From Confession to Consolation: Confession and New Historic “Now”

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Published:
March 3, 2020

Daniel’s prophetic message in Daniel 9 is one of the greatest prophecies in the Bible. It is labeled as “the divine program for the ages.”[1] Glorious victory of the Messiah over Antichrist’s “abomination” and all kinds of satanic deceptions in history has already been accomplished through Christ’s atoning death, resurrection, ascension, ministry in the Sanctuary, and the promise of the blessed hope of His second coming. 

The revelation about the Messiah and the timing of His salvific program, especially His sacrificial death for humanity, in Daniel’s prophecy arrived as the response to a focused, determined, and fervent prayer of confession. The divine program of the ages and all predictive prophecies came as a reply to the prophet’s deep concern for God Himself and the destiny of His people. Two significant parts outline the content of Daniel’s prayer:

* Daniel’s prayer of confession (v. 4-15)

* Daniel’s prayer of petition (v. 16-19)

This prayer might become the model of worship for believers today as they approach the throne of God. God is pleased both by confession and petitions. Daniel’s prayer is situated in the setting of searching for the meaning of God’s Word (v. 1-2). Jeremiah’s prophecy has become the very Word of God delivered through a humble human agent and therefore has power and legitimacy. After almost seventy years of slavery, “the natural question would be, “Where are You, God?” Was God really working through all the calamities that had overtaken them? The natural inclination would be to feel that God had abandoned His people. But Daniel says otherwise. “God,” he prays, “You have not abandoned us, rather, we have abandoned You.”[2] Therefore, the search for the meaning of God’s actions in history is one of the critical elements of the prayer of confession.

Every good prayer starts with acknowledging our moral and spiritual responsibility for abandoning the life and principles of God’s kingdom. The paradox revealed here is that Jeremiah’s prophecy speaks clearly about the fulfillment of the prophecy in the time of Daniel. However, Daniel, in sackcloth and fasting, still affirms the full moral right of God to reject His people based on the shocking sins of leaders and the nation. God’s righteousness still is the holy standard. However, Daniel here appeals again and again to grace and lovingkindness of God (Heb. Hesed), glorious faithfulness of God to His covenant despite the evident shocking apostasy of Israel. Daniel reminds us in his prayer that the historical account of what happened between God and his people is essential. As Jacques Doukhan explains: “Even in a liturgical context, the prayer must have historical repercussions. Without reference to history, prayer is only a hollow rite, a fleeting emotion.”[3]

After the long confession of historically proven apostasy of Israel and affirmation of their willful rejection of God’s covenant, Daniel introduces a new historical “now” (v. 15 and v.17) and petitioned God to act for His own sake. Daniel reaches a “passionate crescendo as [he] concludes with short staccato-like sentences reflecting the emotion that filled his heart”[4]

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.

The prophet “reminds” God of His reputation and His fantastic grace/mercy. Other nations might think that YHWH is either non-existent or a slumbering deity not concerned anymore about His sacred place or His people. Wake up, oh, Lord! Daniel also includes himself in the group of unrighteous Israel, and by this holy attitude becomes intercessor par excellence, the mediator in prayer and salvific plan of God. Finally, in an exclamatory way, he appeals to God’s listening, forgiveness, hearing, and acting without delay! Daniel exhausted all his spiritual energy on the extraordinary focus on God’s point of view.

The church today is in great need of God’s new historical “now.” We have tried everything we could as an organization and denomination to fulfill God’s purpose in recent history, and again, like good Laodiceans, we failed. Instead of looking to things which are above and affirming the principles of Christ’s standards of the Sermon on the Mount, we have become quite excited with messy carnal, spiritual/political binaries: hedonism or vegan asceticism, liberalism or legalism, socialism or capitalism, imperialism or isolationism, anarchy or tyranny, racism or victimization complex, male headship and feminist libertarianism, individualism or collectivism, congregationalism or denominationalism, propheticism or lukewarmism, selfish ascetic prayer or spiritual workaholism, etc. Despite our apostasy as a “spiritual Israel,” God remains faithful to His covenantal promises as long as we return in contrition and repentance, both individually and collectively. He will listen, forgive, hear, and act swiftly if we return and confess our shortcomings and deliberate sins of commission and omission. Focused confession will bring spiritual awareness and genuine reform and revival.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, explains the nature of real confession:

In confession occurs the breakthrough of the Cross. The root of all sin is pride, superbia. I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is precisely in his wickedness that man wants to be as God. Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride...In the deep mental and physical pain of humiliation before a brother - which means, before God - we experience the Cross of Jesus as our rescue and salvation. The old man dies, but it is God who has conquered him. Now we share in the resurrection of Christ and eternal life.[5]

Our collective superbia of being something exceptional (remnant), when at the same time our sins of injustice and violations of fundamental human rights at every level always cry out to God, has to die at Christ’s cross completely. Death is the key to new life. Before God, confession becomes the most profound possible identification with the death of Christ at the cross. In confession, we become one with Christ in His death and resurrection. With confession, we are liberated to serve and to believe, and to become true remnant. Covenantal hesed of God’s light becomes the only hope amid our darkness of apostasy.

Daniel 9 is ultimately about confession and Christ’s sacrifice. These two motifs beautifully merge at this prophetic revelation reminding us that without our sincere and fervent confession, resembling dying of the old at the cross, nothing new of historical resurrecting “now” can happen. Without death of superbia there is no hope for tomorrow. No GC session or state elections will bring hope. Without the amazing transformation and new fresh portion of faith, hope and love from above, we will never ever be able to fulfil the fundamental principles of the Kingdom from the Sermon on the Mount, become radical disciples and consequently fulfil our destiny of eternal life with the One who so loved us to give up His glory and embrace the horrific Cross. 

 

Notes & References:

[1] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary (Broadman and Hallman Publishers, 1994), 273.

[2] William H. Shea, Daniel 7-12: The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier (Pacific Press, 1996), 50.

[3] Jacques Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel (Review and Herald, 2000), 139.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 249.

Aleksandar Alex S. Santrac, DPhil (University of Belgrade, Serbia), PhD (North-West University, South Africa), PhD (Education) (cand.) (Notre Dame of Maryland University) is Lead Pastor of the Chesapeake Conference, Columbia, MD; Extraordinary Researcher and Professor of Dogmatics and Dogma and Church History at the Unit for Reformation Theology and Advancement of South African Society, North–West University, South Africa; Online Tutor for Graduate Studies in Dogmatics, Philosophy, and Ethics at the Greenwich School of Theology, UK and Theological University of Apeldoorn, NL; Member Representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Observer), Faith and Order Commission, National Council of Churches; Member of the Ethics Committee, Washington Adventist Hospital.

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