Scripture: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said 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.'” 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?” Luke 18:1-8 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Luke tells us that as Jesus enters a village along the border of Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers approach him but observe social distancing (Leviticus 13:45-46). Crying out for mercy to him, Jesus commands the lepers to present themselves to the priests to confirm their healing. Along the way, all experience healing, but only one, a Samaritan, returns and expresses his gratitude to Jesus. Making a point for all his disciples and onlookers to observe, Jesus then questions where the other nine are and notes that only a “foreigner” has returned to praise God. Finally, he speaks directly to the man and commissions him to rise and go, adding that his faith has made him well.
Today’s reading is Jesus’ response to his disciples’ question regarding where they will see the signs of the end of the age (covered in the May 24 Daily Focus from Matthew’s parallel passage). In response to his disciples’ question, Jesus tells a parable about a persistent widow who hounded the local judge for justice against her adversary. The cantankerous judge feared and respected no one, including God. Still, the widow persisted, provoking the judge to grant her justice to find relief from her relentless pleas. Jesus then explains the parable’s meaning: If an unrighteous judge responds to incessant requests, how much more so will our loving Father give justice to his elect who ongoingly cry out (pray) to him? And God will not delay in responding.
Jesus concludes the dialogue on the end times with one final rhetorical question: When he (the Son of Man) returns, will he find faith on the earth?
Takeaway: As theologian Walter Liefeld notes, given Jesus tells this parable in response to eschatological concerns, we must not presume on God that he will speedily respond to all prayer requests, but he will not delay in responding to the “vindication of [his] misunderstood and suffering people” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke, p.999). But there is a limitation to whom our Father listens and responds: to his chosen ones, “the elect” (Greek eklektōn). Indeed, without delay, Christ will gather his elect from the catastrophic events provoked by evil when he returns (see Matthew 24:31 and Revelation 17:14).
Meanwhile, as Liefeld adds, “God patiently listens to his elect as they pray in their continuing distress, waiting for the proper time to act on their behalf” (p.1000). How so? We inherit God’s righteousness when we exhibit faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-22). And God attentively listens to the prayers of the righteous (1 Peter 3:12), which have great power (James 5:16).
But does God speedily respond? Yes, but maybe not according to how we think he should act. Consider Christ’s prayers on the eve of his crucifixion. He knows he will soon bear the world’s sins in his body and suffer a horrible execution that is anything but fair. So his faithful Father quickly responds with relief from the mental anguish and sends an angel to strengthen him to complete his mission (Luke 22:43), and justice will soon prevail at Calvary. But what about us? We, too, will find relief when facing injustices if we lean on Christ and seek guidance from his Holy Spirit. And while we may not see justice on our terms, God will grant it in his perfect way and timing.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of your Son, who has speedily relieved us from the penalty of sin. Still, we struggle with its ill effects on us and others that cause suffering and injustices. And we confess that we are often impatient for relief. So would you please mature our faith so we can confidently pray rightly and persistently, knowing that you will provide what we need now until justice prevails? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling