Although the focus of the story is Daniel, the principal verse is Jeremiah 17: 9. Through Daniel, we see the deep implications of this verse. This commentary was first published Friday, August 04, 2006.
Forgiveness for Unknown Sin
A very famous film actor was stopped because of improper driving. The Police officer suspected that the driver was DUI – driving under the influence of alcohol. The officer approaches the car window and before he could ask the driver for his driver's license, he could smell the alcohol. He immediately asked the actor to leave the car. The actor gets annoyed by the request and starts insulting the officer. Recognizing the actor, the police officer asks the actor, if he had been drinking and how much. The actor is now infuriated, and tells him, "None of your business?" The police officer asks the actor one more time, to get out of the car. The actor at that moment tells the officer some improprieties about the officer's apparent ethnic background, and then adds, "The reason why this world has problems is because of your people." The next day the incident was all over the press and the media. The actor, released a statement of apology, saying in part, "It is a known fact that one effect of alcohol is losing your inhibition. You say things you would not say sober. However, I said what was inside my heart. I was not aware that I held such dark feelings about other ethnic groups. While the incident was indeed embarrassing, what it revealed in my heart is humiliating." Through this incident, the actor realized that we harbor Sin in our hearts and may not be aware of it.
In chapter 9, Daniel prays for forgiveness. He prays for forgiveness for him and his people. But, There is something unusual about his prayer. Daniel includes himself with his people. Let us read some instances from Daniel 9: 4 - 19, where Daniel includes himself with his people,
5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets,
10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
11 …because we have sinned against him.
13 … all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
14 … for we obeyed not his voice.
15 …we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 … because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.
18 …for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses,
As you can see, this prayer is not only intercessory but also corporate in nature. Why does Daniel pray corporately? As far as we know, it was the iniquity of his people - not his own - that lead the Jews to Babylonian captivity. Maybe Daniel knew the phrase, "there go I, but for the grace of God." Daniel perhaps understood that given the same set of opportunities and circumstances he would have participated in the Sin's of his people. What separated Daniel from his counterparts? The grace of God, to which Daniel yielded, and his brethren did not.
We know that Daniel read Jeremiah. He must have read Jeremiah 17:9 that says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Could it be that Daniel was confessing all Sin that his heart may harbor – even unknown Sin? However, any act or word we say comes out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6: 45). All sinful actions that we commit, are committing, and will commit are borne in our hearts before we let them out. All these Sins need is the right opportunity. The problem is we cannot know what is in our hearts. However, God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalms 44:21). Daniel, very likely, was aware of this truth. And, by including Daniel's prayer in this book of Daniel, sealed until our day, God was stressing the need to see this prayer as a model for us living in the last days.
God knowing how Sinful our hearts are, says through the prophet Ezekiel, that He wants to put in us, "A new heart … and [also] a new spirit … within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). Perhaps our prayer should also be "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:4). David understood this concept of unknown Sin. He probably never thought that he was capable of coveting his best friend's wife, committing adultery with her, and murdering his best friend. This is perhaps why David wrote, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10).
What unknown Sins do we bear in our hearts? If only God knows what lays deep and secretly in our hearts, only He can take it out. But, we must let Him do it.