Parables are earthly stories with spiritual meanings. As we study Jesus’ parables, we seek to know what the spiritual application is. In some cases, such as the parable of the sower, the explanation is given to us. In other cases, we may not be told exactly what the parble means, but the context will help. There are other times when we are not given an explanation, nor does the context necessarily tell us what the meaning is. Such cases call for careful and prayerful meditation.
Our text in Luke 18 is somewhat unique, as the reason for the parable is clearly stated before the parable is cited. We read:
…He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart… (Luke 18:1)
Jesus tells us about a judge who had no concern for God or man, certainly not good qualities for one who is granted authority to make judgments, whether they be civil or criminal. A woman of the same city would come to him pleading her case, “Get justice for me from my adversary.” At first, he would not, but she persisted. How many times she appeared before him with the same case, we do not know, but eventually, he conceded, saying,
Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. (Luke 18:4-5)
As we consider the elements of the parable, and how they apply to the children of God, we are pictured in the woman who brought her case to the judge on a regular basis. There may be times that we bring our petitions before human judges, but that is not what the parable addresses. Recall, Luke already told us the application of the parable—the petitions under consideration are our prayers brought before the Lord. Thus, the judge in Jesus’ parable is in the place of God.
Jesus is not saying that God is unjust or that our petitions weary the Lord. Listen to how He concludes the parable:
Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them. (Luke 18:6-7)
If an unjust judge who cares for no one but himself will hear and answer the request of the persistent widow, will the Lord not hear and answer the supplication of His people?
Does that mean God will answer our prayers immediately? If so, we would not need the persistence which He applauds in this woman. In fact, Jesus acknowledges that the Lord “bears long” with His people. He assures us that God will answer, that He will avenge His people, but the timing may not be as quick as we expect. We need to
understand, when God delays His vengeance for the trials suffered by His people, He does so, not through indifference towards our plight, but through patient longsuffering for those who may yet repent of their wickedness (2 Peter 3:9).
In no way do I mean to minimize the sufferings that God’s people endure today, or in any age, but sometimes we get tunnel vision when it comes to the difficulties we endure, and lose sight of the big picture. The distresses which come upon God’s people, from verbal ridicule to physical harm, even murder are all temporal; they are the things which the apostle Paul said are not worthy to be compared with the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18). We need to realize there are souls at stake. Would it not be better to share heaven with one who used to be an enemy of the cross (we all were there once), than to desire the eternal destruction of such individuals? If we look at things with the eternal perspective, then we will know why God bears long—why He delays judgment.
When the Lamb opened the fifth seal of the scroll described in Revelation 5-6, John saw:
…under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.’ (Revelation 6:9-11)
These had suffered for the cause of Christ, even to the point of death. May I be so frank as to say, we have not. Notice in the book of Hebrews:
…consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Him, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:3-4)
Though God may delay His judgment, whether temporal or eternal, it will come upon the unrighteous. This was the promise made to those described in Revelation 6 and to all of God’s people through Jesus’ parable. He says:
I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
Judgment will come; God will avenge His people. When the Lord has said He will do something—He will do it. Abraham received a threefold promise from the Lord in Genesis 12. About 450 years passed before the nation promise was fulfilled (Deuteronomy 26:5). It was another 40+ years before the land promise was kept (Joshua 21:45-47). Almost 2,000 years passed between the giving of the Seed promise and its fulfillment (Galatians 3:8, 16-17). In the Lord’s time, He will do as He has said He will do.
There should be no concern about whether God will do His part; He will. The concern Jesus has is whether His people will do their part. He closes His discussion of this parable with a question:
…when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
When He returns, will He find people who are walking by faith? When He returns, will His people be persistent in prayer? When He returns, will He find Christians who are focused on putting the Lord and His will for their lives first? When He returns, will He find servants who are ready and waiting for their Master? What if He were to return today—how would He find you and me?