Saturday, June 11, 2011

POWERFUL PRAYER SEEN IN THE PERSISTENT WIDOW AND HEARTLESS JUDGE

Luke 18 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Parable of the Persistent Widow Reaping in joy what you have sown in tears.

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?”

“Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:17-18 KJV)

This parable, contrary to what it seems to suggest on the surface, is not merely a sales pitch for persistence. The persistence in this story is more like a contention than a recommendation to persist. But, it is not just a contention either, because the widow is not shown as being all “bent out of shape”! She is tenaciously determined! What made her this way? That seems to be the point of this parable.

She knew that this judge could do what she wanted! He was experienced. He had dealt with this kind of thing before. He had told her! Jesus had said that the judge needed to be heard! (verse 6)

Jesus often used parables, especially among religious leaders, in order to help them see, when they were really blind. (Matthew 13:13)

Here Jesus uses a parable to teach God’s power, and the key to it. Elijah, in the Old Testament, although used mightily of God to discipline the nation of Israel concerning their idolatry, did not comprehend how much it would cost him emotionally, until he found himself running in fear from the idolatrous queen, herself!

“When the illusion of control disappears, we become men and women of prayer.” RT@MattChandler74 (Twitter)

What is a parable anyway? It is a brief but clear story, occasionally written in poetic form. It illustrates an instructive principle, life lesson, or universal truth, such as those found in scripture. A parable is a type of analogy.

The word “parable” comes from the Greek παραβολή (parabolē), meaning “comparison, illustration, analogy”, It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then experiencing the consequences.

It would serve us well to remember that Jesus said in Mark 4:13 that all parables have the concept of “sowing and reaping” hidden in them. We therefore need to look for the truth of “sowing and reaping” in this parable. The widow saw the truth of this resource, experienced its growth in her perception, and comprehended that continued persistence with an unjust and uncaring judge, would pay off in the end. In this way, the widow’s perception of the answer to her need seems to prove light, or discernment.

Let us consider the words, “a certain city”. It was a specific city. Was this parable meant to be a picture of God’s dealings with Israel’s religious leaders, the cry of those affected by this, and the spiritually “widowed” in the city of Jerusalem, and the answer of the sending of the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem them?

After the coming of Christ, the objective is much bigger than just the ancient state of Israel, but rather the true Church, the redemption of those He draws to Himself, as demonstrated in the Book of Acts.

So the parable can demonstrate the inner ache of the spirit, as it longs to see the release of a transformed heart responding to the grand purpose of redemption.

Therefore, to capture the main lesson of this parable, could not this “certain city” be like any spiritual stronghold that Christians may experience in their souls? Or, to put it another way, the “certain city” could be any significant issue that you have.

Or, to put it in the words of the scripture passage, as we shall see at the end of the passage, the Judge of the Universe will avenge his elect of their adversary, when faith has immobilized the unjust judge!

But, this particular judge did not fear God nor did he respect people. He had scrutinized her carefully. He was not going to let go of this lightly. This had made her check her heart out many times. She had tried good attitudes, and good strategies, but none had worked. All that was left was her own inspired view of the answer. This was beginning to serve her well, because Satan, himself, can come as an “angel of light”. God’s light is greater!

This “heart” discernment is designed to lead to further understanding, and a conviction that there may be resources to meet this need. This may well be an opportunity to experience the power of God, comprehended in the vision of the heart, the very authority needed for God’s answer.

Was it then faith that drove the woman to camp on the doorstep of this judge? If so, then Faith is much more than a wish, or a positive mental attitude. It is knowledge of an existing truth, having its source as the very heart of God! This kind of faith is conceived in the heart of God, implanted in the heart, and is able to save one’s soul. (James 1:21) As the understanding of the Word of God made personal to us expands, (Psalm 119:96), (Psalm 138:2), it includes amazing wonders.

Knowing the truth, and seeing God apply it in the midst of adverse surroundings sets us free.

Is this not a parable in one’s experience of “unanswered prayer”? Is Jesus telling us that often we are driven by the fierce winds of our lusts?

Why else would he tell us not to be fainthearted in prayer, when futility lingers in mechanical answers to such questions?

In Luke’s record, just prior to this, Jesus shows how the loss of faith, as explained above, assigns us with loads we cannot possibly carry, which end up drowning “in an ocean” with a stone attached. He then demonstrates how a forgiving spirit is critical to faith, but who can forgive without first being forgiven? Finally, he demonstrates how ingratitude relates to unanswered prayer, indicating that if we were not a benefactor, we could never benefit another.

Jesus deals with these things, it seems to me, to keep people on praying ground – (1) Don’t lose faith, for without it there are loads we cannot possibly bear, and oceans that we cannot possibly swim; (2) Always remember your first role is as “light” in a dark world, to meet the need of the human heart with the message of the Gospel; (3) Stay on forgiving ground, thus consistently keeping flow of the Holy Spirit working; (4) Keep gratitude. Remember that we gained nothing on our own initiative in our world!

Some situations we all face are simply “unjust”. Yet, ironically, hidden deep in our experience of God in our lives, is the insight made real by faith.

Ironically, we are commanded to pursue God’s heart-joy in these kinds of situations. How can joy occur if there has not first been faith? Matthew 15:8; Philippians 1:20-21. In other words, there has to be gain!

Years ago Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “When Bad Things happen to Good People”. TV Weather anchor, Chuck Gadicea, in reflecting on the title, at Livonia Prayer Breakfast, 2011, noted that Harold did not say, “Why”, but, “When”! We will all face situations, which are a sort-of parable of life, in and of themselves.

The Samaritan woman was saying, in so many ways, “Give me the music of an authentic life of praise to God! This Man before me is expressing the truth, and I know it. I am going to check this man out who offers me living water at this well!” Having had to deal repeatedly with bad deals in her own life, five husbands, finally ending up with a live-in boyfriend; lame excuses of the “where and how”, from so-called “religious people”, she tries it once again with Jesus. “You speak of this living water, Jesus, but I want to know where we are supposed to worship.”

She had seen the “spirit” of things, and the “truth” of things, in her experience of life. Jesus the Messiah, who had the answer to those questions, challenged her futile resources – the well in Samaria, and her five husbands! She was truly a widow in the deepest sense of the word. Finally the "judge" released control, when the greater showed Himself to be there.

She knew that this was the Spirit of the Messiah, sent to a lost and dying world. Justice was served, as Jesus explained this to her understanding!

It is no accident that she began spreading the good news of Jesus everywhere!

No comments: