*Be sure to read the Preface if you haven’t. Also, pastors and music ministers, feel free to encourage your congregations and musicians to subscribe as part of our corporate preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
Reader: “I prayed to the Lord my God . . .”
Response: “and confessed.”
Scripture: Daniel 9:1-14
It was the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians. During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants, the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. O Lord, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. We have not obeyed the Lord our God, for we have not followed the instructions he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has disobeyed your instruction and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice.
“So now the solemn curses and judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured down on us because of our sin. You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster as happened in Jerusalem. Every curse written against us in the Law of Moses has come true. Yet we have refused to seek mercy from the Lord our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth. Therefore, the Lord has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The Lord our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him.
Reader: The word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God.
Yesterday on Ash Wednesday, we said nothing about the imposition of ashes. In the passage you just read concerning Daniel, we find him fasting and praying in sackcloth and ashes, a common expression of repentance throughout the Scriptures. We offer a brief word about that practice. Sackcloth is a very coarse, uncomfortable material against the skin. If you think of wearing clothes made solely of burlap (hemp), you are on the right track. The uncomfortable, irritating sackcloth served as an outward sign of sorrow and repentance, the picture being the lack of outward physical comfort paralleling the lack of inner spiritual comfort. The ashes reflected equally sorrow, despair and death. They also reminded one of the shortness of life. Humans, having been made originally from dust, eventually return again to dust. These two actions were to reflect humility and a repentant heart. We turn now to Daniel’s remarkable prayer demonstrating these very qualities. Daniel had read Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning Israel’s rebellion and the horrible consequences his people would experience as a result.
With the difficult days we have experienced in our own world these past months, note the appropriateness of the content of his prayer. It is a powerful declaration of confession and repentance. What is the overall structure? In the opening section of this pericope, he begins with truth: you are a great and awesome God who always speaks truth and keeps your word. You love those who are obedient to your word. The trouble is us! Note the words used for our response to God’s truth. We have sinned, done wrong, rebelled, scorned, and refused to listen! Other than that, we’re good! Not really. God’s prophets spoke his word, the truth, and we turned a deaf ear. Who is the “we?” Our leaders, our teachers, our ancestors and ourselves. The problem? We had a better idea; we would decide what was true. We would sit in judgment of God, weighing the truth of God’s word against our knowledge as we decided where God was lacking.
Like Thomas Jefferson, in our infinite wisdom, we would decide which parts to leave out and which to embrace. (Thomas Jefferson actually took a knife to the pages of Scripture and removed all the parts he didn’t agree with―everything having to do with the miraculous.) This passage ends with judgment and severe discipline from the Lord, just as he promised. When will we ever learn? God speaks truth and keeps his word. We live in a society throughout the world that fails again and again to realize there are consequences for rebelling against God’s word. Disobedience and failure to repent pays a rough wage. But they always pay in full. Sober words for these days. National repentance begins with you and me.
Film clip from “The Chosen” Peter’s repentance Powerful!!
Music: Psalm 51 A Broken Spirit and Contrite Heart The Sons of Korah
“Holy, Holy, Holy” Audrey Assad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgHrNNM23p8
Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find thy mind in thy Word, of neglect to seek thee in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless thee that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor listings of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do thou rule over me in liberty and power. I thank thee that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have. I have prayed from lusts and been rejected. I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on with thy patient work, answering ‘no’ to my wrongful prayers and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to thy rule. I thank thee for thy wisdom and thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross. Deliver me from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of thy grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in thee, then I shall bless thee, God of Jeshurun*, for helping me be upright. This I pray through your Son Jesus Christ. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen. ―The Valley of Vision, p.77
*A poetic name for the Hebrew Scriptures.