In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, 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.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. – Daniel 9:1-5
Jesus’ disciples ask him about a man born blind, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2). Based on that and a general desire not to have to deal with the consequences of our sins we easily dismiss the idea that troubles we face are a result of our sin. In fact some people go a long way to dismiss such an idea. “God doesn’t punish people like that,” they say.
That is decidedly not the response of Daniel in response to the situation Israel faced while they were exiled and Jerusalem lay desolated. Daniel sought God’s mercy and confessed his sin to God. His prayer is recorded in this chapter. It is extensive and lengthy in repentant ethos and short on excuses and self-justification.
Daniel begins by acknowledging the goodness, grace, mercy, glory, faithfulness and greatness of God. His whole prayer is predicated on these attributes of the One to whom he is praying. Daniel also identifies the One to whom he prays as the Lord his God. He also acknowledges his and his people’s sins.
There are times when our sins lead directly to severe consequences. Rob a bank at gunpoint and get shot by the police: a direct result of your sin. Drink yourself senseless, wreck your car and suffer severe injuries: a direct result of your sin. Clear and direct consequences such as these are easy to identify.
There are more subtle consequences we experience today. Neglect your spouse and children and suffer being estranged from your family. Ignore God’s word and neglect public worship and lose perspective on life, hope, and God himself.
What shall we do when we discover the reality of our sin? Stay strong on God’s glory and eschew excuses. Get real. Get honest. Confess your sin. Seek God’s mercy. Rely on his faithfulness. Pray for forgiveness.