Editors Note: due to technical difficulties this sermon was unable to be recorded. Attached below is the outline.
“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, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.”
Where are we at in the story?
We’ve been in Daniel for a little while now.
Was Historical Narrative
A collection of stories about a particular group of Israelites, and specifically Daniel & his friends, as they are in captivity in Babylon.
Daniel the last few chapters has moved into apocalyptic literature
Disturbing, grotesque imagery & symbolism
Like a music CD switching from uplifting acoustic to death metal
Why are they in captivity? Because of evil they have committed.
Since the very beginning when they left Egypt they’ve constantly sought to worship everything but God.
Turning away from His commandments
Jeremiah says it has even descended into Child Sacrifice for other “gods” (Molech)
We’ve seen some major events happen
Two different kings have been humbled
God’s servants have been protected
God has promised His people a future
So where are we now?
What we have now is like a welcome breath of fresh air between all the apocalyptic visions.
Chapter 9: Daniel has been praying & confessing the sins of His people.
He got there while spending his quiet time in the book of Jeremiah.
Daniel has just seen one empire end and another begin.
Jeremiah says they’ll only be captive for 70 years.
Maybe that time is almost up?
Also interesting that this all takes place “at the time of the evening sacrifice”.
Shows where his heart is
We spent last week reminding ourselves of the beauty of this confession.
This should be our own confession as christians.
Remember guys: we’re not the heroes.
The story of Israel in Babylon is our story too in many ways
Case in point, you don’t have to go a day without reading a news article about the culture war. Remember, people hate us because of our values. Because they hate Christ. It’s very easy to sympathize with the israelites and feel like we too are also exiles far from home.
1. We have a God who answers us with His character.
Story to help our understanding of the text: AT&T Example
But we have a God who answers.
What do I mean by that? First, lets look at this text specifically.
Daniel prayed, and it says that at the start of his prayers, God has sent an answer. God has sent Daniel a gracious & loving response. This answer comes by way of Gabriel, whose name should be very familiar to us at this point.
What we are seeing here is more than just an angel showing up though: God’s response is a statement of God’s Character
God doesn’t ignore prayer, He hears it. God doesn’t just hear prayer, he answers it. He’s not absently filing away our petitions and considering whether or not to deal with them.
Instead He hears and is eager to respond. As the prophet Zephaniah says “He sings over us with joy”. It’s in God’s very character to hear and want to respond to our petitions. It says that before the prayer is finished, Gabriel has already been dispatched to bring an answer to Daniel.
A couple thoughts here:
There is nothing in Daniel’s prayer that requires God to respond to him.
Remember: It’s a prayer of confession
Daniel is repeating to God that he is a sinful person, along with Israel
Interestingly no sins are ever recorded for Daniel
Most bible characters are genuinely terrible human beings.
God works through them and promises them great things despite how evil they are and how consistently they fail Him.
Yet Daniel seems like a great guy whom we would want in political office today
Yet his prayer is straight confession of his sins & his people’s sins
Now what’s very important here is the manner in how God responds.
Personal notes on Daniel & fear of apocalyptic literature
Small baptist church with bad views of apocalyptic symbolism
We didn’t look at what the symbols were trying to communicate as a whole
Couldn’t see the forest because of the trees
Just like other times, God doesn’t answer with a clear explanation.
Here’s what I mean by God answering with His character:
He doesn't respond by offering Daniel something to tide him over temporarily.
Not like a husband giving flowers to an angry wife
The husband will still fail his wife. It's not a permanent answer
God doesn’t give a clear understanding of the vision.
Instead He opens by reminding Daniel “You are greatly loved.”
He goes into the 70 weeks
Another vision that leaves Daniel sick & confused after
Instead God is reminding Daniel of His character.
Just like with every other prophecy, God repeats the same overall idea: “it’s going to be ok. I will make things right.”
Daniel, don’t worry about the goat. Don’t worry about the super beast. Don’t worry about the little horn. Don’t worry about the abomination.
No matter how crazy it gets, even though things will get worse, it’s going to be ok.
Because I am who I say I am.
Think about the book of Job. Job is righteous, suffers terribly, doesn’t sin but questions God and demands an answer and is only given “Who are you to question me?”. Job is satisfied in this.
In the midst of suffering God is who He says He is.
What we can understand from this is sometimes God answers us not with what we pray for, but a reminder of who He is.
When life is good, we know He is a God who blesses us
When life is hard, He is a God who chastises those whom He loves.
In the words of Job, “Should we accept good from God and not trouble?”
At all times though, He is God. He is quick to answer us with His character.
He is quick to answer us with Himself.
He gives us the permanent answer, not a temporary fix
2. We have a God who answers for our good, no matter the reply
Which begs the point that God does not always answer us with the blessings we ask for.
Daniel is given an answer before he can finish speaking.
Where have we seen this all before? Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4
Relay the story
Nebuchadnezzar is given an answer he didn’t want to a question he didn’t ask
Yet how does it conclude?
He breaks into poetry!
“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion.”
