Daniel 9:1-19

            Daniel was one of the godliest persons in the whole of Scripture.  It was not so much because he was wise and insightful, savvy and ingenious.  He was certainly those things.  But what made Daniel godly was his tremendous sensitivity to sin.  It drove him to prayer.  It led him to fast.  It caused him to cry out to God with a great penitential confession.  Now, mind you, Daniel did not have all this concern because of his own personal failings; he was not the one running from God.  Yet, he identified so closely with his fellow Jews that he was totally distraught over their disloyalty to God’s covenant stipulations.  In other words, Israel simply did not care to obey God and they were not concerned to offer any kind of prayer of confession.  Daniel did for them what they either would not or could not do for themselves.
            The Lord Jesus told his disciples what truly characterizes a person of righteousness.  He said that God’s stamp of approval rests upon those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Genuinely godly people react emotionally over sin – not only theirs, but the sins of others.  Dwelling in the light of God’s presence will always cause us to discern the blackness of sin in all its foul depravity.  To not grieve over sin and disobedience is to not know God.
            Every human being is rushing toward eternity, and will be judged according to God’s gracious revealing of himself and his ways for humanity.  The person who grasps this reality cannot help but grieve over sin.  He mourns over the sins and the callous disregard of God in his nation.  He mourns over the greed, the hate, the cynicism, and the base lack of integrity around him.  Indeed, such a person mourns that there are so few mourners.
            Merciful God, I confess to you the sins of your people – their inattention to the things that are most important to you.  I grieve over the state of so many that do not know your grace and goodness.  I am ashamed before you that so few are sensitive to sin, even in your church.  To you, Lord God, belongs mercy and forgiveness.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.  To you do I plead on behalf of the sins of many so that your grace will become operative through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Daniel 9:15-25a

          Today’s Old Testament reading continues Daniel’s prayer of confession from yesterday.  Reading through this prayer is like having a privileged glimpse into one of the most beloved persons in all of Scripture by God.  Indeed, while Daniel was praying the angel Gabriel came and communicated to him that “you are greatly loved.”  Daniel’s prayer is at the same time grand and majestic, yet humble and simple.  It would be a worthy activity to take this prayer and write one’s own confession based upon it.
             Too many times in our lives we feel the misguided notion to hide our sin.  We want to look good to others, so we take pains to make the outward appearance godly and attractive.  We may be careful in only letting another see our good side.  We might even do this with God by failing to pray and confess sin.  In doing so, we inevitably neglect the vast interior life.  But Daniel was greatly loved not because he had it all together, but because he was sensitive to sin and was courageous to bring it before God.
             It is easy to have delusions of grandeur about doing great things for God and being a leader among God’s people.  The hard work is one of prayer, particularly confession.  And the consequences of sin are not always magically erased.  But the mercy of God becomes operative and guides us into truth and grace toward ourselves and others.
             Merciful God, listen to my plea for the gospel of grace to take root in my inner self.  Incline your ear to listen to me and grant me forgiveness that leads to new life in Christ in order that I might stand in the gap and intercede for others.  Be gracious to your church and bring healing to all wounded by her neglect of mercy.  Amen.

Daniel 9:1-14

          There is no evidence in Scripture that the prophet Daniel was anything but godly.  He was a wise man with a high level of integrity and spiritual acumen.  Yet, when he prayed he identified himself fully with his people and their sins.  Daniel was not one to exult in his own private faith while railing against the sins of others.  Instead, when sin abounded he practiced lament.  When Judah landed in exile Daniel did not complain about getting a bum rap from God because he himself was not like the others.  Daniel did not try and claim the moral high ground and distance himself from his fellow Jews.  Notice how Daniel’s prayer of confession is a very “we” thing:
“We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name….  To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you….  All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice.”
             At the beginning of this season of Lent, let us as God’s people realize our mortality, our dependence upon God, our sinfulness, and our desperation for the Lord.  Let us lay aside all pretensions to godliness and confess our sins together.  Grace can only really be received by being profoundly in touch with our private and corporate complicity in the sins and abuses of the world.
             Gracious God, hear our prayer.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed in those things we have done and the things we have left undone.  Yet, your mercy is eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.  Amen.