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It is a happy coincidence that as we come to the conclusion of our summer sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, that the assigned Gospel reading for this morning focuses on Jesus’ giving His disciples this precious gift that we call the Lord’s Prayer.
And yet as happy a coincidence as this is, and as much as I would love to be able to connect our gospel reading into this sermon, we have come to the 7th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer which is “but deliver us from evil,” and unfortunately St. Luke doesn’t include that in his gospel.
And so we need to go back to St. Matthew’s gospel where Jesus gives this prayer to the whole crowd of people gathered around Him in what we call, “The Sermon on the Mount.”
“Pray then like this, Our Father in heaven… but deliver us from evil.”
A. Summary Petition
As we just recited, Martin Luther begins his explanation of this 7th and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer by calling it a “summary” petition. “We pray in this petition, IN SUMMARY…” In other words, this 7th Petition includes Petitions one through six in it.
Think about it. “Evil” is what stands in the way of and hinders:
God’s Name being Hallowed;
God’s Will being done
And God’s His Kingdom coming.
We ask our Father in heaven to deliver us from “evil” so that these things may come to US.
What is it that causes hunger and the basic necessities of ‘daily bread,’ which includes all of the needs of the physical body? In summary, it is ‘evil.’
What hardens our hearts so that we will not receive the ‘forgiveness for our trespasses’ that Jesus Christ has shed His precious blood on the cross for? “Evil.”
What makes us so stubborn and determined to hold onto that grudge so that we will not “forgive those who trespass against us”? In summary, it is ‘evil.’
What ‘leads us into temptation?’ In summary, it is ‘evil.’
“In summary” means, that if God were to only answer this 7th Petition of this prayer, He would answer them all. And that’s just the point of this Petition – He has, and He does, and He will.
B. Deliver / Deliverer In The Old Testament
This little word “DELIVER,” is a big word all through the Scriptures. We like to hear stories about heroic RESCUE operations that DELIVER men and women and children from captivity to EVIL. The world is full of them. And so is the bible.
In our Old Testament reading, we heard the bold prayer of Abraham asking God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of even ten righteous people who might be living there. It’s obvious that Abraham has his nephew Lot in mind. Because Sodom and Gomorrah is where Lot choose to live.
It’s sad that not even 10 righteous people were to be found in these twin cities. And yet, in response to Abraham’s prayer, just before God destroyed them, He sent an angel to deliver Lot.
The ‘take-away’ from this episode is made clear much later by St. Peter, who writes, “If [God] rescued righteous Lot… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.” (2Peter 2:7,9).
Much later, the people of God cried out to God, asking that He RESCUE them from the EVIL surrounded them in Egypt. They were persecuted for their faith, even to the point where the government executed their baby boys. The Lord heard their prayer and sent a DELIVERER named Moses who DELIVERED them from EVIL.
The book of Judges is a series of individual accounts over a long period of Jewish history that record God’s DELIVERANCE of His people from EVIL. Time after time, they adapt and assimilate to the EVIL culture in which they live, until finally they realize the lie that they have fallen for and they cry out to the Lord for DELIVERANCE. The thing that links each of these separate stories in the book of Judges together is these two phrases, “Israel cried out to the Lord,” and “the Lord raised up a DELIVERER who saved them.” (Jud. 3:9).
I’ve heard people say that the Old Testament is boring. Really? From Genesis through Malachi, there are hundreds of stories of RESCUE and DELIVERANCE of God’s righteous people from EVIL.
C. Jesus – The Deliverer From Evil
And all of these ‘mini-stories’ come together in the one, grand and overarching story, of God’s RESCUE of His people from EVIL through the great and final DELIVERANCE from EVIL – the one who tells us to “pray then like this… deliver us from evil.”
The proper way to read the bible, especially the Old Testament, is to read each and every story about RESCUE and DELIVERANCE as a foreshadowing of the great and final DELIVERANCE from evil that Jesus Christ pulls off by His resurrection from the dead and His great and glorious 2nd coming on the last day of the world. This is what Jesus meant when He told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…” (John 5:39).
It’s a crying shame that when ‘the time had fully come,’ and THE DELIVERER that the entire Old Testament pointed to and prepared for, came to DELIVER us from EVIL, so many rejected Him.
As Jesus was hanging from the cross, those who passed by mocked Him and ridiculed Him. They said, “He trusts in God; let God DELIVER Him NOW, if he desires Him.” (Matthew 27:43). And the really ironic thing is, God the Father DID NOT DELIVER His only-begotten Son; at least not NOW.
In fact, just to be sure that we get this right, God the Father DELIVERED His beloved Son INTO EVIL. He DELIVERED Him INTO the hands of the EVIL ONE. In the original language, there is a definite article before the word “ponayrou”, which is ‘evil.’ It’s “tou ponayrou,”; “the evil,” or “the evil one.” The Father DELIVERED His Son, not just into an EVIL culture or EVIL society. He DELIVERED Jesus into the soul and source of all EVIL.
