The widow and the judge. 18:1-8
Our passage for study points to a time when believers will face despair, with some even denying their faith. The parable of the Persistent Widow serves to encourage us not to despair, but rather to call on the living God for his just intervention. In the tribulation of the last days all may seem helpless, but if an unjust judge will act for a poor widow, how much more will a just God act for his people? The final saying, v8b, warns of the danger of apostasy. Despair, in times of trouble, can easily lead a believer to lose heart, so let us hold firmly to our faith in Jesus.
v1. Jesus calls on his disciples to pray for God's just and final intervention in the world. Jesus is obviously thinking of his return in the last day. The liturgical version of this prayer is "come Lord Jesus", or simply, "thy kingdom come." So, Jesus encourages his disciples to not grow weary of praying for God's just intervention, for he will intervene. This is not an exhortation to repetitive prayer, but to constancy in prayer.
v2-5. Jesus goes on to tell a story, a "how much more" illustration. He tells the story of a powerless widow seeking justice for her cause. Her problem is compounded by the character of the village magistrate; he has no respect toward God, nor toward his fellows. So, the magistrate simply ignores her. If she had the money for a bribe she might be able to secure justice, but she is a poor widow, so she turns to the only means at her disposal, her capacity to nag. She pesters the life out of him and so finally, gets what she wants, namely justice. As the magistrate observes, "I'd better give her what she wants otherwise her pestering will be the death of me."
v6. Jesus asks his hearers to observe the response of the magistrate. Although an unlikely result, the magistrate gave the widow what she asked. The description "unjust" judge, possibly means "worldly", although "corrupt" is better.
v7. Jesus now draws out a "how much more" principle. If an unjust judge will act for a poor widow, how much more will a just God act for his people? "Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen who appeal to him day and night?", J.B. Phillips.
v8a. Jesus now applies the parable. The point he makes is that God, the just judge, will not abandon us to a world out of control, he will inevitably intervene and do so justly. As God's people keep praying "thy kingdom come", will God keep delaying his intervention? The answer is "no", his forbearance toward those who oppose him has its limits. The living God will inevitably act for his people, and will do so "suddenly". God's just intervention for his people, realized in the coming of the Son of Man, in the coming of the kingdom, will occur "unexpectedly".
v8b. The idea of the sudden return of Christ prompts a warning. In the day of the coming kingdom many of those who pray "thy kingdom come" will find themselves locked outside. So, let those who pray for God's just intervention in this age hold to that one necessary requirement for entry into the kingdom, namely, faith in Jesus Christ. Let us possess "a faith that perseveres in allegiance to Jesus", Darrell Bock.
The Western democracies are wonderful places to live and breathe, free from persecution. Still, times are changing, and the Christian faith doesn't have the same level of acceptance it once had. Probably a good thing, because nominalism is not necessarily a blessing.
What we find today is a general apathy toward the Christian faith; it is now just one of the many different spiritual paths. Our privileged position is no more. In the push and shove of the religious market-place we have to compete for market share; a new phenomenon for the Christian church. Sadly, we are tending to lose out a bit.
The sad state of Christianity in Western society can easily lead us to lose heart. We pray for the Lord to stand up for his people, we pray for his just intervention, but little seems to happen. Of course, Christ's "kingdom is not of this world" so we are often unaware of the effectiveness of our prayers. As for the future, we can be sure something will happen at the return of Christ, but all seems so far away. Will our God will act for his people?
The answer, of course, is "yes indeed!" For our part, let us not lose heart in the waiting. The Lord Jesus has not forgotten us. He requires but one thing of us, that we persevere in faith.
1. The parable of the persistent widow, like the persistent friend, 11:5-7, teaches us a "how much more" lesson, rather than a "persistence in prayer" lesson. Discuss.
2. Is there any evidence that God is vindicating his people today?