The Lord’s prayer is familiar to all of us. Many of us have said it a thousand times or more. I don’t know if you have ever heard a sermon on the Lord’s prayer, or looked at it in a bible study or small group, but there is an incredible amount of richness packed into a few short verses. The sentence that I was reminded of this week was: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Did you realize that there is the underlying assumption express here that God leads us into temptation. Jesus is the speaker, and it parallels his experiences in the early part of his ministry. Perhaps the following was what Jesus was thinking about when he taught this prayer.
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. – Mark 1: 12-13
Michael Spencer once wrote:
The most striking thing about this passage is the verb ekballo used by Mark to indicate how the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Mark uses this verb 17 times, often in the context of exorcisms. The force of the verb is not captured by the NIV’s “sent”. Better is the NASB “impelled.” We are not to think that Jesus is reluctant to experience this chapter of his life, but to see the strong hand of the Spirit leading Jesus in his ministry. The Spirit of the Lord is truly “upon” him and we read of similar strong directions by the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. John’s gospel records many statements of Jesus explaining that he is in the world to do and say exactly what he is directed by the Father. We are not to think of Jesus as a puppet, but we are also not to think of the Holy Spirit as anyone less than the sovereign God! God’s Spirit is the mightiest of powers and we should expect strong leadership of the Holy Spirit in those things that are in the plan and purpose of God.
James 1:13 tells us that no one is tempted by God, but as Job can attest, God can certainly allow tempting to take place. In the case of Jesus, there appears to have been an appointment with temptation orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. James, interestingly enough doesn’t ascribe temptation to the Devil, but to our own lustful desires. Peter, on the other hand, is much more upfront about Satan’s role.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8
I think James and Peter both have a perspective on the big picture. I know that when I am tired, that is not alert and sober minded, I am more easily tempted by food. For those of you who are old enough to remember it, one of the catch phrases of the ’70s was, “The Devil made me do it”, coined and popularized by the late Flip Wilson. I can remember debates and sermons in those years discussing how much blame should be attributed to the Devil, and how much should be attributed to our own sinful desires. (Feel free to continue the debate in the comments below.)
The second part of the phrase also has its own interesting twist. While I learned the Lord’s prayer, I learned the version that included the phrase “deliver us from evil.” Or at least that is what it says in certain translations, not to mention the form used in Catholic and Anglican churches. Most translations now express the second part of the sentence as “deliver us from the evil one”. The Greek is literally “the evil”, leaving us to wonder what Jesus had in mind. Scholars are divided, and we see that expressed in our translations. Most scholars however are of the opinion that it is more that a generic evil that is being referred to here, but rather a reference to Satan himself. This too would parallel Jesus’ experience in the wilderness as the evil he faced was Satan himself. Could he have been talking about some other particular evil, like the persecution that his followers would face? It doesn’t appear to be likely, as Matthew doesn’t use the phrase elsewhere in that manner.
So those were the thoughts that I was ruminating on this week. What do you think? Do you see God playing a role in temptation? Did the Devil make me do it? Or am I responsible for my own actions? Jesus appears to speak of evil personified. Do you agree with that interpretation? How tied together do you see the ideas of personified evil and general evil? As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.