************ Sermon on Daniel 9:7-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 3, 2015
"Daniel Confesses Shame"
Daniel uses a word that is not politically correct today. He uses the word "shame." Psychologists and therapists tell us that shame is a bad thing and offer shame-recovery groups. Here is an excerpt from an article I was reading:
Kevin Roberts grew up in an alcoholic family and struggled to feel good about himself in the wider world, especially in school. He was often blamed for things that went wrong, both big and small, and over time he became convinced that there was something inherently wrong with him. [My comment: There is something inherently wrong with him and with everyone. It is called SIN.]
He began to experience intense headaches, stomachaches, and panic attacks. Eventually he concluded that the root of his problems lay in the shame that had come to dominate his life.
As we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper next Sunday, we need to have a sense of shame. But, unlike Kevin Roberts, we cannot remain stuck on shame. We need to move beyond shame to the joy of forgiveness.
I Acknowledgment of Sin and Guilt
A Daniel does the unexpected in our text for this morning. He offers a prayer of confession:
(Dan 9:7-8) "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame--the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. (8) O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.
Don't forget the setting: Israel is in exile and has lost many precious possessions -- homes and jewelry, temple services and freedom, businesses and vineyards. In such circumstances, what can be more natural than to pray, "O Lord, give -- give us back our fields and homes, give us back our temple and city, give us back our land and freedom"? But Daniel does not begin his prayer by asking for restoration; rather, he begs the divine Judge for grace. We do not hear him cry out, "Have mercy on us in the misery of exile." Instead, he prays, "Have mercy on us in the misery of sin and guilt." This misery is much greater than all the hardships of exile, war, poverty, and sickness put together.
B In his prayer we notice that Daniel does not try to blame others for Israel's misery. Many in Judah were doing that -- blaming aggressive, powerful Babylon for swallowing up weak, peace-loving Israel. Or, blaming their kings and priests for leading them astray. For these people the question of guilt was easily settled. They would say it is the fault of godless Babylon that Israel has to spend year after year in the misery of exile. Or, it is the fault of their leaders that Israel is in exile. But that is not what Daniel says, that is not how Daniel reasons. Listen to what he says:
(Dan 9:5) we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. Isn't this an amazing confession? Shoulder to shoulder with the godless Babylonians and godless leaders, admits Daniel, stands the equally godless Israelites.
(Dan 9:7) we are covered with shame--the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.
(Cf Dan 9:8; Dan 9:9; Dan 9:10; Dan 9:11;Dan 9:13; Dan 9:16)
Like Daniel, we must learn to point the finger of accusation at ourselves. We must realize that the covenant people, the members of the church, are also numbered among the guilty ones! If we don't do so, we'll never learn the lesson that Daniel 9 is intended to teach us, and then we'll never be able to join in Daniel's prayer.
This week's cover of TIME Magazine has 1968 crossed out (the year of race riots across our country) and the year 2015 written in its place. There have been riots in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City; and this past week in Baltimore, Maryland. TIME Magazine says it is scary to be a police officer today. And, it is even more frightening to be a black man.
Blame has been cast in many directions. Some blame the police. Other blame those resisting arrest. The mayor of Baltimore blames hoodlums and thugs. But anyone in a right relationship with God does not leave it at that. Instead, he or she cries out the words of Daniel, "O Lord, we have sinned and done wrong. O Lord, we are covered with shame."
It is easy, way too easy, to point the finger at others. We can point to those who do the sins of abortion, abuse, and homosexuality. We can point to those who bully classmates at school and in social media. We can point to gang members who so easily knife and shoot and steal and rape. But, as we prepare for the Lord's Supper, we must always begin by accusing ourselves and confessing our own sin.
C We also notice that Daniel does not try to minimize guilt and wrong as he confesses his sins and the sins of his people. But that is exactly what most people do. They usually deny they have done anything wrong.
I am sure you all know that Roman Catholic belief and practice requires confession of sin to a priest. Yet, fewer and fewer parishioners participate in this sacrament. One writer puts it this way:
A generation ago, you'd see a lot of us lined up inside Catholic churches on Saturday afternoons, waiting to take our turn in one of the confessionals. We'd recite the familiar phrases ("Bless me Father, for I have sinned"), list our transgressions and the number of times we'd committed them, maybe endure a priestly lecture, and emerge to recite a few Hail Marys as an act of penance. Confession was essential to Catholic faith and a badge of Catholic identity. Yet in most parishes, the lines for the confessionals have pretty much disappeared. Confession has become the one sacrament Catholics feel free to skip. We'll get married in church, we'll be buried from church, and we'll take Communion at Mass. But regularly confessing one's sins to God and the parish priest seems to be a part of fewer and fewer Catholic lives.He ends by asking: Where have all the sinners gone?
