Daily Devotion 09 January 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Daniel 9: 20-24 ‘Seventy Years…or Seventy WEEKS of Years?’

20 While I [Daniel] was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God – 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He came and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision: 24 ‘Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

Gabriel is not just a ‘New Testament’ Angel…as you can see from the above piece of Daniel in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible). Not only that, but he’s not only a bearer of good news either. Yes, we tend to read the bits about Gabriel’s words of joy, hope, and fulfilment to Zechariah and Mary…but the message above would have caused considerable disappointment.

The Book of Daniel is set during the great exile – Jerusalem has fallen and the Israelites taken to Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah had said that the exile would last SEVENTY years: “…these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon…” (Jeremiah 25: 11-12). Problem is, the seventy years had long come and gone, and Daniel makes a long prayer in Chapter 9, praying to God for deliverance, forgiveness, and help. Gabriel appears and basically tells Daniel that Jeremiah meant seventy weeks of years – about 490 years. Ouch. The Biblical text doesn’t record Daniel bursting into tears, but that’s what I would have done!

You and I have watched and waited for months: to see the virus explode into life, spread across nation and region, never knowing when vaccine would come, when a Tier 3 would become a Tier 2 or (say it quietly) a Tier 1. Today we’re almost all in Tier 4 and it’s as if we have to cope with our hopes for deliverance being extended once more. I can’t even remember what Tier 1 or Tier 2 were really like. Maybe I was a bit negative about Gabriel. In fact there actually is a silver lining to his words to Daniel, for the time is almost up and in a few years the exile will, in fact, come to an end. The people of Israel have endured enough, and they will be home one day soon.

One day you and I will look back on these days. We will remember and mourn; we will wonder how we coped and managed; how we endured and suffered. We will give thanks for those who kept us fed, cared for, shopped for, treated us when we were ill, taught us whether in school or at home. We will celebrate the faith – sometimes finger-tip faith for sure! – that kept us going, that knowledge of God with us. One day… not just yet, but one day we will look back on these days. And we will know that God’s hope was there for us just when we needed it.

Prayer:

God of hope, hear us.
God of compassion, bear with us.
God of mercy, forgive and hold us.
God of love, grant us peace of heart and soul,
in these days and the ones ahead. Amen.

Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Paul Tabraham.
Image freely available online.

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