The Persistent Widow
Live the Word • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 24:37
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I want to invite you to look with me at a parable Jesus told in Luke 18. In it Jesus speaks to us during those times when we get discouraged in our faith.
On Friday, while mowing in the heat of the afternoon, I shut off the mower to take a phone call. Moments later, it wouldn’t start. I didn’t think much of it, just pulled harder and faster on the pull-start rope. Nothing. So, I kept at it, putting everything I had into it. Finally, I gave it the hardest pull I could, only to have the handle rip away from the rope and come apart in my hand—nearly sending me flat on my back. I’ve never been so ready to toss the whole mower in the dumpster! (For the record, I didn’t. I fixed the handle back onto the rope, gave it normal pull and it fired up like usual.)
Do you ever feel that way with your faith? Prayer life? Like you’ve been giving it your best and seeing nothing for so long? You’re weary. You know you ought to be praying, but… nothing’s happening. Maybe you feel like I did on Friday, only worse: like your faith is coming apart in your hand and you feel like tossing it.
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
Context: This is not so much about prayer for everyday things, but every-day prayer for the coming culmination of God’s kingdom inaugurated some 2000 years ago. Keep praying and don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up.
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.
It wouldn’t be hard for the original hearers to imagine such a judge—neither is it difficult for us.
positions of power used for self-serving purposes
village judges: established by Rome, similar to tax collectors in the way they were regarded by Jews. Official title: “Prohibition Judges” (but the Jews would often change one letter in the Aramaic, labeling them “Robber Judges”
As we’ll see this is a judge who doesn’t care about justice. There is no sense of responsibility to anything higher or bigger than himself. He could not care less. In my study, I noted the terms that others have used to characterize such a man: unscrupulous, wicked, cold-hearted, hard-bitten, callous, godless, cold and calculating. I might add the word: rascal. Jesus called him the ‘unjust judge.’
And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
On one hand Jesus has us picture a man in a position of power (who is about as lousy as they come). He contrasts that with a woman in a position of utter vulnerability (whose case should have been clear-cut).
Scripture commands special care for oppressed widows and fatherless children
no husband or anyone else to plead her case (Isa 1:17 - learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widows cause”)
She represents those who have nothing and no one; they are oppressed, need help, and have nothing but hope that asking will make a difference
Jesus doesn’t describe her age or her exact situation, only that she has an opponent and believes that right is on her side. So she comes to one who can and should help, and pleads for justice. Maybe some has robbed her or defrauder her. Maybe her deceased husband’s estate has been withheld from her. I picture a tiny gray-haired lady who means business!
For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,
Next case, please
Illustration: phone frustration, waiting on hold forever only to be redirected and redirected and redirected
But she kept coming and eventually got inside his head. She got him talking to himself: “Though I neither fear God nor respect man,
yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”
Don’t you love that? By her repeated pleas, she managed to get on the judges last nerve. She bothered him into ruling in her favor. He wasn’t moved with compassion or steered by justice. He wouldn’t even budge out of shame. But this woman was about to to bother him to death!
So Jesus tell this wonderful little story and then brings it home for us.
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Paraphrase: ‘Did you hear that? Even a rascally scoundrel can be bothered into right action. How much more will God!’
1. Jesus reminds us of the trustworthy character of God
The day of the Lord will come; the world will be judged rightly—but speedily? (ref to Mal 3:5, when he deems it right to judge, God himself will be a “swift witness” against those who oppress the vulnerable.)
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2. Jesus gives us a question: When he returns, will he find faith?
There is a tendency to evaluate God on his short-term performance—and sadly many discontinue their faith based on that evaluation.
Short-term disappointment is to be expected. Christian faith is long-range faith with constant day-in-and-day-out prayer. Not to bother God into action, but rather to keeping one’s grip on a sure thing.
We cultivate long-range faith with daily prayer.
Don’t give up your prayer life when your weary of “tugging on the pull-start.” The value of prayer and faith is not measured by immediate results. Disappointment and weariness are to be expected, but prayer will prove in the end to be time well spent.
Suggestion for the weary: Psalm 42
Pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). In your life-with-God, think long-term. Pray long-term. The bigger picture puts today’s trouble and disappointment in perspective.
[Prayer: that we would live up to our calling (growing into all that children of Yours should be, worthy of what it means to be Christian); that you would transform our desires and inspire goals that correspond with Your eternal plan (give us purpose and enduring spiritual fruit); that the name of the Lord Jesus would be glorified in us; Come, Lord Jesus!]