You Will Not Be Forgotten

21 Remember these things, O Jacob,
    and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
    O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
    and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;
    shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
    O forest, and every tree in it!
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
    and will be glorified[c] in Israel.

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
    who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who made all things,
    who alone stretched out the heavens,
    who spread out the earth by myself,
25 who frustrates the signs of liars
    and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
    and makes their knowledge foolish,
26 who confirms the word of his servant
    and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
    and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
    and I will raise up their ruins’;
27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
    I will dry up your rivers’;
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
    and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
    and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”
– Isaiah 44:21-28

By now, we have seen that God has a number of things in store for the people of Judah. One involves their impending destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. God has already informed King Hezekiah that this would happen.

“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” – Isaiah 39:6 ESV

And to make matters worse, God informed Hezekiah that some of his sons would “be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 39:7 ESV). But God had also revealed that, while Judah would “receive double for her sins” (Isaiah 40:2 ESV), He would not abandon them completely. Yes, they would face His righteous wrath in the form of their defeat and exile, but He would once again show them His unmerited favor. Isaiah was to say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” He was to assure them, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might” (Isaiah 40:9-10 ESV).

In chapter 41, God reminded the people of Judah that they belonged to Him and, no matter what happened, they had nothing to fear. He was going to care for them, even in their greatest times of distress.

“‘You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off’;
fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:9-10 ESV

“For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.’”
– Isaiah 41:13 ESV

In chapter 42, God revealed His plans to send His Servant, who would one day “bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 ESV). This obvious reference to Jesus, the Messiah, lets the people of Judah know that God has something remarkable in plan for them in the future.

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
   to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
– Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV

But God has more to say about the matter. In chapter 43, He let them know that there was even more good news coming. Their exile would be followed by a second exodus from captivity and a re-entrance into the land of promise.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
    I will bring your offspring from the east,
    and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
    and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”
– Isaiah 43:6-7 ESV

God was not going to forget Judah. Yet, when the Babylonians began invading their territories and commenced the slow and methodical pillaging of their cities and towns, it was going to feel as if God was nowhere to be found. They would assume He had abandoned them, leaving them powerless and defenseless before their enemies. But, once again, God assures them that nothing could be further from the truth.

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
    and Israel, for
you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
    O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
    and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
– Isaiah 44:6-7 ESV

Not only would God not forget them, but He would also forgive them. He would remove their sins from them. All He asked is that they would remember that He alone is God. He called on them to recognize the futility and foolishness of false gods. An idol made by the hands of a man was incapable of remembering or redeeming. A false god can’t forgive sins. Only God can do that.

In response, Isaiah calls on the whole creative order to praise God for His salvation of Israel. And his statement regarding Israel’s glorious restoration by God is in the past-tense, as if it has already happened.

For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
    and will be glorified in Israel.
– Isaiah 44:23 ESV

And the following verses seem to provide an explanation for this amazing act of redemption and restoration. God is described as the Lord, Jehovah, their Redeemer. And that description is followed by a series of statements that all begin with the word, “who,” which provides further explanation of God’s character.

who formed you from the womb – vs 24

who alone stretched out the heavens – vs 24

who spread out the earth by myself – vs 24

who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners – vs 25

who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish – vs 25

who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers – vs 26

who says of Jerusalem, “She shall be inhabited,” and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins” – vs 26

who says to the deep, “Be dry; I will dry up your rivers” – vs 27

who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose” – vs 28

All of these statements set apart God as distinct and wholly different from any other god. He is the one true God. These are statements of authority, sovereignty, and unparalleled power. So, when God says of Jerusalem, “‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:28 ESV), it is guaranteed to happen. The people of Judah would end up in exile in Babylon, because God had decreed it. But they would also be restored to the land, because God had declared it. And here is God, revealing that He will use Cyrus, a Persian king, to fulfill His will for Judah. This remarkable prophecy was fulfilled to the letter when, after Judah had spent 70 years in exile in Babylon, King Cyrus issued is decree giving them royal permission and provision to return to the land and rebuilt their city and temple.

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 throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:1-4 ESV

God did not forget. And He did blot out their sins, allowing them to return to the land of promise. His grace arranged it all, including the king’s decree, the provision of funds, the rebuilding of the city and its walls, and the restoration of the temple and the sacrificial system. He proved Himself faithful. And this amazing story of God’s covenant-faithfulness should encourage us today. He always follows through. He always keeps His word. He never forgets and He never forsakes.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Your God Is Coming!

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
    lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
    “Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young. – Isaiah 40:1-11 ESV

Isaiah has just delivered a shocking message to the king of Judah.

“Listen to this message from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: ‘The time is coming when everything in your palace—all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now—will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. ‘Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.’” – Isaiah 39:5-7 NLT

And while Hezekiah seems to have taken it all it in stride, this devastating news was not going to sit well with the people of Judah. Because of Hezekiah’s pride, as evidenced by his ill-advised and boastful display of the wealth of his kingdom to the Babylonians, God was going to hand Judah over to the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem would fall, the temple would be destroyed, and the people would be taken as captives to Babylon.

So, if you’re in Isaiah’s sandals, what do you say to the people of Judah at a time like this? How do you continue to speak into their lives after God has delivered such a bombshell of a pronouncement? You listen to God. You wait for Him to reveal the rest of the story. God has declared His judgment, in no uncertain terms. But it will be followed by His deliverance. And, as chapter 40 opens up, we are taken on a fast-forward journey into the future, long after the fall of Jerusalem. The people of Judah are living in exile in Babylon. And the days of their punishment are coming to an end.

In the following chapters, God reveals that the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians will take place, but so will their future deliverance. And the message He gives to Isaiah while speaking of a day nearly a century and a half into the future, is meant to provide immediate encouragement to the people of Judah living in Isaiah’s day. God opens with the words, “Comfort, comfort my people.” In the midst of all their sorrow and despair, God speaks words intended to bring hope and assurance.

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.” – Isaiah 40:2 NLT

It is as if Isaiah has been teleported into the future where is allowed to see events that have not yet taken place. But because these distant scenes are revealed by God Himself, they are reality, not fantasy. This is not wishful thinking on the part of Isaiah, but the revealed will of God. He is providing a revelation of things to come.

God is coming. His arrival is imminent, and the people are told to make preparations.

“Clear the way through the wilderness
    for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
    for our God! – Isaiah 40:3 NLT

Their desolate surroundings and distant location would prove to be no barrier for God. Their dire circumstances would be no problem for the Almighty. Every imaginable and seemingly impregnable obstacle would be removed, making way for God’s arrival.

“Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.” – Isaiah 40:5 NLT

And how are the people to know that these things will happen? The Lord has spoken. He has declared it. “The mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5 ESV). This message declaring God’s trustworthiness and reliability are reiterated just a few verses later.

“…the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8 ESV

And in between these two statements declaring that God’s word is everlasting and always reliable, we find a description of man’s transience and impermanence. Humanity is no more permanent than withering grass or a fading flower. And, like the rest of nature, man is subject to the will of God. He gives life, and He takes it away. He breathes into man the breath of life, and with the very same breath, He takes it away. But His word is permanent and unshakable. It cannot be altered or deterred in any way. Which transforms the following words from a hopeful possibility to a God-ordained certainty.

“Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.” – Isaiah 40:9-10 NLT

God is coming. It may not be today, but it will happen. Delay should not produce disappointment or doubt. The longer we have to wait, the greater our longing for His coming should grow. Our hope is based on His word, not the nature of our surroundings. God is a faithful, covenant-keeping God. He is the Great Shepherd, who cares for His sheep.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. – Isaiah 40:11 NLT

This glimpse into Judah’s future was intended to remind Isaiah and the people of Judah of God’s trustworthiness and sovereignty over their lives. As Isaiah penned these words, the shock of God’s pronouncement of Judah’s fall to Babylon still rang in his ears. The people were shell-shocked by the thought that their great city, while spared defeat by the Assyrians, would one day fall to yet another pagan power. But God wanted them to know that He could be trusted. He was good for His word. And He was a good and gracious Shepherd who would care for His flock.

If we fast-forward again, to the end of the book of Revelation, we see yet another glimpse into God’s future plans for mankind. This time, we hear the words of Jesus Himself, as He reassures His people of His own return.

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Revelation 22:12-13 NLT

The world will suffer greatly during the seven years of the Tribulation. But at the end of this dark period of human history, God will send His Son to the earth a second time. And, this time, He will come as a conquering King who defeats all those who stand in opposition to His rule and reign. He will establish His Kingdom on earth, and restore the people of Israel to a right relationship with God. But how do we know that these future events will take place? Because Jesus declared, “These words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 22:6 ESV). And He leaves us with these comforting words of promise:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” – Revelation 22:20 ESV

And our response should be:

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! – Revelation 22:20 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

God Will…

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days. – Hosea 3:1-5 ESV

Evidently, a fair amount of time had passed since chapter one. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, had left him and committed adultery, having been “loved by another man”. Not only that, she had become the property of that man, little more than his personal slave. Having rejected the love of Hosea, she had essentially sold herself off to another man in order to survive. Hosea had been forced to watch his wife, the mother of his three children, walk out on him and give herself to another man. There is little doubt that Hosea was better able to relate to the pain and anger that God felt toward Israel because of their unfaithfulness. Hosea had done nothing to deserve the treatment he had received from Gomer. He had been faithful. He had been loving. He had provided for her. But she had turned her back on him, choosing to give herself to someone else.

