Back to the Future III (Seventy Sevens)

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Welcome to week 12 of our series on the end of the world. We’ve been at it for three months now! You should give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve actually been able to keep up.
If you haven’t been keeping up, then you really need to. Once we start opening seals in January, you are going to wish you had all this background information.
Anyway, we are now in the third and final part of the miniseries within the series that I’m calling Back to the Future. Just curious – how many of you have felt compelled to watch the trilogy since I started this two weeks ago?  Just me?
So far we have been looking at some of the biblical/historical background that is going to be important for understanding the tribulation period we will be covering soon. I started zoomed way out looking at the purpose of creation itself, then I zoomed in to the big picture timeline of creation as a whole, then last week I zoomed in further to the period of history that the prophecies of Daniel predicted and from our vantage point have been fulfilled. Certainly some pretty cool stuff that will help us as we start interpreting the symbols in Revelation.
Today, I want to wrap up this look at history by looking at the extremely important chapter 9 of Daniel which will also take us to a few other places in the Old Testament. It is in that chapter, where Daniel says a prayer and then an angel comes to talk to him, that the all important timeline of the end times is revealed. Without it, we wouldn’t know that the tribulation is supposed to last 7 years.
So without further delay, let’s see what it says.
Daniel 9
1 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
Now, if you have been paying attention over the last two weeks – and especially two weeks ago when I spelled out the covenants and the reason for the tribulation, then a lot of what I just read should sound somewhat familiar to you.
But, in case you weren’t there or if you are new today, let me give you a quick reminder.
Daniel is living in the time when the Jews have been conquered by Babylon (the golden head and lion with wings) and taken captive to live in exile. Daniel was one of the first to go when he was a teenager. Now he’s an old man as nearly 70 years have passed.
As he mentioned in his prayer, the Law of Moses – or the Mosaic Covenant – that God made with the nation of Israel had terms that promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. I covered that in detail two weeks ago. They chose disobedience and this exile is part of the promised curses.
Daniel, of course, being a good student of the history and the law of his people would know all of this, which is why he says in his prayer…
11 “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 
Basically, he’s admitting that God has only done what He promised to do by bringing them to this state. The terms of the contract were clear and we, your people, chose poorly, and we are now reaping our just reward. Notice he is not blaming God like so many people do. He is blaming himself and his people for not obeying the clear commands of God and admitting that God is just and God is righteous in keeping his promise against them.
But why is he doing this now? Why not when they were first taken captive? What triggered this great confession and begging for mercy?
Well, it tells us at the beginning of the chapter. Daniel had come upon part of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah.
in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
Jeremiah was a prophet to Israel during the time leading up to and partly during their captivity. Much of his prophesying was about that pending punishment, but he also prophesied during their captivity. Daniel would have likely known Jeremiah personally as a young man.
Now, there are two places in Jeremiah where he specifically speaks of the 70 years, so it must have been one of those two places that Daniel was reading.  I’ll show you both and we can determine by his reaction which one it was.
The first in order of the chapters of Jeremiah is from chapter 25.
The chapter begins with Jeremiah pointing out how disobedient they have been, then he gives them this word from the Lord:
Jeremiah 25
Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp.11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”
We know from history that all of that happened. Modern Babylon is not much more than a heap of ruins except for the rebuilding efforts by Saddam Hussein in the 80’s.

