God’s Word of Joy
Daniel 9:1-27: The Book of Daniel was written during a time when the Jewish people were suffering greatly under the persecution and oppression of a pagan king. Upon reading Jeremiah’s writings foreseeing Jerusalem’s 70-year ruin (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10), Daniel prays and asks for God’s forgiveness of the people’s sins. His prayer follows two of his visions (described in chapters 7 and 8), and these visions show God’s control of historical events and provide hope for those who remain faithful in times of persecution. Today’s reading concludes with a reference to the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple under the leadership of Judah’s governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua (Haggai 1:1-14; Zechariah 6:9-14). There is also an apocalyptic reference to the “Awful Horror,” an altar to the Greek god Zeus that was set up in the Temple in 168 B.C. by a Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV Epiphanes (see also Matthew 24:15 in which Jesus refers to this prophecy).
Daniel Prays for His People
1Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, ruled over the kingdom of Babylonia. 2 In the first year of his reign I was studying the sacred books and thinking about the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins, according to what the Lord had told the prophet Jeremiah. 3And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God, pleading with him, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and sitting in ashes. 4I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed the sins of my people.
I said, “Lord God, you are great, and we honor you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.
5“We have sinned, we have been evil, we have done wrong. We have rejected what you commanded us to do and have turned away from what you showed us was right. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our rulers, our ancestors, and our whole nation. 7 You, Lord, always do what is right, but we have always brought disgrace on ourselves. This is true of all of us who live in Judea and in Jerusalem and of all the Israelites whom you scattered in countries near and far because they were unfaithful to you. 8Our kings, our rulers, and our ancestors have acted shamefully and sinned against you, Lord. 9You are merciful and forgiving, although we have rebelled against you. 10We did not listen to you, O Lord our God, when you told us to live according to the laws which you gave us through your servants the prophets. 11 All Israel broke your laws and refused to listen to what you said. We sinned against you, and so you brought on us the curses that are written in the Law of Moses, your servant. 12You did what you said you would do to us and our rulers. You punished Jerusalem more severely than any other city on earth, 13giving us all the punishment described in the Law of Moses. But even now, O Lord our God, we have not tried to please you by turning from our sins or by following your truth. 14You, O Lord our God, were prepared to punish us, and you did, because you always do what is right, and we did not listen to you.
15 “O Lord our God, you showed your power by bringing your people out of Egypt, and your power is still remembered. We have sinned; we have done wrong. 16You have defended us in the past, so do not be angry with Jerusalem any longer. It is your city, your sacred hill. All the people in the neighboring countries look down on Jerusalem and on your people because of our sins and the evil our ancestors did. 17 O God, hear my prayer and pleading. Restore your Temple, which has been destroyed; restore it so that everyone will know that you are God. 18 Listen to us, O God; look at us and see the trouble we are in and the suffering of the city that bears your name. We are praying to you because you are merciful, not because we have done right. 19Lord, hear us. Lord, forgive us. Lord, listen to us, and act! In order that everyone will know that you are God, do not delay! This city and these people are yours.”
Gabriel Explains the Prophecy
20I went on praying, confessing my sins and the sins of my people Israel and pleading with the Lord my God to restore his holy Temple. 21 While I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came flying down to where I was. It was the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered. 22He explained, “Daniel, I have come here to help you understand the prophecy. 23When you began to plead with God, he answered you. He loves you, and so I have come to tell you the answer. Now pay attention while I explain the vision.
24“Seven times seventy years is the length of time God has set for freeing your people and your holy city from sin and evil. Sin will be forgiven and eternal justice established, so that the vision and the prophecy will come true, and the holy Temple will be rededicated. 25Note this and understand it: From the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until God’s chosen leader comes, seven times seven years will pass. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, and will stand for seven times sixty-two years, but this will be a time of troubles. 26And at the end of that time God’s chosen leader will be killed unjustly. The city and the Temple will be destroyed by the invading army of a powerful ruler. The end will come like a flood, bringing the war and destruction which God has prepared. 27 That ruler will have a firm agreement with many people for seven years, and when half this time is past, he will put an end to sacrifices and offerings. The Awful Horror will be placed on the highest point of the Temple and will remain there until the one who put it there meets the end which God has prepared for him.”
Today’s Key Verse: Daniel 9:4b
“Lord God, you are great, and we honor you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.”
What was the main purpose of Daniel’s prayer for his people? What are some of the reasons God allowed the people to endure suffering, such as the exile or later persecutions? How do you understand God’s relationship with human suffering today? In what ways have you experienced God’s presence during times of suffering?
Great and awesome God, forgive our society for the ways in which we have turned away from your love and justice for all. Let your face shine upon your people, that we may know your forgiveness and mercy, and that we may ultimately do your will. Amen.
Nehemiah 8:1-18: Ezra the priest reads the Law to the people gathered in Jerusalem.