Confessional Prayer

May 29, 2022 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Daniel - ENG

Topic: English Passage: Daniel 9:1-15

We are continuing this morning in our study of Daniel. The first half of the book had some very familiar stories, but once we came to chapter 7, the stories turned to visions. As we’ve been seeing, the second half of the book is not very familiar to us. We’re seeing something that we don’t see a whole lot of in the Bible. We are seeing Old Testament prophecies that are being fuifilled, not just in Christ’s first coming and not just in Christ’s second coming. We have prophecies that are being fulfilled during the intertestamental time, that s between the Old and New Testaments.

Thank you again, for those of you who have hung in there for out srudies of chapters 7 and 8. It’s a challenge for me ot think about how to approach these passages and how to teach them, and that means there’s a challenge for you as well as the listener. These aren’t easy passages to study.

But God is gracious. And I want you to know that we have come to a little pause in the prophecies. And this is going to sound more like what we’re used to. Please turn in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 9. Daniel chapter 9. This morning, we are going to be looking at verses 1-15, so let me begin by reading it for us, and I’m going to read all the way to the end of the prayer in verse 19. Here’s what it says:

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.

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.”

For every great ability, we understand that certain skills are necessary to make that possible. For example, if someone is a great basketball player, we would assume they know how to dribble and pass and shoot and play defense. And in the same way, we might think about which skills would be necessary to qualify someone a great mom or a great dad or a great employee .

But what kinds of skills are necessary if we were to say someone is a great Christian? That’s a good question to think about and measure your own life against.

The skills necessary to help us grow in spiritual maturity don’t exist all on their own; they’re connected to one another. I’m sure we’d expect a spiritually mature person to be good at submitting to authority. They’d be good at communication. They’d be disciplined in their Bible reading and their prayer.

One skill that is so important but often neglected in our culture is the skill of confession. A mature Christian is going to be marked by a life of proper confession.

In our culture today, confession is a sign of weakness. That’s why it’s so uncommon. Someone might apologize or make some kind of excuse to save face, but confession, especially in the public sphere, is a rare quality.

Part of what makes confession rare is the secularism and the atheism and the postmodernism that dominates our culture. Rather than believe in one unchanging standard of truth, people get to pick their own standard. If there’s no God, then there’s no universal standard. So, there’s no universal recognition of sin. And if there’s no sin, you don’t need confession.

If a man cheats on his wife, claiming he fell in love with someone else, many in our society today would say that the real sin was either getting caught or not being true to himself in the first place. We are told over and over again, from Disney and whoever else, that we are supposed to be true to our heart. And that’s the exact opposite of God’s message which tells us that our hearts are deceitful and wicked. We are not to be controlled by our personal desires, we are to be controlled by the word of God.

That’s the kind of life Daniel lived, and we’ve seen it already in the first half of the book. Daniel, however, was not just a man of righteousness and integrity. He was a man who knew how to confess. And that’s what we’re going to look at this morning and next week, Lord willing.

Before we get to Daniel’s prayer, chapter 9 gives us a little background. Look with me at verse 1 again. It says: In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.

Darius was a ruler in the Medo-Persian empire after they conquered the Babylonians. Some believe that this is simply another name or title for King Cyrus. I know we’ve been covering a lot of history in our past few weeks, but I think it's important here as a reminder of where we are.

If you remember, Daniel was only about 15 years old when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and took him, along with a whole lot of other people as exiles. But now, it’s about 65 years later, and Daniel isn’t a teenager anymore. He’s about 81 years old. And through all those years, he has remained faithful to God.

One of the expressions of his faithfulness was his study of God’s word, which included the prophecies of Jeremiah. That’s what verse 2 tells us. It says—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 was studying the book of Jeremiah, and he learned that the time of Israel’s exile was going to be seventy years. Where did he find that? Let’s look at it for ourselves. Jump back with me to Jeremiah chapter 25. Jeremiah chapter 25. This was a message given to Israel, a disobedient nation, before Babylon brought destruction and exile. Look at verse 8. Jeremiah 25:8. I’ll read through verse 12.

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.

Jeremiah made it very clear. The judgment of God was going to last seventy years. False prophets said it was going to be a short exile, but God had already predetermined its exact length—seventy years. After that, a restoration would come.

