You Are Greatly Loved
Bible Text: Daniel 9:20-27 | Pastor: Craig Wilson | You Are Greatly Loved
Well, Daniel chapter nine contains one of the great prayers of the Bible, while at the same time it also contains one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. And while Daniel’s prayer is understandable, the answer to his prayer is not as easily understood. Let me give you a flavor of what I mean. Old Testament scholar and pastor Iian Duguid who I’ve benefited greatly from his work on the book of Daniel. He says this, “In 400 AD one of the most brilliant scholars and linguists in the ancient church, the church Father Jerome wrote, ‘Because it is unsafe to pass judgment on the opinions of the great teachers of the church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed.'” He then listed nine conflicting opinions on the meaning of this passage. Finally declaring that he himself was unable to decide which one, if any, was right.
Sinclair Ferguson and his commentary on the same passage says, “The interpretation of verses 24 through 27 has been described as a dismal swamp.” Well, thankfully those who have gone before us have wisely recognized that not all parts of Scripture are as easily understood or clear to us. 1689 confession states Baptist Confession states, “Some things in Scripture are clearer than others, and some people understand the teachings more clearly than others. However, the things that must be known, believed, and obeyed for salvation are so clearly set forth and explained in one part of Scripture or another, that both the educated and uneducated may achieve a sufficient understanding of them by properly using ordinary measures.” So verses 24 through 27 fall into that category of Scripture that is not as easily understood as other portions of Scripture. Yet we derived solace in the knowledge that our difficulty and understanding them does not keep us from understanding the things necessary for salvation.
That’s good news. Amen? So what’s the preacher to do? I have spent the last three weeks studying these verses. Ben has walked in on me on more than one occasion with I think that my eyes were glazed over and I would throw down my pen and say, “Ah, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t get the point.” So what I have decided to do is to narrow the focus for the message. As Alistair Begg likes to say, “The plain things are the main things.” So what I’m going to do this morning is I’m going to spend the bulk of my time on what is plain in the passage, but I am also going to start at the end. I’m going to deal with verses 24 through 27 first, and then go back and spend, as I said, the bulk of our time on the rest of the passage.
Now couple of things to keep in mind, we must never lose sight of the fact that these verses, that the message delivered by Gabriel, that the interpretation brought to Daniel by Gabriel; we must never make the mistake of separating them from Daniel’s prayer. Okay? I think a lot of interpreters have that tendency. They are not separate from Daniel’s prayer. They are part of the answer to Daniel’s prayer. So verses 24 through 27 contained the answer to Daniel’s prayer, but they also contain a look into the future and they contain information about a time-frame that stretches as verse 26 says to the time, “to the end where there shall be war.” In other words till the end of time. The message that Gabriel delivers described a time frame of 70 weeks or 70 sevens before the ultimate end would come. So this period of 70 weeks, I personally believe in keeping with the symbolic nature of numbers in apocalyptic literature should be understood, not in a literal sense, but in the sense of completeness. This 70 weeks represent the complete period until time as we know it comes to an end. I will be the first to admit that there are very popular commentators who liked to do the math and arrive at dates.
I have no problem with that. But as I’ve said from the beginning, as we started our study together, I come down on the side that the numbers in this genre of literature are more symbolic in nature rather than to be taken literally. You could go home today and you could read 10 other commentators and some of them may do the math for you. Okay? Keep in mind, none of these things affect our salvation. That’s the main thing. Okay?
So here’s what we can understand from Gabriel’s message: is that during the 70 weeks there are six things that are going to take place. Let’s read verse 24 again together, “Seventy weeks are decreed about.” Now notice this, that here are some interpretive clues. “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people.” Who’s he talking about? Israel, “and your holy city.” What’s the holy city? Jerusalem. So here’s six things that are going to happen, “to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.” Now, that last phrase there, “holy place”, there are several commentators who believe that holy place should be translated as “holy person”, holy person. Now, as we read of those six things are to be accomplished in the 70 weeks, we just read them at face value. Take them at face value. I believe that our minds nationally turn to the Lord Jesus. Those six activities describe the work of the Lord Jesus. If they do indeed describe the work of the Lord Jesus, then to my way of thinking, it would follow that the holy place should be translated as “the holy person or the holy one” with Jesus being the anointed holy one. You will find smarter people than me who will disagree with me.
So these 70 weeks now are broken down into three different periods: the first period is seven weeks, and this period begins with the order or the declaration to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Here’s what we know. We know that within a year of King Belshazzar being murdered by the Media-Persia Empire, that Cyrus issued the order for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. So just kind of file that away for a moment. And one of the challenges of interpreting this passage is trying to understand who the various players in this unfolding drama of human history actually are. For instance, there is a mention of an anointed one in verse 25 and then there’s a second mention of an anointed one in verse 26. So immediately we have to ask ourselves, “Are these references to the same person or are they references to two different people?” And I say, “good question.” And it is one of the questions on which there is legitimate debate and discussion. And I would say disagreement. For instance, I surveyed five different commentators that I highly trust and found out that only two of the five agreed as to who the anointed one in verse 25 is. Two of the commentators identify the anointed one in verse 25 as the Messiah, as the Lord Jesus. Another commentator identifies the anointed one in verse 25 as Ezra the priest. Another commentator identifies the anointed one in verse 25 as Cyrus, the king. The fifth commentator didn’t identify him at all.
Well, here’s what we know for sure, and we know this both by way of prophecy and history, is that this first period of seven weeks refers to the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the temple in Jerusalem. That’s what we know for sure. There’s a second period. Say, “aren’t you going to tell us who you think it is in verse 25?”
If you really wanted to pin me down, I think I would say Cyrus because he’s the one who issued the order for the temple and the city to be rebuilt, but again, you’re going to find people much smarter than I who disagree with that. The second period will last for 62 weeks. Now, during this time, the city will be rebuilt, but it says it’s going to exist in troubled times, meaning that the city of God inhabited by the people of God will be continually attacked by the enemies of God. And go study the history of the people of Israel, and you’ll see that is the case.
History demonstrates this to be true. And then after the 62 weeks, verse 26 tells us that, “an anointed one will be cut off.” Again, we face the challenge of trying to determine who this anointed one is. And at about this time, I said to myself, “Why did you ever choose the book of Daniel to preach through?” I looked for a version of the Bible that ended at chapter nine verse 19, but I couldn’t find one. Hmm. But here, I think we can safely say that “the anointed one” here in verse 26 is the Messiah, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Say, “Well, who is this prince of the people who’s to come and to destroy the city and the sanctuary?” Well there’s a clue: Jesus did not come to destroy the city and the sanctuary did He? So
history tells us that there was a Roman general by the name of Titus. He is the prince of the people who was to come and destroy the city and the sanctuary. Now back into verse 27 Gabriel tells Daniel that, “And he.” We have to, again, we have to identify who’s “he” here. “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week and for half the week he shall put it an end to sacrifice and offering.” There’s a couple, there’s three possibilities here that I can think of off the top of my head. Who could this “he” be referring to? Well, there are some who say, “Well, that refers to Titus.” There are others who say, “Well, maybe that’s the Antichrist.” I think it’s the Lord Jesus, It’s the Messiah, the He, the Messiah, “shall make a strong covenant with many for one week and for half that week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering”. The Lord Jesus, the Messiah, was cut off, was put to death in the middle of this final week. The Lord Jesus is the one who made this strong Covenant with the people. We live under that strong Covenant today. The New Testament identifies it as what? The New Covenant.
