We all know “The Lord’s Prayer” by heart, including that strange thirteenth verse, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…”(Matt 6:13, NIV). Have you ever wondered why Jesus would pray “don’t lead us into temptation,” as though God might do so unless we ask otherwise? What’s that about? Is God hiding some sinister, sadistic side that is only restrained by our petition?
To note our inhibitions with this idea, here is how a couple of popular paraphrases handle the verse; “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! (The Message). “Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil” (J.B. Philips).
On one hand, we are comforted in Paul’s exhortation that God will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to bear, but will make a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). On the other hand, we see that as soon as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river He was led to be tempted, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”(Lk 4:1; Matt 4:1 [to be tempted of the devil]).
Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit would lead Jesus immediately into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, especially since Jesus taught us to pray that we would not be tempted? Had Jesus’ own prayers failed? What is it we are not seeing, and might we be misunderstanding what God is after?
Unfortunately, our understanding of God and the kingdom has been somewhat sanitized by a notion of blessed comfort and peace at all cost, rather than an awareness of kingdom conflict that requires battle and pain. Not a popular message. We’re looking for a gospel that makes our problems go away. But an obscure verse from the Exodus gives insight that will be encouraging and fortifying.
God is telling Israel through Moses how He will fulfill His promises through the desert, “I am sending My Angel (the Holy Spirit)i before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared…For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and Hitties, the Perizzites and Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites and I WILL CUT THEM OFF,”(Ex 23:20, 23 emphasis added). HE goes on to say that He will send His fear before them to cause confusion among those people (v27).
Did you notice He is bringing them to a place prepared, right in the middle of the enemy, in order to “cut them off”? It’s both a strategy and a mindset. From this passage it is easy to see that God was not keeping His people FROM the foreign peoples for fear that they might be harmed; rather He had a strategy to conquer His enemies by sending a powerful people into their midst! These weak-looking former slaves were God’s Trojan horse. And now we can see why the Holy Spirit would also lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. This was not to prove whether or not Jesus had the goods, but to initiate the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose – “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8) and set the course for the Lord to crush Satan under the Church’s feet (Rom. 16:20).
Could it be that we are praying for God to keep trouble away from us because we don’t really believe we can conquer? Could it be that we fail to understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit, as Jesus was, and that He will put a two-edged sword in our mouths to speak the “it is written” that is all-powerful against the enemy? Is it possible we have misunderstood God’s purpose and intention for the Church to crush Satan underfoot, not by avoidance but conquest?
This is the mindset of the Spirit: God doesn’t take us out of the world, but makes us powerful in the world, in His name (Jn 17:15). Sin shall not have dominion over us (Rom 6:14) neither should we be afraid in the midst of the world. But we must be filled with the Spirit.
As the darkness gets darker, the light will get brighter. We are not of a glory that is fading away. So when we pray, as Jesus taught us, “lead us not into temptation”, let’s do so knowing that He is leading us into dramatic demonstrations of His power, not a safe and cozy cowering from conflict. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. So let’s pray, “Lord, lead us today into places where You can show Your love and power over all the power of the enemy. We give You glory in advance.”
i Translators understand this angel to be none other than the Spirit of God, therefore they capitalize “My Angel”.
Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved.