A couple of weeks ago, I began posting portions of a paper I wrote for my Biblical Theology course titled, “That Times of Refreshing May Come: A Biblical Theology of Repentance.” This is the sixth installment of a multi-post series. The previous parts can be found at the following: parts one, two, three, four, and five. This is a continuation of a call to return / repent in the prophets.
Daniel, like Ezekiel, is a prophet of the Babylonia exile. Many people might be familiar with Daniel eating only vegetables and for not being devoured in the den of lions. However, in the middle of the book of Daniel is a long prayer of confession of Israel’s sins and repentance. Daniel turned his “face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3). He made confession on behalf of the nation, noting that “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” (Dan 9:11).
Recognizing that all the disaster that had come upon Israel was from their violation of the covenant and the curses of Deuteronomy were realized: “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” (Dan 9:13). Israel’s failure to repent and turn from their sin to yhwh lead to their exile. Daniel petitions God for his wrath and anger be diverted from Jerusalem (Dan 9:16). However, the very moment Daniel began his prayer of repentance the angel Gabriel was dispatched to give him a message concerning the end of the exile (cf. Dan 9:20–22).
Building on the offer of forgiveness in Deuteronomy, the prophets’ primary message was to confront the people of Israel. However, there was present in their messages that the offer for people to return to yhwh was also given to those outside the people of Israel (e.g. Egypt in Isaiah 19; the Ninevites in Jonah; etc.). Evidence of a centrifugal movement from a particular people to all nations becomes more evident in the prophetic writings. The offer of forgiveness to those who repent is available to all people everywhere and the consequent blessing of God now brings the blessing of Abraham to all nations (Gen 12:1–3). This becomes even clearer in the New Testament as Jesus encounters “great faith” from those outside the people of Israel, and as the Spirit-empowered Christian community encounters the conversion and influx of Gentiles into the church.
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