‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ Matthew 6:13
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 4:1–11
The text does not say, ‘Tempt us not;’ if it did, then there would be a difficulty; it does not say, ‘Lord, tempt us not,’ but it says, ‘Lead us not into temptation;’ and I think I shall very rapidly be able to show you that there is a vast difference between leading into temptation and actually tempting. God tempts no man. For God to tempt in the sense of enticing to sin would be inconsistent with his nature, and altogether contrary to his known character; but for God to lead us into those conflicts with evil which we call temptations, is not only possible, but usual. Full often the great Captain of salvation leads us by his providence to battle fields where we must face the full array of evil, and conquer through the blood of the Lamb; and this leading into temptation is by divine grace overruled for our good, since by being tempted we grow strong in grace and patience. Our God and Father may, for wise ends, which shall ultimately subserve his own glory and our profit, lead us into positions where Satan, the world and the flesh may tempt us; and the prayer is to be understood in that sense of a humble self-distrust which shrinks from the conflict. There is courage here, for the suppliant calmly looks the temptation in the face, and dreads only the evil which it may work in him, but there is also a holy fear, a sacred self-suspicion, a dread of contact with sin in any degree. The sentiment is not inconsistent with ‘all joy’ when the divers temptations do come; it is akin to the Saviour’s ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,’ which did not for a moment prevent his drinking the cup even to its dregs.
For meditation: Temptations to sin are bound to come (Luke 17:1), but never from God (James 1:13). It was the Holy Spirit who led the Lord Jesus Christ into the wilderness to be tempted, Satan who did the tempting (Matthew 4:1) and God who provided the means of escape (Matthew 4:4,7,10; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
Sermon no. 509
17 May (1863)