“Seventy Years and Seventy Sevens” (Daniel 9:1-27)
Listen to the Sermon:
9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about 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. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” Daniel 9:1-17, ESV
Throughout our study in Daniel, and especially when we’ve probed some of the more complex and unique texts that we’ve encountered in Daniel and we’ve asked how these various texts apply to our lives, we’ve repeatedly called upon the metaphors of exiles and sojourner and pilgrimage to explain the Christian life. Like Daniel, there is a sense in which all of us who are making our sojourn are making it in a place that is not our true home. We are exiles who hold citizenship in the City of God, yet we’ve been called to live by faith in the Son of God as foreigners in the City of Man.
This is not our final resting place and because of that our final hope must lie beyond things we find in the City of Man, beyond these things that are ultimately perishable. Of course, this is a Biblically faithful way of envisioning the Christian life. Daniel is just one of the many books of the scriptures that invites us into this way of thinking.
It’s also possible that if this was the only way that we had to conceive of the Christian life, that perhaps we could wrongly conclude from it that every trouble we encountered in this world or every conflict we get embroiled in must be because I am the persecuted and others are the persecutors.
In other words, it’s possible that because we live in the midst of beasts and raging horns that we could wrongly from that begin to develop a victim mentality. To the point where every time we are faced, even with the consequences of our own sin, we don’t bear the responsibility that we should. Instead we begin to place blame elsewhere; in our DNA, or the unfortunate ways in which we were raised, or anything else that we find in the City of Man.
To be sure, the presence of sin in this world naturally means that all of us have been sinned against. All of us have suffered from the sin and injustice of others; some of us, in much more weightier ways than others of us could dare imagine. Especially as Christians in this world we face, as Ephesians says, the schemes of the devil.
In suffering in this world as Christians is portrayed in the New Testament as a norm for the Christian life. While Daniel has experienced these realities himself, he readily acknowledges these realities. Here in Daniel chapter nine, he challenges us to consider that while all of us have been sinned against and all of us have suffered in numerous ways as Christians and as exiles and as sojourners. We are also sinners who have sinned against others and chiefly have sinned against the Lord. Neither of these two realities can cancel out the other. We have to hold them in tension.
Case and point, if we were to go back through Daniel, we could review some of the horrific ways in which Daniel was sinned against and the ways that he has suffered at the hands of his captors. In Daniel chapter two he was subject to Nebuchadnezzar’s rash anger and nearly put to death. Daniel chapter five he entered into Belshazzar’s courts and the first thing that happened was the he was basically slandered by Belshazzar. In Daniel six he was targeted by all the high officials in Darius’ kingdom and cast into a den of lions. In Daniel seven and eight he saw in apocalyptic visions how God’s people would continue to suffer at the hands of beasts and a mocking horn in their future, even when they lived back in the land of promise.
Yet when Daniel chapter nine rolls around, we see a man who was on his knees confessing his sin and the sins of God’s people before the Lord. If anyone had a reason to play the victim, it was Daniel. Yet these numerous experiences of injustice have not minimized or relativized the sin the he knows he needs to bring before the Lord God in confession.
In that way Daniel nine is also our call to confession. Daniel calls us in this text first to recognize our sin. To recognize it for what it is and then bring that sin before the Lord in confession too. More than just prompting us to confession, this text also speaks an abundance of hope into our sin condition. In the end of it we hear this message that the same God who was promised elsewhere in Daniel to put an end to the sin and wickedness in this world in the form of beasts and mocking horns, has also atoned for the sin and wickedness in our own hearts.
We worship a God who doesn’t just vanquish the enemies we encounter in this world; he is a God who graciously atones for our sin. Such as we who were once enemies ourselves can now be considered through Christ friends and sons of God.
So, our big idea this morning is this, If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If that big idea sounds like something else you have heard before, it’s because I’m quoting out of 1 John 1:9. That’s our big idea.
As we work through this text, as you probably saw when we just read it, there is a lot of complexity that’s involved in various parts of it. For all the complexity we encounter in this text, we are going to observe that this whole passage has one basic movement throughout it. Daniel first moves into confession when he encounters the Word of God. Then he confesses his sins in light of that in this Word saturated prayer. After that he hears this assurance of pardon and then receives a great promise for his future. In many ways our liturgy mirrors what is going on here in Daniel chapter nine.
Along those lines I have four points that we will be working through ourselves.
1. Hearing God’s Word
2. Responding to God’s Word
3. The Assurance of God’s Word
4. The Promises of God’s Word
Hearing God’s Word
When our text opens, we learn that Daniel is in the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede. Again, this is the same Darius that we met back in chapter six and was nonetheless coerced into throwing him into a den of lions.
This Darius we also learned in Daniel six, is also very likely the same person as Cyrus the king of Persia who conquered Babylon. He was part of the ram that we met in Daniel chapter eight and eventually absorbed exiles like Daniel into his realm.
Ordinarily when we encounter background markers like this in verse one, we tend to skim past them without giving them much thought. Daniel actually tells us twice here that it is the first year of Darius, so apparently this a significant time for the life of God’s people. Why is this a significant time?
For one thing, there was a regime change during the first year of King Darius. Persia is now calling the shots. Babylon is off the scene and no longer in play. With this particular change in the global politics of the day in the ancient near-east, a prophecy out of Jeremiah the prophet is about to be fulfilled.
We learn here that Daniel was pouring over God’s Word one day, the books which he likely did often in exile. When we encounter the prayer that Daniel prays next shows he must have been saturated in the Word of God, because his prayer is saturated in the Word of God.
When he comes to the book of Jeremiah, he reads something about how seventy years must pass before the end of the desolation of Jerusalem. To give some context here, Jeremiah the prophet wrote about a century before the events that are being described here. He wrote right before Nebuchadnezzar stormed Jerusalem and Judah was sent into exile. Jeremiah wrote in part to warn God’s people about the judgement for their breaking of the covenant.
In Jeremiah 25:11-12, before Nebuchadnezzar comes on the scene, the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed and prophesied this,
11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste.
Jeremiah 25:11-12, ESV
God promised, according to this prophecy in Jeremiah even before the exile, that Babylon would come upon them in short order, Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the temple and carry God’s people into exile. But after seventy years, God would punish Babylon for their inequity.
As Daniel pours over Jeremiah the prophet, this is probably one of the texts that he is reading. In reading it he must have realized that with Babylon off the scene and Persia calling the shots, this prophecy is nearing fulfillment. Presumably Daniel keeps on reading into Jeremiah chapter twenty-nine where the Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah proclaims this,
10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. Jeremiah 29:10, ESV
You see, not only was God in seventy years’ time going to punish Babylon, but when Babylon made their exit off the world stage that would mean that the people in exile would be able to make their exit from exile back to the land of promise. If these seventy years have already been completed and Babylon had been punished, then it’s only a matter of time until the exile is over.
So, Daniel hears these promises from God’s Word from the prophet Jeremiah. He senses that the days must be drawing near and that this is good news. How do we respond to this? This promise drives him not to presumption, or even celebration.
In fact, it drives him to a prayer of confession. He turns to the Lord, we read next, with pleas of mercy and sack cloth and ashes. He recognizes that the reason they were sent into exile in the first place had nothing to do with God’s unfaithfulness. It wasn’t just a historical accident that happened. In fact, it was because of their unfaithfulness.
The reason that God gave them into the hands of the Babylonians in the first place was because they were the ones that turned aside from the Lord and the exile was intended for God’s people to come to grips with their own sin. Daniel recognizes that up until this point in their history, they really hadn’t.
We are going to look at Daniel’s prayer of confession in a moment and consider some of the important things that we learn there. First consider something else. For all of the visions and dreams that Daniel has thus far been privy to in their exile, it comes down to an encounter with the Word of God. Specifically, the merciful promises of God that cuts him to his core and propels him into confession. Is that the effect that the Word of God has on you?
In the Westminster Larger Catechism 155 we read that the, “Spirit of God makes the reading, and especially the preaching of the Word and effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners, of driving them out of themselves and driving them unto Christ.”
Unfortunately, there are times when we come to the Word of God that we tend to posture ourselves over the Bible. Sometimes we use it as something of a wax nose to twist in whatever direction we wish in order to support our views and positions in which we are already entrenched. Sometimes we may us it to justify even sinful tendencies we already have in our lives. Other times we posture ourselves alongside the Bible and use in only as a book to give us ammunition to use against others.
To hear God’s word like Daniel challenges us to posture ourselves under the Bible with humility. To let God’s word lead us where God would have us go. To let it lead us by the Spirit into confession. To let it lead us out of ourselves, let it grieve us in our sin, then let it lead us in through confession to the only one who has made atonement for our sin, Jesus Christ.
