We come this morning to the final petition in the model prayer that our Lord taught His disciples:
Matthew 6:13 (NKJV) And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Let me begin by reminding you that Matthew is the gospel which was written for the Jews. It was written by a Jew in order to convince the Jews that Jesus was Christ the King. Jesus is a king, and he came to proclaim a kingdom. His public ministry centered around a significant statement in:
Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Jesus, as King, was announcing the presence of the prophesied kingdom for Israel in the person of the Messiah. Christ had been performing miracles of healing, which demonstrated Him to be the Messiah of the Old Testament.
The immediate context of this prayer, "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil ", was the coming kingdom. The Jews to whom Jesus is speaking were familiar with the Old Testament and knew that the time of Jacob's troubles, the Tribulation, will precede the coming kingdom which the Messiah will establish. This is the time when God's wrath will be poured out upon the earth. The immediate reference is for the Jews to pray that God would save them from the sufferings that are coming and the evil that will characterize the Tribulation. Jesus speaks of this in:
Matthew 24:21-22 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.
Let me remind you that in Matthew 24, Jesus is answering the disciples questions about the destruction of Jerusalem. They wanted to know when it would be destroyed, and what signs would precede the end of the age and His parousia. After talking about the abomination of desolation, which was Jerusalem surrounded by armies, Jesus talks about the great tribulation:
Matthew 24:21 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
"Then" is when? Within a few thousand years? The "then" is referring to the context of verses 15-20; when you see the abomination of desolation, which Luke tells us is Jerusalem surrounded by armies. This happened in 67 AD when Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, laid siege to Jerusalem. The Great Tribulation is not an event yet future to us. It was "then," during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century. This is made abundantly clear in the parallel text in Luke's gospel:
Luke 21:20-24 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Notice who in particular verse 23 says the tribulation will come upon - "the land", which is Jerusalem and "this people," which refers to the first century Jews, not the future world. Verse 24 gives us added details as to what will happen in the Great Tribulation.
Now, let's look at what exactly happened in AD 70 and see if it truly was "the Great Tribulation" and "the days of vengeance." Because most Christians are totally unfamiliar with the events of AD 70, they can't understand how it was the Great Tribulation. The Bible only predicts the events of Jerusalem's fall, because none of the Bible was written after AD 70! So to find out what happened at that time, we need to look to history.
The history that we are going to look at comes from Josephus, a Jew, who lived and wrote at the time of Jerusalem's destruction. In the preface to The War of the Jews, Josephus said this, "Whereas the war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those that were ever heard of." (PREFACE, Section 1)
Josephus, who was not a Christian, agrees with Jesus' words in Matthew 24:21, that the war with the Romans was: "the greatest of all" wars "ever heard of."
Because of the Roman siege, the city of Jerusalem was in a civil war, and the wickedness within the city was great. Josephus tells us what went on in the city:
And, indeed, why do I relate these particular calamities? while Manneus, the son of Lazarus, came running to Titus at this very time, and told him that there had been carried out through that one gate, which was intrusted to his care, no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies, in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthieus, [Nisan,] when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz]. This was itself a prodigious multitude; and though this man was not himself set as a governor at that gate, yet was he appointed to pay the public stipend for carrying these bodies out, and so was obliged of necessity to number them, while the rest were buried by their relations; though all their burial was but this, to bring them away, and cast them out of the city. After this man there ran away to Titus many of the eminent citizens, and told him the entire number of the poor that were dead, and that no fewer than six hundred thousand were thrown out at the gates, though still the number of the rest could not be discovered; and they told him further, that when they were no longer able to carry out the dead bodies of the poor, they laid their corpses on heaps in very large houses, and shut them up therein; as also that a medimnus of wheat was sold for a talent; and that when, a while afterward, it was not possible to gather herbs, by reason the city was all walled about, some persons were driven to that terrible distress as to search the common sewers and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the dung which they got there; and what they of old could not endure so much as to see they now used for food. When the Romans barely heard all this, they commiserated their case; while the seditious, who saw it also, did not repent, but suffered the same distress to come upon themselves; for they were blinded by that fate which was already coming upon the city, and upon themselves also. (Josephu, Book V, Chapter XIII, Section 7)
In light of what Josephus says here about the dead bodies laying in heaps, listen to the prophecy of:
Amos 8:1-4 (NKJV) Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, a basket of summer fruit. 2 And He said, "Amos, what do you see?" So I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the LORD said to me: "The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. 3 And the songs of the temple Shall be wailing in that day," Says the Lord GOD; "Many dead bodies everywhere, They shall be thrown out in silence." 4 Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail,
Why was this happening to Israel? They had broken the covenant with their God. They had turned from God and thus were suffering a covenantal judgement.
