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Confidence: Believing God Keeps His Word
03/09/2008
Scripture: Daniel 9
Track 10 of 11 in the Living Lives That Leave People Speechless series
Running time: 33 minutes, 09 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Confidence: Believing God Keeps His Word" Daniel 9:1-27 March 9, 2008

Evan Baxter has the unenviable task to try to convince the world that God means what he says. I don't suppose he had any better luck in that particular rendition of the flood story than Noah would have had four or five thousand years ago. But it is true that God says what he means and He means what he says.

We have two sons-in-law that are preachers. One of them preaches in Bel Air, Maryland. It's a church in a struggling area as far as churches go. Hard to reach people for Christ. It's a smaller congregation, and with that comes some of the absence of resources that are sometimes helpful. With that also occasionally comes attitudes like you can't hang up anything in the worship space without creating a riot. And it can be a little discouraging because you believe that God has called you to something and you really believe that God wants to do something where you are, and yet you wonder if, in fact, maybe nothing is ever going to happen.

Frank just recently got home from India. First time he has had an opportunity to make a trip like that. He was the first person to preach in that particular area of India, first white person ever in that village. And he is really an N.T. Wright fan. N.T. Wright is one of the leading New Testament scholars writing today. In fact, not very long ago he had an opportunity to go to a seminary in Baltimore and hear N.T. Wright speak. He brought me home a copy, an autographed copy, of one of N.T. Wright's most recent books. He gets to stay in the family another year.

I have tell you that because last Sunday morning just before church started a young Indian girl, a young woman, walked into Crestwell Christian Church where Frank preaches. She is of the Baha'i faith, but has done enough studying to recognize that that particular religious perspective doesn't make a lot of sense, but the one thing that the Baha'i's believe is that you ought to know something about all other religions in order to be well-informed. So she had decided that the next step in her process was to learn something about Jesus, and so she got on the internet and she googled independent christian churches, non-denominational stuff, and she ran into Crestwell Christian Church.

She walked into church last Sunday, just two weeks after my son-in-law came home from India, just a day after he had heard N.T. Wright speak. They were having friends over for supper that night, and so they decided to just invite her over with them, and so she came over to visit that night. You are going to know this before I ever say it. Who do you suppose her favorite writer is in her journey to discover Jesus? None other than N.T. Wright.

It is just amazing to me to watch God in His faithfulness as He brings together these people. As this young woman is searching for her purpose, she is now going to be investing in a woman's bible study at Crestwell Christian Church where they are studying women on purpose.

There is a text of scripture that I have always loved. Isaiah Chapter 55, the prophet Isaiah makes this comment, and I remember the first time that I read it and was struck by what it says. Isaiah Chapter 55, starting in verse number 8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

God says what He means, and He means what he says. It is abundantly clear in scripture that God speaks a word, and that word is faithful and it is true and He will do what it is that He says He is going to do.

Our text this morning is Daniel Chapter 9, and I want to simply walk down through this text and encourage you to read along with me as we look at this simple truth, that God's word is always faithful. It always comes true. I'm going to go to some other texts to try to help establish that. I'm not asking you to turn to those. You might want to write them down and read them later. But as we walk through this text, I just want you to hear that theme coming up again and again and again -- God says what He means and He means what He says.

Daniel Chapter 9 starts this way. "In the first year of Darius, the son of Xerxes, a Mead by descent, who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom, in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the scriptures according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years. And so I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting and in sack cloth and ashes."

Daniel is a bible reader. The guy had a written copy apparently of the letter that Jeremiah had sent to the exiles in Babylon, and in that letter he said this is going to last for 70 years, and he believed it, because he read it in scripture. That scripture, by the way, happens to be in Jeremiah Chapter 29. Here is what it sounds like. This is what he read. It's a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles.

Starting in verse number 10 this is what the Lord says. "When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope in the future. And then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with your whole heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, declares the Lord. I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

It was a simple promise that Daniel read in the copy of Jeremiah's letter, 70 years. He recognizes 70 years are up. It's time to go home. I think I'll start praying and asking God to do what he promised -- send us home. So Jeremiah predicts it, and Daniel prays it.

And then in probably the last chapter of the last book written in the old testament, in Second Chronicles Chapter 36, the one who wrote the Chronicles says this. "He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests. All of the time of its desolation it rested until the 70 years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah. In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to make a proclamation." And the proclamation is Israel gets to go home.

God says what He means, and He means what he says. He announces it to Jeremiah. Daniel believes it. He prays about it, and the chronicler says it happened just the way that Daniel said it was going to and that Jeremiah said it was going to. God always keeps his promise. So if God says to you that when your life feels like it's in chaos there is a peace that passes understanding, you should believe that, that there is such a peace. And when God says that even in the midst of suffering there is something very positive happening, even when your life looks like it isn't what it's supposed to be, you should believe that on the other side of that period of suffering there is something incredible that is going to happen because that's what God says. If God says to you, I will be with you always, if he promises you his constant companionship, then you should assume that you are never alone, because God always keeps his word.

So I raise the question only. Which of those promises, or any of the other ones that God has made, do you struggle with? What is there about the word of God that you don't find faithful enough to believe that when God makes a promise that He will, in fact, keep that promise? And if He promises to open doors for his word, somebody from India will walk into your door right after you have had a chance to go visit and there will be an opportunity for you to talk about Jesus.

Come a little further in this text because Daniel does exactly what God says. He prays. Daniel Chapter 9, Verse 4. "I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed, Oh, Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled. We have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of this land. Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame. The men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem and all Israel both near and far in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you, Lord, we and our kings, our princes, and our fathers, are covered with shame because we have sinned against you."

"The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants, the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster."

"Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us. Yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring to disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does, yet we have not obeyed him."

"Now, oh Lord, our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned. We have done wrong. Oh, Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and inequities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people the object of scorn to all those around us."

"Now, our father, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, oh Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, oh God, and hear. Open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous but because of your great mercy. Oh Lord, listen. Oh Lord, forgive. Oh Lord, hear and act. For your sake, oh, my God, do not delay because your city and your people bear your name."

Did you hear it? The constant reflection of what God had already said. You told us this would happen, and it happened. You told us if we sinned we would suffer, and we did. In fact, it is abundantly clear in the law in Deuteronomy Chapter 8. It's a statement that is impossible to miss. Deuteronomy Chapter 8, verse number 19. "If you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed."

Or just three chapters later in Chapter 11 he says, "Be careful or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them, and then the Lord's anger will burn against you and He will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will not produce and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord has given you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. Tie them as symbols on your hand. Bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the way, when you lie down, and when you get up."

Not only did it say that was the law, but that was the constant voice of the prophet. Every prophet looked back to the time when Israel failed to keep God's word and reminded them again and again that God says what He means. He means what He says. And the reason you are in exile, the reason you are being disciplined is because you didn't listen. You didn't heed my word.

In fact, Jeremiah Chapter 25 we have this statement. "Though the Lord has sent all his servants, the prophets, to you again and again, you did not listen or pay any attention. They said, turn now, each of you from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and to your fathers forever and ever. Don't call other gods to serve and worship them. Do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you. But if you do not listen to me and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, you have brought harm to yourselves."

"Therefore, the Lord almighty says this. Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, declares the Lord, and I will bring them against this land and all its inhabitants and all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn and everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sounds of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon 70 years."

We just got done reading the first eight chapters of Daniel, and everything that Jeremiah said came true. Because God says what He means, and He means what he says. And if God says, I discipline my children because I love them, then you should assume that God means that, and as one of His children He will discipline you in order to help you stay faithful. If God says, if you choose to sin, your life is going to crumble and some of the worst consequences you can possibly imagine are going happen to you just as the natural consequence of your sin, you should assume that that's exactly what will happen. When you turn your back on God and go your own way, your life is going to become a chaotic mess and people will get hurt.

If God says, the day I take my hands off of you because you want to do your own thing, your life will become an unimaginable hell as in Romans Chapter 1 when God says, I have simply released my spirit from them and I will not any longer speak to them and there is no restraint left in the land. God says what He means, and He means what he says.

And just as sure as are His promises are His warnings, and just as I would ask you which Of his promises do you have trouble accepting, I would also ask you which of His warnings do you think you could ignore at no risk? God says what He means, and He means what He says.

I recognize that you probably have all at some point in your lives made threats that we really didn't mean, or maybe I'm the only parent who ever says as I was driving down the road, if you don't knock it off, I'm stopping, dropping you off, and leaving. I did hear about a guy once who made this threat to his children, if you don't quit, I'm going to throw you out the window, and actually had to put a mattress outside the window and did. He tossed one of his kids right out the window as a means of saying, I mean what I say. God says what He means, and He means what He says.

When we come to the next part of this text, we enter into an explanation of what's going on behind the scenes as Daniel prays. It is one of the most incredible pieces of scripture. Daniel Chapter 9, when we come to verse 20, we have this remarkable statement. Look at this. "While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my requests to the holy, to the Lord, my God, for his holy hill, while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and he said to me, 'Daniel, I have come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray an answer was given, which I have come to tell you for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision.'"

Daniel has started to pray, and already God is acting. It is such a remarkable statement. Daniel comes to God because he believes that God answers prayer, and as soon as he begins to voice his prayers, it's almost as if God is waiting for him to say something. He immediately begins to answer. You read your bible. You know that's true. One of my favorite texts is Isaiah Chapter 58, Verse 9. Write it down. Underline it in your text or scripture. In it says, "You will call to me and I will say to you, here I am." It's the exact same phrase that occurs in Chapter 6. You remember. When God says, who will go for me, whom shall I send, Isaiah says, here am I, send me. In Chapter God says, when you need me, you call on me, and I will cry to you, here I am. What an incredible promise.

