Daniel 033 – God Answers Prayer

Dr. Andy Woods | Aug 20, 2017 | Daniel 9:20-23 | Daniel

Andy Woods

God Answers Prayer

8-20-17      Daniel 9:20-23          Lesson 33

Good morning everyone.  Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Daniel, chapter 9 taking a look this morning at verses 20-23.  The title of our message this morning is God Answers Prayer.    Aren’t you happy about that, by the way?  God Answers Prayer.  We talk a lot about how to pray, waiting on God, these sorts of things, but the reality is you can expect God to show up at times in your life and give you not just answers but He gives you things you never even thought of before.  And that’s the sort of thing that we’re seeing here in Daniel 9:20-23 where Daniel is receiving an answer to prayer.

Daniel, as we know, is having these prophecies; in the east Israel is 350 miles to the east (in a place called Babylon) in captivity.   Chapter 1 sort of introduces the book to us; chapters 2-7 is a literary pattern that we’ve walked through very carefully.  And we find ourselves in that last section of the book, Part 2, chapters 8-12, which is really prophecies concerning the future of the nation of Israel.  We’ve seen the ram and the goat, chapter 8, and we’ve moved into chapter 9 which is the famous prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.   All things being equal we will probably get to the Seventy Weeks prophecy starting next week.  I’m hoping to cover that in 2 or 3 sermons; I don’t want to spend seventy weeks on the Seventy Weeks prophecy.  But as you can see it’s going to be a tremendous prophecy about the blueprint for the future.

Chapters 1 and 2 is the setting of the book or the chapter I should say. Verse 1 is the history, it’s the year 538.  You should probably make a mental note of that.  Daniel is in his early 80’s as we’ve talked about.  The prophetic setting is given in verse 2, we learned that Daniel had been a student, not of the latest best seller of the day, but rather the Word of God.  He had been studying the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, who preceded Daniel, and he knew that the Seventy Year captivity would last just seventy years and he also knew that that seventy year period was coming to an end.  So he had great insight into his times because he was a student of the prophetic Scripture.

So consequently verses 3-19 he begins to pray and seek God’s face for the future of the nation.  We spent some time in this prayer because it’s one of the three great prayers of this era.  These are all in a chapter 9: Ezra 9, Nehemiah, 9, Daniel 9.  How should we pray?  What are some principles of prayer?  Daniel 9, Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9.  You’re not going to get a greater example of prayer and principles of prayer than in those three chapters.  And then God does something that sometimes shocks us; we don’t really expect God to answer but God shows  up, He dispatched Gabriel, verses 20-23 and the answer to the prayer is given in these verses.

Notice, if you will, verse 20 as Daniel has been seeking God in prayer. Verse 20, “Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God,” you see all of those present tense participles there?  Daniel did not just pray, he was praying, continuously in other words.  He was not just someone that confessed, he was confessing.  He was not someone that just spoke to God, he was speaking to God.

I think a lot of times we look at prayer as some kind of one-time act, I check that off my spiritual checklist for today, did that, okay, let’s move on to other things.   The reality of the situation is prayer is to be as normal in the life of the child of God as is breathing.  Paul the apostle in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without” what? “without ceasing,” continuously praying.  Jesus, in Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  Now you look at that in the original language and what it’s saying is ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.  And it goes on and it says, [10] “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  [11] “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

He’s just making a simple point that a parent, even in their sinful state knows how to be a blessing to their children; knows how to respond to the petitions of their own children.   Why would it be any different with God?  But you’ll notice it says, “Ask” and keep on asking, “seek” and keep on seeking, “knock” and keep on knocking, and then the door will be opened.  It’s speaking of the habit of prayer, the repetition of prayer, how natural prayer should be in the life of the child of God.

It’s interesting as you look at verse 20, look at all the different kinds of prayer.  There’s a variety here.  It talks about speaking to God.  It talks about confessions to God.  It talks about prayers of supplication.  It’s interesting to me that there are different prayers for different occasions.  There is no “one size fits all” prayer.  The Book of James, chapter 5:13-14 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. [14] Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  Notice you have a prayer for suffering.  You have a prayer of praise during times of cheerfulness.  You have another kind of prayer if somebody is sick and is seeking the restoration of their health.

