Praying Towards Jerusalem
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 19, Sep 2017
Scripture Reading: Daniel 6:1-10
“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
Daniel chapter 6 is perhaps one of the most familiar in the Bible and certainly is the most well known of this book. It is the account of Daniel in the den of lions. But my emphasis this morning is not on the lions’ den but rather Daniel praying towards Jerusalem. Let’s learn a few truths from this portion of Scripture.
1. Daniel in Babylon
Let’s look at the environment that Daniel is thrust into. As a young man Daniel is found in Babylon. Babylon represents the society that is degenerate and oppressive. Babylon is the historic oppressor of God’s people. From Genesis to Revelation Babylon has transcended its historical significance to become synonymous with sin, pride and idolatry in Arts and Literature. The Hebrew word for Babylon comes from the word ‘Babel’ which means confused. Babylon is a confused society. Isaiah portrayed Babylon as a woman who should be delicate and tender but is not. Rather she is merciless, brutal and greedy. Babylon is not Daniel’s home. Jerusalem is his home. This world is not our home. Our home is heaven. I just read the bible today. ‘Let not your heart be troubled. In my father’s house are many mansions. I go and prepare a place for you.’ Our home is heaven. In case you are unaware, the Babylonian Society is upon us. We are in a society that is synonymous with sin, pride and idolatry and we are consumed with Arts; Hollywood, Broadway and books that are sensual and become movies shows. We are a confused society. There is immorality, dishonesty and corruption everywhere. No one is honest, not even among Christians. Telling lies is part and parcel of everyday life. Everybody is corrupt. When I am in Cambodia, any store I go to, the moment I opened my mouth the price has gone up. When Edgar and Rowena managed to get an apartment for US$180, and when I met the owner it became US$200. Rowena had to remind the owner of the initial rental deal at US$180. I bought 3 outdoor speakers that were quoted to me at US$200.00 for three units, through our Cambodia worker, Nehemiah. But when I was there to make the purchase it became US$400 for one. I had to get Nehemiah on the phone to remind the owner of the store. I think the murder of the youth Kian by the police has become hot topic for the past one month. But one thing you notice is that you cannot tell who is telling the truth concerning the case; the police or the witnesses. All sound so convincing. That is dishonesty. That is corruption. But something beautiful is seen here. We are told in this portion of scripture that this Daniel began distinguishing himself from others. God wants to distinguish us from others. This was a way to accentuate (highlight) Daniel’s giftedness. You must understand that Daniel was probably between eighty and ninety years of age at this point. He had served under the reign of Babylon for 70 years and was still a great political figure in the Media Persian Empire under Darius the King. He was so prominent that the Persian king planned to appoint himself over the entire kingdom. This parallels what Pharaoh did to Joseph. Joseph and Daniel are biblical examples of how a child of God should conduct himself in the midst of the Babylonian Culture. The Christian life in this sinful world and society is difficult. God has called us out of this world to be a people consecrated to His cause in this world. Yet He places us in the midst of this sinful world to be a witness to Him and His workings of grace in us. That means we are called to live in this world of sin—a world that is opposed to the cause of Jesus Christ. We are called by God to live in a world where temptations abound and where all kinds of sins are at our fingertips. We are not called to seclude ourselves from them and be a hermit but to engage the world. Do you know that God loves the world. That is what God told me recently. ‘For God so loved the world’. He not just loved the world, he so loved the world, so much that he did something about it.
