February 24 - March 2
The Prayer of Intercession: Daniel
HIGH WALLS SURROUNDED ANCIENT CITIES. Sometimes sections of a wall tumbled down, making the inhabitants vulnerable to attack. Then strong men would stand in the gaps to protect the sleeping citizens. At a time of national apostasy, God told Ezekiel:
'I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none' "(Ezek. 22:30, NIV). So He permitted the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem, devastate Judah, and take its people captive.
There have been great intercessors in Bible history. Abraham bargained at length with God in behalf of Sodom's wicked populace (Gen. 18:16-19:29). Moses pleaded for rebellious Israel, willing that his own name be blotted out of the book of life in order that they may live (Exod. 32:31, 32). Paul suffered such agony over his nation's rejection of Jesus that he was willing to be cursed for its sake (Rom. 9:1-4). In this week's lesson, we will observe Daniel pleading for his sinful people. In this role, Daniel is similar to Jesus, who always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Daniel, Child of God (Dan. 2:14-23).
II. Daniel's Devotional Life (Dan. 6).
III. Daniel Intercedes (Dan. 9:1-19).
IV. God's Answer to Daniel's Plea (Dan. 9:20-27).
V. The Ultimate Answer to the Sin Problem (Dan. 9:24-27).
MEMORY TEXT: " 'We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of sour great mercy' " (Daniel 9:18, NIV).
A member of the royal family, Daniel grew up in the court of good King Josiah. As a child, he no doubt read the book of Deuteronomy, newly discovered after being lost during the reign of wicked king Manasseh (2 Chron. 34:14; Deut. 31:24-26). As he heard King Josiah pledge to follow the Lord and obey the words of the covenant written in the book (2 Chron. 34:31), his young heart must have thrilled with the resolve to do the same. From then on, the book of Deuteronomy probably exerted a profound influence on his life.
The boy Daniel must have heard Jeremiah plead with the people of Judah to return to their divine Husband (Jer. 3); and he must have been dismayed by their stubborn resistance. When Daniel was a teenager, a tragic event occurredKing Josiah died in battle. Daniel must have mourned deeply, along with Jeremiah and all the people (2 Chron. 35:23-25). Josiah's successors were weak men who rebelled against the rising power of Babylon, provoking Nebuchadnezzar and his armies to enter Jerusalem, plunder the temple, capture some hostages from the royal family, and take them on approximately a 480-mile trek to Babylon (Dan. 1:3, 4). Daniel was one of these hostages.
Read Daniel 1:17-20 and 2:1-18. What do these events tell us about Daniel's character and his regard for prayer?
Now read Daniel's prayer of thanksgiving in 2:19-23. What concept about God does each of the following verses teach us?
Dan. 2:20 ___________________________________________________________________________
Dan. 2:21 ___________________________________________________________________________
Dan. 2:22 ___________________________________________________________________________
Dan. 2:23 ____________________________________________________________________
Before going to King Nebuchadnezzar with the interpretation to his strange dream, Daniel thanked God for answering his prayer for the wisdom to understand the dream. How do you respond, however, when what you pray for doesn't come as you ask? Why is it important to praise the Lord, anyway?
The year 539 B.C. was a tumultuous time in Daniel's life. Now in his eighties, he witnessed the fall of Babylon, under the midnight attack of the Persians, and the ascent of Darius the Mede to the throne (Dan. 5:30, 31; 9:1). Darius showed extraordinary confidence in Daniel by inducting him into his government with the intention of making him prime minister. The political feuding caused by this plan nearly cost Daniel his life (chap. 6).
In the midst of this turmoil, Daniel's heart grew heavy with a deeper concern: What was to become of his people? From Jeremiah's prophecy, he believed the time had come for the Jews to return to their homeland after 70 years in exile (Jer. 25:11, 12). He may even have hoped that the return would usher in the new-earth state, for Isaiah's prophecies blended the two events (see Isa. 35; 66). However, his own visions over past decades pointed to a succession of oppressive empires, climaxing with an evil power that would trample the saints and the sanctuary before God would set up His kingdom and restore the sanctuary. To the aging Daniel, hoping for the speedy restoration of his people, city, and sanctuary, this was a bitter disappointment. He seems to have thought that the 70-year captivity would be prolonged because of the people's sins.
Imagine we have a camera lens that can look into the past. Notice Daniel's study on the second floor of his home on the palace grounds. It contains an extensive library, for Daniel is a man of letters, familiar with many languages and cultures (1:17). We especially notice the well-worn Hebrew Scripturesthe books of Moses, the chronicles of Israel, and the writings of Jeremiah.
