Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries


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Welcome to Chris Appleby Ministries Website

This Website is provided to present sermons and other writing from Rev Chris Appleby.

Chris offers coaching in leadership and mentoring in preaching as well as the sermons on this site, offered as encouragement to others to grow in their life and ministry. He also manages a number of Church and Christian organisation websites.

Chris is an Anglican minister in Melbourne Australia. He grew up in Sydney and was part of an evangelical Anglican Church where he met and later married Dianne (Di) in 1972. He and Di had 3 children in the 70s. Their son Paul died during treatment for leukemia in 2012. They have 6 grandchildren.

He worked for 20 years as an electronics engineer in the Dept of Civil Aviation (Transport, Aviation) designing air traffic control systems.

He studied theology at Ridley Theological College, Melbourne from 1990 to 1992 and was ordained in 1993.

He was vicar of St Theodore's Wattle Park/St Thomas' Burwood from 1996 until he retired in mid 2015.

He is an Examining Chaplain with the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, is Treasurer and a member of the National Executive Committee of EFAC Australia and a board member of Anglican Relief and Development Fund Australia (ARDFA). He is also a committee member of Christians for Biblical Equality, Melbourne Chapter. He is a member of the Professional Standards Board of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.

Most of the sermons on this site, apart from those since May 2015, were presented at St Thomas' Burwood. Some are by colleagues whose names are included above the sermon. 

Praying for the Nation   audio

Daniel 9 

We come today to a brief lull in the visions and dreams of Daniel to what appears to be a much more normal episode in his life as he’s prompted to pray for his nation.

The Stimulus to Prayer

The vision of ch8 is long past, the Babylonian Empire has been overthrown and a new ruler, Darius, is over the captive Israelites. They’re still in exile but now in Persia.

Daniel has been reading the words of Jeremiah in his daily Bible study, and he comes across Jeremiah’s prophecy that Babylon will rule for just 70 years, then God will bring them back to Jerusalem. (Jer 29:10) And he thinks to himself, “That’s about now”.

But he also knows that after 70 years nothing much has changed, apart from geography. In fact they’re even further from home now than they used to be. But the fact that God’s word tells him that the time is near for their return prompts him to hope; and to pray that God would indeed do what he’s promised.

Do you sometimes find you’re reading the Bible and you come across a promise of God’s future hope and pray that God would fulfil his promise? Think of the prophecy in Micah 4: “3…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:3-4) Does that make you long for God to act? Does that prompt you to pray that wars would cease? That the atrocities we see being carried out by gunmen in places like Las Vegas, by extremists in Syria and Iraq, and so many other places would stop? Or that rulers like Kim Jong-Un would listen to the rest of the world? Or that the persecution experienced by God’s people around the world in so many places would come to an end? Well that’s how reading Jeremiah affects Daniel. He’s driven to prayer.

But notice that it isn’t the sort of shopping list prayer that we so often find ourselves praying. He doesn’t launch straight into what he wants. Listen to how he begins.

The Adoration in Prayer

“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments.” He begins with an acknowledgement of who God is. It’s almost psalm-like, like he realises that he’s about to ask God to do something that he has no right to ask.

I wonder do you ever stop before you pray to consider who it is you’re addressing. This isn’t your mate that you’re ringing up to ask a favour of? “Hey mate, do you mind if I borrow your trailer?” “Do you think you could give me a hand with the painting?” “Could I borrow a cup of sugar?” No this is the great and awesome God. Awesome, not in the devalued sense we use it now. “That was an awesome cup of coffee!” “that was an awesome Grand Final!” No, awesome in the sense of you being overpowered with fear. God is so great that if we appeared before him we’d fall on the ground with our head covered, our eyes closed and probably unable to breathe.

And yet we can come to him in prayer because he’s also a covenant making God, who condescends to meet us where we are; to speak to us; to form a relationship with us, a covenant relationship that he remains faithful to even when we don’t. The reason that he does that is that he loves us with a steadfast love. That’s the God we encounter whenever we pray. So Daniel prays “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments.”