Daniel was different because an excellent spirit was in him. When we say a person has an excellent spirit, we are implying he is a spirit filled man. Pastor Lily was sharing with the cell group last Friday what God spoke to her personally. That the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon her, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. She will delight in obeying the Lord. The earth will shake at the force of her word and one breath from her mouth will destroy the wicked. She will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.’ God wants to us to be endowed with the same spirit that God has given to His son Jesus Christ so that we operate in the Power of the Holy Spirit in whatever task and wherever we go about in our daily lives. In the midst of graft and corruption on every hand, Daniel stood out as a man governed by a sense of loyalty and integrity that stemmed from his right relationship with God. Daniel was also different because he has a consistent faith. Craig Davison is a consistent man. The Phoenix, AZ resident began running regularly in 1978 and hadn’t missed a single day since then when an article was written about him in 1997 (almost 20 years later). By May of 1997, at age forty-three, he calculated he had logged in 120,000 miles, averaging 26 kilometers a day (nearly five laps around the world). His regimen of running is an example of consistency by itself. We really need some Daniels in our day! We need some men and women of faith who will make up their minds to just be consistent with God! Are you a consistent Christian? God just wants people to be consistent. He just wants us to walk in obedience, minute by minute and day by day. He wants us to be consistent in our prayer and study of the Word. I look at Pastor James. He will be 60 years old this October. I’ve known him more than 30 years ago. The James that I knew is so different from the James today. Pastor Lily says he has gone to another level. I can only summarize his secret. Every evening when all is asleep in the house, he would sit on his rocking chair and mediate on the word of God and pray and intercede. He is consistent in living a holy life, consistent in his service towards God, consistent in his prayer and study of the Word. He is those old times Pentecostal preacher that served God whole heartedly, consistently.
When we are a child of God, because of our consistent right relationship with God, an excellent spirit should be found in us and because of that we should excel in whatever we do, wherever we are. We are not to be a hermit, keeping our talents but use it for the glory of God. When we Pastor this church, we want it to be an excellent and successful church. Whatever ministry you are in, it must be fruitful. When you are in the secular world, you stand out among the rest because an excellent spirit is found in you. The book of Daniel is the book of the Last Days. Any bible student that wants to study the end times, they need to know the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. We are definitely living in the last days. Some recent prophecy says that September 23, 2017 is the beginning of the last days. How are we going to survive in these last days in the midst of a Babylonian Society? Having an excellent spirit and living a consistent life.
Of course we must also recognize that there is the perpetual conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of darkness. As a child of God we cannot afford to be ignorant of the devices of the enemy. There will be human hatred and persecutions. Many Christians mistakes one battle for the whole war assuming the enemy has permanently retreated and let their guard down. Then suddenly they had been in defeat when the enemy comes in like a flood. We tend to assume that the great test in Christian experience occurs in its early stages. Remember Daniel was 80 or 90 years old. We must understand the chief functions of temptation in God’s plan. He means to strengthen us through our successful resistance, to enable us to meet greater or more persistent tests in the future. God trains his children in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. Of course our lives are not normally straight line graphs of obedience. Sometimes we stumbled and fell like Abraham. However we will be strengthened in faith. I sincerely believe that God is looking for a Daniel.
2. Daniel prays towards Jerusalem
After Darius signed a decree which said that anyone praying to any god but Darius should be thrown into the Lion’s den, Daniel goes and prays anyway. Daniel 6:10-11 says, ‘When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.’
There is nothing ostentatious in Daniel’s prayer. He removed the lattices from his window, that he might see as far as possible in the direction of Jerusalem, and then continued his devotions just as though the king’s decree had not been recorded. The prophet must by this time have been close upon ninety years of age, but still his faith is as firm and unwavering as that of his three companions many years before. It seems to have been a custom among the devout Jews to set apart some upper room, or rooms, in their houses, for their oratories, as places the farthest from any noise or disturbance. We need a prayer room. We need a quiet room to be all alone with God regularly.
Though Daniel was a great man, he did not think it below him to be thrice a day upon his knees before his Maker; he has never thought he has graduated from the school of prayer. Many Christians thought that they have already graduated from prayer and there is no need to pray. Though he was an old man, and it had been his practice from his youth up, he was not weary of this kind of well-doing; and though he was a man of business, of great and important business, and that for the service of the public, he did not think this would excuse him from the daily exercises of prayer and praise. How inexcusable then are they who have but little to do in the world, and yet will not do thus much for God and their souls! I do not know about you. I only know this truth. Every morning when I wake up from 5.00 a.m. to 6.00 a.m. to open the gate for my helper, the Holy Spirit would automatically prompt my spirit that I need to pray. There will be a soft but persistent impression in my spirit when I wake up in the morning that I have to pray. As I grow older, I cannot sleep long and automatically I will find myself awake around 5:00 a.m. or 6.00 a.m. And when my eyes is opened, before I brush my teeth or take a bath, the Holy Spirit will prompt me; pray, you need to pray.