Renan said, "From this time forth, hunger, rage, despair, and madness dwelt in Jerusalem. It was a cage of furious maniacs, a city resounding with howling and inhabited by cannibals, a very hell. Titus, for his part, was atrociously vindictive; every day five hundred unfortunates were crucified in the sight of the city with hateful refinements of cruelty or sufficient ground whereon to erect them."
We need to realize the scope of the Great Tribulation upon the people of Israel. It was not just those in Jerusalem that suffered and died, but all over Palestine, the whole country felt the judgement of God. Josephus said, "There was not a Syrian city which did not slay their Jewish inhabitants, and were more bitter enemies to us than were the Romans themselves."
David Clark said, "It is doubtful if anything before or since has equaled it for ruthless slaughter and merciless destruction. From the locality of these churches in Asia Minor to the borders of Egypt the land was a slaughterhouse, City after city was wrecked, sacked, and burned; till it was recorded that cities were left without an inhabitant."
Note: All quotes from Josephus are taken from The Wars of The Jews, and all the bold emphasis in the quotes are mine.
The Great Tribulation is a PAST event! It happened to Israel in the first century. I think you can see why the first century Christians would pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil "
Was their prayer answered? Were they delivered? Yes, they were! Do you remember what Jesus said they were to do when Jerusalem was surrounded by armies?
Luke 21:20-24 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.
When the Roman armies were seen surrounding Jerusalem, this was the sign to get out of the entire country as soon as possible. The exhortation to flee is given to those in the adjacent country as well as to those in the city. The temptation was probably to run into the city for protection from its walls, but Jesus said, "Flee to the mountains."
Now the question is, "How can they flee Jerusalem once the Roman army surrounds the city?" It seems like it would be too late then. It would have been too late if not for an act of God. Josephus gives us an account of the Roman army pulling back from the battle at Jerusalem for no apparent reason:
It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen. (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, book II, Chapter XIX, Section,7)
William Whiston, (1737) the translator of Josephus, has this footnote:
There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that 'when they should see the abomination of desolation' [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] 'stand where it ought not;' or, 'in the holy place;' or, 'when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;' they should then 'flee to the mountains.' By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled to the mountains of Perea and escaped this destruction.
John Gill (1949) says this, "...it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city . . " (John Gill, on Matthew 24:16).
According to Foy Wallace (1966, The Book of Revelation, p. 352):
It is a remarkable but historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, retired when they first marched against the city, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans had occupied the temple, thus giving every believing Jew the opportunity to obey the Lord's instruction to flee the city. Josephus the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time, after a siege had begun. Can we account for it? We can. The Lord was fighting against Jerusalem Zechariah 14:2: 'For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city": The Lord was besieging that city. God was bringing these things to pass against the Jewish state and nation. Therefore, the opportunity was offered for the disciples to escape the siege, as Jesus had forewarned, and the disciples took it. So said Daniel; so said Jesus; so said Luke, so said Josephus
History records it, for no known reason Cestius Gallus, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies. At this time every believing Jew had the opportunity to flee the city as the Lord had instructed them. This was an answer to the prayer, "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil ", that Jesus taught his disciples. I can imagine that as Cestius suspended the siege and the Christians began to flee, that they remembered the many times they had prayed this prayer and thanked God, as they fled, for His answer to it. God had delivered them from the great evil of the tribulation.
So the immediate reference to the Jews' praying, "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil", was regarding the coming Tribulation and their being spared from the evil of that time in light of the coming kingdom, but the principle is the same for us today. We look to God to keep us from trials and to preserve us from evil in the trials.
How often have you prayed a form of, "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil"? This is a prayer of dependence. We are asking God to keep us from temptation and sin. Just as "Give us this day our daily bread" expresses our dependence, so does "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil".
