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Daniel, Bothered and Bewildered

Daniel, Bothered and Bewildered
By Wendy Wippel

You gotta love Daniel, a guy that interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream without hearing it, became Grand Poobah of the Magi, read the writing on the wall, and slept with the lions but still lived to tell about it! But when do I love him most? When Gabriel has to come tell him he’s confused!

For a book that’s primarily prophecy, the book of Daniel is also a treasure trove of gold medal examples of faith. There’s Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, refusing to bow when their King, Zedekiah, had his nose on the ground. (Daniel 3:1-6, Jeremiah 51:59)

There’s Daniel, praying toward Jerusalem decades after Nebuchadnezzar had turned it into a pile of rubble-a poignant but incredibly powerful picture of Daniel’s bedrock certainty that God had the power to restore it. (Daniel 6:10)

There’s Daniel again, who, though he arrived in Babylon as an impressionable teenager, was not swayed from his faith in the God of his fathers–but who, though he learned the language and literature of the Babylonians (Daniel 1:4), was not influenced by that foreign culture. Daniel, who in fact, profoundly influenced that culture, became the head of the Magi (the king’s advisers) and, when Belshazzar the ruling Babylonian king partied while the Persians took the city, rebuked that king.

Daniel, who, having done that, was not put out to pasture under the new Persian administration, but was made a ‘satrap’, a top administrative position. Daniel, who in that position, impressed Cyrus, the Persian King so much that he not only let the Jewish captives return to Israel, but subsidized their return and the rebuilding of the Temple.

No wonder he alone, among all the giants of the faith, was described as “highly esteemed” by God!

The Bible promises that, “the secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14 NKJV)

Is it any surprise, then, that God chose to reveal the bulk of Old Testament prophecy to Daniel?

But Daniel is most endearing to me in another scene, and it’s in Daniel 9:1-2.

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans- in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”

Translation: Daniel had gotten hold of Jeremiah’s manuscript, which later becomes the Book of Jeremiah, and learned from that manuscript that God had told Jeremiah that His judgment of the land under Nebuchadnezzar would last seventy years.

Jeremiah did say that:

“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God promised to return them after 70 years. But what Daniel actually said tells us that he read a little more into Jeremiah’s revelation.

Daniel said that God would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for “accomplish” there is “mala”, and means to complete, to fill up, to satisfy, to end. Daniel thinks that those seventy years will bring God’s judgment of Israel to a close. And that seventy years, by the time Daniel reads this, is almost up. But he also knows from the 26th chapter of Leviticus that God promised Israel that if they do not respond appropriately to His chastisement –meaning repent–that He would multiply the judgment seven times.

So Daniel launches into a prayer of repentance to end all prayers of repentance. Daniel, if you read it carefully, is obviously trying to repent enough for the whole nation:

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. … “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day-…8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. … 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. … all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 ”’-we have sinned, we have done wickedly!…19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive!” (Daniel 9:3-19)

Whew! It wears me out just reading it. And if you read it really carefully, you can see there is more at stake, in Daniel’s mind, than just the return to the land.

Daniel thinks (accurately) that at the moment when God’s judgment is really filled up, finished, satisfied–when it is really a ‘fait accompli’, it will be accompanied by the coming of the Messiah.

How do we know that? Right in the middle of that prayer he lets it slip:

“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill.” (Daniel 9:16)

The Holy Hill, identified as the place where the Messiah will reign when He redeems Israel and puts the nations under His feet:

“Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion. “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.”

And just to make sure we don’t miss Daniel’s misunderstanding of the Scripture, we have the words of the angel Gabriel:

Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, ….. Gabriel… reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.”

If Gabe had hailed from Mississippi, and if Daniel was from the delta, it would have read like this: “Daniel, honey, bless your heart, you’re a mite bit confused.”

Gabriel proceeds to tell Daniel that the Messiah would not be coming to reign over Israel in a few years, but at a time far in the future. Gabriel makes it clear, in fact, that it would be, at a minimum, several hundred years before the Messiah would be installed on that Holy Hill. We’ve notched more than 2500 years on our timeline since Gabriel’s visit, and we’re still waiting.

But the point here is not the timeline, but the tenderness that God had for Daniel. Daniel feared Him, and God wanted to make him know His covenants. He wanted to share His heart with Daniel.

And the good news here is that God feels the same way about us. In fact, He did one better. He didn’t just send an angel on a mission. He sent the indwelling Spirit:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

He who has ears to hear…

You and I are beloved by God today, and He wants to share His heart with us like He did with Daniel. And all we need to do is fear Him and abide in His Word.

One day at a time.

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