This is what Daniel does. This is what this whole liturgy mirrors. After Daniel hears the Word of God with this humility, it is with this humility that we are invited to hear the Word of God too. Then Daniel responds to it with a beautiful prayer of confession.
This is the next point.
Responding to God’s Word
So naturally, after Daniel’s humbled in his sin and the sins of his people, he raises his voice and makes confession. He’s not concerned with the ways that he has been wronged or the people of God have been wronged in exile, even though he has been wronged in so many ways that we could count. Instead he is anguished in the depth of his soul in the way that his people have been faithless to a faithful covenant keeping God.
This is the first thing to notice that Daniel highlights in this prayer, the faithfulness of the Lord. He opens his prayer in verse four,
O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, Daniel 9:4, ESV
Throughout this whole prayer, not only in this opening salvo but elsewhere too, Daniel is acknowledging throughout the character of God as a God of faithfulness, a God of mercy and forgiveness, a God of righteousness. Throughout this Daniel was acknowledging and feasting on the attributes and character of God that he addresses. This is also the only place in Daniel that the divine name, YAHWEH, is used. It’s used about eight times in this prayer emphasize that this is the God of the covenant.
This is the God who condescended to people from ages past when God’s people weren’t looking for him, when they didn’t deserve his countenance to shine upon them. He’s the God who nonetheless made his face to shine upon them. He sent prophets to speak to them, to draw them back to himself. He gave them his law and entrusted to them to guide them. He has been nothing but faithful yet again and again God’s people have responded with faithlessness.
In light of that, the second thing to notice in this prayer of confession of sin is that Daniel owns this faithlessness of God’s people as his own. On the one hand, throughout this prayer Daniel is confessing using first person plural pronouns, in verse five he says, “we have sinned and done wrong and have acted wickedly.” “We have not listened to your prophets,” in verse six. “We have sinned against you,” which is Daniel 9:8.
Corporate confession of sin is a Biblical thing to do and in fact its something that we do every week in corporate worship. We recognize that even though we have all sinned in different ways, the one thing that we all share in is the same sin problem. We all have the same need of confession. So, we also confess our sins therefore together as a body with that recognition in tow.
One of the pastors I heard preach on this text before said that corporate confession of sin has a profound leveling effect. I think that is true. When we hear one another, people from various stories and backgrounds all being united in confessing the sin that we share. Also, being united in the same hope in the gospel that we share in.
Even though corporate confession of sin is a very Biblical thing to do, it’s also possible that when we confession our sins corporately, we may not own that confession of sin the way we should.
Notice that when Daniel sums up his prayer in verse twenty, he says,
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel… Daniel 9:20, ESV
Even though Daniel’s prayer all throughout this passage takes place in the first person plural, he’s owned it through and through as his own. Corporate confession for Daniel was not some diversionary tactic to water down his sin. He knows, as we should also know when we confess our sins corporately, that he stands guilty before a holy God just like the rest of God’s people. Therefore, he needs the grace of the gospel just like their spiritual fathers did, and just like his spiritual sons. That is true of us too when we bring our confessions corporately before the Lord.
Consider another way in which Daniel own the faithlessness of the people of God in this passage. You may have noticed that throughout this prayer of confession, it seems as if the scriptures are pouring from his lips. Just to give a few examples, in verse four Daniel invokes God using language that we can trace back to Deuteronomy 7:9, he’s the God who keeps covenant and steadfast love. Daniel’s not making that up on the spot. He’s saturated and seeped in the scriptures and he knows who God is because he’s been in the scriptures.
In verses twelve and thirteen he rightly understands that everything that has befallen God’s people are part of the covenant curses from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, which God warned them would befall them in the law of Moses if the people turn aside from the covenant.
In verses five through six, Daniel’s confession here echoes Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:47. They are in effect calling upon the promise that was held out in Solomon’s prayer when he dedicated the temple that should God’s people fall into exile and confess their sins that they would be forgiven and would be turned back.
Throughout his prayer we see that just as Daniel knows the faithfulness of the covenant God, he also knows the covenant documents. He knows the scriptures through and through. He knows the scriptures that God gave to his people from ages past. These scriptures, the Word of God shapes his entire prayer; his understanding of who God is, his understanding of his own sin nature, and his understanding of the hope that lies on their horizon.
