God Is Greater Than Your Sin
By the time we get to Daniel 9, he’s a pretty old man, and he’s still living in this strange land away from home. We know that Daniel prayed to God at least 3 times a day, and he’d probably been praying for like 50 years that God would let him and the Israelites go back to their land. And here in this chapter we get a sneak peak into one of Daniel’s prayers. It’s an amazing prayer. We learn that Daniel’s been reading the Scriptures in Jeremiah and it causes him to pray the prayer we’re gonna look at today.
What was it that God showed Daniel? How long Israel would be in captivity in Babylon. Look at what Jeremiah 25 says: “‘Because you have not obeyed my words, I am going to send for all the families of the north’ — this is the Lord’s declaration — ‘and send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will bring them against this land, against its residents, and against all these surrounding nations, and I will completely destroy them and make them an example of horror and scorn, and ruins forever. I will eliminate the sound of joy and gladness from them — the voice of the groom and the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land will become a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.” So Daniel saw that it was the people’s sin that led to this captivity in Babylon, and that it’d last 70 years. Later in Jeremiah 29 God said this: “When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place. For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” So Daniel’s reading this and he realizes that God’s promised to restore his people; his people who deserve to be in exile because of their sin, God’s promised to bring them out of this evil nation and into their land again in 70 years. And that drives Daniel to pray to God.
Look at verse 4: “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: Ah, Lord — the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands — we have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from your commands and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, leaders, fathers, and all the people of the land.” So here’s the first key thing we see about Daniel’s prayer: HE CONFESSED. He’s making a confession. That means he’s being open and honest with God about something, and look what it is: we have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned away from God’s commands. Daniel didn’t hide his sin from God. He rightly confessed it. And Daniel’s seeing a really ugly side of himself in this prayer. Because, we don’t read that Daniel actually DID any of these things. But as he’s reading what his fathers and ancestors did to lead to this situation, he’s recognizing the same things in his own heart. So he includes himself in this prayer.
What do you do with the ugliness you see in yourself? Bury it? Not think about it? Rationalize it that everyone has a little sin in them? Celebrate it? You know better than anyone what kind of ugliness exists in your heart. What do you do with that ugliness? Daniel confessed it to God, because…
Secondly: He took OWNERSHIP. Daniel owned his sin. He was honest with himself about his life, his heart, his thoughts, and his actions. And in his honest conclusion, his confession was: I’m guilty. And he doesn’t sugar coat it man. When we see that kind of ugliness in our lives, we like to say things like: well I’ve been struggling. Or, Yeah I have some weaknesses. You know if my circumstances were just different I wouldn’t be like this, but here we are. Daniel just owns what it really is: I’VE sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned away from you God.
Did you know that THAT’s an accurate descriptor of your struggles and weaknesses? Have you ever come face to face with your imperfections and instead of putting them aside because they’re not as bad as Hitler, you’re honest before God and confessed that you personally have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from God? That’s a right prayer of confession.
Daniel didn’t pray and ask God to change his circumstances, like if his circumstances were just different then he wouldn’t sin. Daniel confessed that sin and wickedness came from him, and he owned it.
Look how he continues in verse 7: “Lord, righteousness belongs to you, but this day public shame belongs to us: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel — those who are near and those who are far, in all the countries where you have banished them because of the disloyalty they have shown toward you. Lord, public shame belongs to us, our kings, our leaders, and our fathers, because we have sinned against you. Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God, though we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the Lord our God by following his instructions that he set before us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has broken your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. The promised curse written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, has been poured out on us because we have sinned against him. He has carried out his words that he spoke against us and against our rulers by bringing on us a disaster that is so great that nothing like what has been done to Jerusalem has ever been done under all of heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquities and paying attention to your truth. So the Lord kept the disaster in mind and brought it on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all he has done. But we have not obeyed him.” Here’s what Daniel’s doing here: He’s UNDERSTANDING. What’s he understanding? THAT HIS SIN IS AGAINST GOD. He says right away in verse 7 that God is the righteous one. Righteousness belongs to him. At the end of that verse he says that the people have been disloyal to God. In verse 8; we’ve sinned against you. Verse 9 we’ve rebelled against you, verse 10 not obeyed you. See in Daniel’s prayer to God he’s very clear that all of his sin and wickedness is actually against God.
The lie that we tell our neighbor about the scratch on their car,
the deceit filling out our tax returns,
the things we look at alone late at night,
the anger the guy who cuts us off,
the inward resentment or hate for that Instagram user for their perfect looking life…
we tend to think that these are all things that God doesn’t care about, but Daniel rightly recognizes that God has a standard, holiness, righteousness, acting, thinking, believing rightly, and when Daniel fell short of that standard, then he was doing wrong against God.
Do you have that understanding about your sin? That God has a standard for how to live your life, and when you don’t meet that standard, you’ve sinned not against yourself, but against the God who created you and sustains your life? Daniel understood it, and it fueled this prayer.
Look how he continues in verse 15: “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand and made your name renowned as it is this day, we have sinned, we have acted wickedly. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, may your anger and wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become an object of ridicule to all those around us.” Did you notice what Daniel brought up in verse 15? He brings up the exodus. The exodus was the event where God saved his people out of slavery in Egypt. They always looked back on the salvation that God gave them, the gift they didn’t deserve. He’s praising God here for what God’s done in the past. That the next key to this prayer. DANIEL PRAISED. He praised God for his past goodness to him.
We think that if we can just clean ourselves up, then God will be good to us. Daniel knows, God’s already been good to me, even though I’m a sinner.