The word "temptation" is from the Greek word, peirasmos, which means: " to test, and prove." It can mean a trial or test or it can be used of a solicitation to evil. A trial can become a solicitation to evil if we respond to it wrongly. If we are not careful, the testing on the outside can become temptations on the inside. A trial becomes a temptation when we seek to solve it through sinful means. For example; a trial may be a financial shortage. We can turn this trial into a temptation if we try to solve our financial troubles by stealing, or getting money by some other unlawful means. The trial of the Jewish war could have caused many believers to apostatize from the faith.
Believers, it is the Sovereign God who delivers us from evil. We are absolutely dependant upon Him for our practical holiness. And prayer is our greatest weapon in our battle against sin. This prayer is a cry to God to keep us from evil that we would naturally go to.
Jonathan Edwards, in his essay, "The Freedom of the Will", wrote that all men everywhere always act according to their strongest inclination at any given time. After the fall, the Bible teaches that man's strongest inclination at any given moment is always to sin. Fallen man loves darkness (sin), and he hates light, so whenever he is confronted with a choice between darkness and light, he chooses darkness. He chooses what is attractive to him. A person always chooses according to his strongest inclination, he is in bondage to choose what he loves. Apart from walking in fellowship with God, we will be inclined to evil. So we pray for God to deliver us from evil.
We ask God to not bring us into temptation and to deliver us from evil, because God is sovereign over sin; it is God who restrains people from sin. Remember Abraham lied about his wife, Sarah, saying she was his sister? As a result, Abimelech took Sarah as his wife, but God kept Abimelech from sinning with Sarah:
Genesis 20:6 (NKJV) And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.
Was it that Abimelech tried to sleep with Sarah, but some mysterious power held him back? Was he physically unable to do what he wanted? NO! Abimelech had no conscienceness that the Lord was restraining him, but He was.
A good illustration of God's restraint of people is given in:
Exodus 34:23-24 (NKJV) "Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. 24 "For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.
God commanded all the men to drop their normal activities three times a year to appear before Him. But along with the command, He promised them that no one would covet their land during those times. Not only would no other nations attack them, they would not even desire to do so.
Believers, we are dependant upon our Sovereign God for everything. The food we eat, the air we breath, and our practical holiness are all dependant upon Him. So, we pray, "And lead us not into temptations [peirasmos] , but deliver [rhuomai] us from evil".
Peter uses these same Greek words when he writes:
2 Pet. 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver [rhuomai] the godly out of temptations, [peirasmos] and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
Paul was confident that God would deliver him:
2 Timothy 4:17-18 (NKJV) But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
Believers, we can ask God to preserve us from the trials and not bring us into them, but we can also have the assurance that when he sees fit to bring trials into our lives, He has a purpose in it. That purpose is to refine us, mold us, and prepare us for His glory. We can be confident that He will keep us from evil even under the pressures of trials.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter, James, and John:
Luke 22:40 (NKJV) When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."
That is the Lord's commission to each one of us, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." In other words, that you do not yield to temptation which is on every side. We are not able to stand in our own strength. It was Peter, the one who thought he was so strong in faith, who was found sleeping instead of praying. As Jesus said, so often we find "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." This needs to be our prayer! We must live in dependence upon God to keep us from evil.
Believers, we need to cry out with David:
Psalms 19:13 (NKJV) Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
We must continually ask God to keep us from sin; our hearts are prone to wander.
Psalms 141:3-4 (NKJV) Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice wicked works With men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.
This is synonymous with our text, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." This includes an evil tongue.
The Book of Hebrews teaches us about the high-priestly ministry of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:14 speaks of that ministry He carries on for us:
Hebrews 4:14 (NKJV) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
This high-priestly ministry is based on having Jesus Christ as our High Priest. He has come to earth and has died, thus He offered Himself as a sacrifice that is acceptable to God as a payment for sin. It is because we have a High Priest that we can "hold fast" our Christian confession.
Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
He was tempted, but He did not sin. He underwent hunger, sorrow, burdens, and physical discomfort. All of those things pressed in upon Him, so He knows what we go through when we face those kinds of difficulties. Note the invitation of verse 16:
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
This privilege is limited to those of us who have Jesus Christ as our High Priest. We are the only ones who can come; and notice that He encourages us to come with boldness and confidence. We do not have to wonder if He is tired of our asking or whether He wants to be bothered by us today. He tells us to come with boldness, confidence, and assurance. We can come into His very presence to get the strength and grace we need in time of difficulties. That is the privilege we have as God's children.