Say, “Well, what about this deal about putting end to sacrifice and offering?” That’s exactly what happened when Jesus cried out on the cross. “It is finished.” You don’t need the temple sacrifices anymore. You don’t need the temple offerings anymore. It is finished. It’s all done away with. We are operating under a New Covenant. So I believe that the “he” in verse 27 refers to Jesus, refers to the Messiah. Finally, who is the one who comes and makes desolate? Again, I believe this is a Roman general Titus who destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, but that is not the terminus of Gabriel’s message, if you will. Because at the end of verse 26 we read, “and to the end there shall be war.” Here’s why I don’t believe that it’s Titus
who’s being referred to there. Because did wars cease in AD 70 when Titus destroyed Jerusalem? Did that put an end to all wars? Not hardly. I can name three or four wars just started in my lifetime apart from going back in history. Okay? So what we have here, and you’re really gonna like this, is what the theologians like to call “prophetic telescoping”. Now there’s a word you hear every day. Amen? Which simply means where one message or one prophecy encompasses several periods of time. We can illustrate it this way. Let’s say that for some crazy reason, I want to go climb one of the rocky mountains. And so I pick one I think that I could get up to, and that would be a very short one. Amen? So I’m making my way up there and I think as I’m getting close to the pinnacle of this mountain, “Well, that’s it.
That’s all there is.” Well, guess what? I get up to the top of this mountain and I begin to raise my hands in victory and I look out and guess what I see? A whole bunch more mountains and some of them are much more taller than the one that I am on. That’s the way prophecy works at times. Hey, Daniel here’s one mountain that you can scale, but know this: when you get to the top of that mountain, there’s going to be other mountains out there in the distance. Okay? That’s prophetic telescoping. Now, if you’re still with me, let’s move on.
So Daniel’s prayer was a prayer of confession on behalf of the people of Judah and for the sins of the people of Judah, which resulted in their exile. So Daniel prays that God would hear, that God would forgive, that God would pay attention, God would not delay, and that God would act to end their exile and re-establish them in the promised land. I’m going to break this, the rest of the verses 20 through 23 down into two broad points. Here’s the first one: the answer. “The answer? Say take you a long time to think of that?” Not really, but it helps because beginning, you read verses 20 and 21, one gets the sense that Daniel’s prayer was interrupted by the appearance of Gabriel. It appears before Daniel could even say his final amen, that God summons Gabriel and dispatches him with a message, with an answer to Daniel’s prayer. And what was the reason for his coming? Well, Daniel reports in verse 22 that Gabriel was sent to bring him “insight and understanding.” But I want you to notice something. Look what Gabriel says or tells Daniel at the end of verse 23, “Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.” Now, this is important for us.
God was going to provide Daniel with the information, but He expected Daniel to consider what he was being told. In other words, in order for you to have any hope of understanding what you’re going to be told, you have to consider the vision. In other words, Daniel was being told to pay attention to what you’re about to hear. He was to observe the message. In other words, he was to think it through. He was to meditate on what he was about to hear. He was to expend whatever mental energy was necessary to understand how God was answering his prayer. Remember, Gabriel came in order to deliver the answer to his prayer. Now think about this with me. Could it be that there have been times when we have prayed and God has answered our prayer, but because we didn’t immediately understand how God answered our prayers, we think God didn’t answer our prayers. When maybe the problem is we missed the answer because we did not take the time or make the effort to consider that God’s answer was different from what we expected.
So Gabriel’s instruction to Daniel was to consider this, to think about this, to meditate on this. And I couldn’t help but noticing that Gabriel’s instruction to Daniel mirrors Paul’s instruction to Timothy. Paul said to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” Now folks, let’s be honest, if Daniel was instructed to think these things through and if Timothy was instructed to think these things through, do we think we have any hope of understanding Scripture apart from meditation and thinking these things through?
You know, at times we have pretty high opinions of ourselves, but I’ve never compared myself to Daniel, that’d be foolishness, wouldn’t it? I wouldn’t even compare myself to Timothy. But if these men had to engage in this kind of mental effort, how do we think that we can do anything less? See understanding and insight rarely if ever arises from a casual reading of the Bible. Understanding and insight are the fruit of taking time to think through the Bible and that’s what meditation is: it’s considering what you’re reading, it’s thinking about what you’re reading. Okay?
