I have been reading and studying the Bible for more than fifty years. I have been a Biblicist all that time, never wavering in my belief in a word by word inspiration, an inerrant Bible, and the availability of the original languages that guarantee that we can know what God intended to communicate.
I have had all those years to wonder about the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation” included by Jesus in the disciple’s prayer. (Though commonly called, “the Lord’s Prayer,” this is a prayer we learn to teach us to pray.)
- The translation needs no help. “Lead us not” is not to even be discussed as to its translation. It means exactly what it says: “(You, Lord) do not lead us into temptation.” It cannot mean “do not allow us to be led,” or some variation on the theme. It means just what it says, and says just what it means.
- The “temptation” aspect tells us God is not the One tempting us because the “temptation” aspect is the “from evil” aspect. God tempts no man. A man is tempted when he is enticed, drawn away, or lead by his demanding desires. God is never the One enticing a person to do or say evil.
Do the two ideas stand in opposition to one another? Or, do the two phrases explain one another? Or, do the two contrasting Divine responses cancel one or the other?
That is, if the prayer is meant to imply that God’s deliverance from evil will mean the way He leads us avoids temptation, is the meaning of the prayer more about deliverance from evil than avoidance of temptation? Does the prayer mean that my focus upon deliverance from evil play a part in my struggles with enticement?
Or, does the prayer imply that temptation is the cause of an effect? Does my pathway into temptation the way to my deliverance from evil? Do I have to experience temptation in order to receive deliverance from evil, or the evil one?
Most decidedly not! I will be tempted. I will be delivered from evil. I will never face temptation beyond my capacity to bear it. But, overcoming temptation is not the same thing as deliverance from evil or the evil one.
3. The key to understanding the “lead not” is the “deliver us.” In between in the “temptation” aspect. The phrase can be translated “from the evil one,” but that does nothing to eliminate the obvious contrast between temptation and deliverance.
We have no guarantee from redemptive experience that we will never face satan or temptation. None. We will be tested. We will be tempted. We will experience a vicious cycle of temptation that tests. We should not assume the prayer means, “Lord, I need You to help avoid temptation” but that the prayer means, “Lord, I need You to deliver me from evil.”
I tent to think of it this way: “God’s deliverance from evil within me or claims of the evil one within me, alter the forward motion of my future because when I would have faced temptation at certain points deliverance clears that part of the pathway because I am no longer a victim of the previous enticements.”
Let’s say you are addicted to roadside stops for wicked Dairy Queen treats that are evil. Don’t worry! It is an illustration. You can return to your Dilly bars after this message.
You pray, “Lord, deliver me from evil.” The Dairy Queens are still pumping out the soft serve and Dilly Bars, but you are delivered from evil, so the temptation for the wickedness no longer entices you. The way you drive through still have Dairy Queens but that way you should be going no longer has any temptation.
Then, they build a Krispy Kreme…intercession increases!
I’m trying to connect the “deliver us” from the “lead us.” All the while, I notice Jesus includes “forgive us” as we “forgive others” in the disciple’s prayer.
Notice, I am not rewriting the Scripture or advancing a new, novel translation. God leads us. God delivers us. God forgives us. I am relating the deliver us to the temptation aspect of the prayer.
I know some people cop out with some kind of “God will lead us to temptation if we do not ask Him not to.” I don’t see that in the sentiment of Jesus or the Bible as a whole.
God put the man and woman in a garden and made the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a big no-no. God put the place of enticement on display. God did not lead man into temptation, but He did place man and that forbidden tree in the same garden.
Still, we have no reason to think God lead man to the serpent. The serpent did that all by his wicked self. God did not place an order for delivery of temptation. God did not ask satan to act like the devil.
God did not create temptation. God did not tempt Eve or Adam.
If they were delivered from evil, they would not have suffered from temptation. That is, temptation operated when Eve listened, desired, and gave what she ate to Adam. Adam ate with his eyes wide open when he listened to Eve, desired, and failed to receive the deliver us from evil available.