By Eric Taylor
Pastor, Cedar Hill Baptist Church, Cedar Hill
Focal Passage: Daniel 9:1-7; 17-19
By the time one arrives at Daniel 9, the prophet is most likely in his mid-eighties. He is studying the words of Jeremiah, and is moved to prayer for the people of God.
And what follows is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible, as Daniel enters a period of “prayer and supplications” which included “fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” What we have is a sound example of what a life looks like that seeks to maintain a focus on the Lord Jesus.
First, we focus on spiritual disciplines. The first thing Daniel did is what we should do. We need to set our “face toward the Lord God” (Daniel 9:3). It is a picture of complete focus. When King Jehoshaphat learned of enemy forces preparing to attack the people of Judah in Jerusalem, the Bible tells us that the King “set himself to seek the LORD” (II Chronicles 20:4).
Some translations say he “set his face toward the Lord.” When Jesus knew the hour of His crucifixion was near, the Bible says, “He set His face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). In other words, if we are going to focus on Christ in “prayer … fasting,” and mourning over sin, we better be looking unto Christ.
Second, we focus on personal confession. In Daniel 9:5-7, Daniel knew that if God was going to act, confession had to be made. And when Daniel confessed, he covered the gambit of offenses. He acknowledged that he and the people had “sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away” from God’s commands.
Daniel knew they had become hard-hearted, disloyal, and a reproach to the Lord. What we have in these verses is an example of what it looks like when God’s people get honest about sin. There is a lot of talk about the need for revival today. However, revival will never come until God’s people get real with Him and confess sin.
Finally, we focus on God’s abundant compassion. In verses 17-19, Daniel pleads to God to hear his prayers of confession so that God would forgive His people, as Daniel says, “based on Your abundant compassion.” Daniel understood that the only hope he and the people had was for God to forgive the people of their sins.
But even in his plea for forgiveness, Daniel makes it more about God than the people. He believed that when God forgives His people, He is pointing people to Himself. When we seek Christ’s forgiveness it is for the “Lord’s sake” (v. 17). When we pray for God’s pardon, we are praying for Him to correct the reproach that we have brought upon His name (vv. 18-19). We often make God’s forgiveness more about us than we do about the One who is doing the forgiving.
Yes, God forgives because He is rich in mercy and will abundantly pardon, but God’s main reason in forgiving you is to bring glory to Himself and exalt the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for sinners.
Ultimately, our focus needs to be on Christ, because frankly, how else will the world hear? Whether it is the spiritual disciplines described in our text, or our worship, evangelistic and world-wide mission efforts, the world needs to hear that there is a God who has “abundant compassion” (v. 18) and will forgive the sins of even the worst offender.