Passage: Daniel 9:1-23
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
To live faithfully in exile, we need to be a people who understands our own sin and confesses it before God. In Daniel 9, Daniel shows us what it looks like to boldly confess the sins of one’s people and to receive mercy from God in response.
Daniel’s prayer of confession is extraordinary in many ways. Rather than minimizing Israel’s failures, Daniel lists over ten ways that Israel failed to obey God! He refuses to offer any defense on his own or his people’s behalf. He never mentions Babylon’s sin throughout the entirety of his prayer. And he does this all at the end of seventy years, when Israel’s “sentence” had already been served! Lastly, and most shockingly, though, Daniel takes responsibility for the sins of others, “dressing himself up in Israel’s failure,” as it were, and taking ownership for the sins of his people that were committed generations before he was alive.
There is much to learn about sin, guilt and responsibly from Daniel’s confession. The Bible recognizes what most other cultures around the world readily recognize today—that sin is both individual and corporate, personal and systemic. The sinful choices we make at a personal level contribute to a sinful environment, and that sinful environment in turn leads us to make sinful choices. In reality, we are implicated in both our sinful personal choices, and in the sinful environment we’ve helped to create.
God’s response to Daniel, however, is even more extraordinary than Daniel’s confession. As soon as Daniel began speaking, God sent the angel Gabriel “in swift flight” to assure him that his pleas were accepted and that he was “greatly loved” (9:21; 23). On the basis of God’s mercy alone, God is eager to move towards sinners in their sin and need, and forgive us at great cost to himself. We have no better proof of this than in Jesus Christ himself, who so identified with the failings of his people—failings that were not his own—that he took them on himself on the cross. As disciples of this Jesus, then, we, like him, identify with the failures of people we’re connected to, and work towards making things right. When we’re willing and able to do this, we start to become compelling to the world around us.
- The extraordinary nature of Daniel’s confession (9:1-19)
- The extraordinary nature of God’s response (9:20-23)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Daniel 9:1-23)
The Extraordinary Nature of Daniel’s Confession (9:1-19)
Q) INTRO QUESTION: In Daniel 9:20, at the end of Daniel’s prayer, he describes what he was just doing as “confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel”. What experience do you have with confessing sin? Have you had more experience confessing your own sin only, or both your sins and the sins of the groups you’ve been a part of? Why do you think that is?
Q) Have each person re-read Daniel 9:3-15 silently to themselves. What sins does Daniel confess that are strictly his own? What sins does he confess that are the sins of a whole people?
Q) What words would you use to describe the posture and attitude of Daniel’s prayer? Why? In what ways is his attitude towards his own and his people’s sin different than our typical attitude towards sin today?
Q) Pastor Bobby described how sin is both individual and corporate, personal and systemic. Can you think of some examples of how individual sins contribute to broken and sinful systems we see in the world today? Can you think of some examples of how broken and sinful systems contribute to and further the sinful choices we make as individuals? Try to give examples that are personal to you.
Q) Pastor Bobby said that Christians need to have a full and nuanced understanding of both individual and corporate sin. What happens when we minimize individual sin and personal responsibility? What are some of the negative effects? What happens when we minimize corporate sin and corporate responsibility? What are some of the negative effects?
Q) Re-read Daniel 9:16-19. On what basis does Daniel appeal to God for his mercy? What is he hoping in?
The Extraordinary Nature of God’s Response (9:20-23)
Q) Re-read God’s response to Daniel in 9:20-23. At what point did God’s response come to Daniel? How quickly did the angel Gabriel come to Daniel? What does this suggest about God’s love for Daniel and his eagerness to forgive?
Q) Is it your instinct to view God as gracious and quick to forgive, or not? (NOTE: You can remind the group that you’re not looking for the “right answer”, but how they are prone to view God, deep down).
Q) Pastor Bobby pointed out that Jesus is not only the ultimate proof of God’s eagerness to forgive us, but Jesus is also the ultimate example of taking on sins and failures he didn’t personally commit! How, then, might Jesus’ example of “dressing himself up in our sins” give us unique motivation to identify with the sins of others, which we didn’t personally commit? What does this look like concretely?
Q) CASE STUDY: At a friend’s church, the pastor leads a prayer of confession where he confesses the church’s failure throughout its history to speak up for the most vulnerable people in society, including the unborn. Your friend tells you that this prayer rubbed her the wrong way: “Throughout my adult life, I’ve actually been a vocal advocate for defending the rights of the unborn, and so I don’t feel like I can identify with the church’s confession here. And besides, why are we confessing things that happened in generations past?” Based on this week’s passage and sermon, how would you respond to her?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.