WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 10, 2013
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(Pray and be heard)
In 539 B.C., 66 years after Daniel had been taken into exile by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede, at age 62, overthrew his successor, king Belshazzar, in a coupe that launched the Medo-Persian Dynasty. It was an event that had been revealed to the Babylonian king, in fact, on the night of his death, through Daniel’s interpretation of the “Hand-writing on the wall” dream (Daniel 5:13-31).
This overthrowing of the Babylonian Kingdom was a part of GOD’s plan, as HE was now preparing the way for the liberation of the Jews, who had been in captivity in Babylon since Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion in 605 B.C.
Moved by the Medo-Persian’s victory over the Babylonians, Daniel searched the scriptures to try and clearly understand this momentous event, of which he had so obviously played a role in. He needed to know how this event would affect himself, and his people, in the near future. He already understood that Darius’ victory was a signal that the Jew’s captivity in Babylon was nearing an end, but he didn’t, however, grasp the full ramifications.
As Daniel searched the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, he is made aware that the city of Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years before they could return to it. It was Daniel’s study of the scriptures that led him to fast and pray a prayer of confession and repentance that was heard by GOD at the very moment that he began to pray (Daniel 9:23).
This is the only fast by Daniel that is recorded in the book that now bears his name. Contrary to what some modern-day pastors (mostly those who struggle with bringing their bodies under submission from food so that they can focus more clearly on GOD) might think, Daniel 1:8-16 is not a fast, but rather, it is simply a “vegetable diet”. To fast means “to go without food” period. To “limit oneself to specific foods” is defined as “dieting”, “not fasting”.
Daniel’s wearing of sackcloth and sprinkling of ashes over his body symbolized his “mournful grief” and “GODly sorrow” for his sins, and, the sins of Israel. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses lays out the criteria by which GOD would deal with HIS covenant people regarding sin, or disobedience. There, he spells out to everyone, that, obedience will bring blessings, and disobedience will bring curses, or discipline. One of those forms of discipline would be to subjugate the Jews to Gentile dominance (Deuteronomy 28:48-57). However, if they returned to the ways of GOD, their nation would be restored to blessing (Deuteronomy 30).
In Daniel’s prayer, he confesses the sins of Israel, and also, he identifies himself with those sins just as though he were personally responsible for them. The sins of Israel, like all sin, is a personal rebellion against GOD. Still, GOD, by way of HIS abounding grace, had sent prophet after prophet, to plead with the Israelites to return to HIM, but, they had steadfastly refused to do so.
After having prayed for the removal of GOD’s wrath, Daniel then prays for GOD’s favor, mercy, and forgiveness. The whole world was now mocking Jerusalem and GOD’s people because of the defeated state of existence that they had lingered in for almost 70 years. Daniel asked that GOD put an end to their shameful condition, and desolation for HIS OWN namesake, not because they themselves deserved any help.
Here Daniel is basing his request on GOD’s great mercy, and not on the righteousness of Israel, because Israel, in and of itself, had no righteousness. Daniel was showing his concern for GOD’s reputation in the world, and wanted GOD to glorify HIMSELF to the world, by restoring the people to prominence, who bore HIS mighty name.
Oftentimes, we lack sincerity and remorse when we confess our sins before GOD. But it is sincere confession and repentance that appeals to the mercy of THE ALMIGHTY. We, as Christians, are stirred to repentance in various ways, however, when we come to GOD for help and forgiveness, we must all approach GOD with the same reverence, trust, and GODly sorrow, in our hearts.
Daniel called GOD “great” and “awesome” and he also stressed GOD’s “faithfulness” to HIS fallen people. By focusing on GOD’s great sovereignty over all things concerning our existence, we automatically acknowledge our sincere reverence and trust in HIM to help us in our times of need. When we sincerely repent, GOD’s mercy immediately begins to gravitate to us.
Divine love is the motivation behind everything that GOD does for us, and we are to love GOD in return by obeying HIS divine commands. GOD always answers the prayers of those who righteously seek HIM, and, HE responds very graciously to a sincere prayer of repent. And as long as we continue to righteously seek GOD, our prayers will be prayers that are immediately heard by “The ONE WHO sees us” from on High (Daniel 9:23).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website