Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday, March 14th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 27-28; Psalm 53; Luke 9
Today's scripture focus is Daniel 9:1-19

Daniel 9:1-19

English Standard Version (ESV)

Daniel's Prayer for His People

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedlyand rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel,those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God,turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

Accompanying sermon by Richard DeMass: Daniel's Instructive Prayer
Accompanying sermon by Ray Pritchard: The Positive Power of Prayer
Accompanying sermons by John MacArthur:  (from our current series) Elements of True Prayer Part 1, Part 2, and part 3
from a 2000 series Characteristics of a Fervent Prayer Life Part 1 and Part 2.
standalone sermons: A Prayer of Brokenness (1985), Characteristics of True Confession (1993),  A Pattern of Prayer from a Man of Prayer (2005)
That's a lot of sermons!

Here's a quick summary from one of MacArthur's sermons:
prayer is generated by God's Word, grounded in God's will, characterized by fervency, it is identified with God's people, it is built on confession, it is dependent on God's character, and [it's purpose] is God's glory.

Richard DeMass emphasizes how important a corporate confession of sin is.  We are a community of rebels who sin continually.
Our is rebellion against God. There are sins of commission (we do what we are commanded not to do) and omission (we don't do what are are commanded to do). We sin in our thoughts, words, deed, and motives.  But ultimately, all of our sin, is rebellion against God.

We sin communally - our sin does not affect ourselves alone.  We are a body, a bride, a building - all singular form.  We are one.

And we sin continually We continue to sin even though we’ve been disciplined by something as drastic as exile.

Keeping this truth about ourselves at the forefront of our minds is for our own good; for His glory; cultivates godly sorrow and repentance leading to growth and change; and prevents a cheap grace mentality.

From “City on a Hill” this is Phillip Ryken again, “People are prone to believe in their own basis goodness. In America this cause is advanced by the aggressive proclamation of the good news of self-esteem. People need to feel better about themselves, not worse. Or at least that’s what some pastors think, so they tread but lightly on the toes of fallen sinners. They preach grace without ever preaching the law, self-acceptance without repentance. What is missing is an evangelically orthodox doctrine of humanity as created in God’s image, fallen into depravity, and spiritually dead apart from the regenerating work of God’s Spirit.”

Not until a man understands how deep the debt of his spiritual bankruptcy was will he appreciate the grace that saved him for what it is—amazing, overwhelming, leveling him with awe, wonder and tears of relief and joy. It is vital, critical, that we think biblically about ourselves as sinners. We are a community of rebels who sin continually.

Our confession must always be rooted in scriptural truth, so that we rightly recognize our own depravity, and rightly recognize the attributes of God. He is faithful and always keeps His promises. He is righteous and holy.  He is merciful and forgiving.  He is deserving of all honour and glory.

A sound corporate confession will bleed Bible when it is pricked, forcing us to think truthfully about ourselves. We are a community of rebels, who sin continually and it will force us to think truthfully about God however bad we may be. He is far greater still and, therefore, it will always convey hope. Our mountain of sin is easily drowned in the ocean of His mercy.

MacArthur covered several aspects of prayer, and how we can use Daniel's prayer as a model for our own prayers.  Here's a quick summary from one of his sermons:
prayer is generated by God's Word, grounded in God's will, characterized by fervency, it is identified with God's people, it is built on confession, it is dependent on God's character, and [it's purpose] is God's glory.

When we pray in line with God's Word, in line with His will, we can pray boldly and fervently, leaving the results up to Him.

Ray Pritchard reminds us that no matter how much we have sinned, there is always the possibility of mercy, grace, and forgiveness from the Lord.

I loved the story he shared.....

Strange as it may seem, the exile was part of God’s “severe mercy” to Israel. By sending them to Babylon, he was not only punishing them for disobedience, he was also creating in them a new desire to serve the Lord with a whole heart. It was like chemotherapy for the national soul, drastic medicine to cure the cancer of idolatry.

This truth came home to me in an unusual way during our final day on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The island consists of two ancient volcanoes with a flat area in between. For over a hundred years sugar cane has been grown in the verdant fields of the central region. We were driving through those sugar cane fields on our way to the famous road to Hana on the southern tip of Maui, when my wife commented that the first step in harvesting sugar cane is to burn the fields. Now I didn’t know anything about harvesting sugar cane but that didn’t seem right to me. Why would you burn a crop before the harvest? Later I had a chance to do some research and discovered that my wife was entirely correct (as usual). On Maui they begin the harvest by burning the fields with an instrument that looks something like a flamethrower. The flames burn away the leaves, the weeds, and any other trash that may have accumulated, leaving only charred stalks. Those stalks are cut down and taken to the factory where the juice is removed and then distilled into granulated brown sugar and ultimately into processed white sugar. Unless the fields are burned, the harvest cannot take place.

As I thought about it, the Lord impressed upon me that this is a parable of the spiritual life. All of us have things in our lives that hinder the harvest of sweet righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ. We all have the leaves of bad habits, the weeds of stubborn sins, and the trash of accumulated worldly debris that by itself may not be evil but stands in the way of what God wants to do in us. Unless those things are burned away through the fires of adversity, suffering, hardship, and personal setbacks, we will never produce the harvest that God wants to bring in us and through us. Unless our fields are burned, God’s harvest cannot come.

This helps us understand why God sometimes allows his children to go very far in sin. It is not that he doesn’t care or that it doesn’t matter. He does care and it matters greatly to him, but his purposes are often accomplished best by allowing us to face the consequences of our sin, going through the fire of personal failure, and then discovering the joy of the harvest as we return to him, chastened by our experiences and ready to live for the Lord with new zeal, new love, and new determination.

God’s burning is painful but there is no other way to the harvest. Those whom God loves he chastens, not to destroy us but to produce in us a harvest of righteousness that can come no other way.

In the end this truth is very good news because it means there is hope for all of us. The fires of life are rarely pleasant, but they come from the hand of a God who loves us too much to let us go on in rebellion forever. Perhaps the correct response is to say, “Lord, do whatever it takes in my life to bring about the harvest you seek in me.” As we come with that attitude to the Lord, we discover that he is at work even in our hardships, shaping us slowly into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to pray like Daniel?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Daniel 9:20-27
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 29-30
Sunday's passage: Numbers 31-32
Monday's passage: Numbers 33-34, Psalm 54, Luke 10

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Love that story about the sugar cane.