The variety of prayer, the different kinds of prayers is just fascinating as you look at this in God’s Word.  He talks about a prayer of confession, confessing his own sins and the sins of his people.  He talks about a supplication coming from the word supply, a different type of prayer, a different type of petition asking God to meet or to supply a need.

And then you’ll notice the things that are on Daniel’s mind.  In verse 20 notice the word “Israel,” the people of Israel.  And then it talks about petitioning the Lord, My God, on behalf of the holy Mountain of God.  [Daniel 9:20, “Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God.”]  What is that “holy mountain”?  I would guess it would be Mount Sinai; you’ll notice the repetition of the “holy mountain of God” in Israel, the people of Israel.  In other words the things that Daniel is praying for are things that are on God’s mind.

And I fear so many times when we pray we really don’t pray the things of God because we’re not really thinking His thoughts, we’re thinking our own.  What’s important for me!  And you’ll notice that in the life of Daniel his prayer life is constantly reflecting the priorities of God.  His heart is broken for the things that breaks God’s heart in other words.

How did he have this set of priorities?  Well, verse 2 of chapter 9 gives you the answer, he had been a student of the Scripture, it’s the Scripture which reveals to us the mind of God.  And as we under­stand the mind of God we begin to understand the priorities of God.  Our hearts begin to break for the things that break God’s heart and we pray accordingly.

1 John 5:14 says, “if we ask anything according to His” what? “will, He hears us.”   [1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”]  How do you pray in the will of God.   You pray God’s priorities. Well how do you become familiar with God’s priorities?  You can’t do that other than being a student of God’s Word.

James 4:2-3 talks about how many times we ask amiss.  “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? [2] You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you” what? “you do not ask.”  There’s part of the problem, we don’t spend time petitioning God.  But then verse 3 of James 4 goes on and says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  We have ineffective prayer lives because we don’t understand the will and the mind and the priorities of God because those things are only revealed through His Word.

You’ll notice that Daniel had a powerful prayer life.  In fact, he’s about ready to receive an answer to prayer before he even finishes praying; isn’t that amazing?  We talk about waiting on God to answer prayer; Daniel didn’t have to wait at all; he didn’t even finish the prayer before God answered. Why?  Because he’s praying within the will of God understanding the mind of God through the Word of God.

And you’ll notice there in verse 21 [Daniel 9:21] how his prayer life is described, “speaking in prayer” that’s what prayer is.  It’s a conversation.  You know, people come into the office for marital counselling, the first question we would ask is what is your communication like in your marriage, because communication is the lifeblood of any real; no communication, no relationship.  You can’t have a relationship with somebody unless there is ongoing communication, not one-way communication but two-way communication.  God seeks to talk to you constantly through His Word primarily and we, through prayer, are given the opportunity to talk to Him, speaking to Him in prayer; that’s a healthy relationship.  Aren’t we analogized to the bride of Christ?  Isn’t that marriage example used in the New Testament?  How can you have a healthy marriage without communication?

And in so many relationships the communication is one-way, one person does all the talking.  And that’s how it’s like with Christians, they will speak and speak and speak to God but never take in His Word, never give Him an opportunity to speak to them.  Or the opposite is true, you become someone that’s such a student of the Word of God that your prayer life begins to dissipate; God is talking to you but you’re not talking to Him.  And God desires both ingredients to be happening simultaneously, which is what you would expect in any healthy marriage and any healthy relationship.  And that’s what we see role modeled here in this man, Daniel, “speaking in prayer.”

Verse 21, “while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”  Isn’t it interesting that this prayer was answered while Daniel was in the very act of praying; while I was still speaking God answered.

One of the shocking things to discover as a new Christian, at least for me, that when I would ask for things God would start granting them.  I mean, that just blew my mind because I would start to see answers.  You mean the God of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God wants to hear me talk to Him!  And if we petition things within His will He wants to move heaven and earth so that that petition is granted?   And yet that’s exactly what the Bible represents God as doing in the life of the child of God.