Now there’s tremendous encouragement for us here as believers. Here it is: God hears our prayers. Before Daniel was finished or as soon as he was finished, Gabriel arrives on the scene. Instantaneously. Say, “Why does he come?” Because God sent him. Say, “Well, why did God send him?” Because Daniel prayed and God was listening. Isn’t that a tremendous encouragement? When we pray, we’re not talking to our imaginary friend that some would have us to believe. When we pray, we’re not speaking words that float around in the air like a forgotten birthday balloon that slowly drifts out of sight, never to be heard from or seen again. No. The experience of Daniel teaches us that when we pray, God hears. But God does more than hear us. He listens to us.
When does God hear? As soon as we begin to pray. When we begin to pray down there on Sunday mornings at 10:30, guess what? God hears. When does God listen to us? At 10:30 on Sunday morning or whenever you spend time in prayer. God hears, God listens to us. When does God listen? As soon as He hears us pray. Whenever one of God’s children pray, God hears them immediately. God does not have a queue. He does not have an answering machine where you have to leave your message and He’ll get back with you.
As soon as we pray, God hears and God listens to us. Have you ever been around a group of little children and they’re all vying for the attention of probably with their parents? And they all talk at once and it gets to the point. Now, mom and dad, you’re going to agree with me, but don’t shake your head if your kids are in the room.
It gets to the point where they’re all talking at once and,
mom and dad in order to save their sanity just tune them out. The good news is God never tunes us out. He always listens to His children. He never ignores it. Even the weakest of His children. Isn’t that a great reason to pray? When you pray, your Heavenly Father is listening. So that begs the question, “Is He hearing from you on a regular basis?” How many times have you said perhaps to your children or maybe to your spouse, “Are you listening to me?”, or, “Listen to me!” Well, you never have to worry if God is listening to you. When you pray, you do so with the confidence that God indeed hears your voice. Sherry and I love to hear the voices of our grand babies. There are no sweeter words to grandparents than… I’ve been called “paps”, “pappaw”, “popaw”.
And I know by that voice who it is that’s addressing me. And we love to hear every one of those voices. Well, you know what? God loves to hear the voice of His children and He knows your voice every time that you call on Him. In fact, I was reading my Bible yesterday and I read this wonderful promise in 1John 5 which says,” “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, if we ask anything according to his will,” he ignores us. Say, “Well, that wouldn’t be a wonderful promise!” No you’re right, “ask according to his will, he hears us.” He hears us. He’s listening to us. That’s a great motivation for prayer, isn’t it? Well along with his answer to prayer, Daniel’s also given a tremendous word of assurance. That point two was the assurance. The answer, the assurance. Look at verse 23, “At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word, went out.” “Word?” Where did that “word” go out from?
The throne. From God, The father, “and I have come to tell it to you”, and I’m just absolutely blown away by these next words, “for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.” Say, “What are the words of encouragement here?” What? Isn’t it obvious? God says to Daniel through Gabriel, “you are greatly loved” Daniel. Despite the twists and turns of your life, your Heavenly Father wants you to know that you’re not just love that you’re not simply love. Daniel, you are greatly loved. Daniel, I want you to know that the answer you’re about to hear may not be the answer that you were expecting, but know this: in spite of that you are greatly loved. Daniel, I know that you have had terrible dreams and visions of the future which caused you great disturbance and distress and even put you to bed, but I want you to know you are greatly loved, and what is true of Daniel is true of you.
If you’re God’s child, you are greatly loved. If you’ve been adopted into God’s family, do you realize you are greatly loved. Jesus, the son of God, God in the flesh said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Paul, Romans, “Who all those in Rome who are loved by God.” Again, Romans 5, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” The Psalm, the Psalms are filled with this phrase: they repeatedly refer to “the steadfast love of God.” Add them all up, stack them all up. Stack them as high as you will, and you will find, come up with the same answer: you are greatly loved! And Gabriel states this as a fact. This is not a theoretical love. This is not from the pen of the poet. This is real, true, genuine, effective, caregiving, eternal, unquenchable love from your Heavenly Father to you. Say, “When am I loved? Right now. Say, “I don’t feel like it.” Throw that thinking out. Believe the Scriptures. You are greatly loved right here, right now, tomorrow when you screw up, on your best day you’re still greatly loved. Your worst day. You’re still greatly loved.
