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.
In the first year of the reign of King Darius, the same year, presumably, that Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, Daniel, an old man, read the words of the prophet Jeremiah and saw that God had promised an end to the captivity of Israel after seventy years. The seventy years were over; the time was complete. Daniel prayed, and God answered to fulfill His word.
Daniel’s prayer is twofold. He concludes his prayer as we would expect, petitioning God on behalf of the exiles to fulfill the word which He spoke to Jeremiah, and pleads, “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.” What a bold prayer! Are we so bold as to tell God to pay attention to us and act? But how did Daniel begin his prayer? He begins with repentance. Daniel recognizes that all the curses for breaking the covenant (spelled out in Deuteronomy 28:15-68) had come upon them: God had given them into the hands of their enemies and had scattered them, just as He had promised. Daniel’s first words confess his sin: “we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled” (Daniel 9:5). Do we begin our prayers with such abject penitence? Daniel’s confession and his supplication alike recognize God’s faithfulness to His promises. He promised to visit His people in judgment for their sin; He also promised steadfast love and faithfulness when they repented and sought Him with all their heart.
God’s promises began from the very beginning of creation: God spoke to Adam and Eve saying that if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. And God fulfilled His word of judgment: the wages of sin is death. After the Fall, however, God promised salvation, saying to the serpent,
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Daniel prayed for redemption for the people of Israel, and forgiveness for their sins. In Genesis we find the first promise of the coming Savior. Like Israel’s captivity in Babylon, man’s captivity to sin has an end. “Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” Those who witnessed the coming of Christ perceived this and praised God for fulfilling His word. Mary responds in song to the angel Gabriel’s message to her:
“He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:54-55).
Likewise, Zechariah, after the birth of John the Baptist, exclaimed,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (Luke 1:68-70)
And finally, Simeon, when Jesus was presented at the temple, blessed God and said:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Just as God first promises the coming of Jesus at the beginning of Scripture, He promises His return at the Bible’s end: “Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). Jesus has come, God’s Son sent forth, born to redeem us, and He will return. He will dwell with us, and we will be His people, and God Himself will be with us as our God. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away (Revelation 21:3-4).
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God in Christ Jesus is eternal life. May we confess our sins with Daniel’s humility, and may we pray for Christ’s return as fervently as Daniel prayed for God to fulfill His promise. “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the pow'r and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
O come quickly, O come quickly;
Alleluia! come, Lord, come.
(“Lo, He Comes with Clouds, Descending,” by Charles Wesley)