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Three Prayer Warriors Part 1
Publish date: Dec 29, 2015
Summary: Part 1 of Three Prayer Warriors by Michael Fassbender.
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God’s church needs at least three kinds of prayers in the last moments of history. As we open the Book of Revelation, we will find a most urgent warning to all of God’s people, proclaimed by one of His angels:
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Revelation 18:4
The background to this warning is elucidated in two other verses:
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Revelation 18:2
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Revelation 14:8
If God issued an emergency evacuation order, would you comply? Would you immediately warn others and leave? When responding to an emergency evacuation order, does that mean fleeing to safety? Yes, it does; that’s the purpose of an evacuation. But does it mean moving from one comfort zone to another? Not necessarily. Emergency evacuation means leaving a warm building and stepping out, ready or not, running to find the evacuation area, whether the rains are pouring or not, whether it is cold outside or not; whether one could find and carry all one's belongings or not. Whether there has been an alternate building prepared to be occupied or not. The immediate goal is: out. Just out.
The good news is that God does not want His people to just leave Babylon and step out into the cold. God would like His people to start moving out and, concurrently, prepare a safe haven, a shelter that will serve as a waiting area for entry into eternity. Biblical typology offers us an informative view on the circumstances that God’s end time church will encounter while leaving Babylon. Taking a closer look at the literal return of the Jewish exiles from Neo-Babylonia, we see that the fall of Babylon and the “coming out” of Babylon were no abrupt events but rather gradual processes. In fact, it appears that the physical, military-strike overthrow of the oppressive Babylonian forces was only the beginning of an age of deliverance for exiled Judah which nearly lasted 100 years.
The End of the Babylonian Kingdom
The year 539 BC1 marked the end of Babylonia, when Darius the Mede, appointed by Persian King Cyrus, captured the Babylon, the capital of the empire. The conquest of Babylon was comparatively mild and not very destructive. It occurred in two distinctive campaigns starting with a siege. By that time, the Babylonians had become so complacent and self-reliant that they did not bother to engage in any defense:
The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight. They have remained in their holds; their might hath failed; they became as women. 2
It even mentions that Cyrus, who marched into Babylon shortly after Darius, was unsuccessful when calling the Babylonian monarch to a one-on-one close combat:
Cyrus challenged their monarch to single combat, but also in vain; for the hands of the king of Babylon waxed feeble. Courage had departed from both prince and people; and none attempted to save their country from spoliation, or to chase the assailants from their gates.2
Although the Babylonians did not seek any attempt to fight back the besiegers, Cyrus had difficulties impregnating the solid and high city walls. The siege continued for some two years. Finally, Cyrus put an end to this stale-mate by diverting the river Euphrates. Once the river bed had been dried up, Persian forces were able to undermine the city walls and enter the city. The Babylonians were literally caught “off guard”: in order to make sure that they were not able to discover his clever strategy, Cyrus
..purposely chose, for the execution of his plans, the time of a great annual Babylonish festival, during which, according to their practice, ‘the Babylonians drank and reveled the whole night.' And while the unconscious and reckless citizens “were enraged in dancing and merriment” the river was suddenly turned into the lake, the trench and the canals; and the watchful Persians, both foot and horse, so soon as the subsiding of the water permitted, entered by its channel, and were followed by the allies in array, on the dry part of the river3
So, the deliverer had come. But had God’s church been feeling the oppression by the Babylonians? Was there an inmost desire and urge to leave everything behind and flee from Babylon?
Babylon became such a home-away-from-home that the Talmud (Kesubos 111a) went so far as to say that one who lives in Babylon is as though he lives in the Land of Israel, and will be spared the “birth pangs of the Messiah,” the terrible sufferings that will herald his coming. There is even an opinion in the Talmud that Jews were forbidden from leaving Babylon until God would come and redeem them. They should not go back to the Land of Israel on their own. Even though that was not the accepted opinion in Jewish law, and it was not accepted in practice, nevertheless it was an idea that was floated about. Such an idea could gain currency only if there was a hospitable climate. 4
It did not look like there was an overwhelming longing to repopulate the land of Israel and rebuild the city of Jerusalem, at least not for the majority (>95%) of the exiled Jews:
… all those desirous of returning….consisted of about 1,800 men, or 5,500 to 6,000 souls (Ezra viii.), besides 38 Levites and 220 slaves of the Temple from Casiphia. With this body, which was invested with royal powers, Ezra and Nehemiah succeeded, after great difficulties, in establishing the post-exilic Jewish community. From the list given in Neh. vii. 6-73 (= Ezra ii.), which the chronicler erroneously supposed to be an enumeration of those who had returned under Cyrus, it appears that the whole Jewish community at this time comprised 42,360 men, or 125,000 to 130,000 souls. 5
The Covenant at Stake
But there were some who felt that God had placed them “in darkness”, and for them Babylon had been a strange country all along; they were “strangers even though they were not strangers.” 4 For the prophet Daniel, the humble earthly politician with unmatched integrity, “greatly beloved” even by the Divine Government from on high, an ardent student of the Scriptures authored by his contemporary and respected older colleague Jeremiah, the return to Israel seemed to have been a more pressing issue than the end of the Babylonian (Chaldean) dynasty itself. For him, deliverance meant more than just continuing the daily business in a climate of supposedly more freedom and comfort.
Daniel prayed. Surprisingly, if we take a closer look, it becomes clear from the context of Daniel chapters 8 and 9 that Daniel’s primary concern was reconciliation with God, the removal of sin from His people, the rebuilding of the temple, and, more specifically, the rebuilding of the sanctuary and the continuation of the sanctuary services, which were to foreshadow the ultimate Sacrifice. The first words in Daniel’s prayer are:
O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; Daniel 9:4
Daniel's prayer was answered by the heavenly angel Gabriel, and the last words of Gabriel’s reply to Daniel’s prayer begin with:
And he shall confirm the covenant… Daniel 9:27
Daniel struggled with the accumulation of sin and transgression among his people; sin and the breaking of God's law had not been dealt with in the earthly sanctuary for almost 70 years, since it had been laying waste. Daniel feared that God’s covenant was broken due to the sin of his people.
The angel Gabriel clearly understood Daniel’s struggle. Before this background, Gabriel’s detailed response to Daniel’s prayer makes perfect sense (Daniel 9:22). Beyond the good news that the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt, Gabriel laid out to the inquiring prophet God’s universal plan of sin removal. Daniel's people would, for a time, continue with the shadow service. But then, Messiah the Prince would come and be “cut off” shortly after his arrival, “but not for himself” (verse 26). During this first step of universal healing, sin would be transferred from God’s repentant people to the genuine, heavenly sanctuary, of which the earthly sanctuary was an image or a copy. Then, when the 2300 prophetic years concluded, sin would finally be removed from the heavenly sanctuary and from the entire universe of God’s creation. This is the beautiful truth Adventist pioneers discovered centuries later after the great disappointment at the time of the end, and thus “knowledge” would increase indeed.
Few Bible students realize that Daniel’s prayer itself was a fulfillment of an earlier prophecy by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:12.13.). The heavenly host were so eagerly waiting for that prayer, so that Daniel did not even have to finish it before things were set in motion (Daniel 9: 23). Daniel was given the valuable information on the antitypical cleansing of the sanctuary. At the same time, Gabriel moved Darius to let Daniel’s people go (Daniel 11:1). If it wasn’t for Daniel’s fervent prayer, we would still be in the dark about the details of God’s salvation plan. Daniel opened the treasure chest of knowledge for us; knowledge that would shine as a lamp on our pathway out of spiritual Babylon; knowledge that would help us prepare for the final events as it prepared the faithful Jews who left Babylon of old as they were to rebuild the sanctuary and lay down the path to the first coming of the Child (Revelation 12:5).