Most Protestants are no better. It used to be that ministers strongly urged their congregations to confess their sins. But today's parishoners do not want to hear sermons that make them feel guilty. So what happens? Liberal churches and ministers condemn such social evils as racism, sexism, sexual harassment, abuse, pollution of the environment, and so on. But their voices are very quiet about subjects closer to home -- like divorce, pride, greed, anger, covetousness, and materialism. Conservative churches and ministers are not much better; they shake their fists and fingers at sins in the world like abortion, pornography, alcoholism, drug-abuse, and pre-marital sex. But their voices too are quiet about the sins of the regular person in the pew -- like divorce, pride, greed, anger, covetousness, materialism, and so on.
As we prepare for the Lord's Supper we cannot try to minimize guilt and wrong. We must be willing to admit them and own up to them.
D Let me ask: What really distinguishes the Christian from the world? We can't say we are less wicked for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What distinguishes us from the world is that we recognize our wickedness for what it is. What distinguishes us from the world is that we confess our sins and shortcomings. What distinguishes us from the world is that we run from sin while the world runs after sin. The church is the only body on earth that confesses sin. Where the confession of sin dies out, the church is no longer church.
So with Daniel we must always realize our sin, our unworthiness, our misery. With Daniel we must always confess our guilt. With Daniel we must always pray, "O Lord, listen! O Lord forgive!" "O Lord ... we have sinned against you."
II A Feeling of Shame
A People who recognize their sin and guilt, people who admit their sin and guilt, will have a sense of shame. That's what Daniel says. "Lord ... we are covered with shame ... because of our unfaithfulness to you. O Lord, we ... are covered with shame because we have sinned against you."
In spite of what I quote from Kevin Roberts at the beginning of my message, shame is essential in the Christian life. Shame is essential on the part of people who recognize their sin and guilt.
Let me show this to you by asking what happens when people have no sense of shame? The result is Hitler's Germany where 6 million Jews and 2 or 3 million others were gassed to death. The result is someone like Jeffrey Dahmer (remember him) who killed and ate 15 victims. The result is gang members who do home invasions, drive-by shootings, car-jackings, shop-lifting, and abandon their children.
What happens when people have no sense of shame? The result is moral Frankenstein monsters who don't care about the hurt and damage and pain they cause. A mother, whose teenage son was murdered, tells us what happens when people have no shame: "You go to court and the guy is looking at you, like, 'What's the problem? So what if I killed your son?'"
B When people sin they need to feel shame. Real shame. Not outer shame but inner shame. Not just shame that they are caught. But shame because they fell. Shame because they sinned against God. Shame because they were unfaithful to God. We need shame as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper.
C In the Bible it is never enough to have a sense of shame about sin and guilt and misery. Shame always leads to action; it always results in a change of direction; it always causes repentance. What is repentance, true repentance? It is more than being sorry for your sins. It is being sorry enough to quit.
I think of the difference between Judas and Peter. They both sinned in the events leading up to the Lord's crucifixion and death. Judas betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. Peter denied the Lord. Afterwards, Judas in his great despair, went and hung himself. Peter, however, felt shame -- especially when the Lord looked at him -- so he went outside and wept bitterly.
As we prepare for the Lord's Supper we need a shame that leads us to repentance, a shame that makes us sorry enough for our sins that we want to quit.
Daniel had this kind of shame. How do I know? Because of what he did. He fasted. He wore sackcloth and ashes. This was proof positive of the shame he felt. This showed a repentant heart. Daniel looked at himself and he looked at Israel and he felt a shame that led to repentance.
Daniel acknowledges sin and guilt and misery. Daniel feels shame on account of this sin and guilt and misery. But Daniel does not leave it there. He prays, "O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive!" (Dan 9:19). Daniel prays for forgiveness because he knows that God, out of grace, forgives those who repent. Daniel prays for forgiveness because he knows that God, out of grace, forgives those who admit their sin and their shame.
What is true for Daniel is true for you and me too. God will forgive us -- out of grace because of Christ -- when we repent, when we admit our sin and our shame. Don't forget what John says:
(1Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.But, if we do not confess, if we do not feel any shame, if we do not acknowledge our sin and guilt, then God's graceful forgiveness is not for us.
I implore you, my brothers and sisters: acknowledge your guilt and sin and misery. Be filled with an inner shame that you have so failed your God. And then, by grace, receive the joy of forgiveness as you come to the Lord's Table next week.
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