And sometimes the answers are so fast we don’t even believe it’s an answer many times.  I’m reminded of the church praying for Peter when he was in prison.  Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”  Acts 12:12-16 says, “And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [13] When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. [14] When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.”  In other words you all, we don’t need to pray any more, it’s been answered, Peter has been miraculously released from prison.  And notice the reaction of the church to this servant girl, Rhoda, announcing an answer to prayer. [15] “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.’”  His guardian angel, it’s really not Him out there.  [16] “But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.”

Why be amazed?  I mean why be shocked? If God is all powerful and we are in a relationship with Him it shouldn’t surprise us, should it, when He answers prayer.  And  yet we’re so unaccustomed to this that it’s almost an astonishment when God comes through and answers a prayer request.  It’s interesting to me that Gabriel shows up before Daniel even had a chance to finish his session of prayer.

It goes on in verse 21 and it says, “the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously….” You’ll notice that different angels do different things in the outworking of God’s purposes.  Michael, for example, has one task, his job is to protect the nation of Israel.  You’ll find a reference to that in this book, Daniel 12:1, [Daniel 12:1, “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”]

And you’ll notice that Gabriel has a completely different task, he is the angel sent to give insight to the petitioner.  Luke 1:19, “The angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.’”  Luke 1:26, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,” who’s the one that shows up in early Luke and gives John the Baptist’s mother and Christ’s mother information about what God is doing in their wombs?  Gabriel, the same Gabriel that we’re reading about 600 years earlier during the days of the Babylonian captivity, sent to give Daniel an answer to prayer.

It says here how he had seen Gabriel previously, Daniel says.  Daniel 8:16 he had seen Gabriel previously.  If you go back sometime and look at Daniel 8:16 you’ll see the name Gabriel, how Gabriel had been dispatched from heaven to give Daniel information about the ram and the goat vision that we have already studied.  [Daniel 8:16, “And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, ‘Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.’”]  This same Gabriel is dispatched from heaven to give Daniel insight concerning a prophecy that begins in verse 24 and goes all the way through the end of the chapter, the Seventy Weeks prophecy.

Verse 21 is so interesting to me because it says, he “came to me” this man Gabriel, “in my extreme weariness,” this is something interesting to me and I think it is something lacking in the modern Western church and that’s the discipline of literally wearing yourself out in prayer.  This is obviously a habit of Daniels because back in chapter 6 and verse 10 it says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”

The thing to understand about this man Daniel is the habit of prayer in his life, three times daily, on his knees, and it says as he had done previously.  This is a man that took prayer seriously; this was part of his life, this was part of his character.  In fact, this was so much part of his character that his enemies in Persia recognized that the only way we’re going to get rid of this guy is if we pass some kind of law saying no more prayer.  Even Daniel’s enemies recognized this habit in his life called the pattern of prayer.  Daniel prayed to the point of physical exhaustion.

And you know, preparing this lesson, this sermon, it’s very convicting because I really have to ask myself, when was the last time I prayed to the point of weariness?  When was the last time I prayed to the point of exhaustion?  When was the last time I prayed to the point of my human strength running out? I just can’t think of a time when this has happened in recent  history.

And yet Paul, the apostle, spoke about prayer of this quality quite consistently.  Paul, in Romans 15:30 says, “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”  Now Paul talked about striving in prayer.  I had to look at this word in Greek, “striving,” what is that?  It’s sunagōnizomai if I’m pronouncing that correctly.   In fact in that word you might think of the word agony, agonizing in prayer.  What does that mean? It means to join with someone else in a severe effort.  You’re linked together with someone else in a severe effort to the point where perspiration and human strength are necessary to achieve this and Paul says I want you Romans to pray with me like that.  I want you to agonize with me in prayer.  I don’t think every prayer necessarily should be that way but there’s times in a person’s life, a crisis, there’s times in a person’s life of insight needed, where there’s a striving with God in prayer, almost to an agonizing point, continuing on in prayer.  And that’s what Daniel is talking about here.  He’s talking about prayer to the point where it made him extremely weary.

And then he says something very fascinating at the end of verse 21; he says I was praying about this and got the answer, which starts to get recorded in the next verse, “about the time of the evening offering.  Now I had to look at “the evening offering,” what is he speaking of here.  He’s most likely speaking of the offering system that God implemented at Mount Sinai through the tabernacle and later the temple.  In Exodus 29:39 it says, “The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight;” he is making reference to the fact that He was praying and received an answer during the time period when the offering was normally issued under the Old Testament Law.

