Persistence Pays Off

(The Widow and the Unjust Judge)

Luke 18:1-8

 

JULY 15

 

Devotional Reading: Psalm 145:13b-20

Background Scripture: Luke 18:1-8

 

Keep in Mind:

 

“Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?” Luke 18:7

 

Lesson Aim:

 

EXAMINE the relationship between persistence and justice;

VALUE the need for faithful persistence today; and

BECOME persistent in prayer.

 

Background

 

As Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem from Galilee to carry out His divine mission, He and His disciples made stops along the way in Samaria to minister to the people.  Jesus performed many miracles and spoke many parables.  As He was heading toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:52-54), Jesus passed through Samaria, a region north of Judea whose people were notably despised by many Jews during Jesus’ day.  The Samarians were the descendants of the people of the northern Kingdom of Israel, which fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC.  During that time, the Assyrians intermarried with the Israelite inhabitants.  Consequently, the Samaritans were half-Jewish and half-Gentile.  The Samaritans’ faith tradition was similar to Jewish faith, but strikingly different in the part that mattered most to Jews: the house of God was the Temple in Jerusalem, while for Samaritans, the presence of God dwelt on Mt. Gerazim in the region of Samaria.  One village did not receive Jesus’ ministry (Luke 9:51-53), but He continued to teach, heal, and exorcise demons within Samaria.

 

On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), and some Pharisees ask Him about the coming of God’s kingdom (Luke 17:20-21).  After Jesus admonishes the Pharisees to recognize God’s work among them, He urges the disciples to prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom, although Jesus does not indicate when God will bring all things to fulfillment.  However, there will be signs of its inbreaking (Luke 17:22-37).

 

Lesson Commentary:

 

The Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-3)

 

1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

 

After Jesus discusses the coming of the Son of Man with His disciples (Luke 17:22-37), He tells them a parable to instruct them to persist in prayer during the present ordeal, which might include suffering for the sake of God’s reign.  Jesus introduces a widow who persistently seeks justice from a judge against an unspecified enemy.  Here the widow’s persistence serves as a model for the disciples.  What is striking is that the widow, whose gender excluded her from being a credible witness in the ancient Jewish court, defies social conventions and pursues justice for herself without depending on a male relative to corroborate her claim.  However, this judge “feared not God, neither regarded man.”  The judge’s lack of interest toward the widow violated the judicial code of conduct outlined in the Old Testament.  Despite this judge’s lack of concern for God or the woman, the widow persists on coming to him to seek vindication.

 

1.     If we analyze our current court system, how fair and impartial are he sentences handed down by judges?

2.     What connection is there between the kingdom of god and our need to pray consistently?

3.     How often do we choose to go the extra mile for those treated unjustly by others?

 

The Unjust Judge Relents (Luke 18:4-5)

 

4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

 

At first, the judge simply refused the widow’s petition.  After a while, the judge relents and grants the persistent widow judgment, not because he repented from not fearing the God of justice or suddenly developed compassion for the widow.  Rather, the judge grants her vindication because she continually troubles him.  The judge becomes astonished at the widow’s persistence; the widow, according to societal norms, should have accepted her fate.  However, the widow defies these norms by demanding the judge to carry out his responsibility.  The relentless widow “wears out” the judge by her actions.  Thus, he reluctantly grants her justice.

 

1.     How can persistent faith and actions create a change in our circumstances?

 

God’s Justice (Luke 18:6-8)

6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

 

Jesus tells His disciples to heed the words of the unjust judge: if he, an unjust man, can grant the widow vindication, surely God, who is the Righteous Judge (Psalm 7:11; 2 Timothy 4:8), will vindicate the elect, or “chosen people who cry to Him day and night.”  Yet the promise of God’s quick vindication comes with a bit of irony.  Although God promises to come quickly (Revelation 22:12), the people of God will endure the present ordeal.  In the present ordeal, as Jesus relays, the disciples will incur suffering at the hands of unjust people.  Hence, the people of God cry out to Him for their liberation.  Given this present reality, the disciples must follow the example of the persistent widow and continue to pray fervently until the Son of Man comes.  The Lord will not delay; however, He seeks to find signs of faith on earth signified by the persistence in prayer that is exemplified in the widow’s pursuit of justice.

 

1.               Why is persistence in prayer distinguished as the key to liberation from injustices and oppression?

2.               How can prayer produce an impact against the current racial injustices and brutality Black people endure today?

 

Lesson to Live by:

 

Prayer is fundamental to the life of very believer.  It comes in many forms—thanksgiving, lament, petition, praise, confession, and intercession.  Persistence in prayer is a characteristic of the Black Christians who participated in the Civil Rights Movement.  They understood that prayer was a necessary act of resistance against the segregationist policies of the Jim Crow South.  They endured many trials but understood that in the end God’s justice would come to pass and God’s people would be vindicated.

 

Daily Bible Readings

 

Monday: Ask, God Will Respond – Luke 1:5-13
Tuesday: I Always Remember You in Prayer
– Romans 1:7-15
Wednesday:
Unceasing Prayer – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
Thursday:
God’s Justice for the Widow – Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Friday: Take Care of Widows Now – Acts 6:1-6
Saturday:
The Lord Watches His People– Psalm 33:18-22
Sunday: Keep Insisting Until Justice Comes
– Luke 18:1-8

 

 

 

Sources:

 

Achtemeier, Paul J. Harper's Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

Biblical Studies Press: The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Brown, Raymond E., S. S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J.; Roland E. Murphy, O Carm. The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Dummelow, J. R., M.A. Rev. The One Volume Bible Commentary. New York: The Macmillan Company Publishers, 1961.

Morris, William, ed., Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.

Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.): The Pulpit Commentary: St Luke Vol. II. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004

Stein, Robert H.: Luke. electronic ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992 (Logos Library System; The New American Commentary 24)

Strong, James, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, Electronic Edition STEP Files, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.com, Inc., Omaha Nebraska. 2003.

Vine, W.E. Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Edited by Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr., Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.