But haven't we had that? Do you remember Jesus' statement in Matthew 7? "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened." James Chapter 4 says, "You have not because you don't ask." First John, Chapter 5 says, "If you ask anything according to my will, it will be done." What of that doesn't make sense? God is making this incredible promise. You pray, and I'll answer. And who here couldn't say something?

Some of you saw a copy of John Dupont's e-mail in which he simply says, before I left you, remember, I asked you to pray that there be opportunities for the gospel. And in the e-mail he said, God is answering that prayer. And some of you have been praying regularly for a lady that you don't even know who is having a liver transplant, and she gets to go home next week because she is recovering from the process. We prayed for little Dillon, and he is home. God listens, and He answers because that's the faithfulness of God. He means what He says, and He says what He means.

We come to the last part of this text, undoubtedly one of the most difficult passages of scripture and certainly the most difficult part of Daniel, and when we read it, we probably come away saying that profound theological, huh? In Verse 24, "Seventy sevens are decreed for your people in your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy."

"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes there will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two sevens the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the temple and the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood. War will continue until the end and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation until the end decreed is poured out on him."

It's a tough text. There are probably four or five major interpretations of that text that have been offered and believed by at least somebody. And to be quite honest with you, I don't know that I have a definitive interpretation. But rather than me telling you what I don't know, let me tell you what I do know.

Seven is always a number of completion. It always means a set amount of time or whatever it is referring to. It never is indicating how long it is. It's just a perfect amount of time. And what God says, what Gabriel says to Daniel is this. There is a set amount of time. There is a perfect amount of time. There is an amount of time that God is going to act, and in that amount of time He will accomplish certain things. In fact, there are six of those things in this text, and they are very clear.

The first three as you see them here in verse number 24 are these: To finish transgression, to put and end to sin, to atone for wickedness. You can see what happens. During this seventy sevens, during this perfect amount of time, sin is going to end and is going to be atoned for. And then look at the positive side. There is going to be an everlasting righteousness that comes in, the need for visions and prophets is going to be over, and there is going to be an anointing on the Holy One.

Does that sound familiar at all? Think about that. There is only one who was ever called the Holy One. There is only one who was referred to as the Anointed One. There is only one who has ever been able to atone for sin and to bring in righteousness. Whatever else is this text means, it means this: During that perfect amount of time Jesus is coming and sin is atoned for and righteousness does come.

Now, it's going to come during hard times, it says, and there will be difficult things going on. In fact, there are going to be some who are going to reject that story and reject that message. But by the time that happens, there will be an end to all sacrifice, and it will prove that the once for all sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient. That happened in 70 AD when they destroyed Jerusalem, and the temple hasn't existed since. Here is what I think that Daniel is being told by Gabriel. The Messiah is coming, and you should believe that when He comes He will atone for sin and He will impune upon you righteousness that you can never have on your own.

There is this marvelous picture in the New Testament that we must come to grips with. It is repeated over and over and over again, and it is the story that we have been singing and talking about all morning long. It says it, for example, in the 4th chapter of Galatians the 4th verse, "When the time had fully come." Do you hear that reference? Do you hear that sense? The perfect time. When the time was ready, when everything was complete, He sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under law, in order to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of sons of God.

Or he says it this way in Second Corinthians Chapter 5. He says down here in verse number 18, "All of this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." Or in Verse 21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

Or this passage in the book of Hebrews, the 9th chapter, talking about Jesus. In Chapter 9, verse , "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood having obtained eternal redemption. Or Verse 26 of that same chapter, "Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world, but now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself." Or this passage in First Peter Chapter 3, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."

God says what He means. He means what He says. And what He says is this. I sent my son at a perfect time to die for you so that your sin could be atoned for and so that you could stand before me righteous. And the only question really is, do you believe that? Do you believe that God meant that? Are you ready to act on it because you believe it?

And I understand that there are people who come here every week for whom this story is brand new. You've never heard it before. It doesn't make sense to you. So let me offer this to you. Stay with me. Don't give up on it because it doesn't make since today. Jesus said, if I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself. If you stay in the proximity of Jesus, He will eventually become clear to you. He will make himself known to you. So hang in there and don't give up just because it's a little confusing today.

But some of you are further along than that in your journey. You know, you know that you need to respond to Jesus. You know that He is the only answer to your life. He is the only solution to the sin of your life, to your need for righteousness, and he says, come to me. Come to me by faith and trust me because there is no one else around that can do this for you.

You may not even know how to do that. You may not know any more than enough to say, that's what I need. Now what? Come and see us, talk to us, because we'll help you know what's next, we really will. Some of you are far enough along to know what you need to do. You know Jesus. You've already decided that you need to turn your back on sin. You've seen the consequences of your stupid and selfish choices, and now you are ready to do something about it. You know that you need to identify with Him in His death and resurrection. You know that you need to walk through the grave that He went through, to experience His death and resurrection and baptism. You know that's what you need to do. God says what He means. He means what He says. He says this to you. Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. My burden is easy and my yoke is light. We are here to make that possible for you, for you to say, I want to know Jesus, I want to walk with Jesus, I want to experience Jesus. If we can help you do that, please let us.