2016-08-28 Luke 18:1-8 Faithful Living in a Faithless World (2): Vindication!
FAITHFUL LIVING IN A FAITHLESS WORLD (2): VINDICATION! (Luke 18:1-8) August 28, 2016 Intro – And old rhyme: “His wisdom is sublime, / His heart profoundly kind; / God never is before His time, / And never is behind.” A truth to live by! But to the disciples it was about to look like He was behind. Jesus has told His disciples the kingdom they expect when they arrive in Jerusalem will not happen on their schedule. It is delayed by the rejection of the nation – a huge unmet expectation. So what should they do? V. 1, “they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Two things: Don’t lose heart! Do pray. And He finishes with a challenge in v. 8: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Literally, will He find that faith. What faith? Faith that believes, contrary to all appearances, Jesus is coming again. And when He does, He would like to find that faith – the faith that prays and does not lose heart. People living faithfully in a faithless world. So He’s told us I. What Not to Do (lose heart). Then He’s told us II. What to Do (pray). Now, why do it – and it’s not what most people think. III. Why Do It? V. 1: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always (δει) to pray.” So, we must pray. No missing that. But most miss the real thrust of this parable. Most insist Jesus is teaching persistence in prayer. They point to the widow’s “continual coming” in v. 5, and believers crying to God “day and night” in v. 7 and conclude, “The issue is persistence. Want answers? Persist! Keep on asking. Then ask some more until we get what we want.” You walk away thinking you must overcome God’s reluctance in order to get an answer. Plead long and hard enough, and you can get whatever you want. But while persistence in prayer is good, that is not the main point here. Most parables are parables of comparison. This is not. This is one of the few parables in the Bible that is a parable of contrast, not a parable of comparison. That is where interpreters go astray. They assume that we are like this helpless woman, and God is like this reluctant judge, and the way to get something is to nag until He finally gives in. But that is not the point at all. This is a parable of contrasts. Jesus’ point is not that just like that unwanted woman got results from unrighteous judge by persistent nagging, so you pesky 1 seekers can get results from an unresponsive God by your persistence. That is not at all His point! That’s a parable of comparison. But God is not an unrighteous judge. And we are not unwanted intrusions. Just the opposite. Jesus’ point is, if that woman could get results from that guy by her persistence, how much more can you expect answers from a God who lives to answer prayer. It’s not persistence in prayer that He is teaching; it is poise and confidence in prayer. That’s His point. Martin Luther said it this way: "Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness." A. You Are Received 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ Widowhood symbolized the ultimate state of vulnerability, deprivation and need. There was no welfare system and no recourse outside of family. A widow was reduced to any help she could get from parents or siblings, if alive. Barring that, she would have to beg. Furthermore, women had no standing at court. They could not give testimony and could get a hearing only under unusual circumstances. With an unjust judge that meant one thing – a bribe – which she did not have. She was a 3time loser – no standing at court, no man to plead her case, and no money to pay a bribe. Jesus’ audience got the pix. She was alone, helpless, desperate. So, she does what she can. She pesters this judge to death. V. 3: She “kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ To the point that the judge said: “5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” “Beat me down” is literally “give me a black eye” – a boxing term. She wasn’t actually hitting him, but she was aggressively confronting him at every opportunity – outside court, no doubt. He could have thrown her out of court. But when he went to the market, there she was. Having lunch with his colleagues, there she was. Coming and going from his home, there she was. Always pleading even as he pushed her aside. , until he could take it no more. That’s the picture. Now, the woman clearly represents believers. We ought always to pray, and she is always pleading. We’re helpless to impose kingdom justice; she’s helpless to get justice. In that sense we are alike. BUT whereas she is unloved and unwanted, we are very loved and wanted. That’s Jesus’ point. 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says (He’s going to give in to her badgering. But between us and God, it’s very different). 7 And will not God give justice to his elect.” Jesus isn’t drawing a comparison, He’s 2 drawing a contrast. His point is while the woman is not only helpless, but unwanted – succeeding only by being a royal pain in the neck, His followers are the total opposite of that. Helpless, yes. But totally loved, totally wanted, precious to Him. The contrast could not be more stark. She is rejected; we are elect! No wonder we ought to pray. He longs to effect His will in our lives! The woman is unwanted, but we are people whom the Father “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3-5). Chosen before we were born; adopted into the family of God thru the work of His Spirit within all because He loved us. David Platt used to point to his son, Caleb, across a room and yell, “I love Caleb!” Caleb would laugh and yell back, “I love Daddy!” One day Caleb stopped suddenly and asked, “You love me?” Platt replied, “Yeah, buddy, I do.” “Why?” “Because you’re my son.” “Why?” That caused Platt to replay all the hassles and turmoil of adopting a son from Kazakhstan. With teary eyes he told Caleb, “You’re our son because we wanted you. We came to get you so that you could have a mommy and daddy.” Doesn’t it take your breath away to hear God say, “I chose you. And I came to get you so that you might know me as your Father.” That’s why we should pray, Beloved. Not to overcome God’s reluctance, but to lay hold of His willingness. We don’t have to beg. We just come boldly to the throne of grace where we’re wanted. B. God is Righteous V. 2: “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.” This man neither feared the Lord to whom he would one day answer, nor the dignity of those he judged. He was rotten to the core and cared nothing for this woman. Is that a comparison to show us what God is like? No! God’s the opposite of this scoundrel. So while He may seem reluctant or distant or indifferent at times, He never is. Never. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5). Delay may be for discipline (Heb 12), spiritual warfare (Dan 10), to increase our dependence (Job 13:15), for our growth (Job 23:10) or a hundred other reasons. But our Father is always there. The religious establishment hated Martin Luther for standing against papel authority in favor of the Bible. They tried to buy him off. He refused and Cardinal Cajetan sent a note to the Pope saying, “This fool doesn’t love gold!” 3 Cajetan then threatened, “Do you not realize that the Pope’s little finger is stronger than all of Germany? And do you think the German princes will rise up and take arms to defend you, you wretched worm. No they won’t. And then where will you be?” Luther eyeballed him and said, “I’ll tell you where I’ll be. I’ll be where I have always been – in the hands of God.” That’s a good place to be – in the hands of the Father who has chosen you and will always do right by you. You don’t have to beg. You just have to put yourself into His hands. That’s what to do! Faithful living in a faithless world. IV. What to Expect Why hold “that” faith? Two gripping promises: 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? zWill he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” Justice and Speed. A. Justice I love this promise. Someday God is going to right every wrong, heal every pain and vindicate every act of faith. That’s who He is. His very nature can allow for no other possibility. Abraham pleaded for Lot’s life on that basis: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen 18:25). Justice is coming; vindication is on the way. When Jesus pictures “his elect, [who] cry to him day and night” He’s not saying, “Do this!” It’s not an instruction; it’s a description. He’s depicting that the faithful are finding it hard. They are mocked, declared irrelevant, intolerant, hopelessly outdated and foolish. They are being persecuted and even being killed. Tough environment to live by faith! But Jesus is saying, “Listen. You will be vindicated in the end. You may be mocked, ostracized, persecuted and killed now – but justice is coming.” The Lord says in Psa 9: 18) For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” It may be tough now, but not forever. Why? Back up to Psa 9: 8) “and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.” A day of reckoning is coming, and the temporary shame of God’s elect will become the eternal shame of their persecutors. So hang on! Paul vividly describes vindication in II Thess 1:6ff: “5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God 4 considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Believers will have the last laugh. Deliverance is coming; exoneration is on the way. God’s just character guarantees it! God tested Job under horrendous circumstances. His health, family and wealth all taken in the blink of an eye. And he was mocked by those who thought his faith in vain, including his own wife! But without ever answering the “why” question, except to say, “Trust me,” listen to how it all ended. Job 42:12 And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.” Check it out. God gave Job double what he had in the beginning – except not his children. Why not the children? Because the first group was already with the Lord awaiting a great reunion when Dad would join them in His presence. What is the point of it all? God vindicates His faithful followers – not always in this life, and not always when we want. But Job shows us He is infinitely fair and just. Every wrong is made right because that’s who He is. BUT – there’s more! B. Speed 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily (ἐν τάχει – shortly or better, as soon as possible).” Expect speed. That’s where faith usually goes down the drain, doesn’t it? Jesus says justice is coming fast. We don’t see it speedily, despair and doubt take over and suddenly we’re living a faithless life in a faithless world. What’s happened? Destruction by false expectations! To us the word “speedily” to means “now”! Tomorrow, latest, right? That’s what speedily tells us. And it can mean that. When the angel comes to get Peter out of prison in Acts 12:8 and says, “Get up quickly”-- he doesn’t mean tomorrow! But usually the term has broader meaning. Rev 1:1: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” Have the things in Revelation taken place yet? No. Not yet. But they will “as soon as possible!” – when all the puzzle pieces are in place. Rom 16:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” A promise issued 2,000 years ago. Hasn’t happened yet, but it will soon – as soon as possible. 5 Two thousand years isn’t soon to me! Certainly not speedy. But God does not count time as we do. A day with him is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. The definition of “speedily” in Lu 18:8 is found in the previous verse. “Will he (God) delay long over them (His elect)?” The grammatically expected answer is “No. No, He would never delay over them. He will give them justice “as soon as possible” in keeping with His plan to reunite all things under His feet. So what Jesus is promising here is no pain any longer than absolutely necessary; no suffering beyond what God’s plan requires; no unnecessary extension of adversity. So trust Him; cling to Him; have faith in Him; let Him find “that” faith in your life – faithful living in a faithless world – knowing that He will not extend your suffering or persecution any longer than absolutely necessary. Take heart. However it may look, He is absolutely in control. He will deliver just as soon as He knows the time is right. You tell your kids, “We’re going to Disneyland soon.” Soon? To them that translates into later today – tomorrow latest. But you know you have to get time off work, get plane tickets, find a hotel, find someone to water the plants and feed the dog – soon could be months. You get the point. Speedily = as soon as possible to implement the plan. Meantime, your kids hang onto “that” faith” – that it will really happen. Why? Because they know you keep your word, and they know you love them, and you’ve promised to give them justice as soon as possible – just like your heavenly Father has promised you. Conc – So, keep the faith, Beloved. You’ve been chosen by the One who is in control of the whole thing. That’s good theology. So, live faithfully in a faithless world so that when He comes He will find “that” faith. And if you don’t know Him, why not today? C. S. Lewis as usual put it as clearly as you can put it: “When the author walks onto the stage (when Jesus does comes again), the play is over. God is going to invade, all right; but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else comes crashing in? This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. That will not be the time for choosing; It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.” I urge you – choose Christ. Let’s pray. 6