Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lead us not into temptation

I was chatting to someone this week, and she said, "I don't get it where Jesus says we should pray, "Lead us not into temptation." Now I've heard many an explanation regarding this but I have to admit, most explanations have not convinced me.
First of all, taking it at it's direct meaning: literally asking God not to lead us into Temptation:
Surely the one who leads us into temptation is Satan and not God?
In the book of James says: "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." (James 1:13)
So if God does not tempt anyone why does Jesus say we should pray, "Lead us not into temptation?"
I have heard the explanation that the word for temptation in the Greek, (peirsamos) can also mean "testing." I checked this in my Strong's Concordance and Lexicon and it says the following:
3986 peirasmos pi-ras-mos; from 3985 (peirazo - to test); a putting to proof (by experiment [of good], experience [of evil] solicitation, discipline or provocation); by impl. Adversity: temptation, x try.
So this could be translated "Lead us not into testing." Oh, it still doesn't work, for me. I may be quite "dof". (Slang for stupid) but I have a few queries concerning this.
Firstly, why has this verse consistently been translated as "temptation." from the KJV to the NIV. There may be, though I am not aware of any, versions that translate this word as "testing."
I do admit that God does test us. There are many instances in the Scriptures that make reference to God testing/trying His people.
2 Chron. 32:31 - "God left him to test him".
Job 7:18 - Job is praying saying: "You (God) examine him [man] every morning and test him every moment." - This is really interesting. - I will come back to this one.
Ps. 26:2 "Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind."
Ps 139:23 "Search me, Oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."
Jer. 9:7 "Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: "See, I will refine and test them..." (In the Hebrew the word refine means "melt.")
Jer. 17:10 "I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind."
Zech. 13:7 - 9 The heading in my NIV bible to this section is "The Shepherd Struck, the Sheep scattered." I quote the section in its totality:
"Awake, O sword against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me." declares the Lord Almighty. "Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered and I will turn my hand against the little ones." "In the whole land," declares the Lord, two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine (melt) them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my Name and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God."
In the New Testament we read:
1 Cor. 3:12-13 If any man builds on this foundation (Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.
James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
1 Pet. 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (In the KJV - the fiery trial which is to try you.)
So what conclusions can we draw from these scriptures?
1 - God does test His people.
2 - It is an ongoing process (not a once off event!)
3 - The testing is not a pleasant experience to endure.
4 - Nevertheless, it is a good and positive experience and thus we see places where God is invited to test individuals. I stress that although it is difficult to endure the trial, it is a good and positive experience.
5 - Thus we are exhorted to endure the test with JOY.
All the above being true, why does Jesus say we must pray lead us NOT into temptation (testing.)
Surely Jesus should have said "Lead us into testing". (In modern terminology - "Bring it on, God.!) Now I know you are saying "Steady on there John." Jesus however said "Lead us not into temptation." So what IS Jesus saying?
If God does not tempt, but he does test and if that testing is a positive and desirable (though not a pleasant) experience, why does Jesus say Lead us not into temptation/testing?
I was listening to a programme on TBN TV earlier this week, when someone said something which gave me an idea (I'm sorry I cannot name the speaker or the programme) of a different way of understanding this statement. One of the difficulties with reading is that tone of voice can be lost in the process. We are helped to a certain extent by punctuation, but the Greek texts from which we get our Bible were to a large degree devoid of such punctuation.
I think, and I am open to discussion on this, that we could read the text in a slightly different way.
Maybe what Jesus was saying was this:
Lead us, not into temptation but, deliver us from evil.
By praying it this way, we are asking God to lead us. Failure to be lead by God will lead to temptation and sin, and so we need to be delivered - set free from Evil (sin) and ONLY GOD can accomplish such deliverance. So allow me to paraphrase the Lord's Prayer here:
Our Father - (Abba, Daddy) in heaven, your Name is holy.
May you reign and may Your desires be carried out on earth just as you reign and your desires are carried out in heaven.
Today Lord, give all that we need.. (We ask for today, not for this week or this month or this year - simply today, let us have what we NEED)
Forgive us for every sin, just as we forgive those who offend, upset us, or do us an injustice.
Lead us Lord, because if You don't then we will land up being tempted.
Deliver us from our sin (as only You can.)
For You own everything and in complete charge - The Kingdom belongs to you. You have all the power. And ALL THE GLORY (all the credit for anything good) is Yours and will always be only yours.
This is my understanding - but I am open to different perspectives and would welcome discussion. Go ahead and email me.

No comments: