actions for the same purpose. Daniel’s admission of sin is a good start.
Daniel’s Humility (9:5)
“We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules” (Dan. 9:5).
Why was Daniel chosen by God to be the one to commence the process of restoration? Possibly it was because Daniel’s wisdom, and knowledge would guide him to pray the correct prayer. It could also be because of the character and integrity of the man; he was the ideal representative. No doubt all these were positives for the choice of Daniel, but at the top of the list would have been his humility, “God humbles the proud and he gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Not only does Daniel recognise the sins of the nation, and their rebellion against God, he includes himself, by saying “we,” not “they”. Let’s put this into context, Daniel grew up under the righteous King Josiah, becoming a Godfearing teenager. He should never have had to suffer the punishment of the wicked, yet he was taken from his home and marched 1 600 km in chains to a foreign land. Once in Babylon he becomes a eunuch slave in the royal court, serving a pagan king; this he did without compromising his relationship with God, despite tremendous pressure to do so. This is a man who has earned the right to say “they have sinned”; his compatriot in captivity, Ezekiel, records that God recognised him as a righteous man, placing him alongside Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14:14-20).
Daniel is a type of Jesus, i.e. the suffering, humble, righteous servant of the people. Although Daniel does not take the sins of Judah upon himself, as Jesus did (1 Peter 3:18a), he identified with his people’s sins, underlining his love and passion for his people, seeking their restoration in relationship with God. Daniel identifies with his people and so he is able to intercede for them, and in so doing fulfils the requirement for the promise given in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
” if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
I have heard the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 being claimed by Christians in prayer on behalf of their country, unfortunately this promise is a covenant promise and cannot be claimed by the Church for that reason. However, every Christian should pray for their country, their church and their leaders both secular and spiritual (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Following the example of Daniel would be a very good start:
“I firmly believe that, the better a man’s own character becomes, and the more joy in the Lord he has in his own heart, the more capable is he of sympathetic sorrow; and, probably, the more of it he will have. If thou hast room in thy soul for sacred joy, thou hast equal room for holy grief.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Israel’s Shame (9:7-11)
“7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.”
Daniel continues his prayer by contrasting the nature of God and His “righteousness”, with the “shame,” “treachery,” and rebellious sin of Judah and Israel. Daniel repeatedly acknowledges the culpability and rebellion of the Jews, and then emphasizes four times, that they had transgressed God’s laws that were given to Moses. For many Christians the law has come to signify legalism and rigidity, which is directly opposite to the Grace of God they have in Jesus. For the Jew of Daniel’s day, the Law was extremely personal, it was their guide, it showed the direction that they needed to go. The psalmist describes it by writing “… (the righteous man’s) will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Christians forget that when John wrote that Jesus is the Word in his gospel (John 1:1), that there was no New Testament, and John was indicating the Tanach, the Old Testament, which included the law. Daniel is recognising that the Jews had been given a map to guide their direction, to ensure they remained on the correct path. Yet they had strayed, wondering off track, and ignoring God’s messengers, the prophets, who shouted out warnings of the dangers ahead, and the need to turn back to the correct path.
In the middle of Daniel’s recognition of the sin of the Jews, he implants his great hope, the only possible escape for his people, that “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving”. God is steadfast and sure, He does not change, He does not break covenants, in His great mercy and love He has a plan to restore the relationship. Just as Daniel could look to the mercy and forgiveness of God, so too will the Jews of the last days receive the same mercy, which will eventually see them restored in relationship with their God, and their Messiah. God has promised that this will happen (Romans 11:26), but first Israel will have to go through “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the Tribulation, before they will repent and be restored as a nation.
God’s Punishment for Israel’s Sins (9:11b-14)
Daniel’s prayer continues, noting the justice of God’s punishment:
“… Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you.12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem.13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favour of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.” (9:11b-14 [NIV])
Daniel starts verse 11 by going to the Torah and recognizing the warning of the curses God had recorded in Deuteronomy 28.15-24 for breaking the covenant agreement. In his last speech to the nation of Israel before he died, Moses gives a powerful summation of the book of Deuteronomy in this admonition:
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
The Jewish word Chai (חי), means “life,” and has come to represent Moses’ warning to the nation of Israel “choose life”. Daniel gives recognition that the Jews had ample warning, and in their rebellion, they chose death and curses. It is well worth noting that Moses’ warning echoes through the ages into the New Testament era – we too have the choice of “life and death, blessings and curse” – listen to Moses’ and “choose life”. Many Jews wear the symbol on a chain around their necks, but are unaware that, that symbol points to Jesus, the saviour of lives.
Because the nation of Israel chose to ignore the warnings they were given in the Torah, they by default chose the curses and brought “disaster” upon their lives. Daniel emphasises this by repeating the word disaster three times. The repetition of the word emphasises the utter destruction of the nation of Judah and its capital Jerusalem. Daniel uses “disaster” three times, which mirrors the three sieges Nebuchadnezzar brought against Jerusalem, each one being more severe than the previous siege:
- 605 B.C. – The first siege resulting in Daniel and the elite of Jerusalem being taken to Babylon.
- 597 B.C. – The second siege resulted in the treasure being taken from the Temple.
- 587 B.C. – Jerusalem falls and the nation was exiled.
Daniel recognizes, that even though the judgement was severe, it was brought about by rejecting God’s protection of the nation, and that God is righteous in all that He does.
