Courageous Faith: Persevering Through Exile

Persevering Through Exile

Passage: Daniel 9

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pastor Trent Broussard

 

Human trafficking, kidnapping, and forced slavery are items that frequently fill the news. We know the seriousness of human trafficking, and not only is it an issue for law enforcement, we even have missionaries and agencies that are devoted to rescuing people across the globe who have been trapped. But this isn’t just a problem in Laos or Thailand, or some other faraway place.

 

A recent FBI operation working with local law enforcement agencies across the country has rescued 82 exploited juveniles and arrested 239 people involved in the trafficking ring. One of the juveniles and 8 of the traffickers were right here in West Michigan.[1]

 

Slavery has been illegal in the United States since 1863. In fact, there is now no country where slavery is considered legal yet researchers estimate that there are 21 million people enslaved worldwide—78% work in forced labor situations and 22% are trapped into forced prostitution. Modern slaves are cheap and disposable.

 

In 1850 in the American south, the average cost of a slave was $40,000 in today’s dollars. Today the average cost of a slave is $90.[2]

 

The news often carries the story of a child who has disappeared or was kidnapped. This past January, an 18-year-old girl living in Walterboro, South Carolina was positively identified as a child who was kidnapped from a Jacksonville, Florida hospital just hours after she was born in 1998.[3] These are dark and ugly events that plague the world today.

 

What do these stories have to do with Daniel? When we read about Daniel’s faithfulness and God’s protection of and favor upon him, we also need to remember that Daniel was a slave. He was taken as a prisoner of war, along with many other young Hebrew boys, to serve in whatever task his Babylonian captors would desire.

 

It is easy to read stories like Daniel’s or even Joseph’s from the book of Genesis and forget that these men were cruelly enslaved and had no hope of escape. We need to read Daniel’s story with an understanding of the culture of slavery in which he lived.

 

We have seen Daniel remain faithful to his God through his dietary restrictions, continuing to pray and worship God even in the face of death, precisely reveal and accurately interpret dreams for his Babylonian captors, grow to be an old man, and rise to a position of leadership even in his captivity. He has been a counselor to kings even in the midst of a complete change of sovereignty from Babylonian to Medo-Persian.

 

When Belshazzar was killed and his government completely overthrown, Daniel stayed on as an advisor to Darius or, as some historians believe, Cyrus with Darius being a title rather than a specific name.[4] Daniel was an influential leader even though he was enslaved; Daniel remained faithful to the Lord and God’s favor was upon him.

 

Daniel Studied the Scriptures and Knew the Times

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 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 9:1-2)[5]

 

By this time, Daniel was close to 90 years old. He had been a slave for almost 70 years, and at his age you would think that he would have given up all hope of ever seeing Jerusalem and the Temple restored. But Daniel had been reading Jeremiah.

8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 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. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.” Jeremiah 25:8-14

 

It is very possible that as a young man in Jerusalem, Daniel knew Jeremiah. At the very least, he certainly knew of Jeremiah. He had probably read that passage many times in his life but never imagined that he would survive 70 years as a slave to see the end of the appointed time for God’s judgment. He also must have read Jeremiah 29.

10 For thus says the LORD:  When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:10-13

 

Jeremiah 29:11 was not a “good vibe” verse for Daniel to write on a wall or put on a graduation card. It was a promise of the end of Babylonian exile. It was the promise that even though Judah had been made to endure severe punishment for their sin, God was still not done with them.

 

Ultimately, it was a promise that points us to Christ as we see the entire Old Testament narrative as being the story of God redeeming man from the fall with Christ. By preserving Judah, God was preserving the promised line of the Messiah, the seed of the woman that would eventually crush the head of Satan.

 

Daniel read the scriptures and he knew that 70 years now passed in captivity. What Daniel does next clearly indicates that he not only knew the scriptures, but he believed them.

 

When Daniel recognizes that God’s appointed time for Judah’s captivity had passed, he goes to prayer.

3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, 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, saying, “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. 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.

12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.Daniel 9:3-19

 

Daniel Prays Selflessly

Daniel is not praying for himself here. In fact, Daniel barely asks for anything from God. In the first 2/3 of this prayer, Daniel is defending God’s character. He defends God’s action and judgment against Judah. He confesses their corporate sin and does not offer any excuse or attempt to blame someone else. Daniel’s prayer looks like it could come right out of 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

 

Daniel does not defend himself or his people; he defends his God. He confesses the sin of his nation and validates Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-58 where the Lord specifically pronounces judgment for future disobedience. He makes no demands upon God, nor does he claim any rights against God.

 

When Daniel finally asks something of God, it is not for himself. Daniel asks God to turn his anger away from Jerusalem and to shine his face upon the Temple. Daniel has been longing to see his homeland restored. He has been longing for the people called out by God to be able once again to worship God in his tabernacle. He does not ask for freedom. He does not pray for harm to his enemies or to the enemies of God. He is concerned about the glory of God and worship in his prayer.

 

He closes his prayer offering God a good reason to answer this prayer: for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name (Dan 9:19). It is about God and God’s glory. It is about God and God’s reputation. It is about God and God’s promise, specifically in Jeremiah. Daniel calls upon God to be true to his own nature and character by fulfilling his promise and answering the prayer of Daniel.

 

God Answers Prayer

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. Daniel 9:20-24

 

The truth and application of this passage is very simple: God answers prayer.

 

God did not wait for Daniel to finish and then consider his supplication. God answered immediately. Scripture gives example after example of God answering prayer.

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29). The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16b).

 

God hears prayer and he answers immediately. He may not send the answer we want or desire. We may not understand the plan of God. We may not see the full picture clearly. But we can know with certainty that God answers when his people pray.

 

Look at the answer to Daniel’s prayer. Gabriel, in verse 22, says he has come with insight and understanding. Daniel didn’t ask for insight and understanding, yet the Lord is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). We also learn that Daniel is greatly loved by the Lord.

 

You might be thinking that this man, Daniel, lived his entire adult life in slavery—how could God love him? If God loved him, why wouldn’t he deliver Daniel from slavery? God used Daniel for his glory, and that is not a selfish act. The most loving act God can do is to reveal himself and his glory to his creation.

 

God chose Daniel, and even though the circumstances of Daniel’s life were not as Daniel would have chosen, God still blessed him and protected him. Scripture does not tell us if Daniel ever prayed for his own freedom or release during those 70 years. But scripture does tell us that Daniel was faithful to his God regardless of the circumstance or the potential consequences for that obedience.

 

Spiritual Disciplines Were A Habit For Daniel

There is one little phrase that would be easy to miss from this passage, but I think it is important that we not overlook it.

 

Daniel wrote, While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice (Daniel 9:22). This was at the time of evening prayer, when the second sacrifice had been traditionally made. Daniel, when he was living in Jerusalem as a boy before the captivity, would have remembered. He may have remembered seeing the smoke rising from the Temple ground because a lamb had been slain.

 

The lamb was slain for sin and offered up to God. Sins were confessed. The one who brought the lamb would lay his hands upon the lamb, signifying identification, and confess his sin with his hands on the lamb. Then the lamb would be offered as a sacrifice. Daniel would have remembered that. For 70 years, there had been no Temple and no Temple sacrifice, but Daniel still prayed toward Jerusalem every day at that time. Daniel was still faithful to observe the evening sacrifice even though there had not been one in 70 years.[6]

 

This is faithful consistency in prayer.

 

The Prophecy

Time will not allow us to dig into the prophecy contained in verses 24 through 27. I would encourage you to study it in depth as God is revealing the coming Messiah. Sir Isaac Newton was known to have said, "We could stake the truth of Christianity on this prophecy alone, made five centuries before Christ." That is a powerful quote coming from one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known.

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. Daniel 9:24-17

 

Application

1. Study the Bible

Are you reading the Bible? Do you have a plan for regular reading of God’s word? If not, start today. I started many “read through the Bible” plans and failed to finish numerous times before I finally made it through. I remember getting bogged down in books like Jeremiah, the very book that brought hope to Daniel. It is God’s word and you and I need to be in it.

 

2. Pray and Pray Selflessly

Daniel prayed and spent most of his time in prayer recounting who God is and what he has done. First let me ask, do you pray? If so, how much? Whatever your answer, I would tell you it is not enough. I have never met anyone who could honestly say that they spent too much time in prayer.

 

The God who spoke all things into being and sustains everything that is, desires a relationship with you. He has revealed himself to you through his word. He has given his son to pay the penalty for your sin. You have time to talk to him.

 

And when you do pray, do you spend all your time asking God to do things for you as if he were your personal genie? Imagine what kind of relationship I would have with my wife if all or even most of my communication to her was asking her to do something for me. That would not work out well.

 

Spend time praying the scriptures back to the Lord. Spend time recalling all the blessings of the Lord in your life. Pray for God’s glory and for his renown. Pray for his will to be done.

 

Dare to be a Daniel.

 

 

[1]MLive, “8 Pimps Busted in West Michigan In Nationwide Sex-trafficking Crackdown, FBI Says,” October 20, 2016.

 

[2]Free The Slaves, “Slavery Is Everywhere,” http://www.freetheslaves.net/about-slavery/slavery-today/, accessed June 21, 2017.

 

[3]USA Today, “Newborn Kidnapped From Hospital In 1998 Found Alive,” January 14, 2017. 

 

[4]MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Study Bible, Nashville: Word, 1997, 1242.

 

[5]Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[6]MacArthur, John, “Israel’s Future: Part 1,” September 21, 1980.