In fact, the Bible was given to man with the primary purpose of revealing the Lord to us. If “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,” then those things which God has divinely declared in His word are even more powerful. Jehovah has revealed and declared “even his eternal power and Godhead; so that (humanity is completely) without excuse.” And yet here we go around the mulberry bush again and again, playing our foolish religious games. We make to ourselves gods which never have been gods. Sure, we’ve given up some of our idols of gold, silver and diamond studded mahogany, but we’ve created imaginary deities, which reside in no other place but our imaginations.
It is without embarrassment, that I bring us all back to meditate upon theology again this evening. By theology, I’m not referring to the general subject of Bible doctrine. I’m thinking of the specific subject of the study of God Himself. And the tool that we are going to use are some of the references that Daniel makes in this great prayer.
I said this morning that Daniel must have been in the top ten percent of humanity when it came to brains. He was one of the early candidates for the International Mensa Society – a true genius. But his wisdom wasn’t so much inherited as graciously given to him by the Lord. He was undoubtedly smart enough to help successfully guide a couple of vast empires. But beyond being smart, he was wise – in the very best sense of the term. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.” Besides what Daniel did to help Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2, and then Belshazzar in chapter 5, and then Darius after that, Daniel’s true genius is seen in this chapter, as he casts himself down before the Lord.
Let’s briefly notice this evening Daniel’s Biblical perception of the Lord. With all that is said in these verses, all that we can do is give you brief outline.
And speaking of covenants, Daniel makes a direct reference to that. “And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments.” There have been several covenants made between the Lord and man, and we don’t have time to review them. But some of them are conditional upon the faithfulness and love of the man, while others are totally unconditional. In either case, the Lord will not and cannot break His end of covenants and promises. Daniel was probably talking about the covenant which God made with Israel – to the effect that … if they obeyed the Lord, He would bless them, and they would remain in the Promised Land. Of course, God kept His word, but Israel did not. And that was why Daniel was in Babylon and not Jerusalem. There is another more glorious covenant which God the Father made with God the Son, and it involves our salvation by Grace. I am in full expectation “of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” I do not have to fear Hell and the loss of my soul, because a divine covenant has been made.
Daniel referred to the Lord as the “great God.” This word refers to the immensity of the Lord. It involves His “size” if you like, but much more than that. He is large – larger than the universe, larger than time, larger than life. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” and not only us, but everything else. He is so large that nothing can move without His permission. He is so vast and important that nothing can live and nothing can exist without this “great God.”
And of course the Lord’s greatness makes Him the “dreadful God.” The word “dreadful” in any language, means different things to different people in different circumstances. But it boils down to “fearful,” “terrible” and “awesome.” A proper understanding of the Lord should humble the most powerful man on earth, and it has from time to time, as we saw in Nebuchadnezzar. The God who can open up the earth and swallow His enemies is a “dreadful God.” The God who can shake the earth creating a tsunami which swallows tens of thousands is “dreadful.” The God who created the Lake of Fire and will cast in every unrepentant unbeliever is a “dreadful God.”
Ah, but Daniel correctly described Jehovah as “merciful” as well. I made a computer search of the word “merciful,” and I was struck with something that I hadn’t seen before. Almost without exception up until Psalm 103 every use of the word “merciful” was in the form of a plea. “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.” But then beginning in Psalm 103 the majority of verses use the word differently. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.” “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.” Looking at the Book of Psalms in its entirety, we first learn of our desperate need for God’s mercy, but then after that – we learn that Jehovah is indeed a God of mercy. Praise His glorious Name. Despite our sins, because the Lord is faithful and true to His covenants, He often responds to us in mercy.
With that mercy is tied its cousin forgiveness. “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses” – verse 9. Oh, how I like the fact that this forgiveness is in the plural – because my sins are in the plural. Some foolish people think of forgiveness as something which God does at the time of our repentance – At the time of our salvation. And then after that, if we don’t stay on top of our sins, recognizing and confessing our subsequent sins, the Lord is incapable or not responsible to forgive us of our next sin. Foolishness – ultimately that makes man the key ingredient in his own salvation. While it is true that our sins must be addressed, confessed and forsaken in order to maintain our fellowship with the Lord, salvation and foregiveness depends upon the Lord alone.
And that is in complete agreement with the Lord’s absolute righteousness. “O, Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee.” “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away.” The most commonly forgotten attribute of the Lord is His holiness. This is why sin is so rampant in our world today. This is why the House of God is so neglected. This is why we are so selfish, so self-centered, so miserly and so unthankful. The root word behind the Hebrew “righteousness” refers to justice. There is so much injustice in the world, because mankind is so far removed from righteousness. But in the Lord there is perfect justice, and no sinner will escape it. In verse 16 Daniel comments on the expression of the Lord’s righteousness. “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.” Most of us can recognize when our parents, or our boss, or our spouse begins to get angry. Why can’t we recognize the anger of the Lord? There is nothing on earth as furious as the fury of the Almighty God.
But how can God be both just and righteous and not destroy the sinner for his transgressions? That problem was solved through the voluntary and vicarious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. My sins were taken up by Christ. He deliberately placed them upon His holy back, and then he went willingly to the place of execution. When God sees my sin on Christ, He considers the debt to have been paid – all my debt – past, present and future.
In verse 14 Daniel suggests the vigilance of God. “Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth.” Not only does this imply God’s righteousness and hatred of evil, but it suggests His omniscience and knowledge. He knows all things and nothing ever escapes His sight.
The next verse says that Jehovah is a God of renown. “And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day.” The Hebrew word means that God has made a Name for Himself. He is famous for ten thousand things. Daniel’s reference is to Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt and the desert. But every miracle which the Lord has created had enhanced the renown of God. And every fulfilled prophesy has added weight to the name of the Lord.
Daniel then adds two more things to his description of His God. Verse 19 – “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” Like it or not, the Lord owes nothing to any man upon earth – saint or sinner, powerful or powerless. And what the “great God” does, He does “for his own sake.” His immensity makes Jehovah completely independent and separate from His creation except where and when He chooses to touch it.
The last thing that Daniel has to say about the Lord, is in fact the first thing that he said, and one of the most frequent that he said. “I prayed unto the LORD MY God.” Practically speaking, the most important thing about the Lord toward Daniel, was that this almighty God was Daniel’s God. Despite all the idols and imitations, there is no other God. And Daniel had no other; wanted no other; needed no other. I never cease to enjoy the story of the great theologian, who was asked about the greatest and most important piece of theological knowledge that he had ever learned. He replied: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Sometimes the most simple things are truly the most important.
These are things which Daniel specifically says about the Lord.
Second, the Lord expects to be obeyed. He hasn’t revealed Himself to us without purpose or reason.