The Lord’s Prayer: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Read Psalm 139
“Search me O God…and see if there be any hurtful way in me”
Psalm 139 begins with a celebration of God’s intimate involvement in our life and ends with a dire confession of the greatest threat we face. The Psalm has long been a favorite of many for its remarkable description of the omniscience (all-knowing) nature of God whose knowledge not only encompasses the totality of all things in the universe but the most minute detail of our life. Because of his surpassing knowledge, there is not a place that we can flee in the whole universe where God’s presence is not realized, and our activities are not known to him. Space and time cannot hide us from God. Nor does any experience we face escape his notice and care.
In a remarkable celebration of life, this passage testifies that God’s personal involvement begins in our life within the womb where he fashions our being and forms our personality. This confession serves as a radiant testimony not only that life begins at conception, but also God’s personal involvement in the formation of every aspect of our being. Ultimately, we are not the product of predetermined DNA or the arbitrary work of some evolutionary process. We are designed by a personal God who created us individually to be a unique reflection of his image. Even before our birth, he has ordained and planned our life. This leads David to an anthem of praise in which he is overwhelmed in awe because of God’s self-revelation to us as he cares for us and reveals himself to us. We are truly the apex of his creative work.
After the exclamation of his wonderment, the words suddenly turn dark and foreboding for the wonder of God’s creation was marred by our rebellion that brought sin into the world. As he moves his eyes from heaven to the world around him, David no longer sees the wonders of God's creation, but the tragedy of humanity’s sinfulness. The world is filled with people who are bent are destroying God and his people. But even as his eyes gaze around him, David’s reflection turns inward to his own heart condition and he is confronted with an undeniable truth; his own heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). He recognizes not only is he plagued by sin, but sin is ultimately self-deceptive. We are deceived by our own sin so we are blind it its presence in our own life. Charles Spurgeon rightfully stated, “Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.”
When we pray that God will “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” we must come to grips with the reality that the greatest threat of evil comes not from others but from within our own sinful heart. James points out, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14-15). As Walt Kelly wrote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” But even as David confesses of his own sin, we find hope. Because God knows us intimately, he is one who can reveal to us our hidden sin. This brings us full circle in the Psalm. He begins with his eye towards heaven and he ends with his eyes once again heavenward. The fact that God knows all the details of our life gives us hope that he can reveal our own self-destructive, self-deceptive nature. He is the only one who can deliver us from evil, especially when that evil is within. When you pray for God’s protection from evil, also pray for God’s deliverance from your greatest threat—yourself.