Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This picture was taken while we were in Arizona in the White Mountains on the Mogollan Rim last week. What a gift my precious wife is to me.
I was struck by Daniel 9 a while back and wanted to share it...

I have not heard much about this chapter. Usually I have focused on his prayer in chapter 10 and Gabriel's difficulty in coming due to the prince of the kingdom of Persia. I have heard and read much about this.

But I was struck by chapter 9 this time in a few ways...

Daniel read Jeremiah's prophecy that God would bring His people back to Jerusalem after 70 years in Babylon. At this point about 63 years have passed (according to what I read). If you read the prophecy at that point what would you think? Daniel's response is prayer in sackcloth and ashes and repentance.

I am trying to think of an equivalent? I wonder if my mindset, my theology is skewed? Given Daniel's response I am guessing it is. My thinking goes that whatever God says He will do, He will do. If I read it as Daniel did, I am guessing I would either be happy that we were almost able to go back or I would be bummed that we still had 7 years to wait. I would probably struggle to do much feeling that God was going to do it so I could not mess it up so I might as well go on living as I had. Maybe I would not be that cynical, but it is hard to say. I doubt I would have responded like Daniel.

Let's say there was a prophecy written 63 years ago that was clearly from God (as Jeremiah's was), and it said that millions of Muslims were going to turn to Christ in 7 years. What would my response be? Would I rejoice and wonder how God was going to do it? Would I pack up and go to the Muslim world and start preaching? Would I start trying to get churches ready to deal with all of the new believers? Would my life change?

It looks to me like Daniel did none of those things. Instead, if I were him, it seems that I would weep and repent that we had done so little up to this point, that we had not been devoted to following God's call to go into all the world, that my and our hearts had been so far from him, etc.

Wouldn't the modern mind question this response? Wouldn't the modern mind ask why I need to go to all that trouble; I mean if God said He was going to do it, then He will do it. It does not matter what we do, right? I know that goes through my mind to justify my laziness.

I mean how many of us changed our behaviour when we heard the prophecy that Uzbekistan was going to close but may stay open if enough prayer was given? Mine did not change. I was motivated here and there but was not consistent. If the whole community had "put on sackcloth and ashes..." would it have made a difference? If there had been a Daniel would it have made a difference? I am not sure.

This strikes at my core. It convicts me deep in my insides. I notice as I said in my possible actions that Daniel went to prayer rather than "action". Notice that he also did not try to gather a bunch of people, but went to the Lord Himself. I am not against gathering a bunch of people and think that God wants us to use e-mail and other instruments to call the saints to pray, but I wonder if sometimes I excuse my own prayer away by the fact that I am getting lots of other people to pray? Or if I think somehow God will work more because more people are praying, but won't work if just I am praying.

Of course there are instances in which the cries of a whole people (e.g. Egypt and the exodus) are heard by God, but often it is just one person who is called to stand in the gap. Am I/are you "highly favored" as Daniel is called to be the one to stand in the gap?

The other thing I want to mention that is not bad, but which I think God is showing me is the following. My first inclination is to study Daniel's prayer and find the pattern and then pray in that way. How many books are written doing just that. I don't think that is bad. However, I think what God is trying to teach me now is not that Daniel's pattern of prayer is what is important, but that Daniel's praying is important. And not even that his praying is as important as the fact that Daniel read God's word, was convicted, was moved in his heart to a certain action, and obeyed. He poured out his heart to God for his people. God wants my heart; He wants all of me. He does not want a robot. He wants me to seek Him, to hear Him, to love Him, and He wants to make me like Jesus to bring Him glory. And He may just want to use us to change the world. And he may just want to move us to be the instruments through which He will fulfill His promises. Am I ready like Daniel was? Are you?
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