Daniel has always intimidated me, ever since I first read about his steely resolve not to partake in the king’s sumptuous feasts. Self-denial has never been my strong suit. In fact throughout the first six chapters of the book, Daniel displays a consistent ability to obey his Lord no matter the circumstance.
He is faithful to God, and he is rewarded. It would be easy to assume that he is rewarded because of his faithfulness; after all, that is how the world operates (and always has). However, in Chapter 9, we are corrected in this assumption as we read Daniel’s prayer for his people. In this passage, the name used for God is Yahweh, which designates his covenant relationship with his people. This name, which is not used elsewhere in Daniel, is used seven times in this chapter.
The prayer is reminiscent of the confession of sin in our own liturgy: “To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets” (Dan. 9:8-10).
Daniel acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and our place beneath him. He goes on to say, “For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy” (Dan. 9:18). Daniel is only able to act faithfully because God supplies him the grace to do so. God’s faithfulness is not dependent on the people’s performance. Great news for you and me, wouldn’t you agree?