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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1

Does God lead His People into temptation? 

From just a cursory reading of the history of Israel, it would seem that He does! From the record of the Exodus from Egypt it looks like Israel was led into temptation many times! King David was 'led' to witness Bathsheba's 'private' moment on the roof, and later, because of this glimpse, to commit adultery, deception, and finally murder! In I Samuel 24:1, we read, 'Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah'. And, after all, our Heavenly Father planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil in the midst of the Garden! Why would He do this? And why would Jesus teach His disciples to pray that He would not?

James stated ( 1:13 ) that  'God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone', almost in seeming contrast to the temptations that we have witnessed throughout Scripture. In the next verse, though, he clears up any seeming contradiction by saying, 'But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed'. The temptation is there, but it is when we ( personally ) give in to this temptation that we ( personally ) that we fall into temptation!

When Israel was led into the wilderness and started to run low on food & water, they had a choice; trust that the One who led them, by the hand of Moses, out of the slavery of Egypt, or trust their own eyes & understanding, and complain & rebel against His good providence! When David saw Bathsheba as she bathed on the roof, he had a choice to make; he could either avert his eyes and forget that he had ever witnessed he 'private' moment, or he could take advantage of his position, let his desire lead him into grave sin, and finally, into murder! Later, this same pride of position led him to unlawfully take a census of Israel, a decision which led to great loss in Israel!

All these examples, to say nothing of the Temptation & Fall in the Garden ( of Eden ), might lead us to believe that the God of the Old Testament was petty & vindictive, that He placed temptation in the path of His children so that He would have an excuse to punish them when they sinned!

Naturally, being human as we are, we like to blame our problems on everyone & everything but ourselves, but we should realize, if we are honest with ourselves, that it is because of the choices we make that we fall into these temptations! The temptations are there, but when we choose to follow their lead, all manner of evil results.

Why then would Jesus instruct His disciples thusly: is it our Heavenly Father or our own naturally rebellious hearts that lead us into temptation?

Again, looking back at the history of Israel, from the Fall of Adam ( in the Garden ) to the Temptation of Jesus ( in the wilderness ), we should understand that Jesus' instruction here, as in every aspect of this model prayer, was meant to remind His disciples of their history! The present situation of Israel ( in Captivity ), and the temptations that surrounded them were what Jesus no doubt had in mind when He instructed them so. He wanted them to learn to rely, not on their own strength, as Israel of old had, but on the Grace that He had shown throughout their history!

Knowing our weakness, as He does so well, Jesus instructed His disciples with two-fold purpose to pray this prayer. First, prayer is a necessary part of our Communion with our Heavenly Father, and second, we understand that it is through His strength that we refuse to fall into temptation!

Should we use these words as a model for prayer today? There is certainly no harm in it; we still face many temptations in today's world! While we should understand that, historically, Jesus meant for His disciples to remember their history, we should also realize that we face our own temptations today. Though the temptations that they faced were of a somewhat different caliber, living as they were, under the captivity & condemnation of the Old, or first covenant, we, under the New Covenant, face temptation as well!

There is one advantage that we have over those first-century disciples, who first received Jesus' instructions: unlike them, we have the Law written, not on tablets of stone, but on our hearts! Our Heavenly Father has taken up position with us once more, and now dwells with ( in ) us, not in a temple made with hands, but in the Temple made without hands, One of His own building!

Let us thank our Heavenly Father that He delivered His People from the temptations of that old system, into the blessedness of eternal Communion with Him! Let us continually thank Him for the Strength He daily grants us to refuse the temptations that surround us! 

As we Commune with our Heavenly Father, let us always remember, in thankfulness, the temptations of our spiritual ancestors in the wilderness, and the deliverance that we witness in the pages of Scripture. Because of the deliverance from Sin & Death that Jesus wrought on the cross, His People no longer face the temptation they faced under that first covenant, let us forever thank Him for this deliverance, and Live eternally with an attitude of gratitude in daily Communion with our Heavenly Father and with His People, His Temple!

Amen & Amen!

Charles Haddon Shank

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