So far 2011 has been quite turbulent – the shaking of the Pacific Rim, the dangling global economy and the the volatility of the Middle East have profoundly disturbed us all. I expect things will only intensify as the year and this new decade unfolds. And as it does, opinions about what is and isn’t going to happen will become more and more pronounced. This mounting crisis between now and the return of the Lord over the coming years and decades will create a vacuum for both the authentic prophetic ministry and its counterfeit in all its various expressions.
Daniel 9 instructs us about how to live, love and lead as the confrontation, controversy and confusion covers the earth:
“…in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:2-3)
First, Daniel studied the written word of God and discerned what the prophets of his day were saying. He scoured the writings of the prophets of his parents generation (“the word to Jeremiah the prophet”). And he was incredibly grounded in the writings of Moses (as demonstrated through his repeated reference to Moses in the following prayer of 9:4-19). As he was a living contemporary of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and most likely Habakkuk and Zephaniah (as well as the false prophets who opposed them) he wrestled through their prophecies as one who was on the ground in the moment of their declaration. Bear in mind, these prophecies weren’t in the Bible yet. They had just been declared. He had to weigh them up and seek the Lord concerning their legitimacy and authenticity (a daunting task considering the tension between those who were prophets and those declared themselves to be; as in Jeremiah 23).
Second, Daniel discerned “the signs of the times” (to borrow a phrase Jesus used). He read in Jeremiah’s prophecy that Israel would be driven from the land (which Daniel personally experienced as a pre-teenager) and held in exile by the sovereign hand of God for “70 years.” Daniel read the prophecy, did the simple math and realized he was living in the hour in which prophecy was to be fulfilled. He was a faithful and diligent student of the written word. And he was sober minded about extra-Biblical prophecy (at that time anyway) that was being declared in his generation. He held the word of God in highest regard. And he clung to the promise that “God does nothing without revealing it to His prophets” as declared by the prophet Amos (3:7) a century and a half earlier.
Third, Daniel “sought the Lord” through prayer, fasting and the sweet embrace of humility. This is significant for two reasons: (1) Daniel understood that though the prophecy was sure and written, the Lord wanted him to engage in the prophecy coming to pass by standing with him (like Elijah before him) in asking the Lord to accomplish that which He promised. The Lord values our “face” being “turned” to Him (9:3). And in response He turns the course of history. The sovereignty of God and the call to prayer are not at odds. Daniel’s response to the revelation of the promises of God in history compelled him to lift his voice – not disengage as a mere spectator. (2) Daniel understood that the call to prayer in the hour of prophetic fulfillment is as important if not more important than the call to proclamation. This is why Jeremiah challenged the prophets of his day saying “If you are prophets of the Lord, make intercession!” (27:18) Daniel knew that prayer is the only place from which we can be prepared to proclaim prophecy. It’s important to notice the fact that Daniel’s initial response to the revelation of the soon fulfillment of prophecy was not to proclaim it in public but to wrestle with the Lord in secret. This both preserved Daniel’s personal relationship with the Lord (see Dan. 6:10) and empowered him as a messenger when he did step into the public spotlight. Additionally, Daniel understood that fasting is essential to the cultivation of discernment. If we seek to understand the written word of God and the subjective prophecies of our generation prayer and fasting is to be embraced as the cultural norm of the church of Jesus.
As we approach the near return of the Lord we should view Daniel’s response as a model and an example to follow. We must (1) cherish prophecy contained in the written word of God, (2) cling to the hope of God’s gift of the subjective prophetic ministry in the hour of transition and (3) give ourselves to the pursuit of the face of God through prayer and fasting. This is a lifestyle. A lifestyle we’d be wise to embrace now; in the relative calm before the storm.
This lifestyle fills us with confidence in God’s wisdom and sovereignty as the end-time events unfold, protects us from offense as we face difficulty and suffering and fills us with clarity and boldness to declare the word of the Lord to a generation caught up in a whirlwind of confusion with no anchor.
This is the heart of the prophetic ministry. And this is the only safe place to be as the Day of the Lord draws near.