In our U.S. courts of law, there is a standing presumption of innocence until sufficient evidence has proven otherwise. This places the substantial burden of proof on the prosecuting team. The prosecuting team has to argue one very particular case true. The defense team, by contrast, has many avenues to their desired end. Any evidence that creates doubt in the prosecution’s one particular case is ammunition for their case. They aren’t trying to prove any one particular thing. Merely sowing the plausibility of any number of possibilities is sufficient for their case.
In the First Commandment, the Scriptures make a prosecutor’s case: There is only One True God and He alone is worthy of fear, love and trust above all other things. Jesus, with His teaching, by His fulfillment of the prophecies, and sealed by His resurrection, verifies this case. The Devil’s constant struggle is much more akin to the task of the defense team. He’s not trying to persuade you or me of one particular god other than the true God. Rather, he’s always sowing the plausibility seeds of any other person or thing being equally worthy of our fear, love, and trust. In other words, the Devil is always tempting us to believe anything other than this evidential truth of the One True God in whom we are given to trust.
When Jesus teaches us to pray to God our Father, Lead us not into Temptation, we are simply being taught to pray for defense and protection from the one who does tempt us toward such sins against the First Commandment – sins that drive us toward misbelief, despair, and other shame-filled sins and evil attractions. God tempts no one to sin (James 1:13), but He certainly guards us from the one who always does.
But there is also a beautiful reciprocal to the Devil’s sowing of sin, doubt, and misbelief and the Lord’s keeping of us against such temptations. That’s this: Our Father is always drawing us to believe on Him for deliverance (rescue) from sin, shame, and misbelief. Just as certainly as the Devil is persistently tempting us into First Commandment sins and evil of which we are consistently in need of deliverance, so certainly is Our Father delivering from all such evils of body and soul, property and reputation.
Through Jesus, our Brother under the law in our place (Galatians 4:4), God our Father is persistently at work rescuing us from our First Commandment offenses. In Jesus’ perfect fear of His Father, we are being delivered from our misbeliefs and various idolatries. In Jesus’s impeccable love for His Father, we are delivered from the despair of the guilt and shame of a lifetime’s worth of sin. In Jesus’ unwavering fidelity to His Father’s commission for Him to save sinners, we are delivered from our infidelities toward God and His promises of life and salvation.
And when our final hour in this body and in this valley of temptation comes, in Jesus we are assured of a blessed departure – a final deliverance into God’s eternal presence untainted by temptation of body or soul. In His great mercy, God our Father is leading us away from our terrible Tempter and toward Himself and the eternal presence prepared for us in Jesus His Son, our Savior.
Though devils all the world should fill, / All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill, / They shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still / Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none, / He’s judged ; the deed is done.
One little Word can fell him.
(M. Luther | ELH 250; v.3)
Heavenly Father, lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from Evil. Amen.
Pastor Kyle Madson
Norseland & Norwegian Grove Lutheran churches