In the afternoon Daniel enters, his figure stooped with age and clothed in sackcloth, as he opens a scroll to the prophecy of Jeremiah and kneels before the west window facing Jerusalem, where He prays daily at the time of the morning and evening sacrifice and also at noon (Dan. 6:10; 9:21; Ps. 55:17).
Why was it necessary for Daniel to pray for something God had already promised? Why should he agonize over the future of his people if it were already determined?
Why did Daniel, in chapter six pray in his usual manner, even with the death threats against him? Was there any specific command he would have been violating if he closed the window or prayed in secret? Why put himself in such danger? Is there some specific lesson the Lord wants to teach us through this incident? If so, what?
What promise gave Daniel the confidence to pray for his people? Jer. 29:10-14.
"God did not forget his people, even though they were captive in Babylon. He planned to give them a new beginning with a new purpose-to turn them into new people. In times of deep trouble it may appear as though God has forgotten you. But God may be preparing you, as he did the people of Judah, for a new beginning with him at the center.
"According to God's wise plan, his people were to have hope and a future; consequently they could call upon him in confidence. Although the exiles were in a difficult place and time, they should not despair because they had God's presence, the privilege of prayer, and God's grace. God can be sought and found when we seek him wholeheartedly. Neither strange lands, sorrows, frustration, nor physical problems can break that communion."Life Application Study Bible (NIV), p. 1339.
As you read Daniel's prayer, summarize the sins that led to captivity. Dan. 9:5-14.
What special sin was Israel guilty of committing? Dan. 9:6.
Israel's history shows that it is dangerous to despise God's prophets. Are we guilty of this sin today? God has entrusted us with expressions of His love by revealing to us wonderful truths through the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White. Have we undermined these messages by disputing how they were given rather than what they say? Or have we simply not bothered to read them? Or do we reject them because they condemn sin in our lives?
What verses in Daniel's prayer show that he trusted in the mercy of a gracious God?
|Part of Daniel 9:13 often translated "and understand thy truth" could also be translated "and prosper in thy truth." Why has God revealed truth to us? How can we prosper in that truth? Have we, either as a church, or even as individuals, prospered in God's truth as much as we could? Explain your answer.|
In his prayer, Daniel requested that the God who brought Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand would bring His people out of Babylon (Dan. 9:15, 16) and that He would restore His city and His sanctuary without further delay.
In what ways was God's answer encouraging to Daniel personally? Dan. 9:20-23.
After greeting Daniel with words of personal encouragement, the angel Gabriel told him that after 70 years of captivity, his people could look forward to 70 weeks (490 years) of blessings, mingled with conflict (vs. 24).
The 70-week period would begin with a decree to restore and build Jerusalem, but the rebuilding would be difficult (vs. 25). Though various decrees regarding the city had been issued, the decree specified by Gabriel was issued in 457 B.C. by Artaxerxes (Ezra 7; see also the SDA Bible Dictionary, p. 80, "Artaxerxes."). For details on this date, see The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, pp. 852-85 5.
Daniel also had prayed about the desolate sanctuary (Dan. 9:17). What future was there for it? Dan. 9:24, 26, 27.
"Gabriel is sent by God, and Daniel receives new light. We may find, especially in spiritual matters, that there is a real exertion of energy on God's side in response to prayer. He is not a passive hearer of prayer. His answers are not the mere echoes of sympathy. They carry active aid....
"Daniel prays for the restoration of his people. God answers the prayer by revealing the already settled purpose of this restoration. God often answers prayer in a different way from our expectation. Sometimes he opens our eyes to blessings already given, but not recognized. . . . Sometimes he changes our desires, and inclines our hearts to rest in his will by showing us that it is better than our will. The best prayer is that in which we seek to be reconciled to the will of God [see Matt. 26:39]."H. D. M. Spense and Joseph S. Exell, editors, The Pulpit Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers), vol. XIII, part I, p. 278.
|Why do you think Daniel received such a quick answer to his prayer? Notice, too, that Daniel was not praying for himself but for others. Are your prayers selfish and self-centered?|
The biggest burden that weighed Daniel down was the sinfulness of his people. Gabriel's message contained a more magnificent answer to the sin problem than Daniel imagined, because it contained the solution for not only his own people's sin but for the sins of the whole world.
Daniel confessed that his people had no righteousness of their own (vs. 18). How would God supply their lack? Dan. 9:24, 25.
