Sermon May 15, 2016 Jeremiah 29 and Daniel 9:1-3 “Allowing God’s Word to Direct Your Life”

Daniel 9:1-3, and Jeremiah 29:1-14.                            Daniel Sermon #14                                          May 15, 2016

Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”  Title: “Allowing God’s Word to Direct Your Life”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki    Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

     Last Sunday we looked at Daniel 9 from the perspective of praying so that our prayers reach His hearts, so that God takes action.” This morning I want us to look at Daniel 9 from the viewpoint of allowing God’s Word to reach your heart, so that You take action; so that God’s Word directs your life.

Sunday after Sunday, it is very possible to sit in your pew with your Bible open, to hear God’s Word preached, and not do anything about it.  You can be like an acoustic ceiling tile that absorbs the sounds of God’s Word but remains inert. But God’s Word was not designed merely to be heard or read. It was meant to feed you, to challenge you, to encourage you, to reach your heart, and to drive you to action. (See Matthew 7:24-27)

Here in the first few verses of Daniel 9, this man of God has a Bible study that rocks his world and moves him to action, so that he is compelled to cry out to the Lord, in a most powerful and God-centered prayer! Why did that happen, and how might that might spark our study of God’s Word and our prayer life? Let’s see.

We need to begin some 55 years earlier, in Jeremiah 29:1, and 10-12. Please turn there.

 “This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon”…    10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

Now let’s go to Daniel 9:1-3, where we see the impact of God’s Word through Jeremiah:

“In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign….”  [Daniel is referring to the first year of the Persian Empire, that is, 539 BC. Therefore at least 55 years after Jeremiah wrote his letter, Daniel is now reading it and acting upon what he is reading.

“…I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”

If we put Jer. 29 and Dan. 9 together we see how God’s Word moves God’s people to action, in five steps:

1. The Lord Initiates a Conversation with Jeremiah. (Jer. 1:2, 4-9; 29:4).

2. Jeremiah Writes God’s Words in a Love Letter to God’s People. (Jer. 29:1)

3. Daniel Discovers God’s Love Letter, and It Moves Him to Plead with God. (9:3ff)

4. Daniel Publishes His Heart-Felt Pleading with the Lord (Daniel 9:4-19)

5. We Discover Daniel’s Prayer, and We Are Moved to Action.

 

Step One: The Lord Initiates a Conversation with Jeremiah. (Jer. 1:2; 4-9; 29:4).

In December of 1972, a certain Lynn McCarthy took the initiative of inviting me to a Christmas party at her house. (Her goal was to match me up with her friend Joyce, but the Lord had other plans.) I responded to her invitation and took a definite liking to Lynn. Six weeks later I sent Lynn an over the top, very romantic Valentine’s Day card, which said “I love you” but we weren’t even dating. She was taken back by my bold initiative, but four months later God helped her to see that yes, this engineering student had some potential, and three months later, she said “Yes” when I took the initiative to ask her to be my wife. Taking the initiative is good!

Praise God that He always takes the initiative with us, and in communicating with us! This is what He did with Jeremiah. Listen to how God reaches out to Jeremiah in Jer. 1:4 and 9:

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,  before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.”

If the Lord had not taken the initiative with Jeremiah, and called him to be a prophet, Daniel would not have been moved to pray what he did in Daniel 9.  If the Lord had not taken the initiative with Jeremiah, and given him this message in Jer. 29, we would not have this record of Daniel’s response, this moving and God-centered prayer.

Praise the Lord that He always takes the initiative with us, and in communicating with us!

As 2 Peter 1:21 tells us: “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

In what ways can you see that God has been taking the initiative with you?

Step Two: Jeremiah Writes God’s Words in a Love Letter to God’s People (29:1)

The Lord didn’t just take the initiative with Jeremiah in calling him and giving him a message. The Lord also moved Jeremiah to write down the message He gave to him, so that others could read it. Jer. 29:1 “This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

When Lynn and I were dating and then engaged (22 month engagement of mostly a distance relationship), we not only called each other; we wrote down our thoughts in letters. Yes, the kind that you have to put a stamp on and wait 2-3 days to receive. We wrote lots of love letters to each other, (Lynn would sometimes write 2 a day), and while we were apart from one another, those letters were so encouraging and meaningful, as we poured out our hearts to each other.

In a much greater way, the Lord has poured out His heart to us in the letters He has written to us, while we have this distance relationship with Him. These letters are meant to be read and re-read, to be savored and treasured. Listen to what God Himself says about the letters He has written to you:

John 20:31 “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

How do you look upon the love letters that God has written to you? Are they precious to you? Ask God for a heart to love His love letters to you.

Step Three: (55 years later) Daniel Discovers God’s Love Letter, and It Moves Him to Plead with God. (Dan. 9:3ff)

Lynn and I kept the love letters we had written to each other back in college. In fact, a few years ago, we brought out those boxes of letters, and began reading them back to each other. In the order in which they were written. It took us about 19 hours, over the course of a week, to read all those letters, written almost 40 years earlier. We were deeply moved by these letters that we “discovered”!

In a similar way, about 55 years after Jeremiah wrote what God told him to write, and send it to the exiles in Babylon, Daniel brings out Jeremiah’s letter, reads it afresh, and is moved to action, to plead with God on behalf of God’s people

There are two remarkable things here. The first is that when Daniel discovers Jeremiah’s words, he understood them as God’s inspired and authoritative words. Daniel believed the self-attesting claim that Jeremiah made that it was the Word of God. Furthermore, Daniel was convinced that what Jeremiah wrote really was God’s Word, by the subjective confirmation of the Spirit of God. That is, the Spirit of God testified to Daniel’s spirit that this letter was indeed the Word of God. What he read rang true with his God-endowed conscience and thinking.

