(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
In chapter 9 Daniel’s prayer to the Lord gives a pretty good summary of how the all of the Jews ended up being exiled into Babylon, where they currently find themselves under the rule of a foreign, pagan ruler. They rebelled against God and worshiped other gods and idols. They didn’t listen to the prophets that the Lord sent them to warn them to repent. So as a result Daniel says, “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you.”
Daniel pleads to the Lord and says: “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.”
This actually seems like a pretty crazy request for Daniel to make to the Lord. There is absolutely no reason why the Lord should have mercy on the Jews. They have rebelled, and have continued to rebel even though they were punished for their rebellion. They seem to be a very hard-hearted people. And yet Daniel says that “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
The following section of the Bible is hard to understand. Within this section, 9:25-27 is the only part of the Old Testament that outright mentions the term “Messiah.” Jesus is mentioned in other parts of the Old Testament, but not as blatant as in chapter 9. This section also makes mention several times of a series of “sevens.”
Keep in mind that God gave this word to Daniel as a response to Daniel’s prayer of forgiveness for the sins of Israel and of the seventy years of exile that was spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah. God’s response to this prayer was to give him a glimpse into the future. Jeremiah made strong reference to God redeeming Israel through a messiah, and it seems that the Lord is continuing that illustration here a few decades later with Daniel. Basically, what the Lord gives Daniel is a time-frame of when Jesus will come.
He says in 9:24-26 that “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.”
“Seventy ‘sevens’” of course refers to the seventy years that the Jews would spend in exile in Babylon as a result of their idolatry. It is the current state of punishment that Israel is in. The next set of “sevens” is said to be the amount of time that passes between the time when the Jews leave Babylon and rebuild Jerusalem (This happens in the book of Ezra) until Jesus comes: it will be “seven sevens, and sixty two sevens.” Most take this to mean:
“Seven sevens”/ 7 x 7 = 49 years
“Sixty two sevens”/ 62 x 7 = 434 years
The Jews were using a Gregorian calendar, and within that system the number of days in a year is different, which would have resulted in 173,880 days, or 476 years and 25 days in our 365 day calendar. So the decree that went out that freed the Jews “to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” that was made in the 20th year of king Artaxerxes’ reign (According to Nehemiah) would have happened in about 445 B.C. 476 years and 25 days from that point in time would have been about 30 A.D., right about the time that Jesus was crucified. 9:26 says that “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” “The people of the ruler” who came were the Romans, who certainly destroyed the city (Jerusalem) and the temple shortly after Jesus.
Seems pretty crazy huh? Does your head hurt from reading all of that? The exactness of all of that is a debated issue. But given the context of what was going on in that section it is pretty plain that the Lord was giving Daniel an answer to his prayer…and then some.
What the Lord is laying out in this part of Daniel is that someone important is coming, but the exactness of that person is not completely known. The Jews then did not have the full grasp on what the Messiah would be like, or what His coming would fully involve, other than what was written in the Law and the Prophets. The word Messiah means anointed one, which means one who is set aside for a specific purpose for God. The Old Testament evidence of a coming messiah is astounding. This points to the fact that God wanted to redeem Israel in the fullness of His grace through Jesus; He wanted to make the Law complete. This was part of the specific purpose that the idea of a Messiah (or anointed one) conjures up. We know what the purpose of the Messiah is now, and that purpose is fulfilled through Jesus.
One major thing that we can take away from this section of the Bible is that the Lord hears us; He answers our prayers when we earnestly seek Him. Notice that when Daniel repented wholeheartedly and sought forgiveness the Lord answered with redemption. God is all about seeing us turn from our sin with a tender heart to Him. Knowing Him is the point of it all. Back before Israel was sent into exile the Lord spoke a lot through Jeremiah warning them. A lot of the language and allusions that he made were like that of a relationship between husband and wife. God accused Israel of cheating on Him with other idols and gods. This negated the covenant that they had which is how they wound up in exile. This imagery of marital relationship between God and His people is continued in the New Testament. Christ is shown to be the bridegroom and the church is the bride. Following God is a relationship, one that should be cared for, nurtured, and pursued by us. He has redeemed us and bought us from a horrible place so that we could be with Him. Despite the hard hearts of God’s people, the Jews, God still redeemed them and forgave their sins, sending the Messiah to reconcile them and the rest of the world if they choose Him.
So let’s delve into knowing this Messiah who has redeemed us, and through knowing Him bring the light of who He is to a world that desperately needs forgiveness and redemption. He has been desperately seeking after His people despite their stupidity, so let’s seek Him with the same great desire.