I’ve spent the week studying Jesus’ Parable of the Unjust Judge. If you are unfamiliar with the story then I can fill you in. A widow with no standing, no clout in her community, couldn’t get justice to save her life. She went to the judge, but he didn’t want to be bothered by her. She kept at the judge until she wore him down and he gave in to her request. Now, there’s a reason Jesus told the story and we’ll get to that in a minute, but it got me to thinking about all of you who are parents.
If you are a parent with little ones still at home, even if all of your kids are grown, you will still be able to relate. Can you remember a time when one of your kids wanted something? I don’t mean they gave it a passing thought, I mean they really wanted it. At their first ask you probably said, “Not right now” or “Let me think about it” or “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Truth is we’ve probably all responded to our kids in all of those ways. But, kids being kids, they wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. Kids are really smart. They wait until the time is right and come at us again. You say, “I promise you that if you keep asking me you’ll never get it.” They wait some more. You begin to notice that they are extra nice to you, they’re even nice to their siblings. Then they come at you with a list, written on a piece of paper. “Mom, I’ve been thinking…” Huh oh! You see it coming don’t you? They read their list: They promise they’ll take the trash out for a month, clean their room every day, do laundry, and feed you breakfast in bed for the rest of your life…if, if only you’ll get them what they want. You may resist for awhile, but they are persistent, relentless, and untiring in their mission to get what they want. Eventually you caved. Come on, admit it. You know you did! I did too. How does that happen? Why does that happen? And we swore we would never let it happen again. How did it happen? The answer is quite simple: They just flat wore us down until they wore us out!
If this has ever happened to you then you are in a good place to understand how the woman in Jesus’ parable got what she wanted. There’s a much greater lesson to Jesus’ parable that I hope we can learn this morning so let’s turn to Luke 18:1-8 and read together.
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 NIVO)
It’s always important to understand the context of what Jesus is saying before we try to understand the text. To understand the context you have to go back to Luke 17. In Luke 17, Jesus was teaching the disciples about what would take place at His return. In verse 26, Jesus said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also it will be in the days of the Son of Man.” Then, in verse 28, Jesus said, “It was the same in days of Lot…” What will it be like when Jesus’ returns? It will be like it was in the days of Noah and Lot. Jesus wants to prepare His followers for that day. When we turn to Luke 18, and the beginning of our parable, we read,
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1 NIVO)
This is such an important word from Jesus. Jesus told a parable to show His followers that they should always pray and not give up. It’s that last phrase that has captured my heart this week. Pray. Don’t give up. Other translations say, “Pray and not lose heart,” “pray and not become discouraged,” or “pray and not faint.” The Greek word translated “not give up” is “ekkakeo” and it means, “to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted.” I know that every single person here this morning can relate to being utterly spiritless, wearied out, and exhausted by the troubles and trials of life. This is true of all of us, but remember, this section of Scripture is linked to what Jesus had to say in Luke 17 about His return one day.
I want you to know that living with the return of Jesus in mind is a game changer. Paul wrote to the people of Thessalonica to encourage them to live holy lives, to serve God with all of their hearts, and to remind them that those who die “in Christ” are safe and better than ever with our King. Then he wrote,
15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NIVO)
How about that!? Encourage each other with these words. If we die, we die “in Christ.” If we continue to live, we live “in Christ” and “for Christ” knowing that one day He will come for all of His own. Jesus said that we should always pray and not lose heart, not become discouraged, and not give up. We are to pray with our eyes set on heaven, pray with our hearts anchored in the sovereignty of our God, and pray with the assurance that our God, our Judge, is not like the unjust judge in Jesus’ parable.
There are only two characters in Jesus’ parable. There is the widow and the judge. Look at verse 2 with me.
2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. (Luke 18:2 NIVO)
We don’t know the name of the town, but we do know the character of the judge. Jesus said he “neither feared God nor cared about men.” I have no idea how much judicial experience this judge had, I’ve never read any of his decisions, but I can tell you he was not a good judge. He lacked wisdom. You may wonder how I got that out of this one verse? I’ll show you. In Proverbs 9:10 we read,
10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10 NIVO)
This judge didn’t fear God and the writer of Proverbs tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. When Jesus was asked, in Luke 10, which of the commandments was the greatest, we read,
27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27 NIVO)
This judge loved neither God nor his neighbor. He was not a good judge. We can know that before we ever come to verse 3 and the evidence Jesus gives us, that in fact, he wasn’t a good judge.
In verse 3, Jesus tells us a widow in the judge’s town kept coming to him. She wanted justice and if you want justice then you are supposed to be able to go to the judge. She did what she was supposed to do, but he refused. She was a nobody. She was in a tough, tough situation. Her husband had died and she had no man in her life: no father, brother, or uncle to defend her. How do we know that? Well, the court system was for men, not for women. No woman would come to the court unless they had no man in their life. The court system was not like it is today. She, like so many widows, was powerless and helpless, but the judge wouldn’t help her. How unlike God was the judge who didn’t want to be bothered by the widow? Well, turn with me to Psalm 68:4-5 and I will show you.
4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds– his name is the LORD– and rejoice before him. 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:4-5 NIVO)
Unlike the unjust judge, God is a defender of widows. Have you ever taken the time to understand how favored widows are by God? We can go all the way back to Exodus 22 and hear God tell His people, “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan” (Exodus 22:22 NIVO). In Deuteronomy 10, we see once again how God rises up to defend the weak and powerless. Read along with me beginning in verse 17.
17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18 NIVO)
A little later in Deuteronomy we learn that a portion of the tithes collected in the third year was to help the widows, fatherless, and aliens in the community (Deut. 14:28-29). Then, in Deuteronomy 24:19-22, we learn that when God’s people were harvesting their fields, collecting olives and grapes, they weren’t to go over their crops a second time–God said leave them for the widows, fatherless, and aliens. How unlike God was the judge who didn’t want to be bothered by the widow?!
The woman was so desperate she wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. She kept going back to the judge. She met him as he arrived in the morning to take his gavel and put on his robe. She was waiting for him at the end of the day when he just wanted to get home. She would show up in his courtroom with a sign that read, “No Justice! No Peace!” She would not let the man rest until she got what she deserved. Finally, we read,
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” (Luke 18:4-5 NIVO)
Even though he didn’t fear God or care about people, the judge gave in to the woman’s request because she would not stop bothering him. It wasn’t love that moved the judge, it wasn’t justice that moved the judge, it wasn’t compassion or wisdom that moved the judge. The judge gave in for selfish reasons–he was tired of being hassled by the woman. Then, in verse 6, Jesus said,
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.” (Luke 18:6 NIVO)
“Listen, pay attention, don’t miss what the unjust judge just said!” The Greek word used by Jesus is an imperative. “Don’t miss it!” Why did Jesus highlight what the unjust judge said for His disciples? That’s a great question and the answer is, because He wanted to draw a sharp, sharp contrast between the unjust judge who finally gave in and the Judge of all humanity who is so unlike the unjust judge. Let’s read together Jesus’ final words found in Luke 18:7-8.
7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8 NIVO)
Now, I need to make something really clear. The point of the parable is not that we are to nag God, keep badgering Him over and over again, or to pray long rambling repetitious prayers until we finally wear Him down like the widow wore down the judge. The point of the parable is the stark contrast between the unjust judge and our God. When you understand the character of God, His love and desire for you, then you will know that He is our Refuge and Strength, He is our Hope and Deliverer, He is our Strength and Ever-Present-Help in our time of need.
When Jesus asked, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” it is intended to be answered with an emphatic, “You better believe He will!” The widow was nobody to the unjust judge and yet Jesus points out that all who have believed in Him are God’s “chosen ones.” Jesus was talking to His disciples one day when He said,
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit– fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:15-16 NIVO)
“I chose you…” Just think about that for a minute. The Bible teaches that we have sinned against God, separated ourselves from God because of our sin, and yet God sent Jesus to rescue us, to redeem us, to give His life in our place so we might be reconciled to God. When you heard the Gospel something happened. You recognized your need for God’s forgiveness. You recognized your need for God’s salvation. You recognized that Jesus had come for you, died for you, and was calling you. You recognized all of that, but it was God who opened your eyes, softened your heart, and brought all of us who were dead in our sins to life. Paul wrote to the people in Thessalonica,
13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 NIVO)
Those who belong to God, chosen by God, are to “cry out to God both day and night.” Did you see that in verse 7. Does that phrase characterize your prayer life? Do you cry out to God in the morning, throughout the day, and at night while you are laying in bed? I wish that was the description of my life, but it’s not. I would say that most of us probably cry out to God when we are in trouble, when we are facing things in life that we just can’t handle.
A lady came to G. Campbell Morgan, the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London in the early 1900s. She told Pastor Morgan, “I only take the big things to God. I don’t take the little things to God.” Pastor Morgan looked at her and said, “Mam, anything you take to God is little.” We should see all of life, every moment of every day, every decision we must make as an opportunity to take it to God. Not only should we take everything to God, but we can take everything to God. Isn’t that mind boggling? Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn with me to Jeremiah 33:2-3.
2 “This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it– the LORD is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:2-3 NIVO)
Did you hear the invitation? God says, “Call to me and I will answer you…” God will answer, He will always answer. There are times when we feel like our prayers bounce off the ceiling. There are times when God seems so distant. There are times when it feels like God is far removed and uncaring about our situation, but during those times we must allow the truths of God’s Word to correct our feelings. God always answers our prayers, but sometimes they are not the answers we are looking for or the answer we desire. Tim Keller, the former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, wrote, “God will answer all of our prayers exactly like we would answer our prayers if we knew all he knew.” When we don’t get the answer we want do we turn away or do we continue to seek God with all of our hearts? We must pray or we will most certainly lose heart.
In the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, we hear the invitation again. The invitation to draw near to God so that we might receive the help, the grace we need, in our time of need. Read with me from Hebrews 4:14-16.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIVO)
This should overwhelm us my friends. The God of glory who created us, offered His Son so we could be reconciled to Himself, invites us to come to His throne with confidence. I heard a story one time about President Kennedy. He was in a meeting when his young son came walking through the doors of the Oval Office. The President held out his arms and his little boy walked over to his dad, sat in his lap, and the meeting went on as planned. Who does that? Who could get away with that? The son of the President that’s who. And you and I are sons and daughters of the King of Glory! Won’t you come with confidence before our great God this very morning?
One last thing before we leave here this morning. Let’s read the last verse of our study for this morning found in Luke 18:8.
8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NIVO)
I want us to focus on the last sentence. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Once again Jesus is talking about His return, but He asks a question. “Will he find faith on the earth?” Most Bible teachers believe what Jesus is really asking is, “Will He find us faithful on the earth?” Will it be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot when so few were faithful to God? Will He find you and me faithful? Pray my friend. Don’t give up, don’t lose heart. Pray and cling to the Father.
March 17, 2019