ONE WAY OUT
Incline O my God your ear and hear; open your eyes and see our appalling desolations, and those of the City that is called by your Name. For we do not lay our supplications before you because of righteousness within ourselves, but because of Your Great Mercy. O Lord hear; O Lord pardon; O Lord pay careful attention and take action! Delay not Oh my God for your own sake, because your City and your People are called by your name! Daniel 9:18-19
Rarely is there only one way to solve a problem, one way to get a thing done, one way to get from here to there. When business at the Elcortez Hotel in San Diego became so good that they needed another bank of elevators all the executives were stumped. Customers were getting frustrated with the long wait to get in and out, and it was clear that things could not go on as they were; but neiether could the hotel afford to close for the months it would take to construct another bank of lifts. One day a member of the housekeeping crew overheard two executives discussing the problem and asked why they didn’t just construct the elevators on the outside of the building, and make them out of glass so that people could not only get around more quickly, but enjoy the view as well. The rest is history.
Yes, when it comes to solving problems there are usually many ways to skin a cat, but not so in the divine matters. Not so when we are talking about the One Eternal God whom earth and heaven adore. People might deal with false gods, imaginary gods or gods created by the consensus of men in any manner they like, but there is only one posture that “works” with the living God, and Daniel demonstrates it for us in today’s Old Testament lesson. That posture is humility, which is the very opposite of self-righteousness.
Daniel, who spent most of his life in captivity, knew something about humility. He was just a young boy when the Babylonians took him from his home in Judah and carried him off to Babylon where he was forced to remain for 70 years, but even under these less-than-ideal circumstance God exceptionally blessed him. The Spirit of God enabled him to interpret dreams that no one else could interpret, and to solve knotty problems that no one else could solve (5:12), problems that flummoxed even the wisest men of Babylon. His abilities were so remarkable that word swiftly reached Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and Daniel was promptly elevated to a position in the court of the most splendid and mighty king earth has ever known. This was no bed of roses because whenever a person rises above the rest, he becomes a target for the envy of everyone below. However, through it all Daniel maintained a humble attitude and an unwavering faith in the God of Israel, to whom he openly prayed and whose name he plainly confessed before kings, even when threatened with death in the lion’s den.
We too are in captivity. Like Daniel we are subject to the decrees of kings, many of which are irrational and designed to manipulate us, to force us into doing things we don’t want to do. We, too, are ridiculed and rejected by the culture even as Daniel was, because of our high calling as baptized children of God, as citizens of a heavenly country; because of our faith that the blood of the crucified Son of God takes away our sins, and supplies us with the Righteousness we need to stand justified before God. Perhaps the day will come when we will have to answer for our faith with our lives like Daniel did, but even then we should learn from this Prophet to maintain a posture of humble trust and dependence upon God.
We have other problems as well. Because of the Old Adam who dwells within we are also captive to sin. We suffer guilt and regret whenever we disregard God’s Word and return like dogs to the vomit of our old ways. To make matters worse our faults often lead to troubling consequences; to the anger and displeasure of those whom we have harmed; to hardship, poverty, loss of affection and in extreme cases to the ER or even the back seat of a police car. Yes we know better, but the Flesh hounds us day and night, so we need to learn from Daniel to put any notions of self-righteousness out of our minds, and to depend on Christ’s righteousness and His alone for a good conscience, and for help in every trouble, even those of our own making, and God, who is filled with mercy and compassion, will do this for us. On this you can rely.
As He vindicated His people after seven decades of captivity by restoring them to the land He had promised their fathers; as He vindicated our Lord Jesus Christ from all that sinful men, the devil or the grave could do to Him by raising Him from the dead; in like manner He vindicates us! He hears our humble confession and graciously pardons our sins by the words of absolution spoken into our ears, and the body and blood of Christ placed on our lips – which dissolves all of our sins, shatters all of our sorrows, and assures us that God is our dear Father, and we His dear children.
He pays close attention to our prayers and turns the world upside down on our behalf, even as He did in response to Daniel’s prayer at the end of Judah’s seventy year sentence. He acts on our behalf; sends the streams of His mercy to uphold us and is always at work resolving our problems in ways we could never imagine and settling our troubled minds. All of this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us, for all which it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him, this is most certainly true.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras