A daily devotion for June 24th
9 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“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 on 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 on us, yet we have not sought the favor 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 on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
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 favor 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.”
The Seventy “Sevens”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
...we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. (Dan 9:5-6)
Daniel's prayer begins with the confession of sin. But the remarkable thing is that this man, according to the record, has no sin charged against him. Never once in Scripture are we told that Daniel did anything wrong. Now, I am sure he did wrong things. Certainly, sin must have appeared in his life, because Scripture tells us that no man is without sin, but the record does not give us any account of it. But in specific ways Daniel confesses his own sin and the sin of his people: He says,
We have sinned; we have been wicked; we have turned away; we have not listened.
This is pointing to something that is often missing from our own prayers. How many times do we include in them a heartfelt, honest confession of sin? There is nothing harder for us to do than to admit we were wrong, yet to do so is an honest and realistic thing. God does not ask us to confess our sins because he is trying to humiliate us or punish us. Rather, he asks us to do so because we kid ourselves, we are dishonest about ourselves, we are unrealistic about our own lives, and he is an ultimate realist. God always deals with things exactly the way they really are, and he says there is no way we can be helped unless we begin to do the same thing. He asks us, therefore, to start by acknowledging the areas where we have done wrong.
That is why we have the Scriptures. God's Word is like a mirror. Many of us, however, tend to ignore the Scriptures because we know this is true. If you look into the Word of God, into the mirror of the Word, soon you see exactly what you look like, and it is not always pleasant. Other people too are given to us for that reason. Since we cannot see ourselves the way we are, God graciously puts somebody into our life to help us see ourselves. This is why it is so foolish to resist what others are saying to you. If one person says something unpleasant to you, you may be able to dismiss that as coming from a twisted point of view, and you may be right. But, when a half dozen people tell you the same thing, you had better start listening, because they are telling you something that is true that you cannot see. Until you begin to see yourself realistically, you are living in a fantasy world, messing up everything you touch, because you do not see reality, you do not see what is really there. The most helpful thing we can do in our prayer life, therefore, is to take a moment at the beginning of our prayer to face what the Word of God tells us is wrong in our lives — our lovelessness, our sharpness, our caustic attitudes, our tendency to defend ourselves and put down others. This is where Daniel begins. All this is summed up in one great word found many times in Scripture, the word,
repent. When we repent we begin to set things right in our life; we begin to deal honestly with ourselves and with others.
Father, I confess my sin to you. Thank you for the Word of God and the people you have placed in my life to me a mirror. Help me to listen and come to you in genuine repentance and faith.
Life Application: What is an essential dimension in our prayers we may be avoiding? How do we respond when we are accurately confronted by others and by the Word with un-confessed sin? How does this prideful avoidance affect both our prayers and communication with others?
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