God would bring in a supply of everlasting righteousness that would be enough to counteract all the wickedness of the human race (Rom. 5:18). He would do this through the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He alone could atone for sin. He alone could bring in everlasting righteousness, because He alone possessed the "righteousness of God" (Rom. 3:21, 22), the righteousness that He credits to all who truly believe.
Daniel 9 tell[s] us what must happen to the Messiah in order to make the atonement for sin. Jesus emptied Himself of His glory and rank. His unity with the Father was broken up; His human support dried up. His life was "cut off." He gave until nothing more remained to be given.
"Before Gabriel had satisfied Daniel with respect to Israel's earthly fortune, he poured into Daniel's ear what was uppermost in his own mindthe advent of the Son of God. The grandeur, the value, the triumphant issues of Messiah's work,these were the tidings which he delighted to convey. The revelation which, in any age, man most needs is revelation respecting the removal of sinknowledge how the great redemption can be accomplished. No tidings from heaven can ever be so joyous as these . . . that sin shall meet with final destruction, and that reconciliation between God and man is made secure "The Pulpit Commentary, vol. XIII, part I, p. 287.
It was in response to Daniel's prayer that this wonderful prophecy was given, a prophecy that 500 years before the event gave the dates and basic work of Jesus. What can this tell us about the importance of prayer and how God often acts in response to our prayers?
|Suppose Daniel had not prayed as he did. Would we not have been given this prophecy?|
FURTHER STUDY: As our study this week shows, intercessory prayers can bring powerful results. Even though God is all-powerful and all-knowing, such prayers can change the world and individual lives. Read what else the Bible has to say on intercessory prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1-6. Praying for others reminds us that we are not alone in our joys and sorrows and that others have special needs as well. Praying for others helps us to focus outward, not inward.
Read "Daniel's Prayers" in The Sanctified Life, pp. 46-52.
"Prayers of intercession give God permission to work in another person's life. Our prayers for healing, salvation, or protection are unhindered by distance, political borders, or locked doors. We can surround loved ones thousands of miles away with the protection of holy angels through prayer. Our prayers can reach wherever God can reach.
"A spirit of intercession will come among God's people before He comes. About this experience, Ellen White wrote: 'Many were praising God. The sick were healed, and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great Day of Pentecost' (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. l26)."Dorothy Eaton Watts, Prayer Country: A Tour Guide to the Wonders of Prayer (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1993), pp. 116, 117.
SUMMARY: The only solution to the problem of sin is the sacrifice of the Messiah. It is the privilege of each of us to ask forgiveness for our own sins and to intercede for others by claiming the atoning blood of Jesus.
Mérlinton Pastor de Oliveira
BRAZILJosé was not interested in religion. He was young and had no time for God. When his mother and sister became Adventists, he often made fun of their new religion.
One day the teenager awoke with pain in his joints. Within a few days, his entire body ached. The doctor told him that he had rheumatism, a condition that causes the body's joints to become painfully inflamed. The doctor ordered hospital treatment and bed rest.
José was angry and frustrated. He wanted to work, to spend time with his friends, and to ride his motorcycle. Time hung heavy on his hands. With nothing to do all day, he reluctantly began reading some books that his sister offered him. Later she persuaded him to take Bible studies. But he was still not willing to accept Jesus as his Savior.
After a month in bed, José could not stand it any longer. He began going out with his friends for a drink or some fun.
One Saturday José and his friends were invited to a wedding party. There would be plenty of alcohol, music, and girls. José did not want to miss it! José and a buddy eagerly mounted his motorcycle and sped toward the party. José slowed down for a speed bump in the road, but the car behind him did not see the bump or slow down. José saw the car's headlights approaching and realized that it was going to hit them!
Suddenly José flew through the air and hit the pavement. He lay stunned for several seconds. Then he sat up and looked around. His motorcycle lay in a heap of twisted metal some 250 feet (80 meters) away. He looked for his friend but could not see him.
"Eugenio!" he called out, but he heard no answer. Then he saw his friend, lying under the car that had hit them José stumbled over to his friend. Neither one of them had been wearing a helmet, and José could see that his friend had suffered serious head injuries. He was bleeding heavily, but he was alive.
A bus driver who had seen the accident offered to take the boys to the hospital, and José accepted, for an ambulance might take too long, and his friend needed help right away.
The doctors examined José and released him, but his friend had suffered massive head injuries. He was in intensive care, and the outlook was not good.
(continued next week)
José das Neves Louro Filho is studying theology at Northeast Brazil College, where Mérlinton Pastor de Oliveira is a pastor.
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