And you say well, what’s the significance of that?  To me it’s very interesting because you know what?  When Daniel prayed this way there was no offering system, there was no temple.  The temple had been destroyed in 586 B.C.  What year is it now?  I told you to remember that date; anybody remember?  538 B.C.  The temple wouldn’t be rebuilt until about 515 B.C.  So he’s praying about 48 years after the temple didn’t exist and 23  years before it will be restored.  And yet what’s on his mind is this offering system which wasn’t even functioning in Jerusalem.

It’s interesting that Daniel does this quite frequently.  In Daniel 6:10 it says “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); [and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”]    He’s praying towards Jerusalem; he’s not in Jerusalem, he’s in Babylon and yet he’s praying towards Jerusalem.  Is it not a fact that at this particular time Jerusalem had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar?  It had been destroyed since 586 B.C.  It had been destroyed for 48 years; it wouldn’t be rebuilt until the days of Ezra and then later Nehemiah.

Isn’t it interesting that Daniel is praying about things and is thinking about things, the sacrificial system and Jerusalem, when from the vantage point of the secular world it would seem crazy to pray like that, with that mindset; those things didn’t exist, they wouldn’t exist in the mind of Judaism, in the life of Judaism for a few more decades.  What does this tell us about Daniel’s prayer life?  It tells us that he was a man of faith; it tells us that he saw things that God would do before the hand of God had moved.  He knew that it was just a matter of time before Israel would return into that land.  At the end of the captivity the temple would be rebuilt under the Book of Ezra, the sacrificial system would be restarted again.  And around 444 B.C. Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem, would be rebuilt. And he saw all of that as if it were a fact of life because he did not walk by sight, he walked by what?  Faith!

Does that describe your prayer life?  Do you see things  yet future that are not yet factual reality because your mind is so saturated with divine truth that you see what God is going to do in the end?  It’s called faith.  The Book of Hebrews, chapter 11 and verse 6 says, “Without faith it is” what? it’s hard to believe God?  It doesn’t say that, does it?  Without faith it’s impossible to please Him, and yet that’s the type of faith that God is calling us to in prayer.  Is heaven such a reality to you (and to me) that we are just certain of our arrival there and we express that in prayer even though obviously we  factually, physically are not there yet.  That’s what Daniel is emulating here.  That’s what he is role modeling this is how the people of God are to be living in Satan’s domain.

So Daniel is walking by faith in prayer and so many times we pray we just really don’t think God is going to do much.   The Book of James talks about this, doesn’t he.  James 1:6-8, “But he must ask” speaking of prayer, “in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. [7] For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, [8] being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  So many times we pray and we just don’t really expect God to show up or really do anything; we’re just sort of filling in time, get this off our checklist.  And yet we’re to be people of bold faith in prayer, expecting the promise of God to materialize, expecting God to move His hand in history and change things.

I don’t know a lot of things in this life where you can change things but prayer is one of those things.  You say well, He didn’t answer.  Well, give Him some time, maybe He’s going to answer tomorrow or the next day, or maybe He’s waiting for you, for us, to reach a certain point of maturity where we can handle the answer.  Or even better yet, maybe you’re praying outside of the will of God and if you’re doing that you don’t want that prayer answered anyway.  But having this expectation, this confidence in prayer is something that we so frequently lack and yet Daniel is showing us these things as he’s praying about things that were really not physical realities, the sacrifices, the temple, at the time he made his petition.

Notice, if you will, verse 22, “He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’”   You’ll notice in verse 22 the words instruction, talked, insight, understanding, what is all of that saying?  God wants to give you insight.  Did you know that?  God can’t wait for you to get into His presence and say Lord, I don’t have understanding, give me understanding of this.  The New Testament reflects this, doesn’t it?  James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom,” now I find myself in that position quite frequently, anybody else?  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him” what?  Go look for the latest best seller?  No, “let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Lord, I don’t understand this issue or that issue, can you give me some insight into it.  There are so many things that happen in our lives in this fallen world that just perplex us; relational problems, schisms of this sort or that sort, personality conflicts, you name it, we’re living in the midst of it and a lot of times we don’t even know why it’s happening.  And so many times in those situations we have to look at them as the design of God; God put you in a situation you can’t understand so you would be in a position to ask Him so He could give you insight that you don’t have.

