This is an invitation to journey through the parables. This will be a series that runs over the course of many issues. Please click here for all the articles in the Power In Parable series. Last month in Power in Parable Part 2 we looked closely at the Parable of the Despicable Friend (Luke 11:5-8). While remembering that the point of a Biblical parable is to reveal the character of God, we learned that God is not like a despicable, inhospitable friend who will not help one who asks. He is a good Father. He wants to establish a close, intimate relationship with us as we continue to dialogue with Him and trust Him. As Jesus often did, He told two parables back-to-back to illustrate the same subject: Be persistent in prayer and keep your eyes fixed on the One to whom you pray! In this second parable on the subject of how to pray, Jesus again uses a situation close to the daily experiences of His audience. This time the parable is about a judge instead of a friend. Both the judge and the friend are excellent examples of how one might mistakenly perceive God the Father. His point is that God is NOT like a despicable friend and God is NOT like a corrupt judge. Both would have been an abomination to the first century Hebrew mindset. Read the Parable of the Corrupt Judge (Luke 18:2-8, NIV). Be sure to read it aloud, the way a parable is supposed to be related. Jesus said, “In a certain town there was a judge …” Without going any further in the story, Jesus’ listeners would already have the traditional concept of a judge formed in their imaginations. If you are able to put yourself in the culture of His time, you will immediately envision the high standards and expectations for judges. A judge (sopet in Hebrew) was one called by God, anointed and guided by Holy Spirit, and endowed with the abilities to decide, rule, govern, vindicate, and deliver. God delegated judges to bring His order into chaotic situations. They might have travelled and set up court in tents, or they might have sat at the gates of their town. The judge’s mission on earth was to mimic God’s role as “The Judge of all the earth.” Therefore, a judge’s decisions were considered just, fair, and holy. People had very high standards and expectations of all judges. There was little or no knowledge of a judge who did not live a moral and upstanding life. It would have been unthinkable. He was expected to have the highest concern for fairness and for maintaining God’s order in the community. He was required to make decisions based on all evidence and to be morally incorruptible. His uprightness was a given expectation, unlike what we sometimes, unfortunately, encounter in today’s society. This first century expectation was based on 2 Chronicles 19:6-7, from the admonition Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, gave as he appointed judges in Israel: “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery” (NIV). He went on to give these orders, “You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord. In every case that comes before you from your fellow countrymen who live in the cities – whether bloodshed or other concerns of the law, commands, decrees or ordinances – you are to warn them not to sin against the Lord; otherwise His wrath will come on you and your brothers. Do this, and you will not sin” (2 Chronicles 19:9-10, NIV). Another well-known truth at the time of Jesus was from the apocryphal book of Jesus ben Sirach: 35:12-14 (RSV) “The Lord is the judge and with Him is no partiality. He will not show partiality in the case of a poor man, and He will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. He will not ignore the supplication of the fatherless, nor the widow when she pours out her story.” These writings, familiar to first century Jews, reminded Jesus’ listeners of the godly expectations of being a judge. But then Jesus continues, “A judge who neither feared God nor cared about anyone.” It was a most serious charge for a judge to not fear God. They must have been shocked, just as they had been when He described a friend who denied basic hospitality to his neighbor in the first parable. His listeners are intent on the story. “And there was a widow in that town …” If a woman had no father, husband, or grown sons, it was assumed that the whole village would protect and provide for her. The Scriptures teach that God has special blessings and protection for her. “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to Me, I will certainly hear their cry” (Exodus 22:22, NIV). “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5, NIV). The listeners knew well the responsibility God had given each of them to protect and provide for any widow. Yet Jesus says that this widow “kept coming to the judge with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’” She obviously had no advocate. Her only weapon was her own persistence, her tenacity to keep pleading with the judge to help her. He should have assisted her immediately, as soon as he knew about her dilemma, but he didn’t care. It was abominable! Finally, the judge says, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet 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!” This is the climax of the story. The outcast widow is protected. The corrupt judge is beaten down by her persistence and he passes a righteous judgment. Jesus then points His listeners to God (the object of the parable from the beginning): “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice and quickly.” I emphasized chosen ones because it is an easy term to get hung up on, mistakenly thinking that only certain ones whom God pre-elects will have their prayers answered. The word is derived from the Hebrew bachir which generally means “disciples, or those who pray with perseverance.” This is what we are all called to be and to do. God brings justice to all who fall into this category. Was this parable describing the attitudes of many of Jesus’ listeners? Most certainly! Just as it describes our own. How many times do we cry out in our hearts if not vocally, “It’s not fair!”? How many times do we ascribe to God the character of an unjust judge? We feel that He doesn’t care, is too busy, has too many more pressing matters to deal with, or that we are not eloquent enough or good enough to get His attention. When we have these thoughts we do not know the God of the Bible. We are attributing to God the characteristics of the judge in the parable. This judge is living the exact opposite of what we know to be the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor. He did not fear God, and he did not respect men. He only answered the widow’s plea because she annoyed him. This is NOT the revealed character of God our Heavenly Father. He wants to answer our prayers, and He also wants us to persist in prayer so that our relationship with Him becomes more and more intimate and trusting. Pray in dialogue as well as in requests. Have conversations. Just as you want your own children to keep coming to you, sitting on your lap, and telling you the desires of their hearts, so your Heavenly Father desires that kind of relationship with you! Questions to Ponder and Discuss
- Think about the difference between the childish exclamation, “It’s not fair!” when you don’t get what you want when you want it, and the Godly exclamation, “Lord, please hear my prayer!” when you don’t get your prayer answered immediately.
- Which response cuts off intimate relationship with God? Why?
- What can happen when you continue to bare your heart before God and allow Him access to your deep desires and needs?
- Have you ever pictured God with any of the characteristics of the corrupt judge in the parable?
- If Jesus were telling this parable for the first time to a group of His disciples in your culture, how would their perceptions differ?
- If you have asked Jesus since our last session, “Jesus, teach me how to pray!” just as His disciples did, what did He show you? Has it made a difference in your prayer life?
- Would you be willing to offer up to God the desire of your heart to see what He says to you about it? Will He refine it? Expand it? Dialogue with you about it?
- Write whatever He shows you in your listening prayer journal.