Archive for April, 2007
A couple of weeks ago, I was preaching my Sunday morning message when I was overcome by an ‘attack’ of kidney stones. It was most unpleasant and I was unable to finish my message that morning. I’m posting the part that I left un-preached here as I believe it was a rather important part of the message.–DG
The Prayers We Pray & End; Daniel 9:24
Daniel saw the Covenant colors the sun and rain have woven against the blue sky. Prayer informed by Scripture will see just such reality. Because here is what I think this is really about: Daniel was unselfish. Daniel was not praying about his own predicament. Daniel was not praying about his own situation or even that of his fellow people: they were all sinners and could do nothing but pray. Daniel was praying to God about God.
Daniel was praying about God’s final vindication, and I think, perhaps, Daniel got more than he bargained for. Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the final vindication would take place at the end, but the end involved a little more than the return of a few thousand exiles to Jerusalem. The end was a comprehensive plan that involved the complete eradication of sin, unrighteousness, opposition to God’s Kingdom, opposition to God, the final defeat of sin, the final sweeping away of transgression and the final exaltation of Truth, Righteousness and Holiness. I think once Gabriel laid these things out for Daniel in verse 24, once Daniel caught a glimpse of what was really going on in God’s plan—for that is what God showed him, not just the end of 70 years of exile, but in fact, a picture of God’s plan clear through to the end—once Daniel saw this, nothing else really mattered–thus, we hear no complaints from Daniel. God has the final word on the answers He gives to the prayers we pray.You see these things in verse 24, these six imperatives, are all things that are in violation of God and His Will, and thus we learn about the nature of the restoration God revealed to Daniel, in answer to Daniel’s prayer, would take place. God the Righteous will set things right. God’s final answer to Daniel, God’s final answer to the World is the complete crushing and defeat of sin. But how? By returning exiles to Jerusalem? Hardly. Scripture shows there is only one way for these things to be brought about: The Cross. PT Forsyth wrote, “The Cross of Christ is God’s last judgment on all sin, for its destruction by a realm of infinite grace and love. It is the last resource of the Almighty Holiness; and His last resource is the end of all things—which is now always at hand in a kingdom both coming and come.” (183)Ronald Wallace too writes: “We have therefore to ask whether there are any cogent reasons why we should not simply acknowledge that this passage describes much more fittingly what happened through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We must remember above all, that this passage does not belong merely to a single book about whose origins scholars disagree. It belongs to a book incorporated within a whole body of Holy Scripture in which all vision and prophet (verse 24) has its seal set on it, not by the suffering of Onias or by the exploits of the Maccabees, but by Jesus Christ…The ordinary Christian cannot possibly read all these phrases without also seriously asking: Does this not refer to what happened during the life and death of Jesus himself? The church has for centuries take this view, and one notable commentator calls this especially a ‘Christ-saturated passage.’”165-166In other words: “Daniel I’m not just going to fix broken Israel, I’m going to redeem the entire world. I’m not just going to deal with your sin and Israel’s sin, but I’m going to deal with the entire enterprise of sin in the world. I’m not just going to bring you back to your land, I’m going to bring the entire world back to My Land.” History and Scripture have born this out that only in Christ has sin been finally and forever crushed beneath the heal and hand of God. John wrote, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the entire world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV).If Daniel did anything ‘wrong’ it’s that his prayer was too small. God corrects this by expanding Daniel’s vision, by expanding his understanding of what He is doing. When Daniel’s understanding was corrected, his prayers could take on new shape.
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Daniel was praying that God remember His own Word, Daniel was praying unselfishly that God would do what God is going to do regardless of how we feel or think. Daniel, in short, is concerned here that God’s will be done, that His Kingdom come. This is the nature of prayer that is informed by Scripture. I suppose it is true that we get what we pray for.
What are you praying for? Perhaps right now your prayers are too small because you have not fully understood or appreciated what God is doing, because you have not had your vision expanded by God’s Revelation. What consumes the most of your time in your prayer closet? Are you still praying for some vague expression of ‘peace’ in this world? Because peace will not come without violence and judgment in the cross and the wrath of a Holy God who hates the sin that causes un-peace.
Are you still praying for health for yourself or your family or friends? Put that health in the context of God’s plan for this world: Maybe that sickness is designed to bring about Glory for God. Maybe sickness or illness is not really the problem.
Are you still praying for shiny new things? End that prayer. Don’t pray for wealth and happiness and good luck on the lottery. Instead hunker down in the prayer closet and pray the violent prayers of the Psalms or of the Revelation or the Prophets. Don’t allow your prayers to be self-centered, egotistical and anthropocentric. Pray out of the depth of emotion for the Will and Kingdom of God to come upon this earth. Pray for God’s final vindication of Christ to be revealed!
I think we spend too much time in church praying for simple things like: God help America to be a better place to live. God help our leaders. God help. How about we start praying some things strange to our sensibilities like: God overthrow Your Enemies, Not America’s Enemies, but God’s. Or: God, Send Your Messiah to the Earth and usher in Your Kingdom and all Your glory! Or: God, Turn the Church upside down and shake out all of the filth, all the lukewarm (th), all the false prophets and false doctrine. Lord, purify your church because Judgment begins with the House of God. Lord, may your Word spread rapidly in our community! Lord, prepare in us a clean heart. Lord, search us and know if there is any anxious way in us and purge us of our uncleanliness. Lord, Forgive us our Sin for you are merciful and Forgiving. Lord, shake us.
I think it is time in the church for prayers that are properly informed by Scripture to be prayed. It’s time for real prayers to be offered. It’s time for Holy Hands to be uplifted by Men who understand What responsibility God has given them to lead by example, and that He has called Men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer (1 Tim 2:9) and to lead by prayer. It is time for the Church to stop fooling around worrying about the American Stock Exchange and to start worrying about whether or not we are in keeping with God’s will and to start praying that Where He is We May also Be. It’s Time to confess and repent and fast and posture ourselves properly before a righteous and holy God. It’s time for the men of the Church, like Daniel, to search the Scripture and know and understand what God wants us to pray. Enough simple prayers. Enough nonsense prayers. Enough prayers for better days and sunshine. Enough prayers that are meaningless and mundane. Let’s pray prayers that shake heaven so that heaven will shake us. Let’s get serious about prayer that announces to the Lord of Hosts: We Welcome Your Intervention.
And let us prepare ourselves now for the answers God gives so that we will not be shaken with fear, but moved to seek God even more earnestly. Let us not tarry. God have mercy! Let us not tarry any longer! Let us pray prayers that the world can interpret in only one way: Here is a group of people who are praying for the soon return of Christ, for the Exaltation of Christ, for the Vindication of Christ. What are they doing? What do they know?
Forsyth wrote, “The evil world will not win at last, because it failed to win at the only time it every could. It is a vanquished world where men play their devilries. Christ has overcome it. It can make tribulation, but desolation it can never make.” (The Justification of God, 223)
I don’t happen to think this world is all that scary. Well, yes I do. Mostly the people in the world are the ones that I find difficult to fathom. No one wants to listen to me when I say that we should be paying attention to the sort of, kind of, faith we are practicing in these last and evil days. There may be a time upon us soon when all we have is our faith. I wonder if we have made our preparations. Have we stored our treasures in the right place? Have we wisely considered whose side we wish to belong to? There are two sides and only one side can win, only one side will win and that is the side that has already won. There’s no contest. There may be a skirmish, and people may be wounded, but for the already lost side, it is a meaningless gesture, and a gesture only.
I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding me on this point. Jesus said, “You will have troubles in the world, but take heart: I have overcome the World.” Forsyth wisely points out that Jesus said this before He went to Golgotha. He had already conquered: The Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth. So, then, we are not living in a world that is bound for overcoming or that we need to tame. No, we live in a world that is already overcome. Of course, if we are united with Christ, we are more than conquerors. How can we be, if we are united with Him, anything else? But when he says we are more than conquerors, I don’t think he merely means that we are going to overwhelmingly conquer. He can’t be because the conqueroring has already been done on our behalf by the Only One who could conquer. I think what he is saying is that there is so much more too us than perhaps we have imagined.
Of course he says we are ‘hyper-conquerors.’ And, of course, he says that nothing shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. However, I think He also means for us to understand that our identity is not limited to or by this conquering or even defined by it. He speaks of us in that chapter as saved, justified, glorified, predestined, conformed to the likeness of His Son, children, co-heirs with Christ, heirs of God, resurrected, Spirit-filled, Alive, free, Sons, adopted, Redeemed and loved. Well of course we are more than conquerors. And we are a thousand things beside.
We are also bought. This God who saves and redeems did so at his own expense: He did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all. We are not really conquerors. We are along for the ride. I know what Paul is saying, but I also know what he is not saying. If we are saved, if we conquer, it is certainly not because of ourselves. It is because God did not spare His own Son. Jesus is the Overcomer and the world is already condemned. There is no fear for those who know this and believe it by faith.
So then we are living in victory and because of victory and not necessarily for victory. We live from the victory that has already been secured for us by the Son of God. Time it is, then, for Christians to stop acting and living and preaching like we need some other sort of victory, or something more than the victory already gained for us in the Cross. We are not reaching out to take hold of something that we created along the way or some treasure that we have stored up for ourselves. We are reaching out to take hold of that which has been secured and established and promised by Christ Himself in the cross.
Jesus has already dismantled the powers of evil exposing them to public humiliation in the cross. Jesus has already disrupted the world struggle for power. Jesus has already guaranteed the complete desolation of all that this world believes is the goal worth achieving. Jesus has already devastated all those petty kingdoms and fiefdoms that ruler after ruler struggles to control. The redemption of the world has already been secured in Christ Jesus at Golgotha, in the Cross at Calvary. That is the victory that we claim, we cling to, and that we should be clamoring after each moment. This is how we overcome the world: Knowing that Christ has already done so.