A Plea for Mercy (9:15-19)
At the start of his intercessory prayer Daniel acknowledges the sins of his people and that the consequences were deserved. Having set the foundation of his prayer by recognizing culpability, Daniel now moves on to appeal to the mercy of God.
“15 ‘Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.17 Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name” (9:15-19).
There are a number of points in Daniel’s appeal that are important to note:
- Daniel, by going back to the start of the relationship God had with Israel, when He delivered Israel from Egypt, is implying that what God did for Israel then, He could repeat by saving the Jews from their captivity in Babylon.
- Egypt is symbolic of the world, and God brought Israel out of the world, to be a nation for Himself. So, Daniel is reminding God that He has a plan and purpose for Israel, which will be lost if the Jews remain in Babylon – the world.
- God suffered the stigma of being the God that could not defend His people against the Babylonians. The artifacts from the Temple were placed in the pantheon of the Babylonian god Marduk, God was therefore seen as inferior to this Babylonian god. Yahweh was glorified by the nations for His deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, so, He would once more be glorified by all for the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon. Interestingly, history reveals that the restoration came about with the destruction of Babylon and their god Marduk.
- The deliverance of the Jews will reveal the character of God, His “righteous acts”. Which include mercy and grace.
- Daniel knows his Scripture, and knows that God has a covenant with the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:60). So, Daniel reminds God that the city where He has put His Name (2 Kings 21:7) is desolate and in ruins. Jerusalem is the City of Peace, where the Prince of Peace will establish His rule, and will be seated on the throne of David – for this to happen the Jews need to be restored to their land.
The extraordinary intercessory prayer of Daniel ends like a jack hammer pounding through a concrete barrier, an urgent plea for God to move:
- Lord listen!
- Lord forgive!
- Lord hear!
- Lord act!
- Lord do not delay.
Daniel is very old now, and holds a position of great responsibility in Babylon. He will never see his homeland again, or be able to lay claim once more to his family’s home. Daniel’s prayer is totally selfless, his love for his people is his only motivation. Daniel most probably did live to see the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, with God guiding King Cyrus to write a decree that required all captive to be allowed to return to their homes (Ezra 1:2-4).
What the nation has failed to do, Daniel does for the nation. He is not a high priest or a king or an official representative of the nation. He is a layperson who has served for years as a high official in the government of Israel’s conqueror. But yet, he takes on this intercession. Intercessors need not be officially designated for their task. God is the one that lays the burden of prayer on them and God is the one who answers the Spirit-inspired prayers of faithful intercessors. Before the exile, love for Yahweh by the Jews was sparse, but during the exile God brought about a renewal of faith. The synagogue and scribal movements began during the exile and were brought back to Jerusalem with the returnees. So, Daniel may well have not been the only one who prayed this prayer. Ezra was a godly scribe who returned to help lead the Israelites who had returned to their homeland. Probably those who felt the strongest love for Yahweh returned when they were able, becoming the “remnant.” Those who had been assimilated into the Babylonian culture and religion did not feel a need to return. Thus, the exile provided a sifting and refinement of the Israelites who ultimately returned to their homeland.
The doctrine of Replacement Theology that is held by so many denominations within the Church, states that God is finished with the Jews and His focus is now on the Church alone. This is a lie from the lips of Satan, and these churches are deceived. Just as God delivered Israel from Egypt and Babylon, so too will God once more deliver the Jews back in relationship with Him in the last days. Last century, Replacement Theology proponents rejected the belief that God would restore the nation of Israel, yet in 1948 God restored Israel. They then rejected the belief that Jerusalem would once more become a city in Israel, yet during the 1967, Six-Day war, Jerusalem was captured by Israel, and is now Israel’s capital city. These hard hearted, deceived supporters of a doctrine of demons, reject the return of Jesus to establish His Millennial Kingdom – they will be proved wrong with regards to this as well. Jerusalem becomes Zion when the presence of God dwells in the city, and Israel has been promised by God that:
“… the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10).
Summary on Intercession
The first 18 verses of Daniel 9 hold great value for a Believer’s prayer life, the lessons learned are:
- The fist lesson to be learned from Daniel’s prayer is that God requires us to pray into prophecy. The apostle John records in Revelation 8:1-5, that the prayers of the saints are presented to God, before the Trumpet and Bowl Judgements commence. A clear indicator that God does not act unless his saints pray for prophecy to come to pass.
- Daniel was a layperson who through a close walk with God was led by the Holy Spirit to pray. A Believer does not need a title, or to be a member of a prayer group to take part in serious intercession.
- A Believer should pray logically and reason with the Lord, revealing the positive outcome, which would result in honouring and glorifying God.
- True repentance is a must for a relationship with God to be restored, just as David prayed after his sin with Bathsheba was exposed “Against you, and you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4), so too does the Believer need to recognise their inability to be holy before God.
- The humility of Daniel in prayer, how he identifies with the sins of His people and their sins. I live in South Africa where political corruption is rife, and I have heard many prayers prayed for God to deal with the corruption in our government and bring about an accountability. Yet I have not heard one where the person included themselves in the request for restoration and forgiveness. By a believer acknowledging their own weakness, and knowing the very true adage “there by the grace of God go I,” enables a person to confess the sins of others as their own.
- When a Believer humbly goes before God in repentant prayer, they are able to look for God to provide His mercy and grace.