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16. The Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow

The Passage:
Luke 18:1-8

The Parameters

Instructions on the coming of the Son of Man (17:22-37)

The following parable on prayer (18:9-14)

In that day judges traveled around and held court in tents. They set their own agendas and about the only way to have your court case heard was to bribe one of the attendants to bring your case to the attention of the judge. This widow had a couple things working against her. She was a woman, and women were low on the social ladder. She also had no money to bribe the attendants, so her case was not heard.

The Problem

What is the relationship between praying and losing heart? I think this teaches that if we do not pray we will give up.

Therefore the problem is: How can we keep praying and not lose heart?

The Progression

Logical: What is the cause of answered prayer? What are two reasons why people give up too soon?

    The Unjust Judge (the reason requests are not answered)


He did not fear God


He did not respect men

This man is the exact opposite of what we know to be the two greatest commandments - loving God and loving your neighbor.

    The Persistent Widow (the way requests are made)

      Her coming

She is persistent. Imperfect tense in Greek. She keeps on coming.

      Her case -

She just wants justice. She is not asking for the advantage. She is just asking for justice. We all want justice. We all want life to be fair. I can’t count the number of times my daughter says that something is not fair when she sees her brother get a bigger pile of potato chips, a bigger piece of cake, one more of whatever.... It is an inborn desire for things to be fair.

    The Unjust Judge (the reason requests are answered)

The judge does not answer because he cares about God, justice or the woman. Jesus is using boxing imagery here for wearing a person down by hitting him under the eye. The judge is not concerned with a knockout, but she is wearing him down. He answers because she is annoying him.

    The Just Judge (The reason why requests are answered)

  • “Now shall not God bring about justice” (vs. 7) -- The first reason is because of the character of God. He is just. Jesus used an example of an unjust judge as a contrast with God who is just. God can be trusted to be a just God--to make right decisions. Psa 145: God covers his acts with hesed (loyal-love).
  • “for his elect who cry to Him day and night.” (vs. 7) -- Jesus used a widow as an example again to set up a contrast with us. He argues from the lesser to the greater. If an unjust judge (who is not like God) will hear the case of a widow and stranger (which we are not) then surely God will hear our prayers. God has graciously initiated a relationship with his children. He chooses who he wants in His family, and He will listen to His children.
  • “and will He delay long over them?” (vs. 7) -- While He may delay, His answer comes speedily. This does not mean they will be answered immediately. It means that when it happens it will happen quickly. Like the coming of the Lord will happen suddenly. Remember that the context is the coming of the Lord in Luke 17.
  • The justice that is going to come speedily is possibly the tribulation.

What is the point of the question at the end of verse 8? “... when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?

The Point

Persistent prayer is the demonstration of faith in God who, while at times may delay His answers, will always act decisively and justly with respect to His people.

The Relation of the Parable to the Kingdom Program of God

God is just. The second advent will bring justice. Our part is to wait in faith for Him to deal with the world in justice.

The Principles

It is important to understand that this parable is one of contrasts. If you don’t you will think God must be pestered, argued with and bribed in order to get your prayers answered. The parable is not teaching that. God wants to answer the prayers of his children.

We lose heart because we don’t understand God’s timing or purpose. We ask questions like, “When... or Why now.... or How could you....? We challenge the justice and goodness of God.

This parable deals with two issues: God’s character and God’s chronology.

Persistent prayer is the demonstration of faith in the character of God’s attributes and the chronology of his actions.

This parable teaches that the only legitimate reason to stop praying for something is the return of Christ. (vs. 8) It says, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The demonstration of that faith is persistent prayer. When you stop believing a prayer will be answered, you stop praying. You have given up hope. You have no faith.

What items have dropped off your prayer list that you need to put back on?

God is a loving father who wants His children to keep coming to Him. If you are a parent, you should be able to identify with that.

A Comparison of events in Matthew and Luke show much similarity in sequence and give a probable time when the parable was taught.

Related Topics: Prayer

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