Daniel’s prayer of repentance and intercession in Daniel 9 gives quite a remarkable lesson in how to pray and for what to pray. Daniel, as was his habit, had been reading and meditating on Scripture as he had it. His reading of Jeremiah prompted this prayer. As he looked at the prophecy in Jeremiah in 25:11-13, he was drawn to lift before the Lord the truth of Scripture in God’s covenantal dealings with his people. Now in captivity for about seventy years, Daniel was reminded that not only were the seventy years prophesied but the destruction of the kingdom of the Chaldeans.
That Daniel regularly studied the Scripture as he had it and based his worship and prayers on that truth is seen in the words, “I, Daniel, observed in the books.” What he observed was a prediction that “these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Then words of devastating judgment —the “fierce anger” of the Lord—against the nations that had been party to the captivity of Judah and the destruction of the land were also a part of Jeremiah’s message and thus of Daniel’s prayer.
These books, now written and having become Scripture, he accounted as “the word of the Lord” (Daniel 9:2). The witness to written revelation is pervasive throughout Scripture. In this passage Daniel refers also to “His teachings which He has set before us through His servants the prophets,” and “the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God,” and again, “as it is written in the law of Moses” (Daniel 9:10, 11, 13).
We hold the same conviction that Daniel did about this inscripturated text. The immediate revelations given to prophets and apostles, chroniclers and kings, were written for our instruction even as they instructed Daniel and led him to prayer. Paul refers to the constant stream of rebellion among the rescued people of Israel and the judgments that came on them as having been “written down for our instruction.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13). Even though the “end of the ages” had now appeared in the person and work of Jesus Christ, still instruction from those things written in the Old Testament were relevant. Paul drew inspired doctrinal principles from those examples and urged them on the Corinthians: “Therefore, let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”
Joshua 1:8 reports, “This book of the Law” set before Joshua was worthy of his meditation day and night. With only the first five books given at that time, of how much stouter sobriety should we receive the admonition. A former colleague of mine, and dear friend, was persuaded that Joshua wrote Psalm 119. It stands, therefore, if such is true, of the great blessing that comes to the soul in such a meditation on the word, law, precepts, statutes, judgments, commandments, testimonies, wonders, ordinances, righteousness, and lovingkindness of God as manifest in that initial biblical canon. As it did with Daniel, scripture revelation when believed as an object of serious reflection and meditation gives rise to repentance, request, and worship informed by eternal truth.
Paul had no doubt that the word he received in his gospel ministry was indeed revealed truth, the very word of God, that came to him “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:12). The Thessalonians received his preaching “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thes 2:13). He also affirmed that his spoken word and his written word were equally revelation handed down by God: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thes 2:15). For Paul as for Daniel, and Joshua, the word stood not only as a statement of unerring truth but as a power for transformation and informed worship: “not in word only but in power: … which is at work in you believers” (1 Thes 1:5; 2:13).
Revelation 22:18, 19 gives a severe warning implying the necessity of hearing and heeding the “words of this book.” It is a legitimate conclusion that this refers to the whole of the completed canon of Scripture revealed, inspired, infallible, and sufficient to inform and guide our lives in this world and to light the path into eternal life.
Dr. Tom Nettles is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He joined the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was professor of Church History and chairman of that department. Previously, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He received a B.A. from Mississippi College and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern. In addition to writing numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles has authored or edited nine books including By His Grace and For His Glory, Baptists and the Bible, and Why I Am a Baptist.
Courses taught: Historical Theology of the Baptists, Historical Theology Overview, Jonathan Edwards & Andrew Fuller.