So, why was Daniel’s prayer so important; and why is prayer warrior Daniel a type of end-time Christian prayer warriors? Can the lack of prayer delay the coming of the Lord? Or, in reverse, can earnest prayer, a “Daniel’s prayer”, hasten the coming of the Lord? The answer to these questions might surprise us. Daniel could have just passively waited for the prophesied seventy years to elapse. However, as a diligent student of Jeremiah’s message to the exiles, he noticed an important little detail, a fine print, so to speak. Have you ever discovered a fine print in a contract or a legal disclosure that prompted your immediate action? That’s probably what occurred to Daniel as he found out that the promised deliverance after seventy years was not entirely unconditional:
For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:8-11
According to this scripture, there was no automated release from captivity: God was going to come and visit His people first. What does that mean? Young’s Literal Translation puts it this way:
For thus said Jehovah, Surely at the fullness of Babylon -- seventy years -- I inspect you, and have established towards you My good word, to bring you back unto this place.6
There was an inspection first! God’s government would come and inspect His people first, and then fulfill His promised word. What was this inspection about? Let’s read on:
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:12
God’s inspection was about the presence of sincere truth seekers and prayer warriors! Daniel knew this prophecy well, and he did not waste any precious time to step in and take upon him the solemn responsibility of becoming that prayer warrior the Heavenly Inspector expected. Daniel’s prayer surely set things in motion: everything was lined up; Gabriel was just waiting for this prayer warrior who would fulfill Jeremiah’s word to prepare God’s people and pave the way for the Messiah the Prince. How else did Daniel hasten the coming of the Lord? The Spirit of Prophecy explains (PK, 557):
The deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions had been used of God to create a favorable impression upon the mind of Cyrus the Great. The sterling qualities of the man of God as a statesman of farseeing ability led the Persian ruler to show him marked respect and to honor his judgment. And now, just at the time God had said He would cause His temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt, He moved upon Cyrus as His agent to discern the prophecies concerning himself, with which Daniel was so familiar, and to grant the Jewish people their liberty.
It was Daniel’s blameless character and his integrity as a statesman that moved Cyrus, the head of the post-Babylonian government at that time, to pass legislation on behalf of God’s church. These are the kind of prayer warriors God would like to find when He inspects His end-time church: fervent in prayer and blameless in integrity. Maybe the reader will discover important little details in God’s word as well, where God asks us for our cooperation to further His cause. Angels may be waiting to respond the very minute we go down on our knees, fold our hands and begin to pray like Daniel the prophet did. Indeed, Daniel’s prayer prepared his people:
Now Daniel sought by prayer and supplications, for fear lest the sins of the people should provoke him to defer their deliverance longer than was intended, or rather that the people might be prepared by the grace of God for the deliverance now that the providence of God was about to work it out for them.7
The Medo-Persian Decrees
Let’s take a look at Daniel 9 and find out more about the power Daniel’s prayer had, and how God lined up the events of salvation history. Let us assume that the motivation for Daniel’s prayer was his concern for the continuation of the covenant between God and the Israelites which appeared to be broken; for the basis of this covenant was God’s holy and perfect law, written with the finger of God on two tables of stones (Exodus 31:18). Daniel recognized in his prayer that his people had broken the law by disobedience and thereby failed to fulfill their covenant with God. Gabriel’s reply to Daniel implied that God was willing to keep the covenant in place, or even to renew the covenant, which would culminate in the arrival (advent) of the ultimate Covenant Promise – “the Messiah the Prince” (the Leader, the Ruler or Governor; Daniel 9: 24,25). We learn that the timing base, or starting point, for the prophetic countdown was “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25). This same timing base anchored the 2300-year prophecy as revealed to Daniel earlier (Daniel 8:14).
Medo-Persian rulers issued four relevant commandments or decrees that had to do with the repopulation and reconstruction of Jerusalem: the first decree came in 538 BC, and the respective wording is found in Ezra 1: 2-4. It is important to note that this decree permitted the building of the “house of the Lord” only. It is also important to recognize that this was more of a general proclamation asking for volunteers (verse 3) rather than an executive order by the monarch. The second decree (Ezra 6:1-12) was basically a re-issue of the first (538 BC) decree (Ezra 6:3-5) and added stern enforcement against alteration (Ezra 6:11); it was primarily an order to the king’s governors to support the temple reconstruction (verses 6 and 7) and to release additional funding to the Jewish leaders (verse 8 and 9) as needed. This decree helped speed things up dramatically, and so the temple could be finished in 515 BC (verses 14 and 15). But one important temple item, if not the most important item inside the temple was missing. Does the reader have an idea what this item might have been? We will find out more below.
