There are some Sunday school songs that are almost pointless in their superficiality. While they retell Bible stories, they do so in such a perfunctory fashion that the lyrics contain no real lessons for the Christian walk. You may fondly remember singing “Father Abraham” and “How did Moses Cross the Red Sea?” but did you draw any particularly significant lessons from those songs in your discipleship?
Other Sunday school songs are far more helpful. “Obedience” teaches significant lessons about the nature of biblical obedience—as well as a helpful lesson in spelling! Another favourite is simple in its lyrics and melody but profound in its lesson: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” For all the debate that it raises, Daniel 9 teaches us this important lesson.
Even the casual reader of Scripture admires Daniel’s courage and the principles by which he lived his life. He was unreservedly devoted to his God and willing to face any consequence for his devotion. We may be tempted to believe that such courage is beyond us—that he was unique and that “ordinary” Christians surely can never match his courage. But Daniel 9, among other texts, gives us insight into the source of his courage, and we learn that it was a source that is widely available to us in our own day. We discover at least four keys in this chapter to Daniel’s courage.
First, Daniel learned courage by devotion to Scripture. The chapter opens with Daniel in Scripture: “I, Daniel, understood from the books according to the word of the LORD to the prophet Jeremiah that the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be seventy” (v. 2). He was frequently in the Scriptures, which gave him direction for life. He knew what God expected of him because he was familiar with the Scriptures. It was not his reading of Scripture alone that magically infused him with courage, but neither was his devotion to Scripture immaterial in this regard.
If we will live courageously for the Lord, it must begin with knowing what he expects of us. The best way to discover that is to spend much time reading, meditating on, and memorising his word.
Second, Daniel learned courage by devotion to prayer. Having read and understood the Scriptures, “I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek him by prayer and petitions” (v. 3). Scripture fuelled his prayer. The Bible drove him to his knees. He was not content to read the Bible out of historical or theological curiosity but as a means to drive his devotion.
As we read, meditate on, and memorise Scripture, it should drive us to prayer. We will never stand courageously for the Lord if we do not ask him for courage. To be sure, Daniel’s prayer in this particular chapter was a prayer of confession rather than a prayer for courage, but we can hardly imagine that he faced the threat of chapter 6 without asking the Lord for courage. Courage to stand must be sought by Scripture-fuelled prayer.
Third, Daniel learned courage by devotion to humility. His accompanied his prayer “with fasting” (v. 3). Fasting is a tangible admission of dependence on God. When we fast, we confess that we need him more than physical nourishment. We give up that which is necessary to the body to devote ourselves to something that is, in the moment, even more necessary. Fasting therefore, when properly exercised, is an act of profound humility.
Humility is essential to courage. If we believe that we can stand on our own, we will soon fall. Peter believed that he was strong enough to stand, so much so that he even fell asleep in the garden when he ought to have been praying, but he later discovered that his self-reliance drained him of every vestige of courage when he was questioned as to his relationship with Jesus. Our bravado is a poor substitute for Spirit-wrought courage, which must be sought with deep humility and conscious recognition of dependence on God.
Fourth, Daniel learned courage by devotion to confession. His prayer and fasting were exercised in “sackcloth, and ashes” (v. 3). These were symbols of confession, remorse, and repentance. Daniel’s prayer in vv. 4–19 is one of the most deeply moving prayers of confession in all of Scripture.
We will never stand courageously for the Lord if we do not keep short accounts of our sin. Apart from regular confession, we should not assume that the Lord will bless us with the courage we so desperately require. Confession is essential to courage.
As you reflect on Daniel 9 this morning, consider how his devotion to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, and confession enabled his courage and allowed him to soar in service to the Lord. Then commit to following these disciplines to discover Daniel-like courage in your Christian walk.