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. 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. – Daniel 9:6-7 ESV
Along with the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel would have surely been familiar with the psalms of David. In more than one of his psalms David wrote of the righteousness of God. “The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness” (Psalm 145:17 NLT). “God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection” (Psalm 18:30 NLT). He would have also known the words of Moses regarding the righteousness of God. “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT). As a young Jew growing up in Judah, Daniel would have been well-schooled in the righteousness of God. And as an old man living in exile in Babylon, he was still holding on to what he knew and believed about God. As he continued his prayer of confession and contrition on behalf of the people of Judah, he openly and humbly admitted their full responsibility for their predicament and God’s right and responsibility to have dealt with them as He had. God had warned, but they had not listened. God had given His call to repentance to every king, prince, father and child in Judah, so that no one could have claimed ignorance. Their sin against Him had been knowingly and willful. As a result, Daniel confesses that their humiliation was well-deserved and should have been fully expected. Not only for those living in exile in Babylon, but for every Jew wherever they might be living.
How easy it is to snub our nose at God and then shake our finger in His face when things don’t turn out quite the way we expected. How many times had the people of Israel refused to listen to God and then attempted to blame Him for the consequences of their own rebellion? It would have seemed logical and only natural to question why God had abandoned them as a nation and allowed them to be defeated at the hands of their enemies. But the truth was that they had abandoned God. They had forsaken Him and refused to live according to His commands. And God had repeatedly warned them what would happen if they continued their pattern of ignoring His calls to repentance. So Daniel knew that God was in the right. He had kept His word and done exactly what He had said He would do. Because He is righteous. But God is far more than just a letter-of-the-law god. His righteousness has a purpose behind it. As David had said, “The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.” Even in His punishment, He expresses love. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Solomon 3:11-12 ESV). “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you” (Deuteronomy 8:5 ESV).
Daniel had had 70 years to consider why the people of Judah were living in the land of Babylon as exiles. He had had ample time to think about their circumstances and reach the conclusion that their situation was a result of their own sin and God’s righteous, yet loving discipline. Which is why he concluded that God had “driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed.” They were wrong. God was right. They had been unfaithful, but God had remained faithful. In fact, God had not only told Jeremiah what would happen if the people of Judah refused to repent, He had told him what He would do even after they stubbornly forced His hand. “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. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:10-11 ESV). God would be righteous and loving, just and gracious, holy and merciful. He is always righteous and forever loving. He is always firm in His discipline and yet forever faithful in showing kindness. Daniel knew he had no right to point his finger at God. He had no cause to blame God for the less-than-ideal circumstances of the people of Judah. They had gotten what they deserved. But God was about to give them what they didn’t deserve – His grace and kindness expressed in His miraculous restoration of them to the land He had given them. They deserved exile. They didn’t deserve restoration. God had righteously punished them, but was also going to lovingly forgive them. What a picture of the grace and mercy He poured out through Jesus Christ on the cross. The very death we deserved He asked His own Son to bear, so that we might receive pardon and enjoy restoration to a right relationship with God. And all we must do to enjoy this amazing grace is acknowledge our sin and admit our complete inability to save ourselves. We must believe that His Son is the only payment righteous enough and valuable enough to settle the debt we owed. Our death sentence was well-deserved. His grace and love, as revealed through the gift of His Son, was not. He is righteous in all His ways. He is loving beyond belief.