But God commanded Hosea to show her love once again. He was to seek her out and bring her home. Not only that, it was going to cost him to do so. He would be forced to buy her out of her slavery. And it’s interesting to note that the price her paid for her was very low because her life had become worthless. It was the equivalent of the price paid for a dead slave. Paul paints a very similar situation when speaking of what God has done for those whom He has redeemed from sin. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins” (Colossians 2:13 NLT). He essentially said the same thing to the believers in Ephesus:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT

Hosea was going to have to buy Gomer out of dead-end life and there is no indication that she desired for him to do so. She was returning to him in remorse and repentance. She was not calling out to him in despair and dissatisfaction with her condition. This would all be Hosea’s doing. He would redeem her in spite of her. He would love her at a time when her love for him was non-existent. And God is using Hosea’s earthly relationship as an illustration of exactly what He was going to do for Israel.

Both Gomer and the people of Israel would have to go through a period of cleansing. Hosea would require Gomer to live with him for a certain length of time, during which she would not be able to seek out the affections or attention of another man. In the same way, Israel would go through a period of time when they would be unable to practice spiritual adultery against God. They would “dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods” (Hosea 3:4 ESV). After the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom in 721 B.C., the Israelites would find themselves in captivity, unable to worship their false gods. They would have no king or kingdom. They would find themselves as little more than slaves, no longer able to commit the spiritual adultery they had before. Their condition would best be described as dead in their trespasses and sins.

And yet, just as Hosea was to do with Gomer, God would intervene. He would see to it that “the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5 ESV). After a period of time, God will restore Israel to their place as His children. But it will all be His doing. He will seek them out. He will restore them. He will reveal Himself to them. And He will shower His goodness on them.

The people of Israel are currently in this period of waiting. They have a kingdom, but no king. They have no temple and, therefore, no sacrificial system. They are no longer a theocracy, living under the leadership of God. But the day is coming when all that will change. God will faithfully restore them to their former condition, and Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will be their King and Lord. God’s plans for Israel are far from finished. He has much yet to accomplish on their behalf, and all that happens in the future will be as a result of His love, grace and mercy. He will love them in spite of them. He will restore them, not because they deserve it, but because He is faithful to keep His promises. That is the God we worship. He is loving, patient and kind. He is faithful. He keeps His promises. And He has a plan for this world that He is working out in His perfect timing. God will do what He has promised to do. He will finish what He has begun. He will fulfill His redemptive plan for Israel and for the church. We can count on it and rest in it.

Seek and Find.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord… – Jeremiah 29:12-14 ESV

These verses contain a promise of God made to the people of Judah who were living as exiles in the land of Babylon. It was part of a message sent by God in the form of a letter written by Jeremiah the prophet. God had given the nation of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, just as He had said He would. Now He was giving them instructions on how to conduct their lives while there. God told them, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease” (Jeremiah 29:5-6 ESV). In other words, they were to prepare for a lengthy stay and make the most of it by living their lives as normally as possible. He also instructed them to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV). Rather than pouting and moaning, whining or complaining, they were to build, plant, marry, multiply, and pray for the welfare of their new community. This was going to be their new home for the next 70 years. And they needed to see their circumstances as divinely ordained by God. He had put them there and He wanted them to accept their situation as having come from His hand. They weren’t to listen to anyone who might show up claiming to be speaking for God and giving them false hope or alternative instructions. Their stay was going to last 70 years because that is exactly what God had said. “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10 ESV).

So often, we let our circumstances determine our view of God. We look around us and decide that whatever it is we are going through could not be God’s will for our lives, so we begin to doubt and despair. We start to look for alternative solutions to our situation and novel ways to escape whatever predicament in which we find ourselves. We stop looking for God in the midst of the problem, and start seeking Him outside of it – on the other side of it. We fail to realize that He is there. We lose sight of the fact that He has us right where He wants us. God told the people of Judah living in exile, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). God always has a plan. Our problem, in our limitations as human beings, is that we can’t see God’s plans for our lives. We don’t always know what He is doing or why. So we panic. We despair. We get antsy and start trying to figure out a escape plan, never realizing that the problem we are trying to get away from is actually part of His plan.

