Friday, June 26, 2020

Reflections on God: Deliver Us From Evil

We return to consider more aspects of who our God is and what He’s up to. This time we’ll use this petition of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Deliver us from evil’. Let’s see what Jesus has to teach us from this.

It’s an obvious fact that there is evil all around us. Even just a quick look, especially these days, will confirm that. And there are plenty of places in the Scriptures that will also confirm that. Here are just a couple.
[Jesus] gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:4
[Make] the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16
Our world is filled with evil. That, of course, isn’t the whole story, but it is an important part of it.

The next thing that we need to do is to take a closer look at this evil that we see. I say that because it’s actually a greater problem than what most understand. So, let me suggest a definition.

Evil is anything less than the perfection of the Garden of Eden before the entrance of sin, when Adam and Eve enjoyed it as a place of beauty and wonder, and had peace with God, with the rest of creation and with each other.
If my definition is right - and I really think that it is - what this means is that your experience of evil is much greater than just those crisis moments. Oh, those terrible moments certainly are expressions of evil. But so much of your everyday sorts of events are also expressions of evil. I think that you can now appreciate a bit better those verses that I quoted above.

Now, for the question that so many have wrestled with, some who pursue it merely as a philosophic exercise and others who pursue it to try to get some peace. Why is there evil? It’s a really good question. And the Scriptures give us a really good answer, one that is clear and so very helpful. Evil exists because of God.

Again, some Scripture.
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Isaiah 45:6,7 [KJV]
Some other translations of the Bible will try to soften this a bit by using words like ‘calamity’ or ‘adversity’ or ‘disaster’ instead of ‘evil’. But the word being translated is the Hebrew word ‘evil’. And do any of these alternate words make a real difference? Evil exists because of God.

You can see God actually causing evil in Genesis 3. That’s where He curses Adam and Eve according to their respective callings. So, Adam will be frustrated as a farmer and Eve will suffer the pains of raising children. God caused that. Evil exists because of God.

Well, that, of course, leads to another question. Why in the world would God do something like that? Why would He create evil? And again, we are not left wondering. The Scriptures tell us. God creates evil in order to advance His plan for the redemption of creation. He uses evil to bring about good.

Let me offer two examples that show this. First, we have Joseph explaining to his brothers what was actually happening when they sold him into slavery.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:20
God used the brothers’ evil to bring about good. And the good that was achieved included rescuing Jacob and his household from the famine. They could have died, as many, no doubt, did. If that had happened there would be no Messiah.

Now, someone might say that in Joseph’s case it was just that God used someone’s evil but didn’t actually create it. A little thought will show that that work around won’t actually protect God from the charge. But just to make it clearer, here’s my second example of God not just using but creating evil. Peter explains the Cross to his Jewish audience.
Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know - this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. Acts 2:22–23
So, why did Jesus die on the Cross? What was the cause of what must be consider the most evil act of history? It was God’s ‘predetermined plan’. God did it. And why did He do it? To bring about much good, like, for just one example, you not going to hell.

We can now take all of this and apply it to that petition Jesus says we should pray: deliver us from evil. And while there are lots of issues that can come up here, I want to connect what I’ve shown you to one thing: how we are to pray this petition.

The use of a petition like this commonly has to do with those crisis moments. All too often, when people pray something like this in a crisis, what they pray can be summarized as something like, ‘Make this go away!!’ And yet, should we always pray that sort of thing if evil is something that God uses for good?

Here’s something from my life that fits at this point. My wife died in 2003. It was a sudden thing. She died because of a bee sting.  When I next attended worship, I wanted to say some things to the saints. So, after the service and before everyone left, I thanked them for the different ways in which they had helped me. But then, I told them this. ‘Linda’s death is part of God’s good and wise and loving plan for my life.’ He sent evil my way. But since then, I have seen in my own life as well as in the lives of others, the good that He intended to bring about. There is still the evil of a hole in my life that was once filled by my wife. But He is still using what happened for good.

So, sometimes [please note that word], when you’re in the midst of one of those crisis moments, maybe the thing to do is not to pray, ‘Make this go away!!’ Maybe the thing to pray is, ‘Not my will but Yours be done’. And to pray that because you know that God uses evil to bring about good. What you will need to do that is a little more wisdom when it comes to using this petition. And that wisdom comes from understanding a little better who your God is and what He’s up to.

And that leads to this.

I pray the Lord’s Prayer as a regular part of my morning prayers. That means that I regularly make that request, ‘Deliver us from evil’, even as I know that there may be more evil for me to suffer through as part of God’s plan to bring about good. But I can pray that petition knowing that the day will come when there will be no more evil. God will have delivered me completely from it all. And it is that which helps me to accept the evil that He wants me to accept in this life.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

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