Forced Rest (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 17, 2015)

The latter part of Daniel 9 introduces us to a fascinating end-times prophecy, but I’d like to draw your attention to the beginning of the chapter. As foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel had been in exile for nearly 70 years because of their disobedience to the Lord. (Daniel experienced the exile first-hand, as he was one of the young Israelite men selected to be trained in Babylon for service to the king.)

 

In keeping with God’s example of creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, the people of Israel had very specific regulations about their work ethic, including honoring the Sabbath day each week and letting the land rest every seventh year. As we read time and time again in the Old Testament (as well as modern day, if we’re honest about ourselves), the people had veered away from following God. Jeremiah tried to warn them to get back on track, but they didn’t listen.

 

God has a way of bringing his will to pass, even when we are stubborn and don’t follow it, in the first place. I think it’s interesting how the people of Israel neglected the Lord’s instructions to let the land rest every so often, yet the land went fallow for decades while they were in exile. It reminds me of how we go-go-go through life, and then – wham! – you get sick and have to stay in bed for a few days, smack in the middle of a busy schedule. Our bodies need rest, even if we have to be forced to do it.

 

Daniel realized through his own studying of Jeremiah that the period of exile was coming to a close, so he prayed to the Lord in humility to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. I think this is interesting, as well. God said that the people would be in exile for 70 years, but instead of just waiting out the time, Daniel approached the Lord submissively and asked for forgiveness for his people. Daniel was a young man when he was exiled; he could hardly be blamed for the decisions of his forefathers, yet he bore the burden and interceded on their behalf. May we, too, stand in the gap for our communities in prayer.

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