In July 2018 we had a series of five services on the theme of the book of Daniel.
Here is one sermon:
In the Psalms we can read that God’s people held a profound belief that the city of Jerusalem was impregnable. So what a shock when Solomon’s Great Temple was destroyed by the Baylonians in the sixth century BC.
As Ian told us last week, The story of Daniel is set during the period of the Jews’ Exile in Babylon.
Daniel is given a vision which many have spent many hours trying to interpret.
We are not going to attempt that today. But we will note the essential features of what Daniel is shown.
He envisages the temple rebuilt. This happened under the guidance of Nehemiah, and the new temple was dedicated after the exile was ended.
By Jesus’ day this temple had been revamped under a Herod, some years before Jesus’ birth.
In Daniel’s vision, we learn that God’s chosen leader will be killed unjustly. The city and the Temple will be destroyed again by the invading army of a powerful ruler.
All this of course happened, and Daniel describes The Awful Horror, The Abomination of Desolation in the Authorised Version, and the interesting thing is that Jesus himself refers mysteriously to it.
Matthew 24:15 “You will see ‘The Awful Horror’ of which the prophet Daniel spoke. It will be standing in the holy place. (Note to the reader: understand what this means!)”
Well, many have tried to understand, but frankly, we need to heed Jesus’ own words, that nobody knows when,
Mark 13:32 “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”
The important thing to hold on to, is this: Jesus will return.
Daniel chapter 12 contains numerous figures about dating the Awful Horror, but the best advice comes in chapter 12:4: God said to me, “And now, Daniel, close the book and put a seal on it until the end of the world. Meanwhile, many people will waste their efforts trying to understand what is happening.”
Don’t waste time on such issues. We must be aware of these things, but not be overwhelmed or obsessed by them.
But I believe we can apply the prophecy that God will rebuild the temple to our own church. Not physically, for it’s in good shape now isn’t it? But spiritually, for at the moment we are small in number. But God will rebuild us.
Only there are conditions.
We need to find out how God can achieve this, so here is a more productive task today- to ask this question, why did Daniel receive this message from God? This we will think about shortly.
But first, here’s a clue as to why Daniel was worthy.
It is found in our next hymn…. Blessed is The Man.
Now let’s look at the events that led up to Dan’s vision.
This will reveal how Dan was enabled to understand God’s plans for His people.
Would you like God to help you?
Do you want to get closer to God?
Do you really want our church to grow?
Let’s have a second to pause and think what are the ways that God reveals Himself and speaks to us. A moment of silence- think to yourself- while you reflect on what ways we can hear God.
Now let’s see if you have done my sermon for me…!
We are looking at Daniel chapter nine, that we read earlier.
Firstly, look at verse 2.
What was Dan doing?
Yes, he was studying SCRIPTURE.
Not just reading it, but studying it. The Hebrew word here means understanding or discerning. Then the passage adds that he was thinking on it, reflecting its meaning. I like the expression “Chewing it over.” That’s how to read the bible, digesting it to make it part of your very self..
The New Living Translation puts the verse this way,
Daniel learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet.
In other words Dan didn’t just read, he understood. How did he understand? Well these days we would say he asked God’s Spirit to help him. Without God providing the light, it is hard to understand God’s plans.
There’s no quiz today, but answer this to yourself. What’s your own reading of the Bible like? Describe it in a word.
Perfunctory. A Duty. Difficult. Spirit guided….
Of course the last answer is the best one.
Second let’s look at verse 3. Dan prayed EARNESTLY with fasting.
This was not perfunctory prayer, or even a quick prayer- not that God does not accept any quick prayer to Him.
But note Dan’s prayer was
earnest – The Voice describes it thus: I turned to the Lord God, praying diligently, begging for His mercy, grieving and fasting in sackcloth and ashes.
Here are some other examples from Paul’s writing, of really powerful prayer, wrestling with God. (PICTURE; EPAPHRAS…)
In verses 20 and 23 of our passage we read that Dan was PLEADING with God,
Dan’s prayer was from his heart. That’s the type of prayer that pleases God most. Dan proved that what he prayed was no idle word, he meant what he said because he gave up eating temporarily, and he was grieving, admitting his own and his nation’s wrongdoings. From verse 5 Dan goes at some length to admit his nation’s faults.
