Daniel was a man of prayer, diligently seeking the Lord daily even though he was taken captive in a pagan land. He could have gone another way. He could have rebelled against God when brought as a teen-ager and placed in the king’s palace. He could have decided to eat the delicacies that he was commanded to eat, to enjoy the pleasures of the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Instead, Daniel and his companions implored his overseer to allow him to eat a simple diet of pulse and water. Today many of us take on such a ‘diet’ for it has become the infamous Daniel Fast.
There are many things interesting about Daniel’s life, but one of the ones that is extraordinary was his approach to a continuous study of the Hebrew text:
2 During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years.3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes. Daniel 9:2-3 (NLT)
It is here that Daniel discovered that the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon would be seventy years, during which time Jerusalem would be desolate. Daniel immediately mourned this prophecy, but he did not deny that it was justified. In fact, he mourned the disobedience and rebellion of his people against the Lord God. He repented for all the sins that had been committed against God and only then appealed to God for His mercy:
16 In view of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain. All the neighboring nations mock Jerusalem and your people because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors.
17 "O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary…
19 "O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name." Daniel 9:15, 17,19 (NLT)
We serve the same God today as Daniel. If we are serious in our fasting, we will have to come to the conclusion that God has been so merciful to us, in spite of our sins and transgressions. Humbling ourselves in repentance and asking God for mercy is just as much in order today, as it was in Daniel’s day – lest we find a similar prophecy of desolation fulfilled in our day.