The third order is found in Ezra 7:11-26. This decree went into effect after Ezra’s return from Babylon in 457 BC8 (Ezra 7:8). The primary intent of this decree, as physical reconstruction was concerned, was still a continuing restoration of the house of the Lord (verse 16). In addition to that, the sacrificial services were to be reinstated (verse 17). Again, the decree largely granted permission for volunteers (verse 13). Verse 14 seems inconspicuous at first glance, and many Bible students may easily overlook it. But this line reveals an important detail, and we will get back to it later. Provision was also made for the usage of excess funding in order to support other projects— beyond temple construction— that needed attention (Ezra 7:18), but it appears, from the context, that this was only of secondary importance, and here’s why: potential excess funding, even if utilized for city restoration, does not guarantee the success of any additional project. If the funding runs out, the project remains unfinished; if excess money and materials achieve 90% of the city restoration, Jerusalem would still remain unfinished; if it only lasts to complete 10% of the reconstruction, the restoration remains at 10%. If there is no “rest of the silver and gold” left at all, the effort to “restore and build Jerusalem” cannot be executed at all. We find that an active command to restore any city infrastructure other than the temple complex is absent in Artaxerxes’ decree. Moreover, such a command would have been accompanied by the required funds, materials and tools to carry out the restoration from beginning to end, not just potentially or partially.
The fourth decree was passed in 445/444 BC 9 (Nehemiah 1-2). The exact wording of this decree is not recorded in Scripture; from what we read in Nehemiah 2:7-9, the king’s command as requested by Nehemiah himself was less a decree than more a set of letters of royal support for Nehemiah’s work including guards for travel safety and building material for temple gates and city wall repairs.
As we can see, none of these Medo-Persian decrees specifically ordered a physical restoration and rebuilding of the damaged city infrastructure of Jerusalem. The question we have to ask now is: how then was Gabriel’s prophecy to Daniel fulfilled so that the clock for Messiah’s first advent could finally start ticking? The key to unlock this mystery is, again, found in the integrity and faithfulness of a person, who was recognized by a Pagan monarch and who was willing to step in and take upon himself the responsibility of furthering God’s work. We should remind ourselves at this point that Daniel’s prayer concluded with the important words: “for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” (Daniel 9:19, emphasis supplied)
….to be continued in Part II here
Michael E Fassbender, Ph.D., is a nuclear scientist. Originally from Germany, he spent a three-year stint in South Africa. He now works for the U.S. Government and lives with his wife and two daughters in New Mexico, USA. Michael and his wife are members of the Texico Conference of Seventh-Day-Adventists.
1. “Cyrus takes Babylon: the Nabonidus chronicle”, http://www.livius.org/ct-cz/cyrus_I/babylon02.html (accessed 11/20/2014).
2. Thomas Stackhouse, “A History of the Holy Bible: From the Beginning of the World to the Establishment of Christianity; with Numerous Notes”, available on http://www.books.google.com, page 708.
3. ibidem, page 709.
4. ”Babylon and Beyond”, http://www.jewishhistory.org/babylon-and-beyond/ (accessed 11/20/2014).
5. “Captivity, or Exile, Babylonian”, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4012-captivity (accessed 11/13/2014).
6. ”Young’s Literal Translation (Jeremiah 29:11)”, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jeremiah+29%3A10&version=YLT (accessed 03/25/2015).
7. Matthew Henry, biblestudytools.com, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/daniel/9.html (accessed: 03/25/2015).
8. S.H. Horn and L.H. Wood, ”The Archeology of Ezra 7”, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C., 1953.
9. BibArch, Babylonian & Persian Periods, 586 -332 BCE, http://www.bibarch.com/chronology/Bab-Persian/BP-Periods.htm (accessed: 04/03/2015)
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