August 27, 2023

Praying for God's People (Daniel 9:17-19)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023) Topic: One Body: Love One Another Scripture: Daniel 9:17–19

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Children's Lesson (click here)

I. Just One Prayer

If you could only pray one prayer for this church, that is, you could only bring one request to God for our faith family, what would you pray? That's not an easy question is it? I'm guessing all sorts of things are swirling around in your mind right now. Obviously, we are not limited to just one prayer or petition. But I believe a question like that is a good exercise in thinking about what matters most as God's people. Keep that question in mind as we look together at Daniel 9.


II. The Passage: “For Your Own Sake” (9:17-19)

As you may be able to tell by just looking at this chapter, most of Daniel 9 is composed of a prayer, a prayer prayed by... you guessed it... Daniel. We won't read through the entire prayer this morning. Instead, I'd like to focus on the final three verses, 17-19. The earlier verses of this prayer are not difficult to summarize. Starting in verse 4, Daniel simply acknowledges that God's people deserved the punishment for their sins that God brought about, and even warned them about through Moses. That punishment was of course being exiled from the land of their ancestors, as well as the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. So let's keep Daniel's spirit of repentance and confession in mind as we look at those final verses...

[verse 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.”

Okay, two things I believe are fairly clear from this passage. First...


1. Daniel Prayed Passionately for The Good of God's People

His heart comes through loud and clear here, doesn't it? He is pleading with God. He is pleading for his people in light of God's mercy. He's asking God to hear their cries. He's asking God to see their loss. He seeks both divine forgiveness and divine intervention. What kind of intervention specifically? We find the main request in verse 17: “make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate”. To what is Daniel referring when he prays about God's sanctuary? He's talking about the Temple in Jerusalem, isn't he? But what's meant by the phrase, “Make your face to shine upon...”? That phrase actually goes all the way back to the priestly blessing of Numbers 6, and it simply describes God looking favorably on his people. One of the places we find this phrase used repeatedly is Psalm 80, three times the psalmist writes...

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80:3; cf. 7, 19)

And salvation and restoration (to the land) are exactly what Daniel has in mind as well. But remember his specific focus here. It's spelled out in the verse that follows our main text, 9:20...

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 [i.e., Zion]...

Think about that: when Daniel prays, in a spirit of repentance and confession, for the good of God's people he is praying specifically for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. Why? Because that sanctuary uniquely represented forgiveness from and fellowship with God himself. It's where God promised to dwell among his people. So Daniel was ultimately asking for a restoration to the spiritual prosperity of God's presence. But it's also crystal clear here that...


2. Daniel Prayed Ultimately for the Glory of God's Name

Our main text flows from this statement at the end of verse 16 (look there): “...your people have become a byword [lit. a reproach] among all who are around us.” That sad reality then leads to the “therefore” of verse 17. But Daniel wants to make it abundantly clear that his concern is not ultimately for God's people to feel better about themselves and their reputation. No. His concern is with God's reputation. Verse 17, “for your own sake”... v. 19, “for your own sake”. How are the people's welfare and God's glory connected? Look back at the final phrase of v. 19: “...because your city and your people are called by your name.” (we also find that same phrase in v. 18)

And that connection first appears in verse 15, “...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 [to] this day...” Israel was known as the redeemed people of Yahweh. Jerusalem was known as the city of Yahweh, and Yahweh's temple was there. And so... because he cares most about the honor of Yahweh, the glory of God, Daniel intercedes for his people, asking God to restore them, both physically and spiritually; for in that blessing, Daniel knew God would be greatly glorified.

So stop and think with me about how we might summarize Daniel's prayer for God's people. In a spirit of repentance and confession, with an overriding concern for God's glory/fame/reputation, Daniel prays for the restoration of his people, “that God may be all in all”. Again, that would have been the ultimate goal of restoring the Temple, forgiveness from and fellowship with God himself


III. Praying in Light of His Restoration

Now, that final phrase of my summary may sound familiar to you, “that God may be all in all”. Those are the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 15:28, words written to disciples of Jesus. In that verse (and in that chapter), Paul spoke about an even great restoration than what Daniel had in mind. Paul wrote about the restoration that Jesus would accomplish, “when all things are subjected to [God]” (i.e., when everything is placed in submission under his reign). In that day, the whole universe will once again become the place where he dwells with his people... the future and ultimate reality to which that ancient temple pointed.

In fact, Daniel 9 itself points us to that greater restoration. You may already know that the final section of this chapter, verses 20-27, describes a direct and divine response to Daniel's prayer, a response delivered by the angel Gabriel.

Though Daniel was confessing to and pleading with God in light of the fast-approaching “seventy years” spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah (see 9:2), Gabriel tells Daniel in 9:24 that actually “seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city...” (i.e., seventy periods of seven... most likely, seventy periods of seven years). No, it wasn't going to take 490 years to restore the people from exile and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Yes, God would still do those things. But He had far bigger plans. Again 9:24,

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 [or seal up] both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.”

Brothers and sisters, friends, when that prophetic clock expired, all of this was accomplished through “something greater than the Temple” (Matthew 12:6). As we read in Hebrews 9:11–12

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent [i.e., Temple] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) [12] he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Just as he announced to Mary in Luke 1, we are living now in the very restoration the angel Gabriel announced to Daniel so long ago. Through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ secured “an eternal redemption”. If you have embraced Him as Lord and his finished work as perfectly sufficient, then you are experiencing in a radically full way the very thing for which Daniel ultimately prayed: forgiveness from and fellowship with God. How radically full is the restoration of Christ? So full that we are now the temple; God dwells in us!

But as those restored in Jesus, what might we learn from Daniel about praying for God's people? Well, just as we saw, I think when you pray for the Church, when you pray for this church (not just individuals), yes, pray passionately for our good; but do that as you pray ultimately for God's glory. We have no true or lasting good apart from that which glorifies God. And the greatest good Way of Grace can ever experience is when God is all in all; that is, when He is everything to every one of us. That is when God is most glorified among and through his people!

Undoubtedly, many of the exiles in Daniel's time must have prayed specific prayers for restoration to their land, the restoration of their land, and even for a restoration of the greatness of Israel (none of which were bad things). But if they prayed these without a spirit of repentance and confession, if they prayed for such things without a heart for the glory of God, such prayers would have, in the end, been out of alignment with what God has revealed as most important.

In the same way, don't stop praying for circumstantial needs or for specific ministry goals (none of which are bad things). But pray even more, pray above all, in a spirit of repentance and confession, “that God may be all in all” among us, and so be greatly magnified through us. In what ways do you need restoration this morning? In that ways do we need restoration, “that God may be all in all”. Let's pray (or continue praying), renewed by Daniel's example in terms of the priority of God's glory... for we are also called by his name, aren't we? We are Christ-ians, and we want everyone to see the greatness of Christ our king. When we pray regularly with an eye to His glory and in light of the restoration Jesus has made possible, we will prosper as a people. That's for certain. I love how 9:23 confirms why Daniel was sent this angelic response: “for you are greatly loved”. If Daniel was reassured in this way, how much more can we rest assured that our prayers will be heard? For you are greatly loved as well. Jesus and his gospel prove that!


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