Month 3:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5939:074 AM|
2Exodus 1/40, Omer Count Day 7/50
Gregorian Calendar: Thursday 12 June 2014
It's Purpose and Solution
"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Luke 11:4, NKJV).
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with us all.
Charging Elohim With Bad Character
I have chosen as my sabbath theme today a controversial passage of scripture from the 'Master's (Lord's) Prayer' which has led many to falsely charge Elohim (God) with wicked character. Reading the majority of English translations today one would think that Yahweh can, and does, lead man into temptation and that Yah'shua (Jesus) is here instructing us here to plead with Him not to. I don't know about you, but to me the idea that Yahweh would deliberately tempt someone to do evil is repugnant. So I can perfectly well understand why open and honest investigators of the Besorah (Gospel) might be led to believe that Yahweh has an ugly side to His character and be repelled by Him.
Yahweh Never Tempts Anyone
Whenever we come across an apparently disjunctive passage that question the otherwise holy, good, righteous, protective and fatherly image portrayed throughout the Scriptures of our Elohim (God), our knee-jerk reaction should always be to question the translators, and never the Creator. No English or any other foreign language translation is 100% perfect and this we must constantly bear in mind. Then we must compare the dubious translation with other passages of Scripture on the same subject matter where there is no ambiguity. The apostle James, who was personally tutored by Yah'shua (Jesus), and who without a doubt knew exactly what the Master said and meant in the 'Master's (Lord's) Prayer', tells us straight:
"Do Not Lead Us Into Temptation"
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by Elohim (God)'; for Elohim (God) cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone" (James 1:13, NKJV).
So what did Yah'shua (Jesus) mean when He prayed, "Do not lead us into temptation"? Common sense tells us that there would be no purpose in Yahweh leading anyone into temptation for that would entirely destroy His purpose for man, which is to save him. It would also be to assume the adversarial rôle and align Himself with His, and mankind's, archenemy, Satan. To lead man into temptation would be for Heaven to metaphorically shoot its own foot.
Understanding Idiomatic Speech
Matthew 6:13 records the same incident using the same words as Luke 11:4. To understand what Yah'shua (Jesus) is saying we must understand Hebrew idiom. An idom is a group of words whose meaning cannot be predicted from the constituent words. For example, if it is raining torrentially or really heavily, we often say in English, 'It's raining cats and dogs', and everyone understands that there are no literal cats and dogs falling from the sky. How the idoim came into existence is another matter - there are interesting historical accounts of cats, dogs, fish, and all kinds of creature falling out of the sky and today we know how this is caused.
An Example of a Hebrew Idiom
In the two passages in Matthew and Luke an active verb is used to express not the doing of a thing, but permission to do it. Here's a good example from the Tanakh (Old Testament), where a very distressed Jeremiah exclaims:
Allowing Deception to Happen
"Ah, Yahweh-Elohim! Surely You have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, 'You shall have shalom (peace),' whereas the sword reaches to the heart" (Jer.4:10, NKJV).
What Jeremiah is saying here, in the Hebrew idiom, is not that Yahweh had deceived His people but that He had allowed His people to be deceived because of the bad choices made by them, choices which cause those who make them to believe the lies demons tell them.
Allowing a Heart to be Hardened
Another, perhaps better known example, is in the Torah (law) itself where we read:
The Idiom Understood
"And Yahweh said to Moses, 'When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (Ex.4:21, NKJV).
Again, Yahweh is not hardening Pharaoh's heart per se but permitting it to be hardened, for the same reason He permitted the people in the last example to be deceived because of their disobedience. So a better translation of Yah'shua's (Jesus) words would be, "Let us not come into temptation".
Testing vs. Temptation
So far from inciting someone to do evil, Yahweh is saying, "DO NOT BRING US TO THE TEST" (NEB) - do not prove, try, examine or put our character to the test. Temptation, by contrast, is anything painful or pleasant that tests out loyalty to Messiah and which, if we are disloyal, will lead us into committing sins.
Our Qodesh Elohim
Now you know as well as I do that Elohim (God), who is altogether qadosh (holy, set-apart) and the enemy of all evil without exception, would never encourage us to sin. How could He, for example, the One who instructs us not to steal, suggest that dishonesty could ever be justified at any time? Remember what James said.
Credit Where Credit is Due
So Yahweh is never the author of temptation or of deception. Rather the author of these things is Satan, who uses every means in alliance with the sinful nature already within us in the flesh, to relax our loyalty to Yah'shua (Jesus), and to encourage us in disobedience, Torah-breaking and self-indulgence. Let's give credit where credit is due. Satan is described as "the tempter" (Mt.4:3) and there are many references in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) to his subtlety and powerful influence (1 Pet.5:8; Eph.6:10-12; 2 Cor.11:13-15, etc.). You will recall in one of His parables Yah'shua (Jesus) described him as "a strong man, fully armed" (Lk.11:21, NKJV). We deny his existence or underestimate his power at our own terrible risk.
