A plea for mercy

“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. 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. 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. 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.”

Daniel 9.16-19

Daniel having lived through  almost all of the 70 years of exile, reads the Prophet Jeremiah and sees that the end is in sight. He understands that the exile was God’s righteous act and having confessed the sins of the people, himself included, prays that God will turn away his anger and wrath.

His prayer can only be at this level because sin has been acknowledged and confessed.

John Calvin, in his two volume Commentary on Daniel writes this:

‘This, then, is our righteousness: to confess ourselves guilty in order that God may gratuitously absolve us’

In a word of further amplification someone has written

Righteousness begins with confessing ourselves guilty. We can only be right with God when we admit we’re not.

Daniel clearly understood this, hence the outpouring of his heart in the first part of this great prayer. Now he comes to the crunch of his prayer, that as the foretold length of the exile comes to a close, God will act in accordance with his promises and restore the honour of his name, his people and the holy city of Jerusalem in the eyes of the world.

He can pray like this because confession has happened and the way is open for the great plea for mercy and why that should be granted. Two areas we will explore over the next two days.

For today though, and indeed every day, let us focus on the need for that level of confession of individual and corporate sin, which must happen, if we are to know God’s blessing in our lives and on our land.

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