“You Made Us Stray From Your Ways”
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “O LORD, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? Return for Your servants’ sake, the tribes of Your inheritance” (Isaiah 63:17). The Scriptures occasionally represent the Lord as doing that which He does not precisely stop.
One example to that is found in the story of King Saul. We read, “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him” (1 Samuel 16:14; 2 Chronicles 18:18). Because Saul had rejected the Spirit of God and committed the unpardonable sin, there was nothing more God could do for him (1 Samuel 15:35). It was not that the Spirit of God withdrew from Saul indiscriminately; but rather that Saul rejected God’s leadership and intentionally withdrew himself from the convictions of the Holy Spirit. So, an evil spirit took control of him.
Man’s Freedom of Choice
God’s dealing with man should be comprehended in line with the doctrine of freedom of choice (Psalms 139:7). If God by His Holy Spirit forced Himself upon Saul against his will, God would be making of Saul a mere robot. Therefore, when God took away His own Spirit from Saul (1 Samuel 16:13, 14), the devil was free to have his will in Saul’s life.
A similar example is found in the story of Job. God gave Satan a chance to reveal his principles without God’s intervention. Without a doubt, there were limits to Satan’s work (Job 1:12; 2:6), but within his limited scope he did have permission from God to do his evil works in Job’s life. Thus, although Satan’s deeds opposed God’s will, he can do nothing except what God allows him to do.
God doesn’t force His children and He does not stop them from following the wicked ways of their choosing. People do not have God’s permission to do wickedness. They have God’s permission to do righteousness (Deuteronomy 30:19), but because they have free will, the Lord does not stop them from following the path of wickedness they choose. Further, the Lord doesn’t stop them from reaping the consequences of their choices.
“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”
This prayer should be read as a request, “Do not permit us to enter into temptation” (1 Corinthians 10:13; Psalms 141:4). God does not tempt men to sin (James 1:13), but allows trials only if it is for our good (Matthew 6:13). The Bible is clear that God “tests,” or “proves,” people (Genesis 22:1; Exodus 20:20) to edify them.
This part of the Lord’s Prayer is sometimes misunderstood as a request to God to remove all temptation from us. But the truth is that God’s promise is not that we shall be protected from temptation, but that we shall be protected from falling in it (John 17:15). Too often we deliberately place ourselves in the path of temptation (Proverbs 7:9). Therefore, to pray “lead us not into temptation” is a call to abandon the paths of our own choosing and to yield to the paths of God’s choosing.
In His service,