Temptation is Not Sin
It is important to understand that temptation itself is never sin. It's how we respond to it, in the negative way, that is sin. It is quite possible to undergo repeated temptations without falling into sin. If this were not true, then Yah'shua (Jesus), who was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Heb.4:15), would have been a sinner, broken the Torah (Law), would have failed in the Atonement, and we would be forever lost.
When Temptation Increases
Many new believers are actually taken by surprise when, after they have been converted or born again, they find that temptation actually increases in intensity! Should we be surprised by this? Of course not! By coming to Yah'shua (Jesus) - either at our conversion or drawing ever closer to Him during our life - we are actually declaring war on Satan and his kingdom. That will always draw his attention and stimulate him to action against us. Indeed, is it not the Enemy's chief business to trip the believer up if he can, to discourage him, to destroy his emunah (faith), and to make his witness ineffectual? So the wise man will take the rise in temptation in his life that he is on the right track. Those who are not being bothered by the Enemy may possibly have occasion to be worried. The opportunity to resist him will not only make you stronger but the experience of victory - of overcoming him - will strengthen your emunah (faith)!
Sin is Yielding to Temptation
Yahweh is not the author of temptation. Temptation is not itself sin. Rather, it is yielding or giving in to temptation that is sin. And yet Yahweh permits the believer to be tempted. Why? To prove him and to strengthen his emunah (faith). The Bible is jam-packed with stories of people who were tempted - people like Joseph who suffered all kinds of trials and indignities, and yet at the end who could testify to his brothers:
Resisting Temptation Matters For So Many
"As for you, you meant evil against me; but Elohim (God) meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive" (Gen.50:20, NKJV).
So there was a dual purpose in Joseph's temptations - to make him a man of Elohim (God) and, in overcoming, to bring salvation to his lost brothers who had wanted to murder him. Temptation, when resisted, is therefore redemptive, both for the one overcoming temptations as well as for those blessed by the one who has overcome. If Joseph had not resisted the temptress in Potiphar's wife he would have been executed for adultery, his brothers left unsaved, Israel deprived of a tribe, and the whole course of history altered. There would have been no Great Britain, United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. There would have been none of the fruit of evangelism throughout the world. Egypt might have been wiped out and a nation forever buried. So much would have been lost. Your resisting temptations matters both for you and for the others you influence in your life.
Disappointments, Painful Experiences and Persecution
When a disappointment hits us between the eyes, or when we experience some painful illness, or unpleasant persection, what do we do? Blame Yahweh for it? This is, unfortunately, our natural, carnal, fleshy reaction, isn't it? It is the devil in our Adamic nature accusing the Most High. And yet we do wrong when we react this way, for Yahweh has allowed this temptation or test - he has not sent it, He has permitted the Enemy to bring it to us, for our own good.
Bringing Maturation of Soul
Yahweh loves us with all His heart - we are all His children and He will never allow anything to happen to us which we are unable to bear. But He is equally anxious that we should mature into balanced and useful talmidim (disciples), and one of the ways by which we grow is through the trials and temptations which are permitted by Him for us in life.
Yahweh is Totally Aware
Nothing negative that has happened to us has escaped His awareness. Nothing bad that has been done to us means that He was ever indifferent. Rather, He has a purpose which our flesh can never comprehend, a purpose that can only be discerned by living a life in the Ruach (Spirit). And one of the reasons trials and temptations are permitted can be because we have wandered out of the Ruach (Spirit) and into the flesh. So opposition and difficulties are permitted to us to remind us that we are called to overcome the flesh, not yield to it. They are to reminded us that the Besorah (Gospel) is never passive, but always active.
We are like cars climbing a gentle hill. If we take our foot of the gas pedal then by the by we will roll down the hill backwards and at an ever quickening pace, threatening our very lives!  So the apostle James said:
My Personal Struggles
"My brothers, whenever you have to face trials of many kinds, count yourselves supremely happy, in the knowledge that such testing of your emunah (faith) breeds fortitude (strength and firmness of mind), and if you give fortitude full play you will go on to complete a balanced character that will fall short of nothing" (Jas.1:2-4, NEB).
Now I had an interesting experience a few days ago that was encouraging to me, for as you know my own life has not been without trial and tribulation, whether because of chronic illness, persecution for my emunah (faith) or the betrayal of family members. I have not escaped temptation, not remotely, and I have not always succeeded in resisting it either, I am ashamed to say. But I can truthfully tell you that I have got up each time and continued on the Derech (Way). It has not been easy, desperation has been my companion more than a few times, but Yahweh has always kept His promises.
A Vision of Fortitude
Anyway, a few days ago I was shown a vision in my garden . As I discovered toward the end of the vision, it had once been a very barren, dry and rocky place in my heart, but now it was covered - almost every single square inch of it - with thick, robust vegetation that was impenetratable. I saw a fraction of a rock protruding in one place but otherwise everywhere was a mat of strong plant life that was covered in flowers. The rocks were covered in these powerful roots, like corms, and they in turn were covered in greenery. It was drizzling, the place was now very well watered. The feeling I had - overwhelmingly so in fact - was one of fortitude - of great inner strength, and I knew this was because of trials and temptations conquered. It was a good feeling but equally it would not have been possible without finally accepting these difficulties and letting Yahweh build something good within. I don't deny this has been a struggle, because it has, but the reward is seeing the fruit afterwards. I can say it was worth it to have what I have now but I will also truthfully say that at the time I more than once deeply resented it and sometimes accused Him. A lot of time was wasted because of the sense of defeat and hopelessness when I should have been proclaiming His victory. But it is not that way now. I chose obedience over my own feelings and fears. And I am still working on perfecting all of that. What's more, you can overcome too - every one of you.
The Joy of Steadfastness
The apostle James says more a few verses later in the first chapter of his epistle:
The Choice to Respond
"Happy is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for having passed that test he will receive for his prize the gift of life promised to those who love Elohim (God)" (Jas.1:12, NEB).
What matters, then, is not so much the nature of the temptations we experience - what matters is what we deal with them when they come. These are choices we have to make - others cannot make them for us. We cannot sit around hoping something will change, or the temptations will go away, when we are unprepared to get up and become the instruments of that change ourselves. We have to exercise active emunah (faith).
Training Under Fire
Naturally, we not infrequently shrink from such testings and trials. We don't want them. We would prefer an easy, untroubled path. But no soldier is fit for battle without hard training and some experience under fire. When I was in the army in Germany I did not enjoy having live ammunition fired over my head! I thought it was insane at the time. And that's the problem, really, because when you are under testing, your knee-jerk reaction is nearly always (unless you are mature and wiser) to exclaim something like, 'This is insane!' Or, 'I'm going to die'. And slowly you progress down the devil's road of blaming Yahweh and, if you are foolish enough to allow this course to continue, you start to wonder if His character is crooked, and finally even further down the road, whether He even exists. And when that happens, the lie has been believed, and the devil has you by the throat, choking eternal life out of you bit by bit until - if you are one of the elect under trial - you are once again crying out for deliverance with all your heart.
No Escaping Temptation
NOBODY ESCAPES THIS TESTING. It's one of the reasons we are here. It's why Yahweh allows temptation. It's why the devil is permitted in this realm. It's the only way to develop character. What trials we are permitted to face may be for any number of reasons - to bring us to repentance if we have sinned, to spiritually toughen us up, or it may be for reasons we do not yet understand, and which we may never understand, at least not in this life.
Response to Temptation is Everything
Here, then, as in everything we do and respond to, emunah (faith) must steer us, but if instead we allow its counterpart - doubt - to rule our will, or fear, or any other negative thought or emotion or behaviour - then our trials will, of necessity sometimes be more difficult, or more protracted.
Trying to Figure It All Out
But, you know, having said that, don't rush to the conclusion that because you have had a debilitating illness for years, or find yourself in a hellish war zone like Syria where believers are being tortured and murdered in the most horrendous ways, that this necessarily means this is because you need extra toughening up, or that you are more fleshy and carnal than those who are not experiencing these things. We can never know the divine mind in all of this. It may be that we are simply called to suffer to to inspire others to repentance and salvation. There can be all kinds of reasons Yahweh permits this. Life is not some neat mathematical equation of just cause and effect, it's much, much more complicated than that, and you will drive yourself insane trying to impose Newtonian mechanics on spirituality.
Preparing for Temptation and Victory
What then are we to do when we are tempted to sin? First, expect its arrival as not something extraordinary or surprising. Be prepared for it in the same way you are (hopefully) preparing your household with food, water, medicine and other emergency supplies. Expect temptation but never yield to it. Don't listen to the lies of Satan or of His human agents. Resolutely say 'no'. Combat temptation, not alone in your own strength, in the strength of Yah'shua (Jesus). Willingly accept trials as Yahweh's way of training you to be useful. Believe that victory is possible, however long or intense the trial might be, because Satan is a defeated enemy through the Cross. If you fall, get up and go on with Yah'shua (Jesus). Learn from your defeats and do not lie down under them.
Recall the words of Scripture, and recall them often:
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but Elohim (God) is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor.10:13, NKJV).
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness...You are of Elohim (God), little children, and have overcome [false spirits], because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 1:9; 4:4 NKJV).
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to Elohim (God) as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Elohim (God). For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under [the] law [of sin] but under grace" (Rom.6:12-14, NKJV; cp. 7:23,25;8:2).
"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Elohim (God) in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus)" (Phil.3:12-14, NKJV).
So when you next pray the Master's (Lord's) Prayer in future, think of that sentence in this way:
"Lead us not to the place where we shall have to face trials and temptations, but if it is to be, deliver us from the evil one" (Richard Bowdler trans.).
 See, Once Saved, Always Saved
 The spiritual garden within the soul - see The Garden of Yahweh: Heaven, Paradise, Eden and the Spirit World
 Ed. Frank Colquhoun, Hard Questions: A Discussion of Thirty-Eight Basic Christian Problems (Falcon, Church Pastoral Aid Society, London: 1976), pp.88-90