The Parable of the Persistent Widow

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And 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, 5yet 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!’ ” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I 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).

The picture Jesus gives us is that of a judge who has no relationship with God. He does not fear that he will be judged for his actions. In his confession, he did not care about God or men (v. 4). This judge did not show deference to anyone. He did not have respect for the people he was appointed to judge. This judge may have been a judge that they all knew in the area, one appointed by Herod or by the Romans. This judge’s position gave him liberty to do whatever he wanted to further his own ends.

Jesus then gives us the epitome of a helpless person in a desperate situation. She is poor and defenseless with no family to help her. Widows often experienced hardship as Luke 20:4 points out, the teachers of the Law would often devour their resources after the death of their husbands. We don’t know how she was cheated, but the judge was undoubtedly on the side of her opponent.

The widow had no resource in the pursuance of her claim. The only thing she could use was persistence. Her constant pleading and begging was her only hope of obtaining the justice she deserved. Verse 3 says that she “kept coming.” She would not be beaten down by constant refusal and rejection. I picture her coming morning and evening to the courthouse. Every time the magistrate went out to market, she followed him around, persistently arguing her case. The passion of her heart began to make people talk, i.e., wondering to themselves if his injustice was wronging her. I’m sure she was an embarrassment to him as people learned of her plight. Finally, the unjust judge gave in to her, not due to the strength of her cause, but because she kept bothering him. He was merely being worn out!

In verse 5, the Greek word translated as “wear me out” is hypōpiazē, which means, “to give a black eye.” She was beating him up, not physically, but in a figurative sense, with her insistent passion and pleading words. The same word is used by Paul the Apostle in describing his habits of personal discipline: “but I pommel [hypōpiazē]my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It could mean that the unjust judge thought that she might give him a black eye! More than likely, though, it was the fact that his reputation was being pummeled and taking a black eye. It also could be figurative of his losing sleep over it. He was so worn out, and it was easier to consent to her plea.

This judge is a sharp contrast to the Holy God we serve. The application Jesus makes is that, if this unjust judge yields to persistent asking, then how much more will the Judge of all the earth render justice and quickly!

When Edmund Gravely died at the controls of his small plane while on the way to Statesboro, Georgia, from the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport in North Carolina, his wife, Janice, kept the plane aloft for two hours. As the aircraft crossed the South Carolina/North Carolina border, she radioed for help: “Help, help, won’t someone help me? My pilot is unconscious.” Authorities who picked up her distress signal were not able to reach her by radio during the flight because she kept changing channels. Eventually, Mrs. Gravely made a rough landing and had to crawl for forty-five minutes to a farmhouse for help. How often God’s people cry out to him for help but switch channels before His message comes through! They turn to other sources for help, looking for human guidance. When you cry out to God for His intervention, don’t switch channels![1]Await His answer and keep looking to Him. Keith Thomas

[1]Edited by Michael Green,1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Published by Baker Book House, Page 279.

The God Who Graciously Stoops

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

 The Great Creator God, who made all things, is a God of grace. It was His plan from the very beginning of the ages to bring forth a bride for His Son, the Lord Jesus. This bride is composed of people from all nations who are born-again of the Spirit, those who will bow the knee to receive God’s gift of complete pardon for rebellion and sin. When one considers our rebellious and sinful nature, and our corrupt hearts before God, this is wonderful grace.

To understand the full meaning of grace, we need to turn to its usage in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word chen means “to bend or stoop.” It has the idea of “condescending favor,” the kind of favor that a King has for one of his people.

Queen Victoria of England, when she was a girl and had just become queen, was asked to sign a death warrant for a person who, by court martial, had been condemned to death. It is said that she said to the Duke who brought her the warrant, “Cannot you find any reason why this man should be pardoned?” The Duke said, “No, it was a very great offense; he ought to be punished.” “But was he a good soldier?” The Duke said he was a shamefully bad soldier, and had always been noted as a bad soldier. “Well, cannot you invent for me any reason?” “Well,” he said, “I have every reason to believe from testimony that he was a good man, although a bad soldier.” “That will do,” she said, and she wrote across the warrant, “pardoned”—not because the man deserved it—but because she wanted a reason for having mercy.[1]

