Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Violence of Prayer

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Wednesday, April 16, 2014:  Luke 18:1-17

1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’  Luke 18:1-3 (NKJV)

Corrupt Politicians

In His parables, Jesus occasionally describes an unsavory character.  The unjust judge of Luke 18 is one of the worst.  Political corruption has always been around, but in this parable it takes on a personal flavor.

The judge described in Luke 18 was not a believer.  It was said of him that he "did not fear God nor regard man" (18:2).  This means he was an arrogant individualist who couldn't care less what God or his fellow man thought.  He was rough and hard.

From history we learn that this judge could not have been Jewish.  He was a Roman magistrate of some sort. The Jews did not actually have judges but rather three-man councils from among their own elders.  We also learn that the Roman magistrates/judges were exceedingly corrupt.  They doled out "justice" based on the highest bribe or ripest power bargain.  One nickname for them was "robber judges."

This widow came to the judge with neither money to bribe or power to barter.  She represents all those who are poor and defenseless before their adversaries.  She had nothing to offer but her own pitiable condition. She is just like many of us who face a cold, uncaring, cruel world.

The Secret Weapon

She did have one secret weapon -- her persistence.  She was unrelenting in her cries for help.  She unashamedly pounded on the judge's door at all hours.  She WOULD NOT STOP.  She was like the neighbor's little dog that keeps yipping and nipping at your heel.  You can kick it, but it still keeps coming back!

The judge finally gave up and gave in.  He said, "OK!  She keeps troubling me -- I'll give her justice 'lest by by continual coming she weary me'" (18:5).  The Greek word for "weary" indicates far more than physical exhaustion.  It is upopiadzo, and could be translated, "beat me black and blue."   In fact, the NIV translates this phrase "so that she won't eventually come and attack me!"  The literal translation is "hit me in the eye."

Bad Judge -- Good God

At this point Jesus' parable shifts.  The reason He told this story was so that we not lose heart in our praying (18:1).  Jesus uses a bad judge to contrast with a good God.  If low-life judges finally respond to persistent requests, how much more with your Heavenly Father "avenge" those who call on Him?

There is something about God that loves for us to be persistent before Him.  He will answer "speedily."  That means He will always be ON TIME.  "Speedily" does not mean we can push His buttons and immediately out pops the ice cream. It means He will dispatch our best answer to arrive at just the right time.

Give the Judge a Black Eye

There is a VIOLENCE in prayer.  That may sound strange, but you will find it throughout Scripture.  Jacob wrestled with an angel all night long (Genesis 32:24-30).  David agonized in prayer throughout the Psalms. Even Jesus sweat blood in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).  According to this parable, there is a "black and blue" element to "getting justice from our adversaries" (18:3).

The lesson is faith and persistence.  Martin Luther, the great Reformer, once said, "Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."  Jesus calls us.  He loves for us to "cry out day and night to Him" (18:7).  That's exciting!  That's powerful!

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