Links Daily Devotional

Pleading with God

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! (Daniel 9:18-19, NIV)

I don’t know what new years mean to you. Maybe they’re just a flip of the calendar. But we all come upon seasons in life when we step back and take stock, whether or not our inventories have to do with the calendar.

We do this in business, asking whether our practices are still producing advancing results.

We do this at home, where maybe it is time for a vacation and some concentrated time with your loved ones, face to face, words to ears.

We do this in our recreation, arranging for a lesson to straighten out that wretched slice or redoubling our routines in the gym.

I wonder, though, if many of us are afraid to go too far down this path of reflection when it comes to our standing with God. This could be the result of two fears: the fear that we are too dirty or the fear that he is too stern.

When we look closely at Daniel’s prayer in the ninth chapter of the Old Testament book that bears his name, we certainly find evidence of the first fear. Daniel, though righteous in so many of his own acts, recognized a deep wound of sin in God’s people. He was confessional, acknowledging wickedness, disobedience, and rebellion. He was contrite, noting that all Israel, from the mighty to the meek, were “covered with shame.”

The line was drawn. The people’s sins, unresolved, had separated them from God.

If God were only stern, the situation would be most grave. A governing Lord, Yahweh had established his laws for the people and they had not abided by them. They had turned their hearts to idols, to other desires and other pursuits. God had every reason to judge his people harshly. Every reason except one.

That one reason disputes the second fear we have in not opening our lives to God. For God is not too stern. In fact, Daniel started his prayer with an altogether oppositional truth: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and kept his commands…” (Daniel 9:4). No, Daniel admitted, we have not kept your commands. But yes, Lord, you have loved us.

God loves us even now. It is his default response to those who do what Daniel did, confessing in contrition and turning to a new obedience. Our pleas with God are never presented in our righteousness; they are presented on the basis of his mercy, a mercy ultimately fulfilled in bloodshed at the cross, so that the righteousness of Christ—when we believe in it and lean wholly on it—becomes our own. This is the righteousness that enables God to keep his covenant of love with us, and enables us to approach him each day.

Jeff Hopper
January 8, 2014
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