Open Your Bible
Daniel 9:1-27, 1 Kings 9:6-9, Ephesians 2:1-5
In Shakespeare’s history play, Richard II, John of Gaunt mourns England’s degradation on his deathbed, intoning, “That England, that was wont to conquer others, Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.” The greatness of England was fading away because of its internal corruption. And this is the truth of all civilizations. They do not fall because of external attack, but they collapse from the corruption and rot festering on the inside.
Repeatedly in Scripture, we also see the children of Israel making a shameful conquest of themselves. There will always be some battle raging, but it’s not a fight against governments and revolutions; the battle is spiritual. The battle is for and in our own hearts. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul arms himself with powerful weapons, urging us to: “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Centuries before Paul, Daniel relies on the same principle. The fulfillment of God’s promise to restore the conquered city of Jerusalem and its exiled people was at hand, and Daniel recognized that this providential showering of grace was an opportunity to fix all his hope on God. Israel had fallen to conquest precisely because it had walked in pride and unrepentance. It had rotted from the inside.
Daniel’s prayer is not about self-reliance, or newfound worthiness to return to their homeland. He recognizes that righteousness belongs to God alone (Daniel 9:7). His grace alone, His provision alone is sufficient. He alone can root out the inward-rottenness and make us a new creation, a new nation, and a royal priesthood for Himself.
Daniel prayed: “We are not presenting our petitions before you based on our righteous acts, but based on your abundant compassion. Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for your own sake, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your name” (Daniel 9:18–19).
Like Daniel, our focus must be on our continual need of God’s provision. He must lay conquest to our hearts, that we may not be given over to self-destruction. He alone is righteous and able to save (Daniel 9:7). And, like Daniel, we have this great comfort: He does save. He hears the cries of His people, and restores the inheritance of His saints. He does not leave us as orphans and exiles (John 14:18), but in His own righteousness, He mightily saves.
The restoration of Jerusalem was a foreshadowing of the restoration of Christ, who has made a glorious conquest of the human heart. He has conquered our hearts, and become our confidence, hope, joy, and strength are founded upon the unchanging and transforming righteousness of God.