Jump over to Jeremiah chapter 29 now. Here’s a verse that is probably familiar to many of you. This was God’s promise to restore Israel. Even though they had gone into exile, God wasn’t done with them. Look at verse 10.

Jeremiah 29:10—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.

Here is what you need to understand about Israel’s situation, and it’s going to help us understand Daniel’s prayer. Israel wasn’t simply a victim of the evil power of Babylon. Israel’s political and economic condition were directly connected to its spiritual condition.

Their sin had led to their destruction, and their physical restoration was going to be connected to a spiritual restoration. That’s why Jeremiah 29:12 and 13 speak of calling upon the Lord, praying to Him, seeking Him, and finding Him. Their spiritual condition and their physical condition were connected.

Two wonderful passages to look at in relation to this, and you’ll have to do this in your own time, are Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68. I would have loved to go through that with you, but there just isn’t enough time for that. In those passages—Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28—you can read God’s promise to curse the nation of Israel if they will not obey Him. And those curses would get worse if they continue in rebellion. There would be starvation and death, and they would be conquered by a foreign nation. But when they confess their sin and turn back to God, God would remember His covenant and restore them. Again, for Israel, their physical and their political condition is connected to their spiritual condition.

Part of Israel’s obedience was to honor, not just the Sabbath day, but a Sabbath year. Every seven years the people were not to plant seeds or prune the crops. They trusted in God to provide extra in the sixth year, and they also ate whatever grew on its own.

Because of their rebellion, however, the people did not trust God, and they did not allow the land to rest. So, forcing Israel into exile was a way of forcing the land to rest. That’s why the final chapter of 2 Chronicles describes the exile into Babylon, and it says that it all took place “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” That’s from 2 Chronicles 36:21.

Again, God was very precise in the timing of it all, and their physical condition was connected to their spiritual condition.

Understanding that connection, Daniel is led to pray. He is obeying the words of Jeremiah. He is seeking the Lord. He recognizes that their captivity was a result of their sin. So, their deliverance needs to be connected with their confession.

Jump back over to Daniel chapter 9. Now, let’s look a little more closely at the first part of Daniel’s prayer. Daniel, chapter 9, verse 3 says—Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Fasting and sackcloth and ashes were external symbols of humility and contrition. Daniel is humbling himself before the Lord in confession. What we see in the verses that follow is a wonderful example of confession, and we can see there three simple principles for a God-honoring confession.

When you’ve messed up, when you’ve disobeyed the Lord, how should you go to Him? We’re going to be jumping around a little bit in this prayer, but here’s four qualities of a healthy confession.

Number 1, there needs to be adoration of God. Adoration of God. Those of you who are going to the class on personal devotions will recognize that word. All prayer needs to include adoration, meaning praise. You need to praise God for who He is and what He's done. Prayer is not directed to the sky. It’s aimed at the living God.

Look at verse 4, and we’ll see how Daniel starts this prayer—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.

Daniel begins by recognizing the greatness and the goodness of God. He’s a faithful God. He only speaks the truth. He keeps His promises. His word is sure. And He is a God of love toward His people.

Jump down to verse 7. There, Daniel is going to praise God for His holiness. He says, “To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness.

Jump down to verse 9, more praise—To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness

Lastly, in verse 15, Daniel reminds himself that this God is the One who brought His people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand. He had made a name for Himself, it says.

When you go to God in prayer, and especially, in a prayer of confession, the starting point is not how bad you feel. The starting point is God. You are coming before an almighty, all-powerful, infinite, and holy God. He is perfect in righteousness and purity. He is perfect in every sense of the word. All glory belongs to Him. Yet, as verse 9 says, He is also merciful. He's a forgiving God. You cannot come to god properly without a knowledge of who He is. That’s the starting point of real prayer, and I think those of you in the Sunday morning class are talking about that.

So, number 1, you start with adoration of God. Secondly, you move to admission of sin. admission of sin.

As you might have noticed, Daniel is not giving a personal confession here. He is praying on behalf of the entire nation, and so he is making a corporate confession. On the one hand, we might think, “Daniel, you’re a righteous guy, what is there for you to confess?” But Daniel recognizes that he is part of God’s covenant people, and as a whole unit, they have failed. They have messed up. So, on behalf of the nation, Daniel is going to God in confession and in preparation of their restoration.

Since Daniel understand the glory and the majesty of God, he is not going to minimize what’s happened. He’s not going to say, “My bad, God. That’s on us. Oops. Sorry. We messed up.” No! He is going to use God’s words to confess.

Look with me at verses 5 and 6. Notice all the different words and phrases Daniel uses to talk about what has happened. Verse 5—we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. Verse 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.

Does that sound like a man who is making excuses? No! Just like David in Psalm 51, he is saying, “This is all our fault. We’ve stepped outside your boundaries. We rebelled against you. We ignored your counsel. We’re all guilty, from the richest to the poorest.”

At the end of verse 7, Daniel says they are guilty of treachery against God. He’s using the language of adultery and unfaithfulness, just like James does in the New Testament. Daniel is admitting, “We are spiritual adulterers!”

At the end of verse 8, Daniel repeats himself: “We have sinned against you.” And then verses 9-11 continue the confession. Look at it again. Verse 9. Daniel prays, “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.

The end of verse 11 says: we have sinned against him.

The second half of verse 13 emphasizes their cotinued subborness. This didn’t happen all at once. This was an ongoing rebellion. Daniel says: we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth.

The end of verse 14 says: we have not obeyed his voice. And the end of verse 15 says: we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

Again, this is not a man trying to hide what has happened or downplay it. This is a man of God pouring out his soul in confession in behalf of his people.

How do you and I pray like that? Why is our confession so brief and so flippant, while Daniel’s is so profound and weighty?

The answer is because Daniel knew the glory and the majesty of God. His mind was filled with it. The adoration of God leads to the acknowledgment of sin.

Here’s what you need to understand: The sin you commit is not measured by the world. It’s not measured by the way people respond. It’s measured by the holiness of God.

What you did is not sinful simply because your wife is upset with you, or because your boss is upset with you. It’s not even sinful because it upset your conscience. It’s sinful because it was a rebellion against a holy God. The sin you committed, as small as you might think it is, was against an infinite God. That’s why the penalty is death and eternal judgment. That’s not God being harsh. That is God being fair.

The gravity of sin is why hell exists. Hell exists because God is glorious and majestic. And anyone who, for a moment, refuses to live for God’s glory, deserves and eternal punishment.

Sin is sin because God is God. And if you have a small sense of God, you’re going to have a small sense of sin. But the greater you understand God, the greater awareness you will have of your sin, and the more profound your confession will be. You need to praise God, and you need to recognize your sin before Him.

Now, understanding the holiness and God and the sinfulness of his nation, Daniel includes a third important element of confession. And that is this: an acceptance of consequences. Acceptance of consequences.

Daniel recognizes that God is righteous and just in whatever penalty He decides to give out. Daniel doesn’t blame God for Israel’s problems. He blames his nation. And he knows they deserve what God has put them through.

Look again at verses 7 and 8. He is accepting the consequences of his nation’s disobededience and rebellion. Verse 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.

Jump down to verses 11 and 12. We see the same thing. Daniel accepts the consequences. It says: 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.

And then, lastly, we see it again in verse 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.

In other words, Daniel says, “We are getting exactly what we deserve, and exactly what God said would happen.”

How different is that from the spirit of our age, where people cry out, “It’s not fair! I didn’t even do anything!” We live in a victim-focused world. And while victimhood is a real thing, it has also taken over the culture, and nobody wants to be blamed for anything. Nobody wants to accept the consequences of their actions. It’s a culture of immature children.

To deal out a just punishment is oppressive now. According to the culture, it’s unfair; it’s oppressive. And we absorb that kind of thinking before God as well.

We neglect our spouse and our children, and then cry out when the family is falling apart. We hang out with the wrong crowd, and then lament that we’ve gotten in trouble.

Not all difficulty is due to sin, but whenever trouble comes, it should lead us to at least pause and consider: Where is this coming from? Is this unjust persecution? Or is this the result of my own sin? And there can be elements of both, but we need to recognize that God is a jealous God, and He will act to purge us from sin.

Like Hebrews 12 says, He will discipline us like a father. Not in a vindictive way, but it’s for our good so that we can share in His holiness. There will be a pain that sin brings which is intended to help place us back on the right track.

The pain that God brings because of sin isn’t intended to harden our hearts against Him. Just like with Israel, it’s intended to draw us near to Him. It’s intended to lead us back to Him. We’re supposed to go to our heavenly Father in confession and in hope.

And this leads us to our final attribute for today for a proper confession. There should be adoration of God. There should be an admission of sin and an acceptance of the consequences. Lastly, there should be an anticipation of restoration. An anticipation of restoration.

Daniel isn’t going to God just to make himself feel better. He is praying to god because he knows that God alone is the one who will fix all this. God brought the consequences and God brought the solution. God alone can set this right, and Daniel wants to be part of that.

Do you remember how Daivd put it in the psalms? For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.That’s from Psalm 30. David, along with all who have trust in God, knew that sin is grievious, but God is even greater than our sin.

If you want to experience that victory over sin, the starting point is to turn to Jesus Christ. Surrender your life to Him, trusting in His death and Resurrection. That’s what God has done to bring forgiveness and eternal life. Go to Jesus in prayer, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness, and asking for a new heart.

And for those of you who’ve already trusted in Christ, that practice shouldn’t stop. We continually go to Jesus Christ. We go to God asking for help and mercy and grace.

We’re going to cover Daniel’s specific request next time as we look at the rest of the prayer. He finishes this prayer by asking God to be faithful to His promises.

Before we wrap up, though, I want to address a specific issue this passage brings up, and that is the issue of corporate confession.

Since Daniel prayed for his nation, does that mean that we should pray for our own nation? Well, we should pray for our nation, and there are other passages besides Daniel 9 that talk about that. Jeremiah told the Israelites to pray for the nation in which they lived, and Paul told Timothy to have the church pray for the kings and the rulers.

But a more specific question is: should we, like Daniel, confess to God for the sins of our nation? Corporate confession has grown in recent years, especially in conversations connected to social injustice and things like that.

This is not something we have talked about specifically as elders, but I want to let you know where I stand on this as I’ve thought about it.

I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong if you want to confess to God on behalf of our nation, but I think Daniel’s prayer here isn’t exactly the same thing. Israel was distinct as God’s special nation, and so Daniel wasn’t just praying for his own nation, he was praying for God’s covenant people.

We don’t have a record of Daniel confessing for the sins of Babylon or Persia. Nor do we have a record of Lot asking for forgiveness for the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nor is there a record of Paul confessing the sins of the Roman Empire.

Apart from Israel, nations today are not collectively a specially chosen people of God. God’s people today is the church, and the expression of that is the local church.

We don’t even have an example in the Bible of Paul, for example, confessing on behalf of the churches he planted. Instead, he rebukes them. But what we do have is some examples of corporate guilt in a local church. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for allowing an immoral man to remain in the church.

And in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus rebukes local churches for allowing error or falling away form him. That doesn’t mean that every individual had contributed equally to the problem, but it does seem to indicate that within a church, sins can rise to the level of corporate guilty.

As we think about our country, and all the sin we see in it, or even about the Christian church within it, and all the scandals and errors we see, I don’t think our ties to all of that rise to the same level as Daniel’s connection to national Israel. It seems to me like corporate confession is best kept for the people of God who have covenanted together, like a local church.

We should pray for our nation, but unless we have done ssomething specifically to promote or allow some specific sin to continue, I don’t think we need to feel burdened by a need to confess what has happened.

We can acknowledge that something was wrong. We can grieve that sin exists. And we should recognize that the same heart of sin out there still exists in us. I think that’s the better response. We see abuse. We see hatred and murder. And we need to remember that we are tempted every day by lust and greed and hatred. We don’t love our spouses and our children and our neighbors as God would have us. And we should be driven to Jesus Christ in confession of our sin.

And like I’ve said already, we should be going to Him recognizing our sin, and anticipating that He will help us battle our sin and make progress each day. The closer we come to the holiness of Jesus Christ, the more we will see how ugly our sin is, and the more we will cling to Him for the solution. If you have any questions about that, I’d be glad to talk to you, and so would any of our members.

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