And lead us not into temptation

Tenth in The Lord's Prayer Series, “The best prayer to pray in times of stress”

Many years ago I attended a church whose pastor explained that, in the original language, the text actually would read, “Leave us not in temptation.” That sounded good to me, but it's inaccurate. See here. More recently, Pope Francis stated that “Lead us not into temptation” is a mistranslation. “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation… It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.” Yet, even Satan cannot tempt man without God’s permission. (Job 1:12, 2:6; Luke 22:31)

So, what type of person would God lead or bring into temptation and why? God at times leads HIS OWN CHILDREN into temptation or hard testing. UNBELIEVERS, too, may be led, but that would be a separate study. To look at WHY he does so, we can study an example of this tactic.

However, before looking into this difficult truth, we can absolutely know and trust that God does nothing thoughtlessly, arbitrarily or heartlessly. Also, the Lord TEMPTS no one.Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13, 14) There is a real, not arbitrary, difference between tempting a man and leading him into temptation. In the first case, the one who is the temptor is a sinner, and in the second, the one who leads into the circumstance is God himself who has the right to test the hearts of men, for his own perfect purposes.

Our example is Hezekiah, who began to reign in Jerusalem at age 25. (2 Ch 29:1) He followed in David's footsteps, reestablishing proper worship. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did [it] with all his heart, and prospered. (2 Ch 31:21)

During Hezekiah's reign a greater nation, the Assyrians, came to attack Jerusalem. They entered Judah and made threats, mocking Hezekiah's underlings for believing Judah could win the battle; they cried with a loud voice in the Jews' speech unto the people of Jerusalem that [were] on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city. (2 Ch 32:18)

During this siege, at age 40, Hezekiah was very ill. The Lord told him by way of Isaiah, the prophet, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. (2 Ki 20:1b) In response, Hezekiah prayed and sobbed,I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done [that which is] good in thy sight. (2 Ki 20:3)

The Lord then determined to add 15 years to his life, "And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake." (2 Ki 20:6)

Further, the Lord gave him a sign it would be done: Time was reversed for ten hours. The Lord brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz. ( 2Ki 20:11-- Ahaz was Hezekiah's father.)

Isaiah and Hezekiah cried and prayed, and the Lord sent an angel to defeat the Assyrians. It was such an incredible victory that many foreigners brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem and to Hezekiah, so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations after that time. (2 Ch 32:23b)

This, unfortunately, went to his head. The Bible states: But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. (2 Ch 32:25)

To demonstrate that Hezekiah did not show humility and gratefulness but rather self-satisfaction and pride, the story continues.

Ambassadors from Babylon paid him a visit, expressly to congratulate him on his health and to inquire about "the wonder that was done", the changing of time. Hezekiah happily showed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not. (2 Ki 20:13)

Isaiah then warned him the Babylonians would return one day and carry off all of it.

Hezekiah was so proud of his magnificent holdings and his health. Yet these were his because of God's power and grace, so he was basking in glory that rightfully belonged to the Lord. And God has stated: I [am] the LORD: that [is] my name: and my glory will I not give to another (Isa 42:8a).

Thus, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all [that was] in his heart. (2 Ch 32:31), and he failed the test.

We can learn from this account:

  1. Don't take credit for the things God does; give Him the glory!
  2. Learn from trials. There is nothing sadder than a person who has been through a great trial, and then cannot apply its lessons or remember God's grace.
  3. If there is something in our spirit or personality that displeases the Lord, he wants us to put it away, whether fear, pride, anger, or the other sins and behaviors that compromise our faith and diminish a victorious Christian witness.

Let us hope and pray not to be released from the stress of trials unless we will go forward to live in a new way, closer to God, not further away. As we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," let's reflect and consider whether that "guidance" may be needed. Avoid it if possible!

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