And where else can you go to hear the message that you are greatly loved by a great God?
Who else loves you with a 1000% pure love? Who else loves you with a sacrificial love? See, no one can match the love, the greatness of the love that God has for His children. Few years ago I preached through Romans chapter eight and I’ll never forget something that “the good doctor” said in one of his commentaries. He said, “When saints sin”, by the way, “the good doctor”, if you don’t know, it’s Martin Lloyd Jones. “When saints sin, they know they are not sinning against law, but against love.” Let me say that again. When saints sin, they know they are not sinning against law, but against love. Let that sink in. When you as a believer, when you, as one of God’s children sin, you’re sinning against God’s great love that He has for you. Say, “So you’re telling me that to make me feel bad?” No, but think about this: even on a human level, we do our best to not hurt the ones we love, right? How much more so should that be true in our relationship with our Heavenly Father? And I believe this, that if you will take the time to meditate on this wonderful reality, it will change the way you understand your relationship to the Father, and it will change the way you respond to the Father because now you’re responding out of what? Love. Love.
How can you ignore the One who loves you with such a great love? Remember that the writer of Hebrews tells us that when we come to God in prayer, that we’re coming to a “throne of grace.” Why? Because you are greatly loved. Perhaps my favorite verse in all the Scriptures, Romans 8:1, a lot of you can quote it with me, “Therefore,” there is therefore what, “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why is there no condemnation? I am greatly loved. See, the reality that we are greatly loved should be our motivation for how we live. It should be our motivation to how we practice the spiritual disciplines. See as I, as I began to meditate on this truth and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I began to understand the depth and the dimensions of God’s love for me in that can’t help but change the way that I relate to God. Is your relationship to God, one of law or love? And I’m afraid that many sincere Christians in their desire to be obedient to God, they only think in terms of the law of God and forget or minimize the great love of God.
But when I began to understand just how much I’m loved by the father, now mark this: this is when my life begins to change. This is when I began to make progress in sanctification. That’s when life no longer is all about me and my needs, my wants, and my desires. Why? Because I’m operating out of love. Well, I’m going to give you several statements here,
with the, trying to phrase them the same way. So here we go. Because you are greatly loved, you now have reason to pray. Because you are greatly loved, you now have reason to pray. See, when you love someone, you want to spend time with them and talk with them. When a young man or a young woman begin to develop their relationship, it’s not a duty for either one of them to want to spend time with one another, right? No they want to. It’s a, it’s not a duty. It’s a delight. They can spend hours talking with one another, not texting with one another. Amen? Real conversation with one another. And when you begin to wrap your head around just how greatly loved you are, your prayer moves from the realm of duty to the realm of delight. You are invited to come into God’s presence at any time.
No appointment needed. You don’t have to wait for office hours. You don’t have to look for an open spot on His calendar. He has an open door policy. And when we, when we realize how much God loves us, it’s scandalous to see how little time we spend in our Father’s presence in prayer. You are greatly loved. You now have reason to live in holiness. You are greatly loved, therefore you have reason to live in holiness. One of the ways that we demonstrate our love for God is our obedience. Jesus said, “Why do you keep saying that you love me but you won’t do anything that I ask you to do?”
See, when I realized just how greatly loved I am, I don’t want to sin against God. I do not want to grieve or quench His Holy Spirit. I’m not operating on the basis of law am I? I’m not operating it on the basis of judgment. That will only get you so far. I am operating on the basis of love. I love You, Father. I don’t want to hurt You, Father. You are greatly loved, therefore you now have reason to live faithfully. As you’re greatly loved you want to be as you realize that you’re so greatly loved. You want to be faithful to the One who loves you so. Just look at husbands and wives. They display their love for one another through their faithfulness to one another. So too we as Christians demonstrate our love for God through our faithfulness to Him. You are greatly loved, therefore you now have reason to live fear free. 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” If you are greatly loved, God will take care of you in life and death.
You are greatly loved. You now have reason to live expectantly. You have reason to expect God to answer your prayer as you pray His promises, as you pray according to His will. You have every right to expect Him to make you like Christ, to sanctify you, to change you from the inside out, to fill you with His Spirit, and again to give you peace in life and death. You are greatly loved, therefore you now have reason to live hopefully. Daniel saw some horrible things. There’s no denying that, and we have learned some horrible things that God’s people have experienced in the past, continue to experience in the present, and will have to endure in the future. But the backdrop for all of this is the knowledge that despite all appearances, Daniel and all of God’s children are greatly loved. And finally, you are greatly loved, therefore you now reason and resource to move past your past. You now have reason and resource to move past your past. When you realize that whatever has happened in your past that the One who loves you greatly has promised to use it for good. Here’s what happens. Your past loses the power to enslave you. Your past loses the power to hold you hostage. Your past has lost its power to define you. Scripture forbids you, as a believer,
from looking back to your past and letting that define you. Did you hear me? Scripture forbids you from looking back and letting your past define you. If you are in Christ, you are a what? New Creation. The old has gone. The new has come. You have been crucified with Christ. The old man has been put to death. He’s dead. He’s buried. Sherry bought me a book for my birthday that, I opened it beforehand, but I’m glad I did. But it’s by a Scottish minister, I believe, Hugh Martin and the title of the book is, “Christ Victorious”.
And you don’t know how much that title has meant to me. It’s a book of sermons and the first sermon, well, the second sermon, excuse me, is about the victory of Christ. And I want to tell you something. You’re going to think, “You’re just now catching onto this?” I am to live, not trying to be victorious. I am to live because Christ is victorious. I live in His victory. That might not mean much to you, but it means the world to me. That’s who I am now. I am in Christ. That verse, “we are more than conquerors.” See, God’s great love for you demonstrated to you through Christ, brings you into relationship with Him and roots you and grounds your identity in Christ. But an honest reading of the Bible makes it clear that God does not promise anyone a problem free life, not even His Son. Jesus is identified as what? A Man of sorrows. Acquainted with what? Grief. God’s love did not even spare His own Son from suffering at the hands of evil, wicked men. And God the Father has gone through something far worse than anything you or I can experience,
Say, “What do you mean.” God the Father, God the Son in perfect fellowship, shared perfect love for all of eternity, never separated, never a breach in that relationship, never a break in their relationship, but yet on the cross, what happened? The Father turned His back on His Son and the Son cries out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” The Father gave His Son so that you could experience His great love for you.
Please make a note of this and go home and please think on it. There were some definite evil things, wicked things that had to happen before we could experience God’s great love for us. Just because God allowed evil to victimize His Son.
Now, please hear me.
Just because God allowed evil to victimize His Son, that in no way diminished God’s love for His Son. And just because God allowed evil to victimize you, that in no way diminishes God’s love for you. And we all want to know why. Why did God, why did You allow this to happen? Why do you allow believers from all times and all ages suffer at the hands of evil? Why? There’s something I think we can learn from Job. Surely Job wanted to know why.
Why do I have to suffer this way? Why have I lost my children? Why have I lost my wealth? Why have I lost my health? I’m afflicted with these hideous boils that you can’t even recognize that I’m a man anymore. You ever had a boil? Sadly, in my life I’ve had my share. Let me tell you, they are no fun. They hurt. And you never get them in a convenient spot. And here’s Job’s body covered with them. But yet he’s described as a perfect man before God. Don’t you think that Job wondered why? Why is this happening God? Why are you allowing to me to go through this? But we also have to recognize that the fact that God never told him why. He never told him why. But there’s something else God never did as well. He never stopped loving Job.
And He’s never stopped loving you. Never. See, Job’s life mirrors our own experience as Christians. We suffer and sometimes we suffer terribly, and we want to know why. But more often than not, the answers of the question never comes. But consider how Job’s life ended. Not In suffering, but in blessing. Say, “How does that mirror my own life?” If you’re a Christian in this world, you will have what? Tribulation. You will have trouble, but you also experience in the end, eternal blessing. That eternal weight of glory. Be assured. You are greatly loved, and it’s up to you to prove otherwise.