Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Understanding the Times

Daniel 9:1-3 In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom- 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. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

This passage so stuck out to me that I couldn’t help but write about it. Let’s look at this together. For a little background- All Israel had transgressed God’s law and turned away, refusing to obey the LORD their God. (Dan 9:11) and because of their unfaithfulness to the LORD, He scattered them both near and far in all the countries. (vs.7) In particular God had exiled Judah to Babylon and the people were in captivity. Daniel was one of those from the tribe of Judah who had been exiled to Babylon. But Daniel, even as a young teenage boy resolved not to let the pagan culture in which he now lived to be an influence on his life as a child of God. He lived in faithfulness to his God all the days of His life.

And here we are at this passage when Daniel was old in age and we see him searching the scriptures. He is reading the prophecies of Jeremiah which tell of a 70 year captivity and he understands that the LORD will deliver His people out of captivity just as He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Daniel understands the times. He realizes that through the Prophecies of Jeremiah and the length the people have been exiled that the time of captivity is drawing to a close and the LORD will be faithful to restore His people.

Now Daniel, understanding the prophecies and believing in God’s soon coming restoration does something so interesting. He turns to the LORD God and pleads to him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Amazing! Why did He do this? Why wasn’t he sitting back and carrying on with his life while waiting for Gods restoration? We see very clearly through his incredibly passionate prayer that he offers up to the LORD in verses 4-19 that he is praying for his sins and the sins of God’s people will be forgiven and he is mourning over them. The people that bore the very name of GOD had been living life their way and were not turning to the LORD and God punished them. Daniel prayed for his people to turn from their sins and return to God.

This raises the hair on the back of my neck. Daniel KNEW the times and he prayed and fasted for his people! Do we know the times that we are in? As believers are we searching scripture to understand where we are at in our day and age? In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus gives us signs of the close of the age. Jesus tells us in vs.12 that in the last days we will see an increase in wickedness and the love of many will grow cold. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

I’d say that describes our day pretty accurately, wouldn’t you? And by reading these God breathed texts what are we doing about it? Jesus says in Matthew 24:32-33 that we can learn a good lesson from the fig tree: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he (Jesus) is near, at the very gates. Check your own spiritual pulse and the pulse of professing believers today. Do we understand the times? Or are we still going about our daily lives unconcerned about the sin in our lives or the spreading of the Gospel and totally disconnected from the Kingdom work that is to be done before Jesus’ return.

I am quickly reminded of Matthew 24:37-40 which says for as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Let this not be us! Let us be like Daniel who searched the scriptures and understood the times and cried out to God with prayers and petitions and with fasting on behalf of their sin and let us return to the LORD with all our hearts to be ready on the day that the Son of Man appears. The time is drawing near.