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When the appointed time came for Judah’s deliverance, Daniel fulfilled his calling as a prophet and as an intercessor for Judah by repenting on their behalf. Daniel 9:4 begins,
4 And I prayed [palal, “interceded”] to the Lord my God and confessed [yada, “to use the hands, throw, praise with extended hands”] and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,”
This is more than a prayer. This is a palal, which literally means to judge, mediate or intercede. Daniel was mediating between God and Judah on account of Judah’s sin which had brought them into captivity seventy years earlier.
Daniel’s intercession fulfilled the word of the Lord prophesied in Jeremiah 29:10-14,
10 For thus says the Lord, “When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.”
This writing, in fact, was part of the letter that Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon when he advised them to settle down, build houses, plant crops, and give their children in marriage for the next seventy years. Verses 10-14 above then tells them that at the end of this captivity, they were to call upon God and pray for deliverance. No doubt Daniel saw this prophecy and determined to fulfill it. For this reason, he prayed, knowing that his prayer would be answered, because the timing was right for Judah’s deliverance from captivity.
Daniel also “confessed,” which comes from the Hebrew word yada, “an open hand.” It is from the same word where we get the name Judah, which means “praise.” It seems that Daniel chose his words carefully in order to suggest that he was interceding for Judah and confessing their sins, while praising Him with outstretched hands for the promise of deliverance.
The start of Daniel’s confession refers to God as the One “who keeps His covenant.” This is not an appeal to the Old Covenant in Exodus 19:8, which, in fact, had resulted in their captivity, but to the New Covenant, where God had promised, vowed, and made oaths to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even Moses (in Deuteronomy 29:10-15).
In God’s New Covenant, He vowed to make us His people by turning our hearts from the inside by the power of the Holy Spirit. The blessing, deliverance, salvation, and “lovingkindness” of God is extended only to “those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Under the Old Covenant, this requirement excludes all men, because, as Paul said later, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). Yet under the New Covenant, this requirement includes all men, because it is based upon God’s oath and His ability to keep that oath. In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit in the earth will eventually see His glory filling the whole earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 11:9).
Daniel identified with Judah as a whole and interceded from that position. He includes himself as part of that iniquitous nation, saying in Daniel 9:5,
5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances.”
Intercession requires identification with those who have the problem. Judah as a whole had a big problem, which was why they were in captivity, but Daniel did not take the part of the righteous prophet who was good enough to approach God and intercede for them. Daniel was obviously a righteous man. In fact, he is said to be the only biblical character (other than Jesus) where no sin is attributed to him. Yet Daniel knew himself well enough to know that he was yet imperfect.
King David had gloried in the fact that God had imputed him righteous (Psalm 32:2). Likewise, because of Abraham’s faith, righteousness was imputed to him (Genesis 15:6). Paul discusses the idea of imputed righteousness, defining imputation in Romans 4:17 KJV as calling what is not as though it were.
If Daniel had not known that God’s righteousness had been imputed to him, then he would have lived his life without knowing true forgiveness, lovingkindness, and grace. But there is no indication that Daniel lived his life burdened by guilt and fear. It is only by knowing God’s imputed righteousness that one can grow spiritually without hindrance.
Some men, of course, have the opposite problem. They think they are truly righteous, not by imputation but by actual experience. That is a position of blind pride, for even if they begin to move in the direction of experiential righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit, what about the past? Paul says, “all have sinned.” No amount of present righteousness can erase the past. Good deeds do not overrule or eliminate bad deeds.
Daniel’s position, confessing his sin as part of the nation of Judah, is the proper one to take in intercession. Though he was no doubt more righteous than most or all of his contemporaries, he had the same temptations that are common to all flesh. So he did not claim righteousness, but identified with the people in their sin and lawlessness.
Judah’s Failure to Hear the Prophets
Daniel 9:6 continues his confession,
6 Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.
We do not know how many prophetic writings Daniel had in his possession, but we do know from verse 2 that he had a copy of Jeremiah’s writings. He was therefore familiar with the refusal of the people and their leaders to hear the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet. In fact, Jeremiah 32:2, 3 says,
2 Now at that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the house of the king of Judah, 3 because Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, “Why do you prophesy, saying, Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it?”
Later, Jeremiah wrote another prophecy to the king and told his scribe, Baruch, to read it in the temple on one of the fast days (Jeremiah 36:6). Government officials heard about it and asked Baruch to read it to them (Jeremiah 36:14). They were alarmed at the message and advised Baruch to go into hiding along with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:19).
The king soon heard about it, and asked to have the scroll read to him. Jeremiah 36:23-25 says,
23 And it came about, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments. 25 Even though Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah entreated the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.
Daniel was familiar with this story and how the king had rejected the word of the Lord, even going so far as to burn Jeremiah’s prophecy. So when he said in Daniel 9:6 that the kings had not listened to the word of the prophets, there was weight behind his words. The fact that Judah had indeed spent seventy years in exile, as the prophet had foretold, proved that this was indeed the word of God.
The Shame of Exile
Daniel 9:7, 8 continues,
7 Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open [paniym, “face, surface”] shame [bosheth, “confusion, shame”], as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against Thee. 8 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee.
The exile of both Judah in Babylon and Israel in Assyria were an “open shame” to them. They could not hide it, because these exiles were historical facts. God had publicly shamed them. In that sense, shame was written on their faces. When Daniel includes Israel here, he broadens his intercession beyond Judah to include the ten tribes of Israel which had been carried in Assyria two centuries earlier.
Both Israel and Judah had been exiled for the same reason. It was for their lawlessness, which violated the covenant that they had made at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:8. Daniel also confesses the righteousness of God, saying “righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord.” In other words, the prophet recognizes that God did right in exiling both Israel and Judah. He does not blame God, as if God had mistreated them. The Law of Tribulation in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 had made it clear that Israel’s lawlessness would result in their captivity.
The prophet thus justified (or vindicated) God in His judgments. He agreed with God. David did the same in Psalm 51:4, saying,
4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when thou dost judge.
Hence, the “open shame” of exile, as a judgment of God, was a public judgment for their lawlessness. The lesson here is that this exile begins to come to an end when the people acknowledge their transgression and agree that God was righteous in His judgments. Without agreeing with God’s judgment, there is no true repentance but only resentful submission. For this reason also, in the Law of Tribulation we read in Leviticus 26:40-42,
40 If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against me [Christ], and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember My covenant with Isaac, and My Covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
In other words, tribulation does not end until the people agree that the divine judgment was justified. It does not end until the people confess their hostility to Yahweh, the Covenant God, who has become Yeshua, Jesus Christ (Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 12:2, 3; Psalm 118:14).