Summary: A sermon dealing with "the persistent widow", and thus our "requests" (as noted by C.S. Lewis and quoted by Dallas Willard in Divine Conspiracy. Jesus uses "contrast" to teach us about God's character and desire to answer our prayers and change our "worl
In Jesus Holy Name October 17, 2010
Text: Luke 18:1-8 Pentecost XXI - Redeemer
“God is Not Our Cosmic Bellhop”
Jesus told his disciples a parable. In our journey though the Gospel of Luke we have arrived at the parable of the Persistent Widow. When Jesus tells a parable it is an invitation for the hearers to change their thinking or to answer a question that has been asked. Like writes: Jesus told a parable “to show that they should always pray and not give up.”
When reading this parable and preparing for this message I had to ask myself: “Is the parable about prayer or about the character of God? Or both? Am I to learn something about prayer…. Or am I to learn something about my heavenly father?”
As we look at this parable we are introduced to two characters. “there was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor had regard for man.” He is not moved by fear of God nor by compassion for his fellowman.
To understand this story in the N.T. setting Warren Weirsbe describes it this way. “The courtroom was not a fine building but a tent that moved from place to place as the judge covered his circuit. The judge, not the law set the agenda. He was surrounded by his assistants. Anybody could watch the proceedings from the outside, but only those who were approved and accepted could have their case tried.
This usually meant bribing one of the assistants who that he could call the judges attention to the case. Still true in many places around the world.” (from “Be Courageous” Victor books 1989 p. 62)
The second character is the widow. “Now there was a widow in that city and she came to him saying…”give me justice from my adversary.” Life in the first century for widows was difficult. The often fell to the bottom of the social and economic community. When God was instructing the children of Israel through Moses we find these rules regarding “social responsibilities”. Exodus 22:22 “Do not take advantage of the widow and orphan” “If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry….my anger will be aroused.”
When the children of Israel asked for a King in the days of Samuel, this responsibility was transferred to the king. When the O.T. prophets had complaints against the kings of Israel it often had to do with the lack of care for those in society who had lost their legal rights for protection. Isaiah 10:2 “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees…with hold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey….” and Micah 2:9 “You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes…”
When Isaiah is speaking the word of the Lord to those living in Jerusalem he proclaims:
“Take your evil deeds out of my sight. Stop doing wrong, seek justice,
Encourage the oppressed defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the
Cause of the widow.”
This is the second character in the parable. It is likely that someone was trying to cheat her out of money or land or a house that her husband had left her. In the society of that day a woman did not go to court. She was poor. Her situation was hopeless. She had no means to pay a bribe. Her only hope was to be persistent.
She faced a terrible judge. She had no social leverage. The situation worsened. The judge to whom she went was unjust. He cared nothing for her plight. She could remind him that God threatens to punish judges who pervert justice. But the judge did not fear God. Could the widow argue that the people of the town will despise the judge for not helping her? No. For the judge “neither feared God nor cared about men.” He was indifferent to human opinions about him. Her only hope was to be persistent.
The language of the text leaves open the possibility of confrontation every where, not just in court. She pleaded with him in front of his friends and colleagues. She confronted him in the street, she pestered him in the market. She was persistent at the open air tent where court was being held.
The widow did not sit at home wringing her hands about her problems. Instead of worry, she got up and approached the only person who could help her. William Ward wrote this about worry: “Worry is faith in the negative, belief in defeat, for worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities. Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but you never get anywhere with it.”
When the Apostle Paul was stuck in a Roman dungeon he wrote to the Christians in Philippi. Paul was in chains and he writes: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worry into prayers of thanksgiving. Present your requests to God. Don’t be anxious….and the peace of God will guard your hearts.” (Phil. 4:6-7)