“For His kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
And he ends with:
“At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom… Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven.”
Was Nebuchadnezzar going to do that before?
No! He hated God! He hated God’s people! Look at everything he did to them.
Yet now he exalts God, so far as to issue a proclamation to the Babylonian people about this change and where he now stands.
What we see is that God always answers for our good, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when it drives us out like an animal into the field. When our mental well being leaves us, God reminds us that He is who He says He is. He reminds us of His goodness. And He seeks us out with that. Even as we are far from Him, He tracks us down and whatever way possible makes us to know who He is.
Nebuchadnezzar had an answer he didn’t want to a question he didn’t ask.
That everything is going to be ok.
I'd like to take some time further to speak to the matter of what happens when we pray and an angel doesn't show up. When we're praying about an issue and Gabriel doesn't show up and offer you insight.
To quote a song: it’s hard when life looks more like the book of ruth and less like the book of exodus. When we pray and no pillar of fire appears to guide us. Instead it’s just the boring day to day moments and feeling like God has no presence with us.
James 4:3 says "And when you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may squander it on your pleasures." That's real great James, and Imma let you finish, but what about all the times we do pray rightly. What about the times when we pray for the things we know are good and that God desires? For our families to stop fighting, or for healing for a child sick with cancer? What about the times when we pray for that new job only to have it offered to someone far less qualified with far less of a financial need? What about the times we pray for an end to the addictions that we cannot shake? Where we wake up each day waiting for the next drink, or looking for the next hit, or waiting till we can look at the next lewd photo? What then, James? God has said He abhors evil, why isn't He resolving the conflicts that have been our deepest prayers for years? The kind of things that make us wake up each day questioning why we even go on?
I'd like to spend a little more time here before we seek out our answers. It has been said by men far wiser than I could ever hope to be that in the Psalms we find the whole well of human emotion. From the greatest joys to the deepest despairs. We see Christ going to the Psalms in His teaching, prayers and finally even as He hung upon the cross. If you would join me, let's read Psalm 34.17-22.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
If we are good Bible readers, we know that one of the most important tools we have in our study of scripture is to remember our place in the story. So where are we in this text? Are we the righteous man spoken of? Does scripture extol our virtues from Genesis to Revelation? Did Jesus descend from heaven in order to put His stamp of approval on us? To say “hey, great work out there, I know you’re trying your hardest”? No. We were forcibly removed from God's presence because of our attack on His character. Scripture does not extol us but instead laments us.
Within a generation of leaving the garden we had managed to figure out how to kill one another and things only got progressively worse from there. Look to our history as people: give us the chance to and we'll ruin everything we can touch. Israel is a great portrait of us. Let's even take a look at our own lives just this morning. If you are a parent, was your morning filled with patience & graciousness as you prepped your kids to arrive? If you are a single, did you experience those same unending virtues on your drive here or throughout your work week? My rhetorical questions have a point, guys.
If we are not the righteous man whom God delivers, then who are we in the Psalm? We are the wicked man. The one who deserves destruction. So as painful as it is to dwell on, our question here should not be "Why isn't God answering my prayers?" but instead "why does He hear them at all?". It would seem that James is right. A poisoned tree does not yield fruit good to eat. A righteous prayer does not come from a wicked person. No matter how selfless we may think our prayers and petitions are, they are always tarnished. By us.
1 John 2: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Friends, by all rights and means our prayers should fall on deaf ears. If life were fair, Daniel would have made his prayer of confession and the story would end there. He’d have gotten off his knees and no angel would show up. Israel would have no future and would have slowly dissolved away into the Babylonian culture. Yet because Christ was willing to suffer and die for our sins, He now sits at God’s right hand reminding Him that our prayers are not made in vain. When you and I pray for things that are good, even though our hearts are stained with evil, God looks at the righteousness of Christ and answers us with Himself. Not only does God constantly remind us of His goodness and His future that He has prepared for us, but He answered us long before we even called for Him. An angel was dispatched for Daniel as soon as he began to pray his confession; Christ died for our sins while we were still sinners.
The greatest answer to our prayer has already been done through the embodiment & ministry of Jesus Christ. I cannot stress enough that this is our greatest answer to prayer, friends. Though it can feel like God is ignoring us, it is clear in the person of Christ that we have been sought out. It’s going to be hard right now, but a future is promised to us because of Christ. That one day God will make all things right through Christ. One day we will be brought back into God’s presence and our prayers will be fully heard.
So if you get anything out of today, let it be this: God always swiftly answers our prayers with Himself.
What does this mean for us now? 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Pray knowing that your God loves & hears you. Read & pray His words back to Him. Remind Him that you know who He is. You know of His character in times of distress. Pray & give thanks for all things and especially Jesus Christ.
[Band & Prayer]
Father, We thank You for the glorious grace of Jesus Christ. For His excellence and righteousness. We thank You that He is an ever present help in times of distress. We pray that You continue to look up Him in our please. Do not see our sins, but please see His righteousness. We pray for Your will to be done in us. May we only grow in our adoration & service for You. Amen.