It is interesting to note that our verses for today follow God’s promise of restoration at the end of 70 years of captivity. It says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me…” After seven decades of living as exiles in Babylon; building homes, having babies, raising their families, planting crops, settling down and wondering if God was ever going to hear their prayers, suddenly He would answer. All throughout their time in captivity, the people of Judah would have been praying for restoration. They would have been asking God to forgive them, to hear their cries for help and to restore them to the land. But for 70 years, it wold appear that God was not listening. It would seem as if God had abandoned them. But He tells them then – at just the right time – He will do what He has promised to do. Not sooner or later, but then. God’s timing is perfect. He plan is perfect. He knows what He is doing whether we understand it or even like it. We can trust Him. We are to seek Him continually and consistently. And He promises that we will find Him. God told the people of Judah that when the 70 years was up, “I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:14 ESV).

A big part of seeking God is not just to get what we think we need, but to discover His will regarding our life. It is to see His plan even in the midst of our problems. It is to learn to trust Him even when our problems appear greater than His presence. God is there. He has a plan. And if we persist in praying, seeking, waiting, and trusting, the day will come when He reveals Himself, His plan, His power, and His divine solution to our problem – at just the right time. Keep seeking and you will find.

Corporate Confession.

O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. – Daniel 9:4-5 ESV

Daniel 9:4-19

Daniel was living in exile with his fellow Jews in the former Neo-Babylonian empire. He was one of the thousands of Jews who had been sent into captivity when Nebuchadnezzar and his army had conquered and destroyed Judah. At the point David prays this prayer, he has been in captivity for almost 70 years. As the book that bears his name tells us, Daniel had been a faithful servant of God even from his earliest days as an exile when he was forced into servitude in the king’s palace. Now, as an old man, he was reading the scroll containing the writings of the prophet, Jeremiah, and ran across God’s promise concerning His chosen people. “I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years” (Daniel 9:2 ESV). In essence, Daniel had been having his “quiet time” and while reading the book of Jeremiah, he discovered the following words from God: “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV). What a rush it must been when Daniel read these words and realized that the 70 year time period had arrived. God was going to visit Israel. He was going to fulfill His promise to bring them back to Judah. He was going to restore their fortunes, return them to the land, and renew His relationship with them.

And what was Daniel’s response? Did he jump for joy? Did he run outside to tell all his friends the good news? No, Daniel prayed. “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession” (Daniel 9:2-4 ESV). Faced with the unbelievable good news of God’s pending deliverance, Daniel prayed a prayer filled with confession, repentance and an appeal for God to show mercy. He knew they didn’t deserve what God was about to do. And God had clearly indicated what they were to do. They were to call on Him and pray to Him. They were to seek him with all their heart. And if they did, He would hear and restore their fortunes. So Daniel did just that. He prayed. He called. He cried out to God and he confessed on behalf of the people of Judah. He directed his prayer to “the great and awesome God.” He appealed to the covenant-keeping, consistently-loving God of Judah. He acknowledged the greatness and goodness of God, fully recognizing and admitting that their predicament had been their own fault. “…we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules” (Daniel 9:5 ESV). Daniel wasn’t taking any chances. While his math convinced him that the 70 years was just about up, he was going to make sure that he did his part and call out and confess just as God had commanded. He may not have been able to coerce or convince the rest of the exiles to do the same, but he was going to everything in his power to see that God’s command was kept.

Daniel prayed. He humbled himself before God, “seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” This was a serious, sold-out, no-holds-barred kind of prayer session. And it was anything but selfish. His was a corporately focused prayer, lifting up the entire nation of Judah and offered as an intercessory petition to God on their behalf. David could have simply focused on himself, regaling God with the stories of his of faithful service over the years. He could have reminded God of his unwillingness to worship the false gods of Babylon. He could have tried to impress God with his incredible faith illustrated by his encounter in the lions’ den. But instead, Daniel included himself in the sins of the people. He knew that God was interested in a corporate confession because He was offering a corporate restoration. Daniel was painfully aware that the people of God had not been faithful during their time in exile. Many of them had ended up acclimating quite well to their new environment, growing comfortable and complacent. They had compromised their faith and rejected their God for the gods of their captors. Having felt abandoned by God, they had chosen to put their hope and trust elsewhere. But Daniel knew that their only hope rested with the only true God. He alone could restore them. He alone could turn their fortunes around, taking them from captivity to freedom, from their well-deserved exile to their unmerited restoration to the land and His favor.

Daniel was comfortable in his circumstances. He could have been content to live out his days in Babylon, worshiping God and working at his government job. But he wanted what God wanted. He desired to see God’s power revealed in the affairs of his people. So he prayed. And he prayed diligently, fervently, passionately, persistently and expectantly.