April 15, 2021
Nancy M. Alley
Laity, Prospect UMC
9 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian[b] kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
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.
“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. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
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.”
In the scripture reading preceding the printed verses, Daniel realized that the predicted years of the Jew’s captivity were almost over. Daniel prayed a fervent prayer to God, pleading that God would keep his covenant with the people of Israel. However, Daniel knew that the people had sinned by not listening to the prophets, rebelling against God, and failing to keep the law. Daniel prayed for God’s forgiveness, favor, and mercy, even though he knew the people could not receive these blessings from God if receiving blessings were based on the people’s own goodness. Daniel stated clearly in the selected scripture passages noted that he was not making his requests because of the people’s own righteousness; no, Daniel depended on God’s great mercy.
How many times have we said or heard others say, “God has blessed me”? Yes, God blesses us, but do our words sometimes sound as if we are bragging about our blessings? When we talk about an answered prayer for healing, for a new job, or for a renewed relationship, how might the person feel who prayed fervently for healing but wasn’t physically healed; or who prayed for a job, but is still unemployed? Perhaps we need to choose our words more carefully in some situations so that we do not appear to specially deserve God’s blessings. God blesses us because of who God is – not who we are. We may need to be careful when we say, “I am blessed,” to be more certain that others don’t interpret our statement to mean, “Look at me. I deserved a blessing.” Instead, the emphasis must be on our God who, in his mercy and love, provides the blessings.
Perhaps, when we are sharing our faith with others, we should name those blessings from God that are available to everyone who believes – blessings such as God’s presence with us each day; God’s love for us; God’s promise of salvation; and Christ’s love and example of the way to live. Let us “brag” on these blessings given to all who will accept them, blessings that are ours when life goes as we want and when times are hard for us. As Daniel said, we do not make our requests to God because of our righteousness, but because of God’s great mercy.
Lord, we humbly pray for your continued presence, mercy, and blessings. Amen.