“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. Daniel 9:7-8 (NIV).
This prayer could be about me; in fact, it is. Thousands of years ago, Daniel prayed these very words about me, or anyone like me. Or you. Or our sainted grandmothers. Or Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, the Apostle John (or John Paul Jones, for all that it matters).
Me, you, and all those others: we’re covered in shame because of our filthy sins. Even the best of our intentions, even the kindest and most selfless of our good works are still stained dirty with sin. We’re human; we’re born disposed to rebellion against God. We are each sinful from birth, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, or lessen it, or make it right. The only cure for our sins is the cleansing blood of the Savior Jesus Christ. In Him and Him alone can be found righteousness, sanctification, and being made justified in front of God. On our own, we will die eternally separated from the Triune God of eternal peace. Through faith in Jesus, however, we will stand before God Almighty and be declared fully innocent of every one of those shameful, filthy sins. He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.
Daniel didn’t know about Jesus; Jesus wouldn’t reveal Himself as God and man both for another six hundred years. Yet Daniel prayed this plain and simple acknowledgement of Israel’s many sins knowing that he alone wasn’t justified in front of the Lord. That only God would justify him. Daniel knew Israel’s rebellion against God was the reason God brought disaster on His chosen people. And Daniel knew that, even in captivity, God was watching them, providing for them, protecting them until the seventy years were complete and they could return home. It wasn’t God’s fault Israel sinned: it was Israel’s.
This prayer is similar to one Ezra prayed (and Nehemiah, and David, and Jeremiah). But it could have been prayed by Moses, or Joseph, or anyone all the way back to Adam. It could be about any of them, or about you or me today. Like it or not, we human beings are shame-filled and sinful, and we need the help only Jesus can give.
For further reading: Deuteronomy 4:27, Ezra 9:15, Nehemiah 9:17 & 33, Psalm 44:15, Isaiah 42:6, Jeremiah 3:25, Jeremiah 14:7 & 20, Ezekiel 16:63, Amos 9:9, Daniel 9:9
Forgiving Lord, I am guilty in front of You today. I have sinned against You in so many ways. Forgive me of my sins. Make me clean again.
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