O Lord...Deliver Us from Evil
Lord God, our blessed heavenly Father, we come before You this day with joy. You are our Refuge in the midst of this evil world. Protect us from Satan and his host and deliver us by Your grace unto life everlasting. Amen.
Our world is filled with evil. The LORD God, however, here promises to protect His believing children from evil and to provide for them a refuge from harm.
When God permits evil to enter our lives, He promises to work it out for our good. He is, after all, all-powerful. With St. Paul we can rely upon the fact that nothing can separate us from His love for us in Christ.
“A disciple is not above his teacher.” Just as Jesus endured evil for us, we may be called upon to endure evil for Him. Let us be faithful witnesses of our Lord, knowing that our God loves us and will deliver us!
Text: Matthew 6:13b
“But deliver us from the evil one.”
In Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior from all evil, dear fellow redeemed:
“The world is very evil, the times are waxing late; be sober and keep vigil, the Judge is at the gate; the Judge that comes in mercy, the Judge that comes with might, to terminate the evil, to diadem the right.” These words, which make up the first stanza of hymn 605 in The Lutheran Hymnal, certainly reflect the reality of our present day even though they were written over 800 years ago by a monk living in the Cluny monastery in southern France. A casual review of one page of The Free Press yesterday is enough to confirm the fact that we live in an evil world. On the “Nation & World” page we were informed of failed attempts to rescue the sailors on the sunken Russian submarine in the Barents Sea. It was reported that a man was sentenced to death in South Carolina after burning his two-year-old daughter alive in their mini-van, and that two girls just five and six years old intentionally murdered the three-year-old brother of one of them. Other stories included flooding in India, power failures in Venezuela, political bombings in Latvia, and the deaths of two brothers in the waters between Cuba and our own Florida coast.
Jesus was certainly justified in including within His Lord’s prayer a petition dealing with evil and our deliverance from evil. You perhaps noted that when I read our text from Matthew’s Gospel, it was translated, “deliver us from the evil one” rather than simply “deliver us from evil,” which is the more familiar wording of the Lord’s Prayer. The wording of the original language can be translated accurately by either expression. This morning as we consider this 7th Petition, we will use the more familiar translation as our theme—O LORD, DELIVER US FROM EVIL!
Yes, deliver us from evil as You have delivered Your children in the past! Martin Luther explained this 7th Petition in the following way: “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil to body and soul, property or reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a joyful end and take us in grace from this valley of sorrows to Himself in heaven.” Our heavenly Father has done just that for countless believers down through the ages. In a very practical way He has always done one of three things when delivering His believing children from evil. He has either prevented evil from entering their lives; or He has caused evil that has entered their lives to work together for their good; or He has used evil to deliver them into eternal glory! This morning I intend to use the life of St. Paul as our example of all three ways in which God delivered him from evil. Then we will apply these truths to our own lives.
You will perhaps recall that the book of Acts records three missionary journeys made by St. Paul. During his second missionary journey, St. Paul brought the gospel for the very first time into Europe. He traveled into Macedonia and then into Greece. In Acts 16 we are told that St. Paul and Silas while in Philippi healed a woman possessed by a demon, after which her owners falsely accused St. Paul before the city officials. As a result St. Paul and Silas were savagely beaten and imprisoned. Later in Acts 18 we are told that St. Paul entered Corinth and preached there for eighteen months despite tremendous opposition on the part of the unbelieving Jews. Early in his stay in Corinth, St. Paul was granted a vision in which God urged him to speak His truths boldly and without fear, for He would be with him. Shortly thereafter we are told that the Jews “rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat” (Acts 18:12). We can easily imagine that in spite of God's assurances, St. Paul’s memory of his experience in Philippi led him to fear another beating. In all probability the wounds of that previous beating had only recently healed. But a rather amazing thing then happened. The Roman proconsul before whom the Jews brought St. Paul threw the case out of court. He refused to a part of a religious dispute between what he considered to be two Jewish factions. God used this man’s understanding of Roman law and sense of justice to prevent evil from reentering St. Paul’s life!