Yet there’s also a proviso in his address to God, notice. God keeps steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. Here’s the sad content of Daniel’s prayer.

The Sad Content of Prayer

Daniel realises that the reason they’re in this predicament of exile is entirely because of their own failure, a failure that’s continued for generation after generation. If you’re going to pray about politics you need to be very realistic. I remember someone once pointing out that in a democracy we get what we ask for – or at least what the majority ask for. So acknowledge your part in the political process. That’s what Daniel does here.

He begins by acknowledging his nation’s great guilt and wickedness, but then he narrows it down to its particulars. He says

  • they’ve rebelled
  • they’ve turned away from God’s commandments
  • they’ve refused to listen when God has sent his prophets to warn them.
  • they’ve been treacherous in the way they’ve acted towards God.

He contrasts God’s righteousness with their shame. God has been faithful in treating them with love and mercy but they’ve betrayed God’s faithfulness by failing to obey him as he deserved and as they’d promised. They’ve ignored all the warnings that God gave them, almost as if they didn’t care what he thought. And notice it’s an open shame. That is, it’s visible to everyone around them. The nations, who used to look at Israel and think how blessed they were, are now laughing at them because God has abandoned them.

There’s no sense of Daniel excusing their mistakes, or questioning God’s judgement. In fact the opposite: he says they’ve got exactly what God promised they’d get if they forgot him. “11All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you.”

What were the curse and the oath? They were the warnings that God gave them before they entered the promised land (Deut 28:15ff). God promised that if they remained faithful to him they’d live in the land under his blessing forever. But he also warned them, in no uncertain terms, of the terrible things that would happen if they failed to keep the covenant that God had made with them.

Daniel’s point is that God has been faithful to his promise even in punishing them. He hasn’t abandoned his covenant people; he’s simply done with them what he promised he’d do.

Notice, by the way, that Daniel’s confession is all made in the first person. He isn’t saying “they did this.” No, it’s always “We did this.”

But notice, too, that he seems to be concerned that there’s still no recognition of their failure. Look at v13: “13…We did not entreat the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity.” It’s sad, isn’t it, that here they are in exile and yet they haven’t stopped to acknowledge the cause, to think with shame about their idolatry, to express repentance and ask for forgiveness.

Of course that’s just normal human behaviour isn’t it? None of us like to admit that we’re wrong. We certainly don’t like to acknowledge our sin and guilt. Yet that’s where Daniel begins.

The Primary Concern of Prayer

But then he goes on to his primary concern. He prays: “16O Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain.” He’s already said “9To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.” He’s not praying this into a vacuum. He knows that God is a God of steadfast love and a God of mercy and forgiveness. And so he can pray with great boldness, asking God to overlook his anger. He says: “We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies.”

You don’t pray “God, I’ve been really good this week so I hope you’ll forgive me for the things I did wrong last week!” that’d be silly wouldn’t it? Even if you’ve been perfect this week! No, we always ask forgiveness only on the ground of God’s great mercies.

But notice, too, that when Daniel prays there’s also a degree of supporting argument in what he says. It’s a bit like the way Moses pleaded for the people in Ex 32 after they’d made the golden calf. See how Daniel points out how much God’s glory is connected with his people Israel: “15O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and made your name renowned even to this day.” v16: “your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; … Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace among all our neighbours.” v17: “for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolated sanctuary.” v18: “Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name.” v19: “do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!” God’s plan to make Israel a light to attract the Gentiles has failed completely because of their rebellion but it’s not too late. God can act again to show that he’s sovereign by again rescuing his people from slavery. The surrounding nations are laughing not just at the nation of Israel but at their God, as though he’s just one of the little gods of the nations that have been taken over by the much more powerful gods of Babylon and of the Medes and Persians. So Daniel’s appeal is to God’s reputation as well as to his mercy and compassion.

