We have to keep going to God, day and night, day after day and year after year. Without losing heart.
In Luke 18:1-8 we read Jesus’s parable of the unjust judge, or some call it the parable of the persistent widow. The judge, we’re told, has no regard for either God or human beings. The widow keeps coming to him with her claim and demand for justice, so much so that she eventually wears down the judge, who doesn’t really care and would rather not be bothered. The conclusion, in Jesus’s words:
“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?” (verses 6-8)
As always, careful reading is needed.
The trouble for us, of course, is that it sure seems like a long delay! God’s people have been crying to Him for a long, long time.
If we are not to charge Jesus with being either dishonest or misled, we need to dig in and see if we can understand what he’s saying. As always, careful reading is needed. Right in the parable, Jesus says the widow keeps coming, for a long time. And in the conclusion, the elect cry to God day and night. In other words, he’s telling us plainly that there won’t be an instant answer. The intro to the parable says, “He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (verse 1)
The entire point of the parable is that we have to keep going to God, day and night, day after day and year after year. Without losing heart. The trouble for us comes because we do tend to lose heart. But, how are we to reconcile the expectation of it taking a long time, with Jesus’s assurance of speedy justice being given? It feels like a contradiction.
We know that:
This may seem like making an excuse or something, but I think it’s actually the answer.
This parable isn’t the only one that implies a lengthy wait. For example, in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus says, “After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” And then there are all those admonitions to stay awake (watch), which certainly implies a wait in which we might grow weary and fall asleep. But on the other hand, Jesus’s last words to us are, “Surely I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:20) This appears to be the same contradiction.
So which is it? Quick, or taking a substantial amount of time? I think that, if we aren’t to dismiss Jesus as being either deceitful or confused, we have to accept Peter’s explanation. God’s time scale just isn’t ours.
But really, how long a delay are we talking about for any of us personally? No more than our lifespan, a matter of a few decades. Is that really so long to have to stay awake, to pray day and night, to not lose heart? There is no need to charge God or Jesus with contradiction. The answer is for us to get our minds into harmony with God’s, to accept that His timescale is the true one. I might die tomorrow, the master might not come for another thousand years. One day, a thousand years, no difference.
God’s time scale just isn’t ours.
Okay, I agree, it’s not that easy for us to get our minds around it. The point, Jesus says, is to keep coming to God without losing heart. To not become the scoffers Peter talks about, asking, “Where is the promise of his coming?” He’s coming, our vindication is coming. Let’s not lose sight of the very closing words of the parable of the persistent widow: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” He’s asking us, “Are you going to stay awake till I come? Are you going to persist, or are you going lose heart?” A very good question, which he intends us to really think about.