It amazes me how much of familiar scripture passages I often read and move on, failing to probe the depths of what the passage is saying. There is a phrase in The Lord’s Prayer that has recently caught my attention in that regard. Matthew 6:13 records Jesus as saying “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” I think there are four things in this short passage that deserve our attention.
First, God does not tempt us. James 1:13-15 explicitly states that temptation is not from God. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” I would hasten to add that we sometimes use the word “temptation” somewhat loosely. We may say, “I’m tempted to go to tonight’s ball game.” Temptation is defined in its simplest form as “the desire to do something.” I desire to go to the ball game.” That is not sin, and it is not what we are talking about here. The definition, however, continues and states “especially something wrong or unwise.” That’s where we get in trouble if we succumb to the temptation. Note that James states that we are “carried away by our own lust.” Sin is conceived in our hearts when we neglect our relationship with God.
The second thing from this passage is that evil is real, personified by Satan. The passage in the original Greek reads “deliver us from the evil one.” When Jesus and the Bible speak of evil, Satan, or sin it is not metaphorically. This is real. In our society today, it is fashionable in some cases to minimize this. Jesus went to the cross to save us from our sins. That is a pretty drastic move, especially for something that isn’t real. Jesus did not go to the cross “just in case.”
Third, praying not to be led into temptation should be understood that we are praying that we not be tempted to sin. God has control over the evil one and can save us from the power of sin if we call upon Him. But there is a second aspect to this phrase. We are also asking God to lead us from difficult trials. We can pray to God that he will protect us in times of trials no matter what they are. He may not remove the trials, but he will lead us through and protect us if we seek Him and submit to His will.
Finally, let’s look at the term “deliver.” As a child, I had a vision of a delivery van driven by God speeding up to me, jumping out and rapidly scooping me into the van and going as fast as it could away from evil. While that’s not exactly what happens, the visual has stayed with me for years and is a vivid description. In the year 2020 we have all used the term “deliver” much more than in the past. To avoid getting out in crowds we have food, meals, virtually anything delivered to our door with “contactless delivery.” These delivery solutions protect us.
Think for a minute about what happens when a delivery occurs. Something is transported from one place to another. I get on my computer and place an order with Amazon. From all over the world, I can have just about anything delivered to me quickly. When God delivers us from the evil one, He is doing more than removing us from a bad situation. We have to be taken somewhere. God will deliver us to where we need to go, when we seek Him. We don’t always know where we’re going but we do know it’s away from evil. My brother works for a tour bus company. One of their most popular tours is a reunion tour. This is a tour for prior customers of the bus line. But they don’t know their destination. The popularity of these tours attests to the fact that people are excited as they board the bus for destinations unknown. They are being delivered to a place unknown to them. That’s how it is with God. We may not know where we are going but we know two things. One, we are being taken away from evil. Two, we are being taken to the place of ministry God has for us.
To be delivered from evil means we need God’s help because we can’t do it on our own. We should pray that He will help keep us strong and focused on Him.