The second place in Jeremiah that mentions the 70 years is actually part of a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the exiles, like Daniel. You might recognize some of this.
Jeremiah 29
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Nestled in there is one of our favorite verses – that we always take way out of context. But I won’t preach that sermon right now.
Looking at these two mentions of 70 years, which one do you think would cause Daniel to “turn to the Lord God and plead with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”?
My guess would not be the one that contains our favorite verse. Reading that wouldn’t make anyone desperately beg God for forgiveness and mercy. In fact, we love that verse so much because it gives us warm fuzzies inside. It doesn’t drive us to our knees.
Now, we can’t know for certain because the text does not specify, but I would argue that Daniel was reading from chapter 25 where it seems Babylon would also be destroyed once the 70 years is up.
Now, that alone should not warrant such a reaction. After all, the promise is that the Jews could go back home when the 70 years are up, so why would he be worried about Babylon, their enemy, being destroyed?
Well, he wasn’t so much worried about Babylon as he was about his own people, because it turns out that this whole reaction was prompted by an apparent misunderstanding of the terms of the Mosaic Covenant that he mentioned. Let me explain.
If you remember from two weeks ago, in Leviticus 26, after the 600 laws of the Mosaic Covenant are spelled out, God lists the terms and conditions of the covenant. He promises them blessings for obedience and a whole slew of curses for disobedience, but then God offers what I called a “loophole,” a way out of the curses – a loophole it seems that Daniel is trying to invoke.  Let’s take a look at it again.
It starts in verse 40, but since it begins with a “but” we need to include the last verse of the curses to keep it in context. God had just spelled out 37 verses of curses and ended with this…
Leviticus 26
39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.
40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lordtheir God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’”
So, again we see the loophole being that if they confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors – and so on, then he will remember his covenant and not completely destroy them. Which it appears is exactly what Daniel is trying to do. In fact, he says so himself…going back to Daniel 9
Daniel 9
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill…
And he’s doing that because of the part of the curses that is spoken just before the “BUT” of verse 40 in Leviticus.
 
Leviticus 26
39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.
40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors…
It would seem plausible that he sees that curse about them wasting away in the lands of their enemies as applying to him and his people who are here in the land of their enemies near the end of the promised 70 years of exile. Perhaps he read that part of Jeremiah 25 and thought that when the 70 years were done, instead of going home, he and his friends would be destroyed with the Babylonians.
Either way, upon realizing this possibility, he does the only thing he can do and he turns to the Lord God and pleads with him on behalf of his people in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. He confesses his sin and the sins of his people and recalls to God the promises of his covenant with Moses and basically begs for the promised loophole.
What a good guy! He cares so much for his people that he would attempt to stave off extinction by pleading with God himself. So, you can’t knock him for his intent. But it turns out he was mistaken about two things.
And how we know he was mistaken is the fact that God sent the angel Gabriel to give him “insight and understanding.” If Daniel had not been mistaken and his prayer had been effective – we wouldn’t be talking about this right now because the end of the world would have happened right then.  Instead, God sent a messenger, an angel, to clear up Daniel’s confusion and give him proper understanding about how things are actually going to play out.  Let’s look again at what the angel said…
22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
What the angel just cleared up is that it’s not just the 70 years of captivity that the curses of Moses are talking about. It’s actually worse than he thought and going to take a lot longer than 70 years.
The angel says that, in addition to what’s already taken place, a total of seventy sevens are needed to do a few rather important things:
  • finish transgression
  • put an end to sin
  • atone for wickedness
  • bring everlasting righteousness
  • seal up vision and prophecy
  • anoint the most holy place.
Basically, he’s talking about the consummation of creation. Sin is defeated and done away with. For some it is atoned for and thus they have everlasting righteousness. By the end all prophecies and visions will be completed and the most holy place will be anointed. All the things that the covenants we covered two weeks ago predicted. Daniel was thinking the 70 years of captivity was it, but it turns out he was a bit off.
So, what are “sevens”? In some translations it says “weeks.” But the literal Hebrew is “sevens” and was the word they commonly used for a “week” which is seven days, but it can also mean a seven of anything. Kind of like how we use the word “dozen.”  I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that he’s talking in terms of years. 70 sevens are 70 groups of 7 years or 490 altogether.
The angel is saying there is a 490 year countdown clock to the fulfillment of all the covenants that I showed you two weeks ago, which coincides with the end of the world.  But clearly, there have been more than 490 years since this prophecy, so what’s the deal?
Let’s read it and take it apart and maybe we’ll see.
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
Ok, so we can see that there is a starting point for this 490 years, and we see that the sevens are grouped into a group of 7 sevens, a group of 62 sevens, and a final single group of seven.
The first group of 7 and the group of 62 seem to be back to back, since they are mentioned together, and it would seem that the final 7 is somehow detached from the first 69.
We see that the starting point of this clock is when “the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” – which is a date that we do know.
We know it from the story of Nehemiah. That’s the green mark in the picture. The red mark is where Daniel is having this angelic conversation.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the Persian king during the time when the exiles were returning to their homeland. Some years previous, the famous king Cyrus had let the exiles return home and start rebuilding the Temple. But that is not when the clock started, because notice I said “temple” not the city. The angel’s words are specifically about restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem the city – not just the temple. So the clock did not start with Cyrus decreeing the rebuilding of the temple.
Instead it began when Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes for permission to go rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that was still torn down despite the temple having been rebuilt at this point. The king granted his request, thus starting the 70×7’s clock. The date according to Nehemiah was the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes reign, which historians date at 444 or 445 BC.
And indeed, the wall and the city were rebuilt “in times of trouble.” You should read the book of Nehemiah. They were laying bricks of the wall with one hand and holding a sword in the other hand to fight off enemies as they built.
Anyway, we don’t know of any concrete specific things that happened after the first seven sevens, or 49 years, other than that puts us at the end of the Old Testament. No more prophets after that until John the Baptist some 430 years later.
But putting the 7 sevens and 62 sevens together, we get 483 years. And the prophecy of Daniel says that the 483 years would bring about the Anointed One, and also at that point the Anointed One would be cut off or put to death.
Let’s read it again:
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ 
I’ve taught on this before, but those 483 years stop exactly on the year that Jesus, the Anointed One, was crucified.  This timeline was known by the Jews, which is why they were shouting Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord when Jesus rode into town on a Donkey the previous Monday. They knew the clock that ended with the appearance of the Anointed One (or Messiah) was that year, and they knew of all of Jesus’ miracles, and even the donkey thing was a fulfilled prophecy, so they were welcoming their promised King. But when he didn’t overthrow the Roman government and set up his kingdom like they expected, they turned on him.  Just as the prophecy of Daniel predicted.
26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. 
Probably couldn’t be more obvious.
It continues..
The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
This is referring to the fact that Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed by Rome in 70 AD. Something Jesus predicted a few times during his time on earth. One place being..
Matthew 24
1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