The second remarkable thing is that Daniel understood Jeremiah’s prophecy as beginning to be fulfilled in his day, even though it was written and sent 55 years ago. So why does God’s Word cause this dramatic response after 55 years? Most likely it was because Daniel saw the downfall of Babylon and the rise of Persian Empire as the hand of God, as the beginning of the fulfillment of the Jeremiah 29 prophecy. In other words, what Daniel saw in God’s world got him thinking about what he saw in God’s Word. Current events and historical trends will often find their explanation in the Bible, if understood correctly.

Implications for reading, in one hand, our Bibles, and in the other hand, our “newspapers(or internet news).” The Word of God and the World of God should interact with one another. And while the Word of God is always authoritative and supreme in interpreting the events of our lives and our world, do not forget that God often uses the events of our lives and our world to drive us back to His Word in a fresh way. That is, there is a relationship between theology and life, between the sacred and the secular, between the Word of God and the World of God.

Are you always looking to integrate God’s Word and God’s World?

Step Four: Daniel “Publishes” His Heart-Felt Pleading with the Lord. (Daniel 9:4-19)

Imagine 40 years from now, when Lynn and I are gone from this earth and with the Lord, that one of our grandchildren discovers our boxes of love letters. And he sits down with his wife and they read them all, and then they decide to publish the letters, so that others could see how God worked in the hearts of his grandparents, over 80 years ago. (Okay, so it wouldn’t be the letters of John and Abigail Adams, but you get the idea.) What might those written and published letters do to help and encourage other young people who are in love, and who are waiting on the Lord?

In a similar way, God moves Daniel to write down or “publish” his heartfelt prayer from chapter 9, so that future generations can benefit from reading it.

Now we don’t write down most of our prayers, right? So why did Daniel write his prayer down? Sinclair Ferguson suggests that one reason was to testify that God does indeed hear and answer secret prayer. “Daniel wanted God’s people to see the intimate connection between their prayers and the events of history.” He suggests that another reason is that such a written record of this prayer might encourage other to pray in similar fashion.  And that’s what we find in Nehemiah 9, in the prayer of the Levites, more than 100 years after Daniel’s prayer, as the God’s people confess their sins. It’s likely that Daniel’s prayer influenced them.     Ferguson adds that this is often how an awakening of prayerfulness starts. One prayer warrior inspires others to pray, and the Holy Spirit stirs up others as well. For example, many of us have benefitted from praying the prayers of the Puritans in books such as The Valley of Vision.

Two applications. (1) Consider using a prayer notebook to record and testify how God has answered your prayers. (2) Let’s try to write down a few of our prayers, especially the ones that seem to be full of Scripture and Spirit-infused, and circulate them. God can use them.

Step Five: (2,500 years later) We Discover Daniel’s Prayer, and We Are Moved to Action

Not only did the people of Daniel’s day benefit from his prayer, and not only did the Levites of Nehemiah’s day benefit from the written record of Daniel’s prayer, but as part of God’s written and inspired Word, we too are taught and equipped by his prayer, some 2,500 years later! (2 Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”)

God’s Spirit writes God’s Word, through Daniel, on our hearts, to move us to take action

Note that God’s Word should normally equip us to action, not just to academics.

Imagine if one of your ancestors from 300 years ago had kept a journal or copies of all their letters, and one day you discovered them! How do you think you would read them? You would be hanging on every word! You would be moved to research the places they wrote about.

Well, 2500 years ago, Daniel’s understanding of the Scriptures caused him to turn to the Lord God and plead with Him in prayer, petition, and fasting. The fasting, sackcloth and ashes are all indications of intense remorse and repentance.  And it was because Daniel was confident in God’s Word that he went to God in earnest prayer, expecting God to act. [Like a surfer seeing a perfect wave: what do you do? You start paddling so you can ride it!]  Duguid: “Daniel prayed that God would do what he had promised, and he prayed with confidence because he was praying for what God had promised.” Daniel knew that the sovereign God uses means to achieve His ends, including our prayers. So Daniel did not take Jeremiah’s prophecy and file it under “nice things to know” or decide that he could take a nap, because God was in the driver’s seat. No. The assurance of God’s complete control moved him to take action, to pray and fast and to cry out to God!  Does it move you like that? Does the Word of God drive you to pray to God? Do you and I claim God’s promises when we read them?

     So we have a pattern of God speaking to His people and giving us understanding, so that we respond in prayer and in actions that bring glory to God.

Therefore prayer is our response to God’s initiative with us, to God’s Word.

God communicates with us so that we will communicate and commune with Him.

Three “Calls to Action”:

  1. That we would all cultivate a deeper appreciation of God’s Word: how it came to us, its power and wisdom, and its usefulness in every way.
  2. That we would be better equipped to apply God’s truths to our culture, our nation, and our circumstances, as Daniel did.
  3. That we might be encouraged to record and make known what God is teaching us and doing in and through us, believing in faith that God will use all that to encourage and help future generations, for His glory, just as Daniel was helped by what Jeremiah wrote and the Levites of Nehemiah’s day were helped by what Daniel wrote, and so on. Col. 3:16 “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another…” 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men, who will be qualified to teach others.” (That’s four generations of passing down the truth, from Paul to Timothy to reliable men, to others.)

But even as God speaks to us through the writings of Jeremiah and Daniel, He has saved the best communication, the clearest letters, and the most heart-felt love, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 1:1-2 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son..”

Let us listen to Him!