The Seventy Weeks
20I was still confessing my sins and those of all Israel to the Lord my God, and I was praying for the good of his holy mountain, 21 when Gabriel suddenly came flying in at the time of the evening sacrifice. This was the same Gabriel I had seen in my vision, 22and he explained:
Daniel, I am here to help you understand the vision. 23God thinks highly of you, and at the very moment you started praying, I was sent to give you the answer. 24God has decided that for 70 weeks, your people and your holy city must suffer as the price of their sins. Then evil will disappear, and justice will rule forever; the visions and words of the prophets will come true, and a most holy place will be dedicated.
25You need to realize that from the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Chosen Leader, it will be 7 weeks and another 62 weeks. Streets will be built in Jerusalem, and a trench will be dug around the city for protection, but these will be difficult times. 26At the end of the 62 weeks, the Chosen Leader will be killed and left with nothing.
A foreign ruler and his army will sweep down like a mighty flood, leaving both the city and the temple in ruins, and war and destruction will continue until the end, just as God has decided. 27 For one week this foreigner will make a firm agreement with many people, and halfway through this week, he will end all sacrifices and offerings. Then the “Horrible Thing” that causes destruction will be put there. And it will stay there until the time God has decided to destroy this one who destroys.
What happens when we pray? Does prayer make a difference? Here, almost uniquely, we are taken behind the scenes and see how Daniel’s prayer is shaping events. A vision comes in response to his praying and Gabriel comes to tell him that his prayer has been heard and an answer is on its way. His prayer will lead to deeper understanding, as all true prayer should, for it echoes with the heart of God. Gabriel also assures this faithful man of God that his constancy has not been overlooked.
However, the answer Gabriel gives is not to the question Daniel asked. Daniel wants to know if the nation will soon return to the land of Israel. God, however, wants Daniel to see the big picture, within which his desire is only a detail. We often get boxed in to specifics when God wants us to find comfort in his overarching purpose. Returning to the land is not enough. A change of geographical location will not bring about salvation. For that, a longer view is required and much water will pass under the bridge before that will happen.
The Anointed One must first come, but that lies hundreds of years in the future. Part of that deliverance will involve his death (v 26). Worse still, his coming will lead in due time to the further destruction of the city to which God’s people shortly hope to return (v 26).
Whatever one makes of the details of this vision, this much is clear. Whatever plans dominate our thinking we must never lose sight of the ultimate purpose of God. It is when we see our part as a link in the chain that we will develop both the humility and the perseverance to see it through. Lift up your eyes!
The Exile was part of God’s ‘severe mercy’ to Israel, punishing disobedience and creating a new desire to serve the Lord with a whole heart.
Thank you, Father, for this record of Daniel and his prayers. Teach me to pray like him, with perseverance. Keep my eyes on your ultimate purpose, not my own self-centred wishes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, July to September 2015, written by Colin Sinclair, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.