God Has a Timetable
Care Enough to Pray
February 21st, 2011
“In the ﬁrst year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus….” Daniel 9:1
“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” Daniel 9:3
“…while I was speaking in prayer… Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to ﬂy swiftly reached me….” (verse 21)
“Now in the ﬁrst year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulﬁlled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation through all his kingdom….” Ezra 1:1
Bible Prophecy Blog Post 1: Care Enough to Pray
In reading from Ezra 1, I was immediately struck by how quickly Cyrus responded to God’s stirring: “In the ﬁrst year….” (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus was operating on God’s timeline (Jer. 25:11). Those who had studied the prophecies were not surprised by the coming of the Medes and Persians. Those who study Bible prophecy are always given advance warning of what is going on!
Now there is more to the story of course. It actually begins many years before when a prophecy was given by the prophet Jeremiah that predicted that God’s people would be in captivity for seventy years. Daniel had studied that prophecy and perhaps been checking off the years as they passed. You see he was not only concerned about his political responsibilities, but also the spiritual concerns of his people.
Daniel knew that the “seventy year” prophecy of Jeremiah was quickly running out, which was to conclude with his people returning to their land and the sanctuary being restored as he understood things. He didn’t see any indication, however, that his people would be leaving Babylon any time soon, regardless of what the prophecy suggested. Nothing was changing on the political front, nor were his people in an improved spiritual condition, from what we read in his prayer of confession in Daniel 9!
Recently He had been given a vision, recorded in Daniel 8, that suggested the seventy year period would be extended by a much longer time period, during which awful things would take place, including trampling the host—probably his people, and the sanctuary underfoot, before culminating in what was referred to as the sanctuary being “cleansed” (Daniel 8:14). Daniel might have thought he understood the sanctuary being cleansed since the yearly festivals of Israel included the day of atonement when the sanctuary was cleansed, but he didn’t understand the time extension.
Daniel could have complacently accepted not understanding and gone on—”accepted the unacceptable,” letting other people worry about what was going on with the prophecies. But Daniel carefully studied what Jeremiah had to say and then set himself to praying. This would have been in the ﬁrst year of Darius the Mede. By that time the Babylonian Empire had passed from the scene, Darius was ruling, and in two years Cyrus would take over (Daniel 9:1).
Daniel sought God with prayer, fasting, sackcloth and ashes (verse 3), beginning with a lengthy confession where he linked himself with his people (verse 4,5), and freely admitted shortcomings.
He asked God to intervene on the basis of His (God’s) righteousness since his people had no righteousness of their own, and asked God to shine His face upon the sanctuary back in Jerusalem, which at that moment was desolate and was going to be trampled further from what he understood. So he prayed on! I would like to believe that he was not only motivated by curiosity and his own concerns, but also motivated by the suffering of his people. We need more people who care enough to pray!
While he was still speaking and confessing the sins of his people, an angel came “ﬂying swiftly” to explain what was going on (verse 21). God was aware that Daniel was struggling and in answer to prayer, an angel was quickly sent to provide answers.
Some things strike me:
1. God has a timetable. There was a timetable for Daniel’s day; there is a timetable for our day. We would do well to learn about that timetable.
2. The timetable can be understood by studying Bible prophecy. The Bible says “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Daniel studied with every expectation of understanding the future; we can also understand the future as we study Bible prophecy. The things going on in the world right now will not come as a great surprise if we are studying our Bibles.
3. Great blessings come in studying Bible Prophecy. Daniel had been a Prime Minister of the Babylonian Empire, and now was serving a new king in the Medo-Persian Empire. He had endured the upheavals associated with the moral fall of the Babylonians and the conquests of the new rulers. God was with him and was blessing. But he was also buoyed up by knowing God’s timetable and plan ahead of time. We can be assured of God’s presence with us as well, but we will be greatly helped if we understand what is going on in the world around us by knowing what the Bible says regarding our times.
4. Prophecy is unlocked as we pray. Like Daniel, we need to seriously pray about what we are learning. Daniel was so convinced that God always gives advance information, that he was unwilling to be in confusion on the subject. Too many people are confused in our day. There is a need for FAR MORE study in this regard.
5. Serious prayer often includes fasting! Daniel was a a great and righteous man, but felt the need to humble himself in approaching God. If Daniel needed to pray and fast, so do we! We also need to confess our sins and those of God’s church that keep God from having His way in the world. I continue to believe the only reason other religions are rising to such prominence in our day, is due to the poor witness of those who claim to be followers of Jesus, and the ongoing dishonor of God. Daniel felt the need to pray and fast. We have the same need!
6. God will answer our prayers and send help, IF we keep praying. Daniel kept praying—later in Daniel we ﬁnd he prays for multiple weeks. We need to keep praying until we get answers. Gabriel was sent “swiftly” and we need to be so serious with God that He will swiftly send us help as well.
7. We have standing before God as we pray in Jesus’ name. Daniel prayed on the basis of God’s righteousness, so should we!
Father in heaven, we are living in a world where everything is going to custard. Father there is unbelievable political, ﬁnancial, and relational turmoil all over the world. Natural disasters are abounding. There is a looming shortage of food and our water and air is becoming increasing polluted. We are seeing revolutions in North Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world: oppression on the one hand, sincere efforts at freedom on the other, but also anarchy driven by opportunist who are seeking to take advantage of the sincere freedom-desiring people in those lands. We have no reason to believe things will greatly improve based on what we see in the Bible. The only question is whether we will be faithful. and whether we will take the knowledge provided and make sure we are standing on the side of truth in the last days. Help us to stop being so complacent and begin to study and pray; help us to even add fasting if necessary. Thank you for keeping and blessing Daniel as he endured the great transitions. Please keep and bless us in our day as well. Bless my friend who is reading this today, and might it be a good day for Your Kingdom so far as my friend’s life goes. You know the things that are prayed about. Send help swiftly, bring answers; bring help in just the right way; and do so quickly! I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.