Ps 131; Luke 22:39-46; 1 Cor 10:12-13
Today’s look at The Lord’s Prayer is very important. It needs to be treated with respect. Not the loving respect, “hallowed,” we spoke of earlier concerning The Father and his name, but the kind of sober awareness that we would give a rattlesnake or an old stick of dynamite.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from Evil.” I want to begin with the second half because if you don’t subscribe to evil, Evil, or an Evil One, the first half doesn’t have much clout.
Did you know that evil existed even before the first words of the Bible were written? Evil did not begin with humans, but like a virus or bacteria, evil found humans to be a good host. Evil began with pride (Lucifer was beautiful), moved to envy (desiring God’s place of adoration), and rebellion (Lucifer/Satan/Devil and other angels left God, becoming demons).
Then we have the account of the Eden. Adam and Eve, in right relationship with God, were introduced to the Evil One. The Devil used reasoning, emotion, and curiosity to entice Eve who then used the same persuasive methods plus that of relation to invite Adam into sin. That one choice led to bondage. And we know the gist of humanity’s story.
There are three basic facts to remember about evil. The first is that there are real, spiritual beings that evil. The Devil and demons are rebellious angels who have true power. They are intent to destroy both God’s Creation and Redemption.
The second is that evil, or that sinful bent, resides in every person. If a person is not a Christian, they are slaves to that evil (Romans 6). And even if we have been freed from the slavery of Sin, we are not free from internal enticements of their old selves (we still have residue in our bodies, minds, and hearts until we are raised again in a new body, mind, and heart).
Third, evil can be societal—the group factor. President Bush named the Axis of Evil (N. Korea, Iran, and Iraq) and President Obama said that ISIS was the face of evil. Sometimes evil multiplies and collates into a recognizable entity. We can see it in drug cartels, the clergy sexual abuse crisis, racism, fascism—history is full of them.
People react to evil in basically four ways. The first is to ignore it. There are plenty of people who don’t believe in evil today. Why? Because evil (upper and lower case) is making a judgement call—by calling something evil, one is saying that it is wrong. And in today’s confused Zeitgeist, what one person calls wrong another calls right—it’s all relative to what each person or group believes.
Second, obsess about it. This response sees evil, Evil, and the Evil One at work everywhere. It is a fearful paranoia. This response also tends to give evil too much authority and power while ignoring that our all-powerful Lord cares for us and even equipped us to combat evil.
Third, is to be self-righteous. A sense that I am above the possibility of doing wrong, of committing some evil sin, is humorous. “I am the dragon slayer of combatting evil! Fear not, I will slay your dragon!” Sounds like pride to me…also sounds like the line said before someone gets eaten or torched.
Instead, we must see evil rightly. It exists: it is truly dangerous…but Jesus has been victorious over evil…and we have the Holy Spirit within us to battle and/or flee evil and temptation.
Temptation. I’ve been talking about it all along—temptation and evil are bound together. The word that Scripture uses here is really revealing. Peiramos has two connotations. The first is an attempt to learn the nature or character of something…it is like a taste test. The second is an attempt to make one do something wrong…enticement.
When the two descriptions are placed side by side, we see that something is trying to reveal the inner character. And it is the negative, sinful nature that is being called forth. Even for Christians, Evil is actively trying to awaken the sin residue within us so that it might take hold and take root, choking out Life.
I’m instantly reminded of a few Bible passages. The Accuser coming before God in order to tempt Job…probing him. The Devil believes that Job’s inner character will betray God, but God knows otherwise. I also think of 1 Peter 5:8 saying the Devil is like a prowling lion…looking for someone to devour. Finally, Ephesians 4:27 says, “Do not give the Devil a foothold.”
Temptation is a reality here in this world. We have all been tempted. Scripture tells us that Jesus, too, was tempted. He was tempted in the same ways we are. Temptation can come from the Devil himself. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness right after his baptism.
Temptation can come from others, both friends and foes. Jesus ripped into Peter for insisting (enticing) that Jesus didn’t have to go to the Cross…saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” There are also the numerous times, even while he was on the Cross, when Jesus’ enemies asked for a sign/miracle to prove his Messiahship.
Temptation came from within himself. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he had been thinking and hoping for a different path…he wanted to keep living. He asked that the Cross and its tribulation would be removed. But he never gave in to that temptation…or any other. “Father, may Your will be done.”
One thing about this part of the Lord’s Prayer that has always confused me is that it seems like God is doing the tempting…or at least “leading” us right up to it. A commentator helped me to understand it better.
No, God is not in the business of tempting. Jesus is referring to the great, horrible day of tribulation—The Cross. Here, Evil will be at the height of its power and efforts in its rebellion against God. Jesus was concerned for his followers…that they not get pulled into the black hole of Hell. (And from Peter and others’ behaviors/thoughtlessness he had good reason to fret.)
The commentator then made an incredible insight. Jesus gave his prayer to his disciples. But when Jesus, himself, prayed to not be led into temptation, the answer was, “no.” And when he prayed to be delivered from Evil, the answer was, “no.” The Father’s will led Jesus to be swallowed up by temptation and evil…so that he might destroy them…so that we would not be swallowed up by them.
There is no temptation that can overpower you if Christ is in you. There is no Evil that can overcome you if Christ is in you. He destroyed their power at the Cross. With Christ living in you, taking root in you, growing in you, taking hold of you, there is no temptation and no evil (even Satan, himself) that can take eternal life from you, here and now or forever.
And that takes me straight away to another truth of Scripture: Romans 8:31-39.
When we come to today’s phrase, remember everything we have learned today. This is Jesus’ prayer given to us. We do not face temptation nor Evil powerlessly because Jesus faced it for us…like a lamb to slaughter. But he destroyed it…the victorious Lamb of God.
“Our Father, Who is in Heaven. Hallowed be Your Name. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from Evil. For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.”