The Persistent Widow

Luke 18: 1-8   “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city that 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?”

Ice Breaker

1. Play video clip from Family Guy: the baby repeating “Mom, mom, mom, mom…”   Have you ever had someone nag you, or a creditor call you constantly?  Give examples.

Main Points (Choose ONE)

  1. God is not a genie in a bottle.  (We don’t command Him to do things for us, or nag him into doing our will.)

2.  Prayer changes our perspective on life to match up with God’s perspective.

 

Foundations

This is a one of the few parables of Jesus that has the basic interpretation given right there in Scripture: “Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they should always pray and never become discouraged.”

Background: Imagine a judge in Bible days sitting on cushions surrounded by officials and secretaries …voices clamoring to be heard while other speak in whispered voices with secretaries…passing bribes until the secretary is satisfied. The judge is their ringleader: the corrupt politician in charge of the whole scheme.  Then the judge calls such and such a case. Not surprisingly, the judgment goes in favor of the one who paid the most. For this judge, nothing shames him…there is no spark of honor.  In this Middle Eastern culture women did not go to court. The court was a man’s world and women were not invited to participate. The fact that this woman is even present in the court indicates that she is entirely alone and so her total helplessness is emphasized. So what do we find?

She is not helpless! She is continually shouting and calling out and perpetually interrupting proceedings with loud cries for justice. She is told to be silent. More than likely she is warned off from coming every day, to which she replies that she plans on continuing to come every day until she gets justice. (Just because she is a widow, don’t assume she is old as women were often married at the ages of 14-16)  Jewish covenant law dictated that the suit of an orphan must always be heard first; next, that of a widow, so in this case the woman’s legal rights are clearly being violated. With this knowledge Jesus’ hearers get a clear picture of just how dishonest and unjust this judge is. However finally comes the day when the woman wins out. The judge admits to himself that though he holds no fear of God or men, he is very afraid of this woman. He believes that she will “finally wear me out!” There are several ways to translate these words…such as…”give me a headache…do me in…finish me off.”

The comparison between the unjust judge worn out by the persistence of the widow and the loving God are extreme opposites. If this woman can get justice from someone as corrupt as this judge, then imagine how a loving God will act on behalf of and for his own people. It will not require begging, screaming, or endless repetition. In fact just the opposite is true. Jesus says: “I tell you, he will judge in their favor and do it quickly.”

So is this parable trying to tell us that no matter what we’re asking for, if we keep on asking God will have to give in? Think back of all the stupid things you’ve asked God to do on your behalf, or do to someone else.  Wow!  It’s a good thing that’s not what the parable is talking about!

This parable is not just a call to persistence in prayer to get something you want or think you need.

1)      God is not a genie in a bottle

  1. The woman in the story couldn’t just command the judge to hear her case.
    1.                                                   i.      Our prayers aren’t commanding God to do things, either.  (Unfortunately, people sometimes think that prayer is a way of manipulating God.)
    2.                                                 ii.      In the end, the judge responded to the woman’s plea because she demonstrated a certain sort of character.
    3.                                               iii.      God responds to our prayers, too, because he sees something in us that means a lot to him—and not because we’ve somehow commanded him to do our bidding.
    4. The difference between the judge and God was…
      1.                                                   i.      …the judge didn’t care about justice, but God does.
      2.                                                 ii.      Persistence convinced even the corrupt politician to take action.  What effect do you think persistence would have on someone with God’s passion for justice?
      3.                                               iii.      Jesus points out this difference (between the judge and God) because he wants his disciples to know that although persistence makes a difference, God isn’t answering our prayers just because he wants us to stop nagging him.

2)      Prayer changes us.

  1. What happens when you spend a lot of time doing something and focusing on a particular issue?
    1.                                                   i.      It changes the way you think the rest of the time.
    2.                                                 ii.      It comes up over and over again, even when the conversation is about something else.
    3.                                               iii.      It affects the way you spend your time.
    4.                                               iv.      Example: have you ever known someone who was obsessed with the Razorbacks, [fantasy] football, music, Manga, fly fishing, or cooking?  What about someone who was a social activist?
    5. God cares about justice…and we should, too.
      1.                                                   i.      This parable points out that God is very, very concerned about justice and about the plight of people in tough situations.
      2.                                                 ii.      What would happen to us if we started praying for justice, but that our prayers would be answered only if we prayed about it a lot?  (Answer: see above.)
    6. When we have to pray PERSISTENTLY about good things, those good things become a part of our mindset, attitude, and daily lives.
      1.                                                   i.      We’re more aware of them.
      2.                                                 ii.      We talk about them.
      3.                                               iii.      We try to think of what we can do to make a difference.
      4.                                               iv.      We do something about the problem when we can.
    7. Is it any real surprise, then, that God asks us to pray persistently (pray a lot, and pretty much nonstop) about even the things he wants to do for us anyway?

Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you”

Human Struggles

1. Do you ever feel like you’ve prayed and didn’t get an answer? Prayed for healing but God didn’t heal? Maybe you just don’t want to bother God by asking again. Why are we leery to ask again when Jesus tells us to do just that?

2. Do you have trouble knowing if God has already sent a NO answer to you? How can you be sure?

3. Do you have problems waiting for God’s answers if they don’t come immediately?

4. If God knows our innermost thoughts, why do we have to ask at all?  Why would He tell us to keep on asking?

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