We’ll be talking about that again in two weeks.
Back to Daniel
Notice the angel calls them, the people who will destroy the city, he calls them “the people of the ruler who will come.” Keep that in mind as we continue. Next, the angel says…
The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
 
He has switched to language about “the end.” This happens in several of the Daniel prophecies where they switch from sequential events in our past to end times events in our future. There’s a reason for this I will get to in a minute.
Next comes the oh so important final seven…
 
27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’
Who is “He” – he’s the “ruler who will come” from verse 26 (I’ll give you a hint, he’s the antichrist). It seems that the starting point for this final seven year block is when HE – the ruler who will come – makes a covenant with the many. Who is the “many”?
Let’s continue..
In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.
Given what we know about our modern world, it would seem that in order to put a stop to sacrifice and offering, the covenant made with the many must have included the restarting of sacrifice and offering, so clearly the “many” are the Jews – which also makes sense because this whole prophecy is about the Jewish people. That’s what the angel said at the start – there are 70 sevens decreed for “YOUR PEOPLE.” 
So this “ruler who will come” will made a covenant with the Jews to restart sacrifices and offerings (which must include new temple as well) but half way through the seven years he will put a stop to it and worse…
And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation,
We saw last week that during the days when the Greece controlled Jerusalem that Antiochus Epiphanes did just that by putting a statue of Zeus in the temple and sacrificing a pig on the altar. He was a pretty awful guy, but, the differences between him and what we will learn about the antichrist are many. And he clearly couldn’t be the anti-Christ, because at that time (167 BC) there had been no Christ to be anti to…
If anything, he was a prototype of the antichrist, or maybe he knew about these prophecies and the future “ruler who will come” and wanted to be him so he started doing awful things to the Jews. Who knows, but even though what he did was an abomination, this prophecy is not about him.
The prophecy finishes with..
until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
Which, we will learn later is not pretty.
So, this is how we know that the tribulation period is going to last 7 years, and that at the halfway point – 3 and 1/2 years, things go from bad to worse. This isn’t the only place we see periods of time defined, but this one is the most direct. We will be looking at all of them when we get there.

So, there should be two questions on your mind at this point. Why does the clock stop between the 62 sevens and the final seven? And where does the 70 years of captivity fit into all of this?

