This past June, a mountain lion attacked a five-year-old boy near Aspen, Colorado.
The Pitkin County sheriff’s office says the unidentified boy’s mother heard screaming while the boy was playing outside in the front yard with his older brother. The woman ran outside, where she saw the animal on top of her son. She yanked away one of its paws and pried its jaws open.
Don’t mess with Mom!
The boy suffered some deep cuts to his head, face and neck, but nothing life-threatening. His mother had scratches and bites.
That is the image that Jesus creates as He teaches people to pray “but deliver us from evil” – which can also be translated “the Evil One.”
The word He uses for “deliver” also means “rescue” and “pull away from”. And the last definition is appropriate, since Peter wrote in his first pastoral letter that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Jesus tells us to pray that God will pull us out of the jaws of Satan – who wants to destroy us.
Did you catch the sharp contrast here? “Do not carry us into temptation – BUT pull us away from the evil One.” Jesus is teaching us to pray for a double dose of protection from Satan’s power.
Our friend John Calvin encourages us not to get hung up on “deliver us from evil” vs. “deliver us from the Evil One”. He writes, “Satan is the adversary who schemes for our destruction; sin is the weapon which he uses to crush and murder us.” Crush and murder us. Sounds like those lion’s jaws again, doesn’t it?
William Barclay – who did not believe in a real Satan – defined the Evil One as “the cumulative effect of all the evil acts and evil decisions which have been part of the human scene.”
But Jesus spoke of the “Evil One” – not evil in general. Satan is not a red guy with a goatee, horns, a pointed tail, and a pitchfork – as you see running around your neighborhood on Halloween night. Instead, as an exiled angel, Satan is a powerful spiritual being.
Satan – “the Accuser”. The Devil – “the Deceiver”. Lucifer – “the Angel of Light”. Whatever you call him, he is the ultimate Evil One. Like the old-fashioned mouse trap, He lures us in with promises of pleasure – only to bring the jaws of death crashing down on us.
And Satan is slick – he works in our minds, enticing us with imaginings of how much happier and more satisfied we will be if we follow his prompts.
Which are all around us. One press of a button on the TV remote, one click of the mouse or tap on the phone screen, one angry, careless, or deceptive word, one peek at our classmate’s test paper and we are trapped.
Trapped is a good word, because we cannot – no matter how hard we try – pull ourselves away from evil. It is too strong for us. We need to be delivered. Let’s look now at our Hebrew Bible reading for today for a story of how God delivered His people from those who wanted to destroy them:
2 Chronicles 20:1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'”
“The battle is not yours, but God’s.” Other translations say, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” And that’s why Jesus has us pray, “Deliver us from the Evil One,” because the battle is not ours to fight – it is God’s.
We may feel completely helpless and overwhelmed in the face of temptation, but that is when we must remember that the battle is not ours, but God’s.
And so we pray that God will deliver us from the Evil One – because we need the help and because we need the humility to ask for help. Jesus was specific in how He worded this because He does not want us to fall into the trap of the Pharisees: getting the foolish notion that we are such good people that we can resist temptation on our own.
That ability comes only from God. Paul wrote in First Corinthians 10:
He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
But how does God do that? How does He deliver us from the Evil One?
Jesus – on the night of His betrayal and arrest – prayed to His Father for His disciples: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Two verses later, He prays: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
To snatch us away from the Evil One and keep us away is what we call the process of sanctification – making us more like Jesus. Remember how Jesus was able to resist even the greatest of temptations in the wilderness?
The more we become like Him, then the better able we are – in the power of the Holy Spirit – to resist the Devil and his deception. As John wrote in his first pastoral letter: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
And how are we sanctified? In the truth – in the Word of God. God delivers us – pulls us away – from the Evil One by His Word, which is Truth. The more we immerse ourselves in His written Word, and the more time we spend with Jesus – the Word Made Flesh and the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the easier it is for us to resist Satan and His attractive lies.
And Satan has a lot of help. William Carl writes in his book on the Lord’s Prayer that the Mass Media define our terms for us now. And they are blissfully unaware that Satan is using them to lure people into his jaws.
50 million Americans are in worship on a given Sunday, but little is ever written in the papers about what happens there. But you will hear, see, and read story after story about one movie that attracts 11 million viewers in a weekend. The Media have decided that Hollywood is more important than the Kingdom of God, that professional athletes are essential but faith is optional. That money and power and sex can bring happiness. That God is a myth and sin is an illusion. And that Truth is what you decide it is.
So our view of reality is shaped by the Media in the same way that our view of ourselves is shaped by a funhouse mirror. That distorted view can only be corrected by the Truth: the truth of God’s Word.
That is where we get a clearer picture of God’s view of reality – without the glitter and glamour that blind us. That is where we learn what God expects of us. That is where God assures us that we are forgiven and promises to deliver us from the Evil One.
And that is where God assures us that the Evil One will not get the last word. Look at Revelation 20 to see what happens to him. Then look at Revelation 21 & 22 to see what happens to those who have been delivered from his clutches.
The word devil means “deceiver.” Don’t be deceived by Satan and his lies. Including the lie that you are helpless to resist him. Believe instead that God can and will pull you away from the Evil One.