But why pray towards Jerusalem. I was very curious recently after having my devotion and as a result it comes forth this message, where is the direction of Jerusalem. I found out that it is in the direction of the East. So I took out my compass, face towards east and had my prayer towards Jerusalem.
Firstly this was natural to an exile Hebrew in prayer, because the temple of God had stood at Jerusalem, and that was the place where He abode by a visible symbol. It is probable that the Jews in their own country always in their prayers turned the face toward Jerusalem, and it was anticipated when the temple was dedicated, that this would be the case in whatever lands they might be. This was actually the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of Solomon’s temple.
What was the big deal about praying towards Jerusalem, and why was it so important that Daniel would be willing to die for it?
He could have prayed silently, or towards Jerusalem with the windows closed, or any other combination of non-law breaking things.
Daniel had been a fantastic rule follower up until that point, and he had proved himself to be smart to enough to work his way around the rules, and he certainly had the power and authority to do what he wanted. He seems to draw some sort of line here and state “I would rather die than pray in any way other than towards Jerusalem with the window open.” Why?
The Pulpit Commentary on the verse says, “The practice of prayer ‘toward Jerusalem’ is acknowledged to have arisen in Babylon during the Captivity.” According to the Jewish writers, it was the custom of their people. that though they did not pray within the temple, yet they prayed, turning themselves towards it, as much as possibly they could; and even when it was destroyed, as now, yet they in praying turned to the place where it had stood, as many great man of God do.
Secondly Daniel did this, because the temple was a type of Christ, through whom the persons and prayers of the saints are acceptable unto God. When you pray towards Jerusalem, you are praying towards Christ, whom the person (that is you) and the prayers of the saints are acceptable unto God. I can never forget the incident when I was working for one month in Singapore and my workplace happened to be near the synagogue (a type of the Temple and a type of the church) where Jews meets and worship. I was in my car looking at the synagogue and the Jews coming out and I just blurted out towards the synagogue, ‘YAHWEH, YAHWEH, where are you? Have you forsaken me? Well my praying towards the synagogue received a response from God; go back to the Philippines.
Daniel wasn’t the only one who prayed toward Jerusalem during the exile, and many Jews do so today. But it doesn’t appear to have been a universal practice, just a common one. He appears to have done so not in compliance with his understanding of the law, but out of remembrance of the temple and defiance of those who competed for his allegiance to God.
Thirdly the children of Israel longed to return to their ancestral Promised Land. The Psalms caution, ‘If I forget Jerusalem, then let my right hand forget its own strength (Psalms 137:5). Forgetting Jerusalem is tantamount to forgetting his identity completely. So by remembering Jerusalem we identifies our very essence and inner self with God.
Fourthly we longed for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Unlike other exiled nations, the Jews’ desire to return never ceased or waned in intensity. Rather, this desire steadily increases. They dreamed not only of Jerusalem’s past glory, but to hasten the rebuilding of modern Israel.
Fifthly we pray towards Jerusalem during times of sin. Solomon also appears to have prophesied that the Jewish nation would be carried captive by their enemies due to their disobedience. Solomon foretold that the people would after repent and pray toward Jerusalem in their desire for deliverance to and return home. I speak to you now. Maybe you are held captive by your enemies because you have been very disobedient to God. You have to repent and pray towards Jerusalem (towards Christ) in your desire for deliverance and to return home to God.
1 King 8:46-49 ‘When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause
In Daniel 9:1-20 we find Daniel praying both for his own sins as well as the sins of his people. He confessed, “We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” He sought God’s forgiveness when he prayed, “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all who are around us.”
Sister Vicky was very naughty. She saw in the facebook that during last Saturday Spiritual Emphasis, I was crying and she asked ‘why am I crying?’ Someone in the cell group added that Pastor Lily was also crying. Pastor Lily denied she was crying but declared she was actually laughing. Well, I cried because I felt there were sins in my life and God is not pleased. I know that Pastor James has pointed out sins in your lives; don’t be arrogant and say, ‘I don’t know what James is saying’. Be humble and repent. So in times of sin, you have to be praying towards Jerusalem, towards Christ.