True prayer needs to start with penitence and come from our deepest heart.
Trouble is, so often our confession of sin is done from a sense of duty. I often think that I just presume on God’s forgiveness, as of course I can!
But suppose God were telling me to be truly repentant, maybe if I showed that I was really serious and wrote down my wrongdoing and my promise to amend my life?
How would you describe your prayer life?
Non existent. Occasional. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold. Wordless. Earnest.
The last two answers are the best answers.
Matthew 6:6 When you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.
Here’s another characteristic of Daniel’s prayer. What’s that? in verse 4 we see that it includes… PRAISE
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed the sins of my people. I said, “Lord God, you are great, and we honour you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.”
If you’d been in Dan’s position, forced away from your beloved home, you probably wouldn’t feel a lot like praising God. In the hard times, it Is hard to praise God. Perhaps that’s why Dan doesn’t devote much time worshipping God, his heart is too heavy.
But in the best of times, the worst of times, praising God can revive the soul. Remind yourself of the good times God has given, and will give when we meet with Him. Hold on to His love for you, hold on and don’t give in. And praise Him in the good times too.
Listen to The Living Bible: I confessed my sins and those of my people. “O Lord,” I prayed, “you are a great and awesome God; you always fulfil your promises of mercy to those who love you.”
How often do you praise and worship our awesome God?
In church. At home. When I gaze on His wonderful creation. When He helps me.
Actually those are all good answers!
To the next characteristic that resulted in Dan’s vision.
Dan reminded himself of his trust in God:
For Daniel, the reminder was how God had saved His people at the time of The Exodus, you’ll find this in verse 15.
For us, we remind ourselves, as we will do shortly, of Jesus’ loving sacrifice on the CROSS for me, for you.
But note that Dan doesn’t limit himself to that one event. In verse 16 he reminds himself that God had defended Jerusalem in the past. For us, we need to remember not merely what Jesus did once for all on the cross, but also how God works with us each day… if we will but let Him.
Do you ever thank God that you are a Christian? Are you a Christian? Do you want to be a better Christian? Only you know the answer.
But I will tell you one thing. You don’t become a Christian by some sort of osmosis. You don’t improve your Christian life by merely keeping God in the background of your life. Is that where God is in your life? The background?
Bring him in, welcome Him fully in to your life.
So finally, let’s see one more thing about Dan’s vision. You might say it’s the most important thing.
What’s that? Look in verses 20 and 21.
God responds to Dan.
Why does God respond? Because Dan had a deep relationship with God. Not a background relationship.
God does answer prayer if anyone expectantly turns to Him.
God can answer prayers in many ways, but you can be sure that He will always answer fully to one who walks closely with Him.
James 5:16 New International Version: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
So, how did God answer Dan? Answer: by sending an ANGEL.
Now I’ve never seen an angel like this. But this is only one way God responds to prayers that are deepfelt and serious.
He responds in the way that’s best for us.
Just a word of caution.
God does answer prayer, but don’t always expect instant miracles.
Take the case of Habbakuk. He begins his prayer with “how long must I call for help before you listen?” He is told to wait and in the end he learns patience, in some wonderful words of trust, chapter 3 verse 17 in The Message:
Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Saviour God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I’m king of the mountain!
You want a better relationship with God? Then learn from Dan!
Don’t dabble in the Bible? Ask God’s Holy Spirit to enlighten you!
Don’t be lukewarm: Be earnest and passionate in your prayer.
Don’t be feeble in admitting your faults. Be honest with God.
Expect God to answer. He will, you might get an answer sooner than you think! An angel even!
As for our church. The simple fact is that God will not rebuild us if we are not worthy. I am sure of this: God wants to see more zeal, more earnestness, more penitence and praise in our prayer life together. Then, and only then, just as He sent an angel to Dan, will He answer our corporate prayer.