Later in St. Paul’s life, he was imprisoned first in Caesarea and then in Rome for a period of two years. The book of Acts ends with these descriptive words, “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31). During that time he would have been restricted in view of the fact that he would have remained chained to Roman soldiers serving as his guards 24 hours each day. For two years St. Paul endured house arrest awaiting a trial, the outcome of which very easily could have been death. Yet, during this evil time, God was working things out for good, both for St. Paul and for others. In one of his epistles St. Paul informs his fellow believers in Philippi, “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ, and most of the brethren in the Lord, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14). In this instance God permitted evil to enter St. Paul’s life, but then worked that evil out for good!
Finally, it is a matter of historical record that St. Paul was ultimately executed by the Roman government for his faith. He was imprisoned for a second time in Rome, and this time it was not a matter of house arrest. Rather he was placed in a dungeon carved out of the rocks at one end of the Forum in Rome. As he awaited his trial and ultimate execution, St. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy. In that letter he stated, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 3:6-8). To all outward appearances at the time, the Roman officials had their way as St. Paul was led to the block and was beheaded. But for St. Paul this evil was simply God’s means of delivering him into the glories of heaven. Those Roman officials ultimately stood before the Judge of heaven and earth, and their kingdom ultimate lay in ruins, but St. Paul’s soul now rejoices in the presence of God and will ultimately be reunited with his body in the new heavens and the new earth.O LORD, DELIVER US FROM EVIL as You have delivered Your children in the past!
And as you have promised Your children in the present! In spite of the evil nature of our age, we can proceed with confidence as God’s children. He has promised “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He encourages us, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). He has informed us that, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Just as God delivered His saints of old from evil, so He does and will deliver you and me.
I would imagine that most if not all of you can remember near accidents in your lives—situations in which most people say things like, "Wow, you were sure lucky!" Yet, good luck is simply superstition. God, Who promises to “give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways,” does just that—He keeps you in all your ways. I can recall any number of such situations years ago as we students traveled back and forth to Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire from our home in South Carolina. I recall one instance in particular when three of us were traveling home in December for the Christmas holidays. We were traveling down Interstate 75 north of Knoxville, Tennessee. As we passed a semi-trailer in the left lane in a rather mountainous region the hood latch on my friend’s car broke. The hood flew up covering the windshield. I was sitting in the passenger seat up front and had no idea what to do. A friend who had awakened in the back seat sat up cried out, “Oh my God, we’re going to die.” The driver, however, slid down in his seat and peering through a small crack under the upright hood slowed the car down and when the right lane was clear pulled the car over to the side of the road safely. Was it a matter of mere good luck? That is hardly the case! Rather, the Lord delivered us from evil, preventing it from entering our lives.
There are times, however, when the Lord permits evil to affect us in our lives. When that happens we can be confident that He will work it out for our good. I recall counseling a young Christian woman some years ago, whose husband had proven to be unfaithful and had left her. She was devastated and could not understand how the Lord would allow such a thing to happen in her life. I encouraged her to entrust herself to the Lord and to remain close to Him through active service in her local congregation. It was less than a year later that her very best friend went through a similar situation—her marriage fell apart due to the unfaithfulness of her husband. This young woman, however, was separated from her family and her home congregation by thousands of miles. The first young woman became a life-life—spiritually and emotionally—to her friend during that most difficult period. Later, she commented to me that she felt the Lord had prepared her for that very service of helping her Christian friend. God does make even evil work out for our good and the good of others.
Finally, let us remember that our futures as God’s children are not tied to this world, but rather to eternal life in heaven. Given that truth, death—the worst of all evils—becomes the means by which God provides the ultimate deliverance from evil. Having said that, let us realize that our lives are in our God’s hands. We ought do nothing to hasten or end our lives ourselves, but rather we are to entrust our live to Him knowing He will provide for our every need and lead us in every path we are to go. At the same time, we can recognize that God may use evil to deliver us finally unto Himself in heaven. We can think of those who have died of the evil of cancer or heart-attack or any other disease, but who as God’s children have been thereby delivered out of this vale of tears and into God’s glorious presence in heaven. Yes, we can pray with confidence—O LORD, DELIVER US FROM EVIL as You have promised Your children! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting