Matthew 6 v 13 But deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6 v 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There is an old Jewish prayer prayed by the ancient Rabbis that goes like this –
“Lord deliver me from an evil accident, and diseases; and do not trouble me with evil dreams, and evil imaginations…. let it be thy good pleasure, 0 Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that thou wouldst deliver us from an evil man, and from an evil accident; from the evil imagination, i.e. the corruption of nature; from an evil companion; from an evil neighbour; and from Satan the destroyer; and from hard judgment; and from an hard adversary, whether he is the son of the covenant, or is not the son of the covenant.”
Such was the healthy respect that the godly Jews had for the evil things that they knew about and with which they were assailed and that they needed DELIVERANCE.
We are the same and are in as much need of deliverance. The final 4 petitions in the Disciple’s Prayer that focus on our needs as believers are for PROVIDING GRACE – give us our daily bread; PARDONING GRACE – forgive us our sins; PREVENTING grace – lead us not into temptation - as we saw last time the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to pray that we should not be overwhelmed by the trials and temptations that come our way. But now in this second phrase of verse 13 we are to recognise that we must have a healthy fear of the strategies of Satan. We are going to ask in this Petition for PRESERVING GRACE.
But deliver us from evil.
When we pray this part of the prayer we recognise Satan’s power; we affirm our weakness and we come to plead for the greater power of the Lord Jesus Christ to be operating in our lives.
Now there is a disagreement between our friends the Bible Commentators.
Some look at the Greek text and conclude that the Lord is restricting the word EVIL to refer only to the devil – Satan. They have very good cause to do so as we shall see in a moment.
Others expand the meaning of EVIL to include every kind of trouble, difficulty, illness and things that cause us pain and discomfort, as well as our own inner evil tendencies and of course the work of the devil.
We do ourselves no favours in getting involved in the controversy. We need to learn practically what the Lord Jesus Christ is telling us as we seek to know what we are praying for in this prayer.
So we begin by thinking briefly about the words of the text.
DELIVER is a wonderful word. In the Greek it is RHUOMAI. It conveys the thought of rescue, preservation from danger or even salvation as a deliverance. One definition can be to drag out of danger. How words change in their meaning. To deliver a letter is not to rescue it but to ensure its safe arrival at its destination. The Highwayman who cried, “Stand and deliver, your money or your liver” meant give up your cash and valuables and give them to him, when he used the word deliver. Deliverance here is far from dragging out from danger or rescue!
But truly the word means to liberate or set free. Closer to this proper meaning is the delivery that happened in the Russell household in the early hours of Friday morning – little Peter Henry was set free from the comfortable nestling place where he had spent 9 months when he was delivered. He was delivered safely from the confines of his mother’s body.
And closer still is the meaning of being kept from something – in this case – sin. We talk of miraculous deliverances in God’s providence for our safety – accidents or mishaps are avoided by the hand of God intervening on our behalf. In this petition we are going to ask for the same – O Lord rescue us from evil – keep us from it!
But what is this word EVIL? We know it as a very negative word. It is the Greek word PONEROS and can mean any annoyance or hardship or trouble that comes upon a person or a community.
We talk of social evils, and natural evils such as floods and earthquakes – evils because they cause discomfort and death.
But evil is most often used in reference to badness or something with a bad nature.
It is primarily an ADJECTIVE - a describing word. That is an evil deed – there is an evil animal.
But in Greek and English an adjective can sometimes turn into a noun – and this is the case in Matthew 6 v 13 – and if it is a noun it needs in English an article – ‘THE’ is put before it and it becomes ‘THE EVIL’. Then because of what we know of Satan, the author of much of the evil in the world, this noun can refer to a personification of evil and the translation can quite properly be THE EVIL ONE – that is Satan. Now we can see why some commentators restrict the use of evil to be the evil one in this verse.
And there are several other New Testament verses that have the same word with the same construction, case and ending.
Matthew 5 v 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Satan is capable of influencing our speech and honesty.
Matthew 13 v 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
v 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
When the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for His disciples He prayed like this –
John 17 v 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
The Lord had no intention of insulating His followers by whisking them immediately away to be with Him in heaven – Father – keep them WHILE THEY are in the world!
Ephesians 6 v 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
This is clearly a reference to the devil as we saw a few months ago.
1 John 2 v 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
v 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
1 John 3 v 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
1 John 5 v 18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
So we are clear about one thing – and that is that our deliverance, the deliverance for which we pray in this prayer, is from the activity of Satan himself!
In the dark years of the middle of the 20th century it was observed about the country of Germany, under a cruel dictator and regime, that there was a foreboding atmosphere. Helmut Thielicke said this –
“There is a dark, mysterious, spellbinding figure at work. Behind the temptation stands the tempter, behind the lie stands the liar, behind all the dead and bloodshed stands he who has been called “The murderer from the beginning.”
How right he was – history has shown this to be the case – a wicked spirit of iniquity drove the nazi regime – inspired by Satan.
What we pray for in this prayer is this –
But deliver us from the Evil One – Satan.
Are we any less in danger from Satan’s influence? Oh would it be so – but it is not. He is still a deadly foe! We are in danger of the devil and we need deliverance from his activities. Once again we must know our enemy and as we considered the enemy of souls when we studied the armour of God some time ago we ought to remind ourselves again of this wicked spirit who seeks to bring us as much trouble as he can.
And friends, since we need the Lord's protection and deliverence of our thoughts even while we are in the assembly of the saints we need to bow in prayer and just ask His help as we think about our enemy. Let’s pray together.
“Almighty God Our Father, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whenever we think of thine enemy, who is our enemy, we fear. And we come O Lord, humbly before thee, to ask that thou wilt protect our minds and souls as we consider the word of God and the things pertaining to the wicked one, who is thought about in this prayer. We pray indeed that we may be delivered from the evil one and from all manner of evil that he will send against us and that even while we are sitting here this morning we may know of the wonder of thy deliverance. For Jesus’ sake, amen.”
1. Satan invented evil.
The Lord Jesus Christ confirmed this when he replied to some Jewish rulers who had opposed Him –
John 8 v 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
This is the history of Satan as given by the Son of God – a murderer and liar from the beginning of the universe. He was there in the garden ready to ruin the human race.
2. Satan is constantly active in evil.
His agenda is constantly evil and he is ever on the lookout for the unwary. So as Peter says in
1 Peter 5 v 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
3. Satan is altogether evil and does nothing but evil.
The devil is altogether in contrast to God, whose nature is good and wise and perfect. The devil’s nature is evil.
Ephesians 6 v 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
What a verse this is! We have a comprehensive enemy who is powerful.
4. Satan resists those who would be righteous.
He loves to attempt to hinder the work of God as expressed in the activities of man. There is an incident recorded by the prophet Zechariah demonstrating the devil’s propensity to hinder and put spanners in the works –
Zechariah 3 v 1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
There he was, the enemy – standing prepared to resist the work of sacrifice for the sins of God’s people. If you read on you will discover how God Himself intervened and rebuked the devil, who was immediately dismissed.
5. Satan provokes believers to do evil.
There is a classic example of this in Acts 5. It was Satan who put it into Ananias’ heart to lie about the proceeds of the sale of property.
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Ananias was tempted by the devil – nevertheless he could have resisted – but he failed to do so. We thought about that last week – that temptation is not of itself – sin. It is only when we listen closely to the temptation, allow it to permeate our thinking, play with it for a while and then as the temptation grows stronger and stronger – we fall – then it is sin. And Satan slinks away having started the ball rolling laughs at the end result!
You will be familiar with this process but it bears repeating from the scripture in James 1 describing it –
13 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: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
What an enemy Satan is! He is a restless spirit roaming through the world preying on the unwary, influencing the ungodly to do all kinds of evil; he enjoys the worship of many in their covens and false religious practices; he never rests because spirits need no rest. The word for satan in the Hebrew signifies an ADVERSARY.
And he is an adversary from whom we need to be delivered!
But deliver us from the evil one.
He is an adversary who is armed with power. In Luke 11 v 21 he is referred to as the “strong man.” The unwary are taken captive by him at his will.
2 Timothy 2 v 24 – 26 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
The illustration here is of a bird taken captive in a snare. But Satan acts as an angler with a rod or net with tasty morsels of bait to attract the unsuspecting fish. He uses all kinds of means to trip the careless and trap the foolish.
He makes available top opportunities in business for the man who is passionately ambitious but careless about guidance from the Lord.
He makes available riches for the man with an avaricious tendency in order to divert his attention from God to his possessions.
He presents the lustful man with images of beauty and leads him to be obsessed with his desires and urges, leading him to immorality and infidelity.
And when we pray sincerely this petition, ‘But deliver us from evil’, we are acknowledging the possibility of Satan being able to assault the castles of our hearts. But my friends we are not to surrender the keys of those hearts to him – he is our mortal enemy and will make a ruin of the castle by getting inside. We need deliverance.
And we have a deliverer – the one who teaches us to pray this prayer – Our Father which art in heaven, whose name is hallowed, whose Kingdom is coming and whose will is being done – deliver us from the evil one – for we have no might of our own against Him. This is true my friends. We are weak and He is strong.
Yet as Christians – true believers – those who have been born again from above – have another captain in charge of the castles we call our hearts. He is the captain of our salvation. As long as he reigns – and He has promised to reign for ever and ever – then we have someone greater within us. He is supreme. He is the conqueror. Already He has obtained a mighty victory over the enemy – and He is able to deliver us from all of his attacks. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!
Let us not therefore be intimidated by such a fierce foe – but pray – pray for deliverance when we need it –
John Newton put it like this in verse –
Why should I fear the darkest hour, Or tremble at the tempter’s power? Jesus vouchsafes to be my tower. Though hot the fight why quit the field? Why must I either fly or yield, Since Jesus is my mighty shield? When creature comforts fade and die, Worldlings may weep, but why should I? Jesus still lives, and still is nigh. I know not what may soon betide, Or how my needs shall be supplied; But Jesus knows, and will provide. Though sin would fill me with distress, The throne of grace I dare address, For Jesus is my righteousness. Though faint my prayers and cold my love, My steadfast hope shall not remove, While Jesus intercedes above. Against me earth and hell combine; But on my side is power divine; Jesus is all! And He is mine!
John Newton 1725-1807 (Number 591 Christian Hymns)
We need not then fear the tempter’s power – but simply ask the Lord to ‘Deliver us from the Evil One’.
However – there is more to the prayer.
We are also praying to be delivered from other evils.
We are aware that we have three principle enemies – the world, the flesh and the devil. We need deliverance in all three of these areas. So we have dealt with the deliverance from the devil. What about the other two areas?
But Deliver us from the evil of the World.
The world is a defiled place and therefore has a defiling influence. Some would say that is a blinkered and narrow view. But to think that way would be to ignore our responsibilities as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ –
James 1 v 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
It is hard to go out in the summer sun and not to become brown and tanned. So it is with the world – it is hard to live in the world and not to become defiled. Psalm 106 v 35 tellingly says this about the people of Israel-
But they were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.
But Moses had warned them in Exodus 23 v 2-
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil;
The opinions and philosophy of the world that does not believe in the Lord God are defiling for the believer. The examples of behaviour in the world are bad examples. We have few people to look up to in society today.
The Puritan Thomas Watson remarks that “Princes are mirrors by which we dress ourselves – if they do evil, we are apt to imitate them.”
The world is an ensnaring world. There are so many pitfalls, as we saw last week, that are laid for the unwary. The pleasures of the world, like an illicit drug, put people into the sleep of false security. So many people give up heaven for the world. It is an inviting world, and enticing world, and it is a world that is ready to come marching into the church. In fact the world already has done in some places. People have changed to accommodate the sinful world – they have gone down the road of giving the worldlings who come to services and get involved with church activities just what they want – entertainment and social comfort. Certainly the church should be friendly to strangers – but if they come in and are comfortable, spiritually speaking, then their souls are in as much danger inside as they are outside the church!
We should remember that the world is really a sneering, discouraging world that reproaches those who desire to live for God with virtue. They accuse believers of being holier than thou and hypocrites. They tell us that our religion is a waste of time – that there is nothing beyond the grave.
From these things we need deliverance – and the Lord Jesus knows just how to deliver us from the evil world. He calls us out of it. “Leave it behind”, He says and come through repentance and faith into the blessed society of the redeemed children of God. Leave the deceit, and the deadening effects of the world and its ways and come to me.
You see leaving the world is being delivered from evil. But it is not just a negative process – it is positive – ‘but deliver us from the evil world’ is also a plea to the Lord to help us to make progress in holiness. Proclaiming that we are divorced from the world of sin is not enough – we need to announce our marriage to a holy lifestyle! Psalm 34 v 14 puts these two together –
Depart from evil, and do good;
as does Isaiah in Isaiah 1 v 16
cease to do evil; Learn to do well;
and the New Testament equivalent from Paul in Romans 12 v 9
Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
When someone is treated successfully for cancer which has wasted the body, there is more to it than removing the disease – there needs to be a long process of building the body up again in health.
A person, a man or a woman can abstain from evil and sinful deeds – yet that person may yet go to hell for not doing good. There are many apparently good people – but they are not holy and do not desire to be so. The soul also needs to grow in holiness.
‘But deliver us from evil’ means Lord – help us to cleanse ourselves from unholiness that we have caught from the world, and help us to follow righteousness and holiness, and become more like Thee. Oh my friends may this be our solemn prayer in this part of the petition – Lord Jesus – deliver us from evil – for only Thou canst do it. Thou hast the power – Thou hast done it already as a man. May we follow Thee in all our ways – and may we know daily deliverance from the evils in the world and the evil that comes from him who is called the evil one.