Lord Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Jesus teaches us to end our prayer with this double line: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What is temptation?
    It’s good to start with temptation as we find it in the Bible. Right at the beginning of his ministry Jesus was tempted by the devil (see, for instance, Matt. 4:1). The temptations that the devil put before Jesus seem to have been insidious; each of them had an element of truth to it. But Jesus was clear-headed and faithful to his mission, and he rejected the temptations out of hand.
    For Jesus, the tempter was the devil. Is God ever the tempter?
    Genesis 22 reads rather uncomfortably: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham; and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
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    To avoid a possible misinterpretation: The Bible makes it clear that God will never ask for child sacrifice. His worship has nothing to do with the pagan worship, which often did call for the destruction of children. He tests Abraham, but he arrests his arm. And he makes it clear he will never ask anyone else to offer any such sacrifice.
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    God is said to tempt Abraham. But, actually, the sense is more of a test. God wants to prove Abraham.
    We should think of something like taking iron and “proving” it by passing it through fire. Iron passed through fire becomes steel. God’s “temptation” of Abraham is his making Abraham into a person who trusts in him more than anything else.
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    I don’t know that I really want to trust God that much! God (I have said before) is a rascal who will take away everything he gives us. God intends to kill us, and he will succeed. Your health? Your mind? Your wealth? Your family? Your honor in society? Don’t think you can hang on to any of these.
    This is the temptation that comes from God, the temptation we would ask not to be led into. Dear God, please hold back and do not treat us too harshly, too quickly. Lead us not into temptation.
    (More to come.)
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    What theologians read. A small quarterly I have recently come to know is Comment magazine. It is published in Canada (where else?) and has much thoughtful material on theology and culture. It also has the virtue of coming out just four times a year. Most of their articles are free on the website https://www.cardus.ca/comment/ —although, no surprise, yours truly prefers the print version.
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    Out & About. Happy Thanksgiving. This blog is going to skip a week and will resume the beginning of December.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."