21 March 2011

Daniel 9:4-10

"Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets." (vv. 8-10)


The prophets of the Old Testament were not so much people who could look into the future as they are sometimes described, but individuals who, through their deep knowledge of God, have a clear insight into what is happening and therefore what might well happen as a consequence.

In today's passage Daniel recognises the failings of the society he is a part of. Yesterday in John 3:1-17 we saw how Jesus calls us as individuals to change - to leave behind things that are wrong and take on spiritual qualities. Daniel here is not so much addressing individuals as the society as a whole. There may well have been individuals needing to change, but people are not just individuals - they are part of wider society, and that too needs to change.

It seems that what Daniel is concerned about is the willingness of the people of Israel to take on the fashions and practices of people they live amongst, rather than following God's lead. We might translate that to 21st-century life in terms of the media. We can allow ourselves to be too influenced by what others seem to be doing or what they are saying in the soaps, in documentaries or in the news, rather than staying loyal to the ways of God. What regard is there for justice in our society, what care is there for the poorest and most vulnerable, what are we willing to give up to care for the environment? These are the calls of the prophet to us today: 'Lord forgive us for we have strayed ...'

To Ponder

When you are shopping or doing financial transactions, do you think about how ethical are the goods you are buying, or the financial services you are using? From now onward when you do either of these, let the ethical questions be uppermost in your mind rather than the cost.

Our view of what is happening in the world is shaped to a considerable degree by the news items chosen by government and the managers of the news media. How can we be open to God's justice?

Pollution has the potential to make the earth uninhabitable to humans. To what extent is it a sin to drive a car? Or fly in a plane?

Bible notes author

The Revd John Howard

John Howard is a minister in the Methodist Church, at present serving as the chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District. He is married to Mary with three adult children, and has just become a grandfather for the first time.