O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. (Daniel 9:18-19)
In Daniel 9 we find Daniel in prayer. He has been reading in the book of Jeremiah and found that the reason for Israel’s exile is their sin. So he takes time to confess that sin before the Lord. The thing is, he’s talking about sin of people that lived before him. And yet he confesses it as his own. This seems so strange to our ears. Our American culture has imbued into us a high sense of individualism. We see our relationship to God as an individual thing. But this is not the way it is. Daniel identifies himself with Israel and their sin, even though he personally wasn’t the one to blame, he is so connected with them that their guilt is his guilt. So he confesses and repents on behalf of his people as a whole. This is a huge lesson for us to learn. Our faith is personal but it is not alone. Our faith connects us not only with Christ but also with Christ’s people. We must be concerned with His people as a whole. We are one body.
Secondly, notice the appeal Daniel makes as to why God should forgive. It isn’t because of his righteousness but because of God’s great mercy. He appeals to God’s own character as the reason God should forgive, and to God’s own name sake. God has written his name upon his people. These become the reason for our hope for forgiveness. When you ask God to forgive you, in other words, you can be confident of his forgiveness. But it is not because you have somehow put that sin behind you and overcome it. Confession isn’t something we wait to do until we’ve mastered it. We need God’s mercy or we will never master it. So be glad that God forgives for the sake of his own name rather than your success in overcoming sin.
When you ask God to forgive you of specific sin, do you wait until you feel like you are doing better (because God will take you more seriously then)?
Ask God to forgive you because He is merciful, and be confident because God forgives for the sake of His own name which He has put on you who believe.
McCheyne’s Bible Reading Plan: 2 Kings 3, 1 Tim 2, Da 9, Ps 51