When we think about this idea of shaping our prayers through the language of scripture, that might sound to some of us as a less genuine way of praying. As if our prayers could never be all that meaningful or really authentic unless we are the ones who are responsible for shaping and crafting the language of our prayers from scratch.
To push back on that a bit, when we do what Daniel does here and we let the language of scripture infuse our prayers and make sense of our prayer, we are actually letting the Word of God take the lead in defining our sin in a way that our own words might tend to water down. We are letting God’s word drive us to a greater hope than our words might be capable of doing on their own.
When we let God’s word shape our prayers, particularly our prayers of confession, we are actually owning our sin in the ways that God’s word would have us do. This is what Daniel does. He interprets everything he prays though God’s word. In that way he shows that he fully and completely agrees with God’s evaluation of matters and not simply his own.
Before we move past this prayer, I want us to consider a third thing about it. That is to see where Daniel in this prayer eventually lands the plane. Throughout this prayer he is acknowledging with an unrestrained boldness his sin and the sins of God’s people.
It’s not until verse sixteen that he actually makes his petition to the Lord. When we finally get around to this petition that he makes, we see that his request is that the Lord would restore Jerusalem. He requests that God would bring about the right worship of him again and that he would turn away his wrath from his people all for the sake of his own reputation.
In that we learn something of the goal of our prayers too. Dale Ralph Davis writes, “Daniel teaches us that YAHWEH’s reputation should be the driving concern of our prayers. Our petitions should be sprinkled with the incense of pleading his honor.”
Of course, Daniel longs for a return from exile for his people because of everything that would mean for them. They could again be who God called them to be and set them apart. They could enjoy the benefits and blessings of once again being home.
Even more than the benefits and blessings that his fellow exiles would receive from that return, in acting in such a way God’s glory would ultimately rebound back to the name of the Lord. And at his heart, this is what Daniel was concerned for; the reputation, the honor, and the glory or the Lord.
So, Daniel makes his long prayer of confession, he’s confessed his sin according to the Word of God. Now we read that Daniel is not left in silence after this prayer of confession. He’s not really left in all that much suspense because immediately the Lord follows this up with an assurance of pardon.
The Assurance of God’s Word
We see here in verse twenty through twenty-three that while Daniel is in the middle of praying and is confessing his sins and the sins his people, he receives a visitor. This visitor is none other the angel Gabriel who comes on the scene for the second time. We saw him back in chapter eight and he may have appeared in chapter seven, but there is some ambiguity about that.
Nonetheless, Gabriel appears again, and he appears to offer Daniel understanding, as he says in verse twenty-three. As commentators rightly note, Daniel’s prayer has been so focused on the end of the seventy years of exile, he was prompted by Jeremiah’s prophecy that the end of these seventy years of exile and they are reaching their fulfillment. God has confessed and petitioned that God would restore his people according to that promise.
Now Gabriel comes on the scene primarily to communicate to Daniel that the end of the seventy years in exile, as great as they are going to be and as many benefits that God’s people are going to enjoy by that, aren’t ultimately going to bring about the restoration that Daniel and the people of God long for.
Instead there is going to be seventy weeks of years until that happens. Before Gabriel gets to these seventy weeks that we are going to talk about in a moment, when he communicates to Daniel that there are many long days and weeks ahead, he offers at least two points of assurance to Daniel.
First, he tells Daniel, “at the beginning of his pleas for mercy a word went out.” In other words, as soon as Daniel opened his mouth to pray and make confession, he was heard by the Lord. Among Daniel’s final petitions in verse nineteen was a request for the Lord to hear. Now Daniel learns that this is the covenant God, the faithful God who listens to his people.
They are a people right now without a home, a people without land, they are going to be a people who are going to experience many turbulent days in the future, but this is the God who hears. He hears Daniel, he will hear Daniel’s descendants and spiritual sons who also pray and cry out to him. Even in our sin he hears us when we call out to him with our prayers of petition and confession, only through the blood and the mercy of Jesus Christ.
Then Gabriel tells Daniel something else. He tells Daniel you are greatly loved. These are words that are immediately intended for Daniel, and he will hear this again two times it’s cited in chapter ten. This is also a word for us through Christ Jesus. When we bring our sin to God in confession and we plead like Daniel does in verse eighteen, not on the basis of our righteousness, but wholly on God’s mercy in Christ, this is what God says to us.