D. Weakness of Contemporary Understanding of Evil
The weakness in our contemporary understanding of ‘EVIL’ is that we only think of ‘EVIL’ in terms of the circumstances and situations that lie on the surface. We have either forgotten or chosen to ignore the fact that there is “EVIL” and “AN EVIL ONE” that lies beneath what lies on the surface.
We say that ‘war’ is EVIL, and it is. We say that ‘pollution,’ and ‘pornography’ and ‘political corruption’ and ‘terrorism’ is EVIL, and it is. But what we no longer seem to be willing to say is that these are only the symptoms of something much deeper. And that we can never eliminate simply EVIL simply by attacking the symptoms. We have learned to ignore the fact that underlying all of these ‘symptoms’ of EVIL is the SOURCE OF ALL EVIL:
our rebellion against God and the rejection of His Word as truth;
our spiritual blindness that only sees things the way that ‘we’ want them to appear:
and the existence of the ‘EVIL ONE’ who “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
All of these things we have written off as ‘superstition,’ OR left-over relics from a pre-modern, ignorant world. But as one theologian has said, “Just because we do not see a thing or have forgotten how to see it does not mean that it no longer exists.” (Helmut Thielicke). And so all of our efforts to ‘stamp out evil’ are bound to be futile because we only ever deal with the symptoms. We can’t get at the root cause, even if we do recognize it.
St. Paul testifies, “For I do not do the good that I want but the EVIL I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:19). We can’t get at the root cause of evil that runs through our own personal lives.
This is why we sang “A Mighty Fortress” this morning. Luther had no trouble seeing the EVIL ONE like we do. “The old satanic foe has sworn to work his woe, with craft and dreadful might, he arms himself to fight, on earth he has no equal… No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost rejected.”
E. Jesus – Delivers Us From Evil
This is why God the Father DID NOT DELIVER Jesus as He hung from the cross.
He did not come to propose economic or political reforms to overcome the evils of poverty and physical suffering and political corruption. That was what the Evil One tempted Him to do in the desert stones and handing kingdoms of the world over to him to rule.
No, Jesus came into the world to get to the ROOT OF ALL EVIL and UPROOT it. He came to seize the neck of the EVIL ONE, and break it.
He who had no EVIL and on Whom EVIL therefore had no hold, entered into the deep darkness, into the inner unsanctum of the unholy and the source of all suffering and pain and ultimately, even death itself. And He shattered it with His great light. And with His true holiness, He descended into the depths of hell itself and proclaimed His victory over the Evil One on behalf of every one of His people. Jesus Christ has DELIVERED us from ALL EVIL.
Paul writes to the Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col.1:13-14).
Don’t ever fall for that ridiculous lie that GOOD and EVIL are two, equal, opposing forces that hold the universe together in delicate balance of ying and yang. “A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield VICTORIOUS; He breaks the cruel oppressors rod and wins salvation for us.”
Jesus Christ, THE DELIVERER says, “Pray like this… Our Father in heaven… deliver us from evil.”
On Easter Sunday, just three days after Good Friday, your heavenly Father answered your prayer on behalf of the whole world. God has delivered THE WORLD from evil.
On the day of your baptism into Christ, and everyday since, your heavenly Father has been answering your prayer for you. In Holy Baptism, THE DELIVERER entered into the source of all evil that is in you and filled you with the source of all righteousness that is in Him. God has delivered YOU from evil.
And on the last day of the world, Jesus Christ will come again in all of His glory, and your heavenly Father will answer your prayer FOR THE LAST TIME. Because after that day, there will be no more need to pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer or any of the other six for that matter. It will all be done.
F. Sent As Soldiers
And so, with this final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus sends us out into this world that is so SATURATED WITH EVIL and so dangerous, as soldiers being deployed for battle. We are surrounded by danger on every side and even from within. But we are not afraid. Our Lord gives us words to pray, “deliver us from evil,” with the assurance that it is already done.
“Though hordes of devils fill the land all threatening to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot over-power us. Let this world’s tyrants rage; in battle we’ll engage. His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail! One little word subdues Him.”
G. Conclusion – From Little Children to Wise Adults
And so we come to the end of this series on the Lord’s Prayer.
It is a marvelous gift that our Lord has given to us. As the prayer began, we were little children, who in innocent confidence, delight in calling upon our heavenly Father as dear children call upon their dear father.
But by the time we come to the end of the prayer, we are tested and seasoned saints who know the sad reality that we live in a dangerous world that is filled with evil.
So, even in our old age, we pray with ‘childlike faith,’ “Our Father in heaven… deliver us from evil..” We are not naïve, but the faith that we have been given allows us to say, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” ‘I am ready to “depart in peace.”
Because we have seen Our Father’s DELIVERANCE in the face of Jesus Christ.