I love the things that Paul prayed about.  What did Paul pray about.  In the Book of Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 18-19 Paul says, “I pray” for what for the Ephesians, and by extension  us, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.”

Paul, as he pleads and intercedes for the Ephesians he says I pray for your insight, I pray that you would understand who you are in Christ.  And he doesn’t just stop there, he does the same thing in Ephesians 3.  Ephesians 1, here’s your individual blessings, I pray that you’ll understand what you have.  Ephesians 2-3, your corporate blessings, at the end of that section I pray that you will understand what you have and who you are.  Ephesians 3:18-19, and “may be able to comprehend” that’s understanding, isn’t it, “with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

I just am praying for you to understand who you are and what you have; that’s the heart of Paul.  Paul functioned under the direction of God; God desires that same thing for us.  That’s what Daniel is praying for here: insight, understanding, instruction.  And my goodness, what insight is he going to get?  The insight that he is about to receive, verses 24-27, is insurmountable.  What he is about to receive, as we’ll begin developing it next week, is what is called the prophecy of the seventy sevens, the prophecy of the seventy weeks, which is a piece of the prophetic jigsaw puzzle which is indispensable.  You can study all you want about Bible prophecy and you can study any book of the Bible but let me tell you this, if you don’t understand the seventy week prophecy you don’t understand anything because the blueprint of the seventy weeks prophecy is the filter that all other prophetic passages are talking about. The seventy weeks prophecy gives you that timeline, that foundation.

You know, today go on the internet, go on youtube, people are totally confused about the end times, totally confused about the rapture, totally confused about the kingdom, totally confused about what the church is supposed to do versus what God’s plan is for Israel. Churches today are trying to bring in social justice and set up the kingdom. Other people are saying get ready, we’re going through the tribulation period, we’re going to be eyeballing it with the antichrist, on and on and on and on and on it goes.  Where does it all come from?  It comes from an ignorance or a failure to consider what God has said in this prophecy.  You can’t understand the end without the seventy weeks prophecy.

And this is what was delivered to Daniel as he was seeking God… insight!  You know what’s interesting to me about this is Daniel never asked for this; he never said Lord, give me the seventy weeks prophecy and give me insight about the future and the prophetic piece of the jigsaw puzzle that’s indispensable.  Daniel never asked for that.  All he was doing is seeking the hand of God for the future and yet God showed up and said not only am I going to answer your prayer here but I’m going to give you something you never even thought about.   You ready?  This is how God works.

1 Kings 3:5 says this, “In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you.’”  Don’t you wish that happened to you?  I mean what if God showed up to you in a vision at night and said okay, carte blanche just ask what you want and I’ll give it to you.  That’s what Solomon had here.  1 Kings 3:9 Solomon said, “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”  Solomon says  You’ve made me the king, I’m the third king of the United Kingdom and quite frankly Lord, I’m in this position, I don’t really know how I got here.   You put me here.

Have you ever felt like that?  Lord, what in the world am I doing here?  I look at my own life and the things that have happened; I’m as shocked as anybody else.  I’m shocked that I’m standing up here and you all are sitting out there.  What do I know?  Not a lot.  I know this much though, I know how to ask God for help which is really what He’s looking for.  He’s not looking for the most talented, the brightest person, the person with the most acumen.  He’s interested in putting people into places of influence that know two words, “LORD HELP!”  And that’s what Solomon was, that kind of vessel.

Verse 10 of 2 Kings 3, “It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.  [11] God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life,” in other words, a prayer that would be self-serving, that would be “amiss” as the New Testament tells us in the book of James,  you have not asked for that, “nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, [12] behold, I” that’s God “have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.”  Solomon—DONE!   You want wisdom, it’s yours.