First, let us be reminded that this blessing is given to a penitent child of God. The alien sinner is not a child of God, thus he doesn’t have the right to call upon God as Father. There are other requirements for the alien to be forgiven of his sins. He must believe the gospel, repent of his sins, confess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, and be baptized.
Consider God’s attitude toward the prayers of one who is not willing to listen to him. The healed blind man of John 9 said, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him” (Jn. 9:31). Proverbs 28:9 warns that, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.” In like fashion Peter says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And his ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Pet. 3:12).
As Christians we should repent and confess our sins, asking God for his forgiveness. These conditions were given to Simon the sorcerer when he sinned after his baptism (Acts 8:22). 1 John 1:9 adds, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We should also intercede and pray for our brethren who sin. “Confess your treaspasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” says James in chapter 5 and verse 16 of his letter. In helping each other on the road to Heaven we “will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20).
Sixthly we pray towards Jerusalem because of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was still present in Jerusalem, therefore it was necessary to pray facing towards the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem which was not stolen similarly to the other artifacts. “Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God” Ezra 6:5. The Ark of the Covenant is the holies place on earth. As the place where the soul unites with its creator, the life force of all humanity, Jerusalem naturally remains the focal point for all Jewish prayer. It connects the spirit of Man to its source.
Seventhly we pray towards Jerusalem during times of severity.
Nebuchadnezzar had decreed the death of all the wise men of Babylon (Dan. 2:13-18). Upon learning the reason for the capital sentence, Daniel knew where to go for help. He gathered his friends to “seek mercies from the God of heaven.” When Daniel’s faith is challenged and when he knew he is going to face the lion’s den, he prays. In times of difficulty we too need to have our windows opened toward Jerusalem. God has promised to care for us. In Psalms 50:15, He said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. ” The Hebrew writer reminds us, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:5b-6) In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 the apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
We should turn to God in time of need. James advises, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (Jas. 5:13a). We should be encouraged by the words of Hebrews 4:16 which says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Prayer is the cure for our anxieties. According to Jesus, in Matthew 6:25-34, worry is useless. The apostle exhorts in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In similar fashion I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” When faced with great difficulties and trials in our lives let us open our windows toward Jerusalem.
Last Thursday evening Pastor Lily and I went to visit a church member in a hospital. While at the hospital, in the earlier conversation with this member, Pastor Lily’s first words towards her was what did God speak to her. I hear clearly from this church member’s mouth the word ‘trust’. Immediately I was brought to a personal devotion time just 2 days earlier and I knew this is for her. I told her that the Greek term for trust is translated into belief, trust and faith. Belief is used 78 times in the Gospel of John and 24 times in John’s letters. God is speaking to her. Her trust in God is not primarily an intellectual or emotional response, but basically a volitional response. (It is of the will – the will has decided to trust God). When she says she trust God, it is parallel to saying she welcomes Jesus and accepts Jesus. Her deliverance is free because of the Grace of God and the finished work of Christ which includes healing. She has to remember she is in a covenant relationship with God and with it comes privileges and responsibilities; privileges of being healed as a result of the finished work of Christ at the Cross and responsibilities in the sense of believing and receiving the work of God in her life. Likewise only by faith in such a God could any man stopped the mouth of lions. Only by trust would this lady stop the attacks of the enemies.
If the name Daniel appeared in a word association test, the most common association would probably be ‘lions’ den’. Undoubtedly this is the best known incident in Daniel’s life. The way in which the lions’ mouths were shut evokes from Darius the final confession of Daniel’s God as the living God whose kingdom will never be destroyed. Only by faith in such a God could any man have stopped the mouths of lions.
It has been said that few great men finish well. That was certainly not so in Daniel’s case. He epitomizes the words of the Psalmist: ‘The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age. They shall be fresh and flourishing to declare that the Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. (Psalms 92:12-15).