For the Love of God, Volume 2/October 24

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 297 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


2 Kings 5; 1 Timothy 2; Daniel 9; Psalms 117—118

DANIEL’S GREAT INTERCESSORY PRAYER (Dan. 9:1-19) cries out for prolonged meditation. The date is 539 B.C. Daniel “understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet” (9:2; cf. Jer. 25:11; 29:10), that the seventy years were up—which on the face of it shows that Jeremiah’s writing quickly circulated as Scripture. Some reflections:

(1) The “seventy years” have occasioned some dispute. There were different ways of calculating the period of exile (see, for example, the figures in Ezek. 4). Some argue that seventy years is merely an idealized fixed term for God’s wrath (cf. Zech. 1:12; 2 Chron. 36:21). If (as is more likely) this refers to seventy literal years, the best judgment is that the beginning of the seventy is 609, when the Babylonians beat the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish, with the result that Judah for the first time became a vassal state in service to Babylon.

(2) When Daniel becomes aware from Scripture just when the close of the exile would take place, far from resting and waiting for the promises to come true, he prays for such fulfillment. The peculiar dynamic between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in the Bible never retreats to fatalism. The promises of God are incentives to intercession.

(3) Daniel’s confession is general, not personal: “we have sinned and done wrong. . . . We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away . . .”— and so forth. Here Daniel reminds us of Isaiah, who joins together personal and general confession (Isa. 6:6). It is doubtful that we can fruitfully pray for our church and our culture without confessing our own sin.

(4) The heart of the confession is that Daniel and his people have turned away from God’s commands and laws (9:5), have not listened to God’s servants the prophets (9:6), have not obeyed the laws God gave through his servants the prophets (9:10), have transgressed the Law (9:11), and have not sought the favor of the Lord their God by turning from their sins and giving attention to his truth (9:13). Note carefully: the heart of the matter, as Daniel sees it, is neglect of what God said or disobedience to what he said. That is always the heart of the issue. Conversely, genuine sanctification comes through adherence to God’s words (Ps. 1:2; John 17:17). That is why the rising biblical illiteracy within confessional churches, let alone the culture at large, is the most distressing and threatening symptom among us.

(5) Daniel recognizes that the judgments that have befallen God’s people are both just and perfectly in line with Scripture (9:7, 11b-14). What bearing does this have on us today?

(6) What are the grounds of Daniel’s appeal for relief?

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