The room was silent, except for the faint sound of the scroll being unrolled
in Daniel's hands. It was during the first year of Darius the Mede's rule
over the old Babylonian Empire. Daniel was studying the writings of the
prophets. He was especially interested in the writings of Jeremiah. While
he studied the holy scriptures he discovered that the L-rd had told Jeremiah
that Jerusalem would lie in ruins for 70 years.
To show his sorrow, Daniel went without eating, dressed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. He confessed his sins and earnestly prayed to the L-rd his G-d.
Darryl turned the pages of his Bible to Jeremiah chapter 29:10-14. "I
would like to read from Jeremiah where Daniel would have been reading. 'This
is what the L-rd said: "When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I
will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this
place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the L-rd, "plans
to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
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 all your heart.
I will be found by you," declared the L-rd, "and will bring you
back from captivity. I will gather you from all nations and places where
I have banished you," declared the L-rd, "and will bring you back
to the place from which I carried you into exile."'"1
Darryl looked up from his Bible and said, "Daniel believed that G-d would do what he had promised Jeremiah more than 70 years earlier. The 70 years of captivity were nearly over and Daniel was determined to do his part to find favor with G-d for the nation of Israel."
"What in the world is sackcloth, and why would he sit in ashes?" Brian asked.
"Sackcloth is a very coarse cloth, made from goat or camel's hair. When someone wore sackcloth and sat in ashes it was a sign of mourning or penitence. Daniel was depriving himself of any comforts: food, fine clothes, or a comfortable chair to sit in. Let's hear the prayer of Daniel now."
Daniel began to pray. "Our L-rd, you are a great and fearsome G-d,
and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you.
But we have sinned terribly by rebelling against you and rejecting your
laws and teachings. We have ignored the message your servants the prophets
spoke to our kings, our leaders, our ancestors, and everyone else.
"Everything you do is right, our L-rd. But still we suffer public disgrace because we have been unfaithful and have sinned against you. This includes all of us, both far and near--the people of Judah, Jerusalem, and Israel, as well as those you dragged away to foreign lands, and even our kings, our officials, and our ancestors. L-rd G-d, you are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against you and rejected your teachings that came to us from your servants the prophets.
"Everyone in Israel has stubbornly refused to obey your laws, and so those curses written by your servant Moses have fallen upon us. You warned us and our leaders that Jerusalem would suffer the worst disaster in human history, and you did exactly as you had threatened. We have not escaped any of the terrible curses written by Moses, and yet we have refused to beg you for mercy and to remind ourselves of how faithful you have always been. And when you finally punished us with this horrible disaster, that was also the right thing to do, because we deserved it so much.
"Our L-rd G-d, with your own mighty arm you rescued us from Egypt and made yourself famous to this very day, but we have sinned terribly. In the past, you treated us with such kindness, that we now beg you to stop being so terribly angry with Jerusalem. After all, it is your chosen city built on your holy mountain, even though it has suffered public disgrace because of our sins and those of our ancestors.
"I am your servant, L-rd G-d, and I beg you to answer my prayers and bring honor to yourself by having pity on your temple that lies in ruins. Please show mercy to your chosen city, not because we deserve it, but because of your great kindness. Forgive us! Hurry and do something, not only for your city and your chosen people, but to bring honor to yourself."2