The first question is easy. The answer is the church. The clock stopped when the church began and it will resume when the church is raptured away. Remember that this prophecy is for Israel. And I’ve already explained in previous weeks how the tribulation period is for Israel, to both finish the promised curses of the Mosaic covenant, but also to bring them to a point where they all actually do what Daniel was trying to do and they are saved. Because that’s how the loophole actually works. The whole nation has to confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors and so on. It doesn’t work if only some of them do.
The clock stopped so that the full number of Gentiles can come into the faith while the Jews are under a partial hardening as we learned from Paul in Romans. The clock stopped so that you and I could be a part of this story. And when the church is raptured away and the clock starts again, you will still have a chance to get in on the good side, but you will only have seven very difficult years to do it assuming you actually survive the whole tribulation, which is unlikely. I recommend booking your flight now rather than later.
But, If you do happen to be left behind when we all get caught up in the sky and you see on the news that some world leader has made a covenant with Israel to rebuild the temple and restart sacrifices and offerings – then you will know that the seven year clock has restarted and things are about to get really bad.

Now, let’s tackle the captivity question. Where do the 70 years of captivity fit into all of this?
The answer is in the specific reason for the 70 years, which is kind of spelled out in the summary report of the exile found in 2 Chronicles…
2 Chronicles 36
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.
20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.
That last verse answers the question mostly. The reason for the exile was so that the land could have its sabbaths.
If you recall from two weeks ago I explained that part of the Mosaic law was that they were to plant and harvest for six years, but on the seventh year the land was to lie fallow – or unused. And this command came with a promise that if they obeyed, then in the sixth year they would harvest three years worth of crops in that one year, thus keeping them fed clear up until the harvest of the 9th year. Pretty good deal – get 8 years worth of crops for six years worth of work and even get to talk a year off – but instead of taking the good deal, they pretty much just blew God off (just like we do with tithing) and started racking up years of exile every time they skipped a sabbath year. 
By the time of the captivity, they had racked up, you guessed it, 70 sabbath years that needed to be accounted for and so God forced them to leave the land fallow while they stayed in captivity.
And all of this was predicted in the Leviticus 26 prediction of their failure to keep the law. Let’s read it again because there’s something else in here that apparently Daniel didn’t notice. Remember, this passage starts with the loophole about confessing, then God makes this prediction:
Leviticus 26
43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 
A better translation that captures the nuance is the NASB
Leviticus 26:43 (NASB)
For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes.
That “meanwhile” shows us that these are two parallel but different consequences. Part 1, the land is making up it’s sabbaths. That will take exactly 70 years because that is what is owed.
But the sabbaths are not the only laws they have been breaking over the centuries, and thus the captivity is only the beginning of the people making amends for their sins. Which is what the angel came to clear up for Daniel. Daniel thought the 70 years was for the land and the people and the end was about to come. But the angel gives him insight and understanding to see that the land is one thing, but for the people there are another 490 years before all will be accounted for and made right.
I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating that it was such a big deal to God that they practice the land sabbaths. He even gave them an extremely good deal of a promise to try to get them to obey. Take a year off of farming and reap triple what you would if you worked that year.
It’s just another illustration of how God’s ways are not our ways. In our limited human minds it doesn’t make sense that I could work less and get more. But God says, trust me and I will bless you.
Same thing He promises with the tithe – of giving Him 10% of our income. In our limited human minds it doesn’t make sense that if I give money away that I’ll somehow have more. But God says, trust me and I will bless you with so much you won’t even be able to contain it all. 
We find that in Malachi 3. Yes, that is Old Testament, but if you’ve been with us the last few weeks, I don’t think you can honestly believe that the Old Testament doesn’t apply anymore.
Malachi 3
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
And yet, even with that promise and the proof I’ve covered over 3 weeks that God’s words are true even in the Old Testament – we still won’t do it.
Statistically, less than 10% of self-proclaimed Christians, people who call Jesus their king, actually obey our King in this area despite the promised blessings – just like the Israelites.
It’s no wonder that churches close their doors every day due to financial insolvency.
And maybe you’re thinking – Oh, here we go again. The church trying to get my money.
Well, first, it’s not the church. It’s our King, Lord, and Master who took on the death penalty for our treason.
But that aside, nothing could be further from the truth!
I don’t want your money. I want you to have the blessings. I want the people I’m called to pastor and lead to reap the benefits of a life lived in obedience to the Word of God. I don’t want you to just be wowed by the mind blowing theological concepts of the bible. I want you live it out and see in your own life that it’s all true and it’s wonderful!!
I don’t want any of you to stay in captivity because you refuse to take God up on His good deal.
 
