Sunday, January 22, 2012

Luke Part 56: Pray and not lose heart

Text: Luke 18:1-14

This passage brings to a conclusion a section of Luke that has started at the 9th chapter.  All through this section, Luke has contained teachings on kingdom life that are mostly exclusive to his gospel.  After this section, Luke tracks along much more closely with Mark and Matthew's accounts.

In this final passage about kingdom like, Jesus is talking about prayer.  He's discussing what our part is in maintaining a relationship with Him, the kind of relationship that enables men to pray and not to faint.

We have two parables presented to us: that of the unrighteous judge and of the Pharisee and the publican.  In both these parables, striking contrasts are shown between the two individuals.

First, we have the unrighteous judge.  This judge doesn't fear God or respect man.  Probably to the Jews, this represented a Roman ruler who was presiding over the Jews, but didn't really care about them.  There is no constraint upon this man; he is a God unto himself.  This despicable individual is the direct opposite of our loving heavenly Father, who does indeed have a regard and care for men.

A widow is seeking justice, or righteous judgment.  Initially, the judge has no inclination to help her, but he eventually relents because she simply refuses to be quieted.  He will do what she has asked, just to be done with her.

Jesus tells us to pay attention to the response of the unrighteous judge, and so see the contrast between the unrighteous judge and our heavenly Father.  We should have a different expectation than the widow.  The judge granted her request out of his own self-interest, but God grants our requests because He loves us and loves righteousness.

The widow had a low standing in society.  Widows were assured of nothing; they were in a precarious position.  But our standing is free access to the Judge of the Kingdom.  We know our Judge will judge rightly.

The widow shows us consistency, an example of coming constantly.  She is an example of constant coming.  Like her, we should pray and not lose heart or "faint".  Why we should always be praying:

  • There are always further things to pray about.  Answered prayer will lead to more encouragement for us, more coming to God, more requests.
  • Our Judge rules according to righteousness, not according to what we might think is right.  So we should not lose heart when we find he has ruled in a way different that what we were wanting.
  • Sometimes, His answer is simply "No" or "Not yet."  He knows what is best for us.
Then there is the question: will Christ find such faith as is taught here?  A faith close to God, a faith that feels on closeness to Him?  This sort of faith requires effort.  It takes time and thought.  It is easy to lose heart!

Then we come to the second parable, of the publican and the Pharisee.  What does Luke include this parable?  Luke is calling us to a closeness with the Lord.  Are we just casually acquainted with Him?  Are our eyes, like the Pharisee, fixed on ourselves on and on Him?

If you think you have an extensive knowledge of the Bible; if you think you have superior doctrine; if you come to God on the basis of those things, you are like the Pharisee.  If you come on no basis, if you see your own sinfulness, you are the publican.  Come to Him with the understanding that He knows you completely, and loves you anyway.

Christians can fall into the trap of the Pharisee.  If you no longer see the need to confess sin and be real before God, coming understanding your own unworthiness, you need this reminder!

Note that the publican asked for something.  Ask!  That is what the Lord wants us to do.  If this wretch can come before God and ask for something, should not his children do the same?

Will we pray and faint not?  Will we be those who humble ourselves before God?  Will we die to ourselves and live for Him?  Will the Lord find "such faith" as seen here in us?

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