OH THAT THOU WOULDEST KEEP ME FROM EVIL
There is only one other place where this phraseology is to be found. It is in our Lord’s prayer of intercession before going to Gethsemane. “I pray not that Thou shouldest TAKE THEM OUT of the world, but that THOU SHOULDEST KEEP THEM from the evil.” [John 17:15] Is it not peculiar that only Jabez and our Lord used this terminology?
What is it that Jabez did not pray for? He prayed not – “Oh God because of these temptations, sorrows and afflictions that I face, just TAKE ME OUT of this world!”
Bishop Ryle has rightly pointed out that, “Three of the only prayers not granted to saints, recorded in Scripture, are the prayers, of Moses, Elijah, and Jonah to be ‘taken out of the world.’” How very striking!
“I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” In John 17:11 Christ had said, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me,” here He amplifies for the benefit of His disciples—”keep them from THE EVIL.” The Greek word for “evil” may be translated either “evil one” or “evil thing”: probably both are included.
“Keep them from the author of evil, and from evil itself; from sin, from the power and snares of the Devil, from destruction, until their course is run. Satan is the author; the world is the bait; sin is the hook. Keep them from the Devil that they may not come under his power; from the world, that they may not be deceived by its allurements” (Mr. Manton).
A spiritual victory over it is therefore better than a total exemption from it. Thus the Lord again teaches us here how to pray: not to be delivered FROM THE WORLD, but FROM ITS EVIL. That Christ asked the Father to “KEEP US” shows that IT IS NOT WITHIN OUR POWER TO KEEP OURSELVES: “kept by THE POWER OF GOD through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). David prays similarly, “KEEP BACK thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” [Psalm 19:13]
God has MANY ways of keeping us, but they may be reduced to two: BY HIS SPIRIT OR HIS PROVIDENCE. The one is inward, the other is outward. By the power of the Holy Spirit the evil within us is restrained: “I also WITHHELD thee from sinning against me” (Gen. 20:6). By the Spirit grace is imparted to us: “I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me” (Jer. 32:40).
BY HIS PROVIDENCES HE REMOVES OCCASIONS TO AND OBJECTS OF SIN: “For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; LEST the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity” (Ps. 125:3). “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
The fact that we are unable to keep ourselves should work in us the SPIRIT OF DEPENDENCY. Our daily confession should be, “O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? For WE have NO MIGHT against this great company that cometh against us; NEITHER KNOW WE WHAT TO DO: but OUR EYES ARE UPON THEE” (2 Chron. 20:12)
Our daily prayer should be, “LEAD US NOT into temptation, but DELIVER us from evil.” The fact that Cod is able and willing to keep us should inspire confidence, deepen assurance, and fill us with praise: “I know whom I have believed, AND AM PERSUADED that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Just as the diver, encased in his watertight suit is surrounded by water, but preserved from it, so the believer, living in this evil world is kept by the mighty power of God, His arm encircling us.