But then did  you catch verse 13, “I have also given you what you have not asked,” I’m going to grant  your request and here comes a bunch of things you never even asked Me for; here they come, “I have also given you what you have not asked for, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.”  This is what the Book of James is talking about, God who gives and gives generously.  You know, my prayers are not always answered on my time clock.  Is that true with anybody else?  But when the answer comes I’m almost astonished at the answer because it’s things that are helpful beyond even what I’ve petitioned.  That’s God!   That’s God’s nature, that’s God’s character, just like a parent or grandparent that loves their children or their grandchildren can’t wait to give, can’t wait to bless.  Jesus says if you knowledge how to do that and you’re evil what do you think God can do in terms of provision and blessing? I love how Ephesians 3 concludes, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly, beyond all that we ask or think….” [Ephesians 3:20]

Who is this God that we’re in a relationship with?  He is the One that wants to do abundantly beyond what you ask and even beyond what you think.  This is why Daniel is receiving this stop watch or this time clock or this key prophetic piece of information.  It’s something phenomenal that Daniel received that he never even asked for.  It’s a testimony, if you will, to the generosity of God.

Verse 22, “He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’”  We just covered that verse actually.  Verse 23, “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.”  Notice this first phrase here, “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you,” in other words, I didn’t wait till you were even finished, God says, before Gabriel was dispatched from heaven to give you understanding and insight.

This is why Daniel, back in verse 21 says this answer came while I was still praying, God didn’t even let me get the sentence out of my mouth before He answered the prayer.  It mentions here supplication, supply, asking God to supply a need; in this case it was a lack of understanding.  Daniel didn’t know the future.  He knew the captivity was winding down; what’s the future of Israel?

And then notice this in verse 23, “For you” this is heaven speaking to Daniel, “you are highly esteemed.”  Why is it that Daniel had such a great reputation in heaven?  It’s very simple.  He honored the things God honors.  He respected the things, whether it be temple, Jerusalem, Israel, the Mosaic Covenant, whatever it was, He honored the things that God honored and so God honored Daniel.  That’s how he gained his reputation in heaven.

Did you know you have a reputation in heaven?  Did you know that heaven itself, whether it be God or the angels, think thoughts towards you?  Did you know that Paul tells us over and over again that the angels are watching?  How many angels are there?  I don’t know, there’s an awful lot of them.  I think that’s why they’re called stars,  you can’t count the stars, they’re innumerable.  In the same way the angels are innumerable.  And I’ve got good news for you; two-thirds of them are on our side.  Isn’t that great!  And yet they’re watching.  Private sins, wow?  Are there such things as private sins with that kind of audience.  A private sin in the heavenlies is an open scandal, isn’t it?  There is no such thing as private sins with the angelic realm watching and observing.

What kind of reputation do you have in heaven?  Think about that!  When the angels themselves look at you and think about you, and when God looks at you and thinks about  you is this what is said, you are “highly esteemed”?  Or are our lives so focused on things that are outside the priorities of God that we have no standing in heaven.  We all as Christians, as we know, through the shed blood of Christ, have standing in heaven, but I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about reputation in heaven.

You know, you go through the Book of Kings, and why is it called “The Book of Kings.”  Because there are a lot of kings in there.  And it says this over and over again, this king was good, this king was bad, this king was good, this king was bad, over and over again.  Have you ever wondered why one king is considered good and another is considered bad?  Is it because one is of a certain political party and another one isn’t? Is it because the economy was up and inflation was down under one king’s reign but not another?  That’s not the evaluation; the evaluation is did that king honor God’s covenant?  Did that king honor what God honors?  Did he respect what God respected and respects?

And the whole evaluation of good or bad is given just on that basis.  This is why Daniel had this highly esteemed reputation in the heavenly places because it’s obvious as you look at his devotional life and his priorities what God respected Daniel respected.  Even things like the temple and Jerusalem which were not even in existence at this time, he still respected those things because he walked by faith and he understood that those things would be restored.  Daniel is highly esteemed.

“At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed;” not look at this last clause here, don’t let this escape you, “so” you “give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.”  You would think this would be something like osmosis, I mean, he gets this vision from Gabriel, you would think that it would just automatically enter his mind with no human effort, but that’s not what the passage says.  The passage says “you give heed to” it, to “gain understanding of the vision.”  The vision is not like we tried to learn high school geometry, where I would try to go to sleep at night with the book under my pillow hoping that geometry or algebra, whatever subject I was studying, would suddenly enter the mind.

You know, people talk about well I just have a devotional understanding of the Bible.  Did you learn geometry devotionally?  Is that how you learned algebra?  Is that how you learned law or medicine or engineering or whatever discipline you’re in?  Did you get your MBA devotionally?  That’s ridiculous, devotional understanding.  There is no such thing as going to the Bible for a liver-quiver of the day and that’s what a lot of people are like.  Let me read a couple of verses until I get the euphoria I’m looking for, then I’ll put it away.  You would never function that way in any realm of life doing that.  The Word of God demands respect, it demands energy, it demands effort, because it’s from God.  And this is exactly what Gabriel is telling Daniel, you have the prophecy, now you give yourself to it.  No osmosis here whatsoever, you heed it!

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a” what? “workman….”  A workman the last time I checked does what?  Work!  “who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”  Why is it that Christian A can handle the Word of truth accurately and Christian B can’t?  It’s just one word: work, effort.  I’m not talking about works salvation, you know me well enough to teach that I am totally opposed to works salvation.  I’m talking about the basic discipline of a Christian where they start to study the Bible with the same seriousness and intensity that they would study anything else in their daily vocation for example.  That’s what Daniel is being called upon to do.

The Book of Revelation, chapter 1 and verse 3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy,” now is there anybody that does not want to be blessed, put your hand up?  That’s what I thought, we all want to be blessed, don’t we?  Revelation 1:3 tells you how to be blessed, you have to read and hear “the words of the prophecy” and notice the verse doesn’t stop there, “and heed the things which are written in it;” in other words give attention to the things that are written, give consideration to the things that are written.

I get so many e-mails from pastors saying what shall I do in my ministry?  What should I give attention to?  And when I get those sort of e-mails I just quote 1 Timothy 4:13; here’s what you’re to do, Paul says to Timothy, a pastor, “Until I come, give attention” that would be effort, wouldn’t it, “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  That’s what you’re supposed to do in your ministry.  You mean it’s that easy?  Yes it is.

I loved at Dallas Seminary studying under the older professors, some of whom have gone home to be with the Lord, because every once in a while they would boil down ministry to one or two points.  Some student would ask, for example, Dr. Walvoord, or Dr. Toussaint who I think is still alive but struggling with his health, what is necessary to be effective in ministry.  And they would clear their throat and I would pull out my pad and pencil and get ready to write expecting some long treatise, do these ten things.  And these guys that had walked with the Lord for so many years had it so simple.  Toussaint said do two things, number 1, teach the Scripture and number 2, love people.  And I thought what else?  That’s it! It’s simple… simple, easy.

We make things so complicated through these multi thousand page books that are produced today about how to plant and grow churches and it’s just exhausting looking at all the diagrams, quite frankly, flow charts, and this person… I don’t think it is that hard.  Teach the Scripture and love people.  Today in homiletics people sit under professors that give them massive outlines of how to preach.  I asked Dr. Pentecost one time, how do you preach, expecting an outline.  And he said just three things, he got it all from the Book of Ezra, Ezra did three things: number 1, Ezra read the Scripture, number 2, Ezra interpreted the Scripture, and number 3, Ezra applied the Scripture.  He read it, he interpreted it, he applied it.  Then he said to me, “Go thou and do likewise.”  A complicated subject is reduced to something that easy.  And so Daniel is told here you’ve got insight now, it is in your lap,  you be a steward of it.  You discipline yourself to read it, understand it, interpret it and to teach it.

Now why was Daniel given this prophecy of the seventy weeks?  And I’ll close with that question.  Why was Daniel the guy, out of all the captives in Judah who was given this insight?  It’s very simple.  God could trust Daniel with the revelation.  How do I know that God could trust Daniel with the revelation?  The rest of the Book of Daniel tells me.  No matter where he was he was faithful.  In fact, he’s the one earlier in the chapter who is reading from the prophet Jeremiah, trying to figure out how long is the captivity and when will it end?  Now if Daniel can be trusted with that he can be trusted with greater insight because the Bible teaches this: Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous and a very little thing is unrighteousness also in much.”

Isn’t that why when we select elders and deacons, 1 Timothy 3, the Bible says look at how they govern their family, look at how they govern their home, because if they can’t govern their own house how in the world are they ever going to govern God’s house?  It’s a basic biblical principle.

You know, you look at David, the second king of the United Kingdom and when Samuel, the man of God, came to anoint the next king and he said to David’s father, Jesse, bring out your boys, and he brought them all out and Samuel said there’s something not right, you’re not showing me everything, do you have another kid around her somewhere?  Oh, you mean that scrawny bratty kid in the back there.  Remember what David was doing?  Tending sheep… tending sheep!  His faithfulness in that area qualified him to be the king.  Isn’t that interesting?  Or look at Joseph.  Joseph didn’t wake up one day and become the second in command in Egypt.  That happened to him about the age of 30.  But what about from age 17 to age 30?  No matter where Joseph was he was trustworthy; he was even trustworthy with someone else’s wife.  No matter where God put Joseph, Joseph could be trusted and God just kept promoting, promoting, promoting and finally he’s the second in command of the known world.

See, we look at things that we have in our lives and we say this is just menial, it doesn’t matter, so I fudge a few numbers on expense reports, so I overstate my hours, so I misrepresent my generosity, does it really matter, no one’s watching.  The fact of the matter is those are the most important decisions; those are the decisions which determine future roles, future leadership.

You know, when I was at the College of Biblical Studies I would give take home tests and you couldn’t believe the criticism I got from my colleagues—what are you doing!  Do you not understand that those students are going to cheat?  And my answer was always the same—you can cheat me, you can fool me but there’s someone  you can’t fool… God!  God is watching everything you do on that test, whether you’re going to be honest or not.  And He’s determining your future marital partner, because if you’re going to cheat on a test you’re going to cheat on him or her.  He’s determining your future role because if you can’t be faithful on something that minor how in the world is God supposed to bless your ministry.  How is God supposed to trust a person with eternal things, the souls of men and women, in terms of proclamation or shepherding.  How can God trust you with those things when  you’re going to cheat on an exam?  So what you do on this test I would tell the students is either going to increase or shrink your future.  Now that got their attention.  You’re doing this for God, you’re showing up at work, you’re on time, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, nobody is watching, nobody is watching the clock… God’s watching!

And this is who Daniel was; this is why he could be trusted with not just the reception of revelation but the discipline to understand and discern that revelation because he was faithful no matter where God put him.  Is that you?  Is that me?  May God help us to understand these things as we look at Daniel’s life and the life of prayer that he role modeled.

It may be that you’re here today and you don’t know God personally; you’re showing up at church because that’s what you do in the Bible belt, you show up at church.  The reality of the situation is there’s a God in heaven that not only made you but redeemed you and not only did He redeem you but He wants a personal relationship with you.  He wants to walk with you through the trials and the struggles of life.  He wants to bless you.  He wants to increase your sphere of influence.  That’s what He wants to do.  But how can you enter into those blessings if you’ve never received His gift?  His gift is what we call the gospel; the gospel is called good news because Jesus did the work.  He suffered on our behalf, died on our behalf, resurrected on our behalf and what He asks lost people to do is to receive the free gift that H has given.

In the mind of God there’s only one way to receive a gift and that’s by faith, for by faith and without faith it is impossible to please God.  [Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”]

Our exhortation here at Sugar Land Bible Church is to trust in what Jesus has done.  If the Spirit places you under conviction our exhortation to you is to respond to that conviction and to receive, as a free gift, in the quietness of your own mind and heart, without raising a hand, joining a church, giving money, it’s just a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you receive by faith as a gift what he has done.  That can happen right now in your life even as I am speaking.  If it’s something that you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk.  As  you receive this give continue to walk with this God that saved you, continue to grow in this God that saved  you and watch the manifold blessings begin to be poured out on your life.

Shall we pray.  Father, we stand today just overwhelmed at what we have and what You have done.  Help us, Father, to walk in those things by grace this week, being good stewards of those things that You have entrusted to us.  Make us people of faith, make us people of obedience, make us people based on the choices that we make the kind of people that become qualified for even greater blessings on the horizon.  We ask that You’ll continue to do this great work in our lives, in our prayer lives.  We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.