It is a pity that we live on the level of the world, focused on what we see and acquire instead of what we are in Jesus Christ. We have a heavenly Father who has promised to meet every need. We need not worry about tomorrow. Even though we are unworthy and undeserving, He encourages us to come with confidence and boldness and to ask Him for the things we need. Grace is undeserved and unmerited. He gives to us because we are His children, not because we have earned His blessings.
Matthew 6:13 (NKJV) And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Notice that the NKJV has: "the evil one". The ablative case in the Greek obscures the gender. We have no way of knowing whether it is ho poneros (the evil one) or to poneron (the evil thing). I think it is best translated: "deliver us from evil."
Now, you may notice that the last part of verse thirteen "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" is either not in your Bible (NIV), or is in brackets (NASB). The reason for this is that it is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. It is thought that it found its way into the text as a doxology. It was common practice to end prayers and the reading of Scripture with a doxology, and if this prayer is indeed a pattern for prayer, it seems fitting that it would end with such a doxology of praise to God. As such, it reminds us of the importance of exalting and glorifying the God to whom we pray and from whom must come the answers to our prayers.
This doxology reminds us of:
1 Chronicles 29:11 (NKJV) Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.
Here David extols the greatness of God. David loved to praise the Lord. We should love to do so as well. Indeed, we are exhorted to praise Him:
Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
"For Thine is the kingdom" - we praise Him, because we know He is the King over His Kingdom. And we need to recognize that He is King, and we are not, even though we sometimes like to think we are.
We are also reminded, however, that we have been made partakers of this Kingdom. By the sovereign choice and grace of God, we have been:
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
So while we acknowledge and glorify the Lord as King, we affirm our place as servants and citizens of His Kingdom.
"For Thine is . . . the power . . . ." We also affirm in praise that all power belongs to our Lord. It is His Kingdom, not ours, in which we serve, and it is His power, not ours, which we so desperately need. We cannot succeed as Christians in our own strength. We simply do not have enough strength or the right kind of strength. The problem is that we do not draw on the power of God. We do not really understand that power. As a result, we settle for so much less than God has for us.
"For Thine is . . . the glory . . . ." Just as it is His Kingdom, not ours, in which we serve; and just as it is His power, not ours, we so desperately need; so also it is His glory, not ours, we seek to exalt and reflect by our lives.
As we declare in praise that these things are true about God, we not only speak the truth, but we also reinforce that truth to our minds and hearts. And we may find that we experience his power and presence in a very real and tangible way.
Jonathan Edwards, the great New England preacher who was used so mightily of God in the Great Awakening in America, wrote of one such time of prayer:
Once as I rode out in the woods for my health, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner has been to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view, that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as Mediator between God and man, and of His wonderful, great, full, pure, and sweet grace and love, and His meek and gentle condescension. This grace that seemed so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour. It kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated, to lie in the dust; to be full of Christ alone, to love Him with my whole heart.
Only as we give ourselves to times of prayer will we experience the powerful presence of the Lord. As we bow before Him in humble worship and praise, as we exalt His name, as we glorify Him, then He will touch us with the realization of His presence and the manifestation of His power. His glory will fall upon us and we will never be the same.
As we come to the end of our Lord's model prayer, we must struggle with a decision we all must make. It is the decision to develop a significant prayer life.
As we have said many times now, it was not given to simply be a prayer repeated as some sort of Christian mantra. It is a pattern for prayer, a model prayer. Jesus said, "Pray, then, in this way." Taken as a model, it can give us a pattern to follow in our praying.
This prayer is an all-encompassing prayer. We start off by acknowledging the family relationship we have with Him as our Father. Our desire is that He should be exalted and honored in all that is done. We want His name to be hallowed and His will to be accomplished. Then we acknowledge our dependence upon Him for every need; even those mundane things we need from day to day. We also look to Him on a daily basis for forgiveness. It is also our privilege to look to Him for strength and deliverance which enables us to remain faithful in the midst of the evils of our society. But this is all based upon the relationship we have with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
We can have the model prayer, however, and still fail to pray. Jesus gave us the model, but He also modeled prayer for us. The Scriptures indicate just how much of a priority Jesus gave to prayer:
Mark 1:35 (NKJV) Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Luke 5:16 (NKJV) So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
Luke 6:12 (NKJV) Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
If Jesus, the sinless Son of God, needed to spend long hours in prayer to God, how much more do we? This is our challenge. This is the decision with which you must struggle. What will your decision be?