Deliver - But do we really want to be delivered? Delivered means facing reality as it is, no fantasies, no band-aids, no idol protection. Maybe we aren’t so quick to be delivered because it’s so frightening. Isn’t that exactly what happens when we turn back to the idols that we have intended to forsake? We look to the very things that kept us apart from God. We turn from the Lord of hosts and retreat to the land of slavery. Why? For protection, of course.
But, protection from what? What is it that frightens us so much that we run back to those old patterns? My suspicion is that we are scared to death of ourselves. The reason we don’t want to look for protection from God is that God won’t protect our delusions. God’s protection is reality-protection. It is protection in the wilderness. And the last place we want to be is in the wilderness. The wilderness exposes who we really are.
I heard a preacher say that we need to have the courage to change, but that misses the point. I realize that I need to change (at least some part of my being acknowledges that I do not want to continue like this); but if I am perfectly honest, I find that some part of me prefers my idols. I like the house of delusion. It’s comforting. I don’t have to face myself in the mirror. The possibility of losing these delusions confronts me with great psychological dangers (identity, emotional coping, etc). I want change without hurt. I don’t think that I can really bear what it will take to truly clean up my act. I know that my current idols do not bring me real peace, rest or comfort. But I know them. They are familiar. They have lulled me into a false sense of escape many times. It’s a big temptation to stay there.
There is a reason why God lead the Israelites away from Canaan into the wilderness. There is a reason why He kept them there for forty years. He had to drive out the desire to return to the delusions of Egyptian slavery. He had to remove that false sense of security that comes from the familiar.
Idol worship doesn’t satisfy. It will anesthetize, but it won’t cure. So I want to change. But it’s not a matter of courage. The simple fact is this: I can’t change! I not only do not know how, I am also incapable of executing any real change in my behavior, because my will has been corrupted by the idol. I’m lost in the house of mirrors. Every direction looks the same. I don’t need courage. I need a guide.
Consider the images of Isaiah 26:3-6.
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He casts it to the dust. The foot will trample it, the feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless.”
The business card said, “Reflection Technician”, so I couldn’t help but ask. “What is a reflection technician?” “Oh,” he said, grinning. “I just put up mirrors.” That’s about the size of it. I just put up mirrors. That’s why I can’t find my way out. I don’t see anything but my own image and that image has been distorted by the idols of my choices.
Isaiah comes to me, bearing the voice of God. He says that those high places, the grand illusions that have dominated my life as I strolled the unassailable fortresses of my own mind, are being laid to waste. God will bring them to dust. And who will walk over their remains? The afflicted and the helpless. That’s the real me. Those images that I used to prop up my false sense of identity and security, the things I ran to when I felt I needed escape, are going to fall. Not because I can knock them down. No, God is going to bring them to ruin. And He is going to do that so that the afflicted and the helpless can tread on those false images. I don’t need courage. I need to realize that I am the afflicted and the helpless. I need to let God destroy my false sense of reality because I am powerless to do it myself.
Did you know it’s OK to be scared in the wilderness? The wilderness is a dangerous place. It is the place of death for those who are not under the care of a guide. But the wilderness is reality. We would prefer to run to the false security of the city, just like Cain. God sent Cain into the wilderness. God marked Cain to protect him. God wanted Cain to face himself and see who his real guardian was and what responsibilities guardianship had. But Cain built a city. So do most of us. And God has to come along and tear down our cities to drive us back into the wilderness where we must confront our helpless condition and run to Him. I don’t need courage. Courage in the wilderness is sheer folly. I need a steadfast mind; a mind that is clear enough to recognize that unless God protects me, I am lost.
So God tears down the high and protected places in our lives to reveal our affliction and helplessness. And all the while He says, “Trust me.” I don’t need courage to change. All I need is time to trust. God moves me out of my false security so that I will have the time to learn trust.
“Deliver us from evil” means destroy all those high and unassailable places in my life where I am not confronted with my affliction and helplessness. That’s the part I am most likely to want to hang on to. But it is an evil far worse than my outward actions. It is the evil that prevents me from entering into God’s care.
When you pray, “Deliver us from evil”, are you really asking God to tear down your false images, smash your addictive mirrors and trample under your hidden fortresses? When you pray, “Deliver us from evil” you ask God to go to war for you. Be ready. He will. [skip moen]