Look at verse 17: “Therefore, our God, hear the prayer and the petitions of your servant. Make your face shine on your desolate sanctuary for the Lord’s sake. Listen closely, my God, and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations and the city that bears your name. For we are not presenting our petitions before you based on our righteous acts, but based on your abundant compassion. Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for your own sake, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your name.” I think we see Daniel’s motive here in this prayer: HIS MOTIVE. Did you catch it? He says God for YOUR sake; we are people that bear YOUR name; for YOUR OWN sake, Daniel’s super focused on God’s name and glory. That’s his motive in this whole prayer, God’s glory.
See he wasn’t just bummed about the consequences of his sin. We all are. That’s not repentance. He was devastated at the effect sin had on God’s name. His focus is on God’s glory, not his own.
This is really an incredible prayer, prayed by a man who sees how sinful and wicked he really is.
Now here’s what’s cool; JUST AS Daniel was praying all of these things, God answers him immediately. Look at verse 20: “While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before the Lord my God concerning the holy mountain of my God — while I was praying, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the first vision, reached me in my extreme weariness, about the time of the evening offering. He gave me this explanation: “Daniel, I’ve come now to give you understanding. At the beginning of your petitions an answer went out, and I have come to give it, for you are treasured by God. So consider the message and understand the vision.” Look at the three things God does as Daniel prays this prayer:
GOD HEARD HIM – Isn’t it an amazing truth of the universe that you can talk to God and actually have an audience with him? Prayer isn’t meditation, it’s communication. God really hears our prayers.
GOD ANSWERED HIM – God answers Daniel right away. He says in verse 23 that as Daniel began praying an answer went out. Now, he answers in a strange way that we wouldn’t expect, but just before we read his answer notice one other thing it says God does here…
GOD TREASURED HIM – God treasured Daniel. But, Daniel’s coming to him as a broken, sinful man fully aware of his own wickedness. Daniel might actually be the most self-aware of how terrible of a person he is at this moment, and God wanted him to hear and know that God treasured him in this moment. God doesn’t treasure you when you clean yourself up; he treasures us when we come to him filled with wickedness, as his enemies.
And here’s how God answered Daniel’s prayer. Are you ready?
Look at verse 24: “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city — to bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an Anointed One, the ruler, will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat, but in difficult times. After those sixty-two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming ruler will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed. He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.” This is one of the most debated parts of the entire Bible. There are so many different options on these 4 verses and on what’s happening here. People like to use this passage to talk about the antichrist and the end of the world and all kinds of other stuff. And honestly, we could do like a 10 week focus group on what all this is saying.
Daniel’s prayer is pretty focused on God doing what He said he’d do in Jeremiah 25 and 29; that he’d bring his people back to Jerusalem after 70 years in captivity. Daniel’s prayer was focused on the first stage of God saving his people: their physical return from exile. But God promised to do more than just save them physically. Because he could bring them back into Jerusalem, but their hearts could still be sinful, broken, wicked, and far from God. Look at what else God promised to do for them in Jeremiah: “Look, the days are coming” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt — my covenant that they broke even though I am their master” — the Lord’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” — the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them” — this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.” See God promised to do much, much more for his people than just restore them physically. He promised to restore them spiritually, to take care of their sin problem.
BUT that promise wouldn’t arrive at the end of the seventy years of exile. Instead, this promised transformation would take seventy weeks, or literally seventy sevens. It would take seventy sevens for God to do these 6 things mentioned in verse 24: bring the rebellion to an end, put a stop to sin, atone for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the most holy place.
Verse 25 talks about when that’s gonna happen: there’s gonna be this decree that goes out, and then 7 sevens after that decree, Jerusalem would be rebuilt and restored. That’s exactly what happened. After Daniel king of Persia gave a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. That’s what we read about in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, how they went back and rebuilt the temple and the walls of the city.
And then verse 25 says that from the time Jerusalem is restored, until the Anointed one comes, will be 62 weeks. Ok so Jerusalem will be rebuilt, then 62 sevens later an Anointed one, a ruler will come.
But then in verse 26, just as he comes, that Anointed Ruler would be cut off. The actions of his people would lead to the destruction of the city and the temple again. In the middle of that last week, the 70th week, he’ll do something that would end the sacrifices and offerings that God’s people make.
That’s God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer to save God’s people from their sin.
God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer is Jesus.
Jesus is this coming anointed king who came after 69 sevens. In this climax of a 70th week, Jesus is born, lives sinlessly, is cut off by dying for his people, and in his death he brought the rebellion of Genesis 3 to an end, he put a stop to sin, he atoned for our guilt, he ushered in a kingdom of righteousness that would never end, he sealed up all the visions and prophecies that were all about him, and he was anointed as the most holy place, putting an end to the sacrifices and offerings at the temple. He DID all the things listed in verse 24.
Daniel prays and says God your people including me have a sin problem. Save us!
God says: I will. I’ll do it. And he did.
You know what this whole chapter shows us? If we’re wrecked with sin and wickedness, the best thing that we can do, the only thing that matters, is that we take that sin and wickedness to God.
We confess it.
We own it.
We understand that it’s against God that we’ve sinned.
We praise Him for the good he’s done for us.
All because we want God to be glorified in our lives and in this world.
And God will hear us, He’ll answer us, because God treasures his kids.
And His answer is Jesus.
God’s answer to the sin in your life is Jesus.
God’s answer to the wickedness in your life is Jesus.
God’s answer to the rebellion in your life is Jesus.
God’s answer to the ways you’ve turned against him, is Jesus.