If you have wandered and are ready to confess and bow before God, focus on his mercy and emphasize his righteousness. If you think for a minute that your sin isn’t that bad, you’re aren’t ready. Daniel shows us today what a contrite heart really looks like…
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Daniel 9:7-11, 17-19
When Daniel studied the prophecy of Jeremiah, about the restoration of Jerusalem, he understood that the desolation of Jerusalem would only last 70 years. So rather than wait it out, Daniel went to the Lord in prayer to beg him for his mercy. Daniel’s posture of humility and prayer is a model for us when we are under the discipline of God.
We may not always know exactly whether our circumstances are discipline or character building or God’s will for the lives of someone else (in which we are affected). We can, however, always respond to God with the posture that Daniel exemplifies. We cannot go wrong with his approach.
Daniel clarifies that God is entirely righteous. And he identifies that Israel is unfaithful, rebellious, sinful, and covered in shame. Even though God is merciful and forgiving, Daniel says, everyone turned away from him and disobeyed him. This is the human condition. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all like sheep have gone astray and turned our own ways (Isaiah 53:6).
After Daniel lays the foundational truth of God’s righteousness and the peoples’ unrighteousness, he then pleads with God based on God’s name and character. Nothing in the status or worth of the people is laid before God as justification for God’s mercy. That’s a non-starter with God because we fall short and always will. Rather, Daniel points to God’s sake (vs 17) and God’s name (vs 18), which Jerusalem bears.
He prays, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” Without the mercy of God we would be toast.
Without Jesus’ sacrifice, which was God’s greatest act of mercy toward a world gone astray, we wouldn’t have a chance. Yet, God’s mercy prevails, even when we go astray.
When you consider your wandering, and you are ready to confess and bow before God, focus on God’s mercy. Emphasize God’s righteousness. If there is any shred of a thought that your sin isn’t that bad, or that on the balance of the scales you are more good than bad, stay home. Don’t go to God. It won’t go well.
Our posture must be as Daniel, who joined the ‘we’ of Israel in humility even though he was the most righteous of the bunch. True humility before the merciful God will be met with love and mercy. We do bear his name, and he desires for us to reflect well on him as our Father.