God has stooped down to us in grace and mercy bestowing His wonderful favor upon us, writing across our warrant, “pardoned.” This He did not do grudgingly, but lavishly and joyfully. It was what He purposed in His heart to do! That which we couldn’t do, that which was impossible for us, He has accomplished in Christ. This is self-sacrificing love, agape love. Justice demanded that the soul that sins must die, but God in His love for us came in the person of His Son, Jesus, to take our place, to die our death instead of us, to taste death for every man. “Jesus…by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

Allow me to say something very important and let it sink into your soul: there is not one thing that you could do to make God love you more, and there is not one thing that you could do that could make Him love you less. Read that again and let it sink in. Paul, before he was converted, was a murderer. Worse than that, he murdered Christians and thought He was doing God a favor. Do you think that offended the Holy Spirit? I cannot think of anything worse. Yet, while he was self-righteous, and persecuting God’s saints, God the Father had mercy and extended grace to him while he was a murderer. He did not wait for Paul to clean himself up, or even have a change of heart. God gave him a new heart! Don’t think that there is anything too terrible for God to look at or to forgive. Don’t think for a moment that there is any sin that could possibly hold you back from experiencing the grace of God. Let His grace break through to you, wherever you are. Keith Thomas

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Human Depravity and Divine Mercy, http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs615.pdf

The Parable of the Vine-Growers

We are continuing our meditation on the last week before Christ’s crucifixion. After Jesus had gone into the temple courts and thrown out the sellers of animals and upturned the tables of the money changers, the religious leaders plotted to kill Jesus because of His challenge to their authority and their using religion to make money. In front of many hundreds of people in attendance in the courts of the temple, He spoke this parable:

9And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10“At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11“And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12“And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 13“The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14“But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15“So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16“He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 17But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’? 18“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” 19The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them (Luke 20:9-19).

The man who planted the Vineyard represents God the Father. The farmers who have had the land leased to them are the spiritual leaders of Israel, the very leaders that were standing against Jesus and challenging His authority. They were not owners, although they thought of themselves as such. They were tenant farmers. The land had only been leased to them for a time. They were under responsibility to choose their own methods to sow the land, protect the vines from savage animals, pull up the weeds, and maximize their harvest by their efforts. The Lord had spoken in the third book of Moses as to whose land it was:

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (Leviticus 25:23).

The parable is a prophetic story of how God will call leaders to account for their rebellion and rejection of the Father’s authority over His land and people (see also Ezekiel 34). All the Earth belongs to the Lord (Psalm 24:1), but there is one small area of land and people that God has specifically set apart for His own purposes, i.e. the land that He has given as a stewardship to the children of Israel. The Vineyard was a picture of the nation of Israel, the representative of God’s covenant love and care.

There were and are evil spiritual forces at work that sought then and continue to seek in our own time to divide up God’s land, destroy the Jewish nation, and take the land for their own purposes (Ezekiel 36:5; Psalm 83:1-12). This battle over the land of Israel will continue until the Lord steps in to execute judgment on those who divide up God’s land. Governmental leaders are not owners, but tenants. They will be held to account:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land (Joel 3:2).

The spiritual leaders of Israel were those shepherds who had been allowed to cultivate the land and bring forth a harvest for the owner, God. Men motivated by greed and lust for power had managed to get into positions of leadership in the nation. Their motivation was to keep hold onto power by their rejection of God’s authority over the land and people of Israel. The leaders wanted profit, power, and control over the land, i.e. the very authority that Jesus was challenging. All were under God’s authority, but they were in rebellion to the thought that all authority is derived from above.

Sending servant after servant, the owner speaks of the patience, love, and desire of God to bestow mercy on those who would come to Him in repentance. God had sent prophet after prophet over several hundred years, but they had been stoned and killed. The Lord then sent John the Baptist to call the nation and the elders to repentance, but the ruling leaders would have none of it. God tried every option to reach the wayward shepherds of His flock, but now things had come to a head with the Owner of the vineyard sending His Son.

As with all of Jesus’ parables, the story pulled the people to the point where they became part of the story.  Then, Jesus got to the part where He stated the owner’s dilemma: “The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do’?” At that point, it’s very likely that the Lord stopped speaking and looked in silence around the crowd to let the question settle into their hearts. I wonder if people in the crowd interrupted with shouts saying, “Get rid of those evil tenants.” His yearning for the leaders to repent and have a broken spirit seems to spill from this parable. Peter the Apostle wrote, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The mercy of God amazes me!

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas