04 September 2013

Wednesday's Catechesis: "Deliver us from evil"

Scripture Reading:
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 2:4-10 ESV)

Catechism p. 324 :  Deliver us from evil. What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Deliver us from evil. Luther more accurately got it in the Larger Catechism where he reminds us that the Greek implies rather “deliver us from the evil one,” the devil.

You see, you have an enemy. An enemy who likes to appear as your friend. An enemy who suggests to you so many things that seem so reasonable, so desirable. A enemy who, let me be clear on this, does not love you. Nor he is simply neutral toward you. An enemy who covets you, who wants you for his own. Not to bless you, not to give you gifts and shower you with love. No. An enemy who wants you for his own that he may torture you forever with his own empty bitterness and malice. And this enemy parades around as an angel of light, hiding his true colors from you, hiding from you the intense hatred that fills his heart when he thinks of you.

Deliver us from the evil one, our Lord taught us to pray. And how we need that prayer. Because, of course, the evil one has a wretched ally inside of you and me: our fallen nature, our flesh. And what the devil would suggest to you – and he never runs out of suggestions for you, bombarding your mind and heart and night and day – what he suggests can seem so choice, so wonderful and enjoyable. And you know how he operates. You are not ignorant of his devices. You know how he gets you first just to consider, then to think hard about something, then to obsess on it and to desire it and then to reach out your hand and take what God has not given and to do this with ever diminishing returns until you realize in the end that instead of being free and having fun, you’ve landed yourself into chains and a trap. There’s a reason that we call these sinful habits that get a grip on you “vices.” Satan lures you in, locks you up and smiles at your misery when you realize, how he seduced you using your very own desires against yourself.

You know this battle. You’ve lived it. You’ve tasted the bitter defeat and felt the smirk of the enemy who finally was disclosed to you as no friend. A spirit of malice and hatred. And yet he had you. Your experience in this is no different than that of all the rest of the human race. All except for One, and so the One who IS Deliverance from the Evil One.

There was One for whom the Enemy reserved his greatest hatred and the more he failed to snare that One, the more infuriated with Him he became. You will not understand the mystery of the cross until you also see it as this: the full hatred of the enemy of the human race exposed for all to see. This is what he would do to you if he could. He hates you, as he hated him, as he hated Job, but his anger over the One in whom he could gain no foothold, that exceeds all bounds. The Lord knew that this is what he was headed for. He told them, remember? “The Ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father commanded me that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14)

Look to the Cross then, people loved by God, and you will have unmasked for you the malice of the evil one. Look to the Cross, then, and you will see the demonic at work: “For if the rulers of this age had understood this, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory!” (1 Cor. 2) But look to the Cross and see Him triumph over them. See Him deliver you from evil. See Him give you everything for which you plead in the Our Father. He unmasks that supposed friend; exposes his hatred and violence toward you. And He overcomes him, not by a show of might, but by a humble, obedient sacrifice, an unbroken faith that trusts His Father for deliverance from evil, and that is vindicated. His resurrection was His deliverance from the Evil One’s assault that could take his life, but not destroy his soul. And so His resurrection is the guarantee for you that He will deliver you in the same way. Oh, the enemy may tear you to pieces as he wishes, but he can’t win. Your soul gathered safely into His hands and His resurrection the guarantee that in the end, when the final granting of “deliver us from the evil one” is given, your body too shall be raised and you will be free forever from the Evil One’s schemes. This is the joyful conviction of the holy martyrs.

In the end: “Deliver us from evil, from the evil one” is the same as the prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus!” And it is a prayer that our Lord gives to be on our lips every day: Show me my enemy for who he is, let me not align myself with him, rescue me from my own sinful nature’s desires, and bring me at last to Your kingdom, forever safe from this hideous and hateful one, the devil and his minions. Come, yes, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.


Unknown said...

Will, thank you for a wonderful homily. Among other things it brought to mind what my Hebrew professors taught about the pious Scribes who could not write the words of Job’s wife, “Curse God and die”, and therefore masked the word “curse” with the consonants of “bless.”

But it also reminded me of what really happened on Good Friday. It was our Lord allowing the Evil One to have his will with Him, even as He allowed the Evil One to have his will with Job. Is there any question among Lutheran theologians that Job is a type of Christ? If he was, then does it mean anything that Job was not punished for either his or anybody else’s sins, as would be true in penal substitution?

The parallel to the atonement is remarkable in the God’s command to have Job pray for his friends, Job 42:8, “…and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly….”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

Yes, I think the Job/Jesus parallel is profound and among the Gospels is exploited a bit by Luke, where our Lord is above all "the innocent sufferer" who must be and is vindicated.