Aloha Friday Message – July 26, 2019 – The Test and the Testament

1930AFC072619 – The Test and the Testament

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Luke 11:1-4  He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.Give us each day our daily bread.4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”*

New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE) ~~ Luke 11:4 – … and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”*

* πειρασμός, οῦ, ὁ (peirasmos) {pi-ras-mos’} → a trial, probation, testing, being tried; also connotatively, temptation, or a calamity, an affliction. In Hebrew the word is מַסָּה (maccah) {mas-saw’} first seen in Genesis 22:1 – 1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” In Latin, the word in Luke 4 is tentatio which means a trial, an attack, a duration, a proof or proving, a temptation, and also a judgment.

One of the main themes in the readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time is “persistence in prayer.” Abraham repeatedly asks the Lord to spare the people of Sodom and Gomorrah if only a few righteous people can be found there. God replies that for the sake of those few he would spare everyone; we know how that turned out for those people on the Jordan Plain (“the cities on the plain” included Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, and Zoar. Zoar was spared because Lot asked to find refuge there.) The Apostle Paul reminds us that we were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. This is because he has brought us to life having forgiven us all our transgressions. Jesus’ lesson in Luke 11:1-13 includes The Lord’s Prayer and a lesson in persistence – a man goes to his neighbor after midnight to get food for unexpected guests – and the neighbor gives him bread because he won’t stop asking. It is similar to another parable in Luke 18:1-8 the parable of the Unjust Judge and the Widow. She pesters the judge until he finally relents and grants her petition. This passage in this weekend’s reading in Luke 11 also includes this famous promise in verses 9-10: “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. We are to pray with persistence, with reverence, and with good intent – and that includes meeting the test of granting forgiveness.

If you have an interest in hypercritical study of Scripture, you can find literally hundreds of articles – books even – about The Lord’s Prayer, particularly “forgive us our trespasses/debts as we forgive those who trespass against us/our debtors” and “lead us not into temptation” / “do not put us to the final test.” Let’s look at the “debts and debtors” idea first.

This comes from Matthew 6:12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Only Matthew uses this formula based on ὀφειλήματα (opheilēmata) ← ὀφείλημα (opheiléma) {of-i’-lay-mah} that which is owed, a debt, offense, sin; the result of having a debt, focusing on the after-effect of the obligation. The Lord’s Prayer is not included in the Gospels of Mark and John. In Luke 11:4 (← Check it out!) we read a slightly similar format – And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. In this construct, “indebted” is from that same Greek root opheiléma. In the three synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – after Jesus teaches the disciples to pray – he uses the word “trespass” for example in Mark 11:25 25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses*.” παραπτώματα (paraptōmata) {par-ap’-to-mah-tah} “Trespass” is found frequently in the Old Testament including even a “trespass offering” i.e., “guilt offering” (e.g., Leviticus 5:15). We won’t go into why some Christians say debtors and other say trespassers here, however. Just know that there is a reason for both, and both are scriptural. Now, let’s look at “lead us not into temptation.”

Here again it is useful to look at the Greek word for this concept.

You have it at the beginning of this post: → πειρασμός (peirasmos) {pi-ras-mos’} → a trial, probation, testing, being tried; also connotatively, temptation; or a calamity, an affliction. Belovéd there is so much debate and consternation over this little word! Let’s just take the simple way through all that flak! I want to include something from a recent lesson:

Today I’m asking for you to look inside of you and answer the question God will ask you every day if you are listening. It is the way God tests us. We often think that when we endure hardships, pain, suffering, temptations, or any number of other negative things, that is God testing us. I think the test is a bit different. God tests us. He uses one of those incredible essay questions:

“Do you love Me? Why or why not?”

That’s THE BIG ONE worth 95 points out of a hundred possible points. But then he gives us lots of 25 point pop-quizzes with hundreds of bonus questions each worth up to 10 points each. Some are T/F, some multiple-choice, and some fill-in-the-blanks. Yes, He does test us, mostly on the essay, but, Good God that He is, he wants us all to get an A+ so they’re all open Book tests. Is being chronically ill with several debilitating conditions a difficult test? Is being mastered by addiction, even multiple addictions, a difficult test? Is giving your life for your child, or your spouse, or your nation, or a total stranger a difficult test? Then what kind of test is it to love God?

God does test us. Today’s reading from Genesis centers on Abraham pleading with God to spare decrepit lives if only there are innocent lives among them. God tested Abraham over, and over, and over – and Abraham always passed (See Genesis 22:1 above.) We know that Israel tested God, too. You will remember the confrontation at Massah in the desert also called Meribah (“strife” or “contention”). In Hebrew this is מַסָּה (maccah) {mas-saw’} which is the word for “temptation” where the Israelites tempted/tested God’s patience with their rebellion and whining. From nacah*; a testing, of men (judicial) or of God (argumentative) — temptation, trial.

See HEBREW *nacah → נָסָה (nasah) {naw-saw’} → to test, try to test, try; test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof, put to the test. God tests us and that’s all there is to it. He tests us to prove our faith in him as well as our faith in our faith. He wants us to know we know him, so he tests us to remind us he is known and knowable.

I had a dispute recently with someone who insisted that God is “leading us into temptation” with evil intent. Let us not forget James 1:13-15 13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. God absolutely DOES NOT TEMPT US to evil. He tests us for faith, in faith, by faith, with faith. Read that again slowly. How are we to know we love God? If we love God, aren’t all of these other circumstances best conquered by knowing that we love God and – more importantly – God loves us? And if we love God, will we not avoid sin and resist the desire to be tempted? John 14:15 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As for “the final test,” what could that be? (See “Messianic Woes” in last week’s lesson) I don’t know if there’s a universal answer for that, but for me, the final test would be for me to let doubt and fear cloud my vision of Christ on the Cross looking toward me and saying, “I forgive you” because that is the Testament – the authentication, verification, and absolute proof that my debts are indeed PAID IN FULL.

Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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