Friends, you are deeply loved. We may not understand what God is doing when beasts and little horns arise. We may be burdened with the body of sin that we continually repent of and continue to carry with us day by day. When we confess our sins, he is faithful and justice to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
These words, “for you are greatly loved” are a balm for the soul and in Christ they are ours to lay hold of. So, this is the assurance of pardon. For Daniel this isn’t the end because the next words that Gabriel speaks are further words of assurance. For all the complexity ultimately, these are words of assurance. The day is coming when the Lord is going to do something better than to simply bring you back to the land of promise.
The Promises of God’s Word
Again, Daniel has been anticipating throughout this prayer the end of these seventy years in exile. When this passage rolls around Daniel learns the kind of restoration that he expects is going to take longer than seventy years. It’s going to take seventy weeks of years.
By the end of these so called seventy weeks, the restoration that God’s people will enjoy will be far greater and far more climatic than a return to the land could ever offer. Daniel’s deeply loved, God’s people are deeply loved and by the great love with which he loves his covenant people we learn at the end of this text that God is going to one day inaugurate a new covenant.
Before we dive into this final part of the passage, and get a little bit into the weeds, it’s worth noting that this text is one of the most hotly debated text in the Old Testament. I’ve read about ten different opinions in ten different books. It’s probably been interpreted seventy different ways and we could preach seventy times seven sermons on it. That might be an exaggeration, but you get the point.
So, with that said, I’m not going to take us into every particular details of the text or we would be here for another few hours. Instead I’m going to try to keep the main things in focus and to do so I’m going to ask four questions about this text to keep us on track.
1. What are these seventy weeks? The first thing to note is that this isn’t a reference to a literal seventy weeks as if everything Gabriel describes is going to happen in just over a year’s time. You may have a footnote in your Bible says that this word “weeks” is literally a word for “sevens”.
Either way you slice it, the idea is that these seventy sevens is seventy weeks of years. Each seven is actually seven years. So, doing the math, seventy times seven years is 490 years. Now at this point some interpretations begin drawing elaborate timelines and try to figure out when this timeline starts and when this timeline ends and try to line this up to exact historic events.
Lest we are tempted to follow suit, consider first if there is any Biblical significance to this 490 years. Remember that I said this entire passage is steeped in the Scriptures. So, it shouldn’t come to a surprise to us that this number 490 isn’t being pulled out of thin air. This is a number that has Biblical moorings.
If we go to Leviticus chapter twenty-five, we would learn about something called the Jubilee Year. In Israel’s law every forty-nine years they were called to observe something called the Jubilee. At the end of that all debts would be forgiven. If a fellow Israelite had to sell him or herself into slavery would be freed. Property that might have changed hands numerous times over the course of the forty-nine years. It was in essence a year of glorious restoration and forgiveness.
Now, if the Jubilee took place every forty-nine years, then 490 years would be a tenfold Jubilee. This is what Daniel has in view. The main point of these 490 years isn’t for us to lay out a timeline and give a precise accounting that for event that falls along the timeline.
It’s to communicate to Daniel that even though exile is almost over and your people are going to return to the land within a year’s time and that’s good news, this isn’t the final answer. There are many more days and years to get through, but at the end of all this there is going to be a ten-fold Jubilee that is instore for the people of God.
2. What happens at the end of these seventy weeks? If you look with me at verse twenty-four, we learn that these seventy weeks have six stated purposes; to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.
So, Gabriel announces that when this ultimate Jubilee comes, it’s going to bring something far better than the Levitical Jubilee could ever have brought. It’s going to bring the final answer to the problem of sin, it’s going to usher in everlasting righteousness in a new temple. A temple that will not be perishable, one that will not suffer loss at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar or Titus in AD 70.
Of course, these sound like similar things that our Lord Jesus accomplished. If we were to go to Luke 4:16-30, we would hear Jesus declare something really important. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus declares,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, ESV
That is language of Jubilee. What Jesus is announcing here, a few verses later, is that this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. The answer to this tenfold Jubilee of Daniel is Jesus. Jesus is the one who atoned for iniquity by giving his life as a ransom for many.
The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the final and last word and as such the one to seal both vision and prophet. Throughout the Old Testament we learn that Jesus is the new temple.
Though Daniel does not know who the anointed one who will come in the seventieth week, we do. The answer to Daniel’s sins and the sins of God’s people that he laments and confesses, the reason that Daniel’s pleas for mercy are answered in the affirmative, the hope held out for God’s people beyond a simple return to the land all point to Jesus.
Even though Daniel sees here that a tenfold Jubilee lies in the future, as soon as that is announced in verse twenty-four, he is then challenged to consider by the angel Gabriel, that this comes about at the end of a long and drawn out process. So, this leads to the third question.
3. What are the divisions of the seventy weeks reveal? So far, we have focused on the relatively simple, but once we get into verse twenty-five through twenty-seven, things get more complicated. First, Gabriel tells Daniel that these seventy weeks are divided into three parts; first seven weeks, followed by sixty-two weeks, then one final week.
Moreover, there are various people and events within these three epics of time. We have this anointed one who comes on the scene after the first seven weeks. Then during the sixty-two weeks Jerusalem is going to be built again but during a troubled time. Then during the final week this anointed one will be cut off, have nothing, the city is going to be destroyed, desolations will be decreed, and sacrifices and offerings will be ended.
A lot going on here. As you can imagine there are virtually endless interpretations of these events and figures. To try to keep the main things in focus, the basic message is something like this. God’s people are going to return to Jerusalem at the end of the first period of time, the first seven weeks, and they are going to rebuild.
Then in the next sixty-two weeks there are going to be turbulent days back in the land. It’s a troubled time. Nations will rule over God’s people and Antiochus Epiphanies makes martyrs our of them. Things like we talked about last week in Daniel eight.
Finally, after the sixty-ninth week, during this final week, the people of the prince, or this anointed one, will destroy the city and the sanctuary. This prince will be cut off, he will make a strong covenant and then he will put an end to sacrifices and offerings.
If these seventy weeks end with a tenfold Jubilee that Jesus Christ accomplishes, then we learn within this seventieth week, we learn how Jesus brings about this tenfold Jubilee that he is going to accomplish at the end. He brings it about by humbling himself to the point of death. He is cut off. He brings it about by having his own people turn on him. In doing so he also inaugurates a new covenant and puts an end to the shadows of the sacrificial system that ultimately pointed to him.
It may be the Sunday school answer, but even in one of the most complicated apocalyptic texts, it’s still the right answer; it’s all about Jesus. It all culminates in Jesus. So, this leads to the final question.
4. What is the main point? The main point is this; for exiles like Daniel when you return to the land things aren’t going to be easy. Yes, you are going to rebuild the temple and the city, just as Jeremiah predicted and that’s good news. But you will live in destressing times. In the words of one commentator, it’s going to seem as if God’s enemies, the beasts and the little horn and Antiochus Epiphanies and whoever else arises, have you directly in their crosshairs.
But a day is coming friends when someone else, this anointed prince, will come and will stand in the middle of those crosshairs in your place. In doing so he will bring about something better than a simple return to the land could ever offer. He will bring about atonement for your iniquity. Everlasting righteousness and a most holy place that will never be subject to the ravages of the enemy of God. This person is Jesus Christ.
Let me leave us with one simple and concise application. Confess your sins and hear the good news of the gospel. Yes, we are exiles and sojourners and some of us have been sinned against as exiles and sojourners and have experienced the ravages of this exile and sojourn in deep and profound and terrible ways.
Friends don’t be so hardened by those realities to the point where you fail to see the sin in your own life. Ask the Spirit to show you your sin, let the scriptures be that mirror that reveals to you your sin. Bring that to the Lord in confession.
Also know that when we confess our sins, when we plead for mercy on the basis on Christ’s work alone. The Lord says to each of us you are greatly loved. We see that confirmed in the atonement of sin that Christ accomplishes. The atonement that Daniel looks forward to in the seventy weeks and that we look back upon.
A day is also coming when the vestiges of sin that remain in our flesh will be no more. Our Lord has saved and one day he will bring us home.
Let me pray.
Lord God, we thank you for your word. Although as the apostle Peter says there are some words in them that are very complicated that some use to twist and use to their own ends, Lord we pray that we wouldn’t fall into that same way of thinking. That you would remind us in your word by the things that are clear. That you would drive us to confess our sins and see the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ held out for sinners like us. That we would we be quick like Daniel to confess our sins. That an encounter with your scriptures would lead us in that direction. At the very same point would you remind us that as exiles and sojourners that sin and are sinned against, that we are greatly loved and one day you will in Christ come on the clouds and bring us home. We pray that you will remind us of these truths, encourage us by them and convict us by them. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.