Because that’s exactly what it is.
Ever hear the proverb: The borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). Slave sounds like captivity to me.
And why?
Because instead of trusting, obeying, and honoring God and receiving the promised blessing.
We dishonor God and blame Him for our predicament and sell ourselves into slavery to lenders in order to live outside of the means we are able to provide for ourselves without God’s help.
All the while, we have a heavenly father with storehouses of blessings just waiting to be poured out when we obey.
It’s truly madness!
That’s like the Israelites farming for the full seven years and then borrowing with interest an 8th year worth of crops. When if they trusted God and gave the one year back to Him, he would provide them with the 8 years of crops without interest and less work.
Madness!!
God says, trust me. We say, no thanks – we’ll do it our way.
 
And, my friends, that’s what it all boils down to: Trust.
 
Trusting God means doing things His way instead of our own. Even, and especially when it doesn’t make sense to us.
 
Because if you can figure it out, it doesn’t require trust.
We all love the famous proverb.
Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
We love that stuff. We put it on our walls, and write songs about it. I doubt anyone in here that calls themselves a Christian would say they don’t want this. Would say they don’t trust God and would rather lean on their own understanding. Would rather that God not make their paths straight. It’s what we pray for. And I’m sure if I asked each one of you if you trusted God, you would say, “YES.”
And so did the Israelites. They talked a good game, but actions speak louder than words.
Our actions tell the truth that our mouths are afraid to say.
And sadly, for so many believers, after gushing about Proverbs 3:5-6, you read just a little further and the attitude changes.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.
No, we still like that. We can deal with that. I won’t be wise in my own eyes. I’ll trust God instead of myself. I will shun evil and God will make me healthy. Good deal God, I’ll take it!!
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Uh oh. You know, God, I really do trust you instead of my own understanding, and I don’t want to be wise in my own eyes, and that sounds like a really good deal too….BUT…fill in the blank.
My friends, the Israelites had to be conquered and taken prisoner for 70 years simply because they refused to trust God with their economic prosperity. They were an agricultural society, so farming was their income. And they refused to trust God with giving what He asked for, despite the promise of extra provision. And over 90% of the people who claim Christ is their king do the same thing.
Instead of trusting God with a percentage of our provision. We keep it all for ourselves, and when it’s not enough, instead of looking to God for blessing, we sell ourselves to lenders for the extra only to find it still doesn’t satisfy.
And it breaks God’s heart. Because He’d rather bless us.
He’d rather see our churches flourish instead of barely getting by.
He’d rather see the churches taking care of the widows and orphans and the poor instead of the government.
He’d rather see the modern day churches behaving more like the churches that started the whole thing off.
When people would literally give all they had, selling land and houses and possessions, in order to invest in the eternities of others who don’t yet know the Lord. And to take care of those that do.
He would rather that we see our heavenly treasure as more valuable than our earthly treasure.
He would rather that we seek His kingdom first and above all else, so that he can take care of everything else for us.
He would simply rather that we actually, no kidding, trust Him with more than words, but with obedience.
Because without obedience, it’s not really trust.
Actions, not words, tell the truth about our hearts.
For the Israelites, God chose them out of all the people of the earth to bless and make his name known through them. He established covenants with them with all kinds of great promises in them. Promises of blessings and curses dependent on their obedience. They chose the curses and it resulted in 70 years worth of exile plus another 490 years before the curses fully play out. But it’s really even longer than that because their clock has been put on hold and their hearts have been hardened after rejecting their Messiah. They have to wait for all the Gentiles to accept the faith they rejected, then their punishment will resume for seven more years until they finally come to a place of repentance and obedience.
Next week I will be talking about some of the signs that tell us we are getting close to the end of that pause.
Let us, the recipients of the pause in judgment, not be stubborn and stiff necked like the Israelites. Let us rejoice in the grace and mercy that are ours by the precious blood of Christ and serve and love Him with our whole hearts by trusting and obeying His Word.
Because the time is short.
Let’s pray.