I wonder when you pray, how much of your motivation is the glory and reputation of God. Sadly I think we’re often more interested in our own glory or our own reputation. When we pray about our government are we praying that God’s glory would be recognised by our leaders or are we simply interested in our own comfort and prosperity? Daniel challenges us here to pray because we care about how the world regards God; about how his glory in the world’s eye is affected by the things that happen around us.

Here’s an exercise you might like to try during the coming week. Think about the way Daniel prays this prayer and adapt it for us here in Australia, or perhaps here at St Michael’s. Of course our prayer will be different. We’re not in exile because of our rebellion, so some of Daniel’s prayer will be less relevant. But the basic outline of his prayer is a helpful place to start.

The Answer to Prayer

Before we finish though, I thought we should quickly look at the answer to Daniel’s prayer, which we didn’t read before.

The first thing to notice is the rapid response. While he’s still speaking, he says, the angel Gabriel comes to give him an answer. But it isn’t just an answer that he’s given. Notice that Gabriel is sent out as soon as Daniel begins to speak. In Matt 6 Jesus says not to “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; … 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

And so it is here. The word goes out as he begins to speak. But the second thing we discover here is the reassurance that he’s greatly beloved. That word has the connotation of precious, highly desired. What a great affirmation! How would you feel if whenever you sat down to pray an angel came to you to tell you that you were greatly beloved, precious? It’d be good, wouldn’t it? Well let me tell you, that’s the message of the gospel. You are greatly beloved! So precious in fact that Jesus gave his life so you could live!

Well let me quickly look at the last few verses where the prayer is answered in typically apocalyptic and cryptic form.

The first thing to note is the tone of hope in the visions that Daniel is given. Even if you can’t understand what the details mean you can work out that the punishment will end, sin will be done away with, atoned for, an everlasting righteousness ushered in and a new holy of holies created.

But then there’s a note of caution. Daniel has been reading about the 70 year timespan that God had allotted for their exile. But Gabriel now tells him there are 70 weeks decreed for his people. Most commentators read this as meaning 70 X 7 years. That is, a long time! It’s a warning not to get carried away by the thought of an immediate salvation. Everyone wants a quick fix, but in God’s economy things sometimes take time. And so it is here.

The seventy weeks are broken up into three time periods:

  • 7 weeks: this may mean the seventy years from Jeremiah’s prophecy to King Cyrus who begins to send some of the exiles back to Jerusalem; 
  • 62 weeks – an extended period of rebuilding but also distress, at the end of which an anointed one – i.e. a Messiah will be cut off. So possibly the time up until the death of Jesus after which the city of Jerusalem is destroyed once more. This will be followed by floods and wars and desolations – just as Jesus predicted.
  • 1 week when things come to a crisis. This prince who’s destroyed the city will force believers to abandon true worship and replace it with idolatrous worship and this will continue until God finally stops him. At this point the prophecy begins to get murky. It could refer to the Romans at various times trying to stop Christianity spreading; it could even refer to the attempts by religious groups around the world today trying to force Christians to convert to Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or it might even refer to the efforts of the popular media to water down the moral standards our country has inherited from our Christian forbears.

The important point is this: don’t expect things to get better soon. We’re called to a long obedience in the face of great opposition. If you look around the world, if you look at Australia and see Christianity becoming more and more neglected or ignored, or even opposed, don’t be surprised.  Satan is hard at work in Australia. But don’t be discouraged. I must say I look at our political landscape, both State and Federal and I find it very hard to think who to vote for as a Christian. But then I think, maybe we have to be like the Jews in exile and just pull our head in, trust God to act and in the meantime pray for the good of our city, or our country. That means continuing to pray for good government, for good leaders, just outcomes. Remember that God promises to sustain us during this time and in the long run Satan will have God to contend with. God has decreed the date of his demise and when that day comes the battle will be over in a decisive fashion. So hang in there and keep praying knowing that God is sovereign over all the powers in this world.

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Phone: 0422187127