In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable with the intention of calling people to prayer in their wait for his second coming. Jesus describes the struggle of a widow to get justice after being wronged. Her struggle is intended to capture the difficultly of living in this present evil age. We are not told what the injustice was, but the crime committed against the woman was heinous enough for her to appeal to the local magistrate for help. The problem is that the local magistrate was an evil man, with no regard for the truth. Jesus describes this judge as having no fear of God or regard for man; the judge completely ignored the pleas of the widow for help. “Get justice for me,” she cried day after day with no answer.
The judge should have honored his God appointed position in pursuing justice for the widow. God ordained civil magistrates to stop evildoers, and God cares for the afflicted, especially the widow and the orphan. As Exodus 22:33 states, “You shall not afflict any widow, “If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword.” The judge’s authority was instituted by God to stop evil, he was supposed to be a terror to evil conduct, and not ignore such blatant injustice. But this wicked judge ignored the widow’s pleas.
Jesus then encourages the reader with the persistence of the widow. This widow would not leave the unjust judge alone. Every morning this judge awoke to the cries of the widow for help. Every evening the judge again heard her moans and pleas as she beckoned at his doorstep.
One day, after coming to the point of loathing the cries of the widow, the unjust judge had enough. He didn’t care at all about justice, but he decided to answer the injustice of the woman wanting to relieve himself from her burdensome, daily cries. Finally, after years of pain, suffering, and appeal, justice was earned for the woman, only because the judge wanted never to see her face again.
Jesus told this parable to capture the struggle of the believer in this present age. The widow’s injustice is representative of the suffering of the elect in the time between Jesus’ first and second coming. Jesus is using the imagery of an old widow pleading for justice to a bad magistrate as something that should strongly resemble the Christian who also faces many injustices in this present age. The Christian should daily approach the throne of grace to God in prayer, crying out for his help and deliverance from all evil. The whole point of the parable is that we should pray and not lose heart in the struggle.
But there is one very important difference in the parable, the Christian is not coming to an unjust ruler, but rather to the righteous judge of heaven and earth. If the unjust judge answered the widow because of her incessant appeal, how much more will our faithful, heavenly Father, who loves his people, not answer them who cry out to him day and night. Yes, says Jesus, he will answer them speedily both now and when he returns to judge the living and the dead.
What a comforting word of encouragement to Christians to take the injustices of the present age to Christ in prayer. But Jesus then provides a summary statement to challenge the reader. Something very tragic will happen among the faithful, however, in their wait for the redress of all injustice: “Yet when the Son of man comes, will he really find faith on the earth.” Jesus is drawing a direct connection to the faith of the widow and the faith that he will find when he returns. Will there be this kind of persistence in prayer to the Lord, will this same faith be found when he returns in his people?
The times that characterize the days before the second coming will not be known as a time of people crying out to the Lord for mercy and help. Jesus spoke many times during his earthly ministry of the deplorable time that will mark the days before his return. “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold,” said Jesus.
There is something of an irony in the parable that should not be missed. Jesus uses the parable to showcase in the widow what our cries should be like day and night to the Lord. Yet, have believers actually turned this around and made appealing to the civil magistrate for justice, day and night, and before the world, the great end of our existence on this earth? To be sure, Christians have every right to address injustice in this present age to governing authorities. But do evil magistrates hear more of our voice in complaint day and night than God does from us who are called to trust his deliverance from all evil?
At least the widow frequented the magistrate’s door. Our appeals for justice come from our lazy-boys, as we sit in front of a computer, coffee or beer in hand, as we bemoan the injustices of whatever current administration is in power. There are no shortage of things to complain about: Afghanistan, Covid-19, vaccinations, mandates, constitutional freedoms, the list is endless. We delude ourselves thinking that we are standing for something, or speaking out against injustice in these mediums, when, truth be told, we have taken little if not any of these things to the Lord in prayer.
Really, dear Christian, what are you spending your time doing in the face of all the world’s injustices? Are we ready for the second coming? Who among us is talking about this great event and solution to all injustice? Wars are in front of us, pestilences, fires, hurricanes, destruction, and nothing is going well as a spirit of confusion an enveloped the earth. Does God no yet have our attention? The time of judgment is at hand. The fact is (and I include myself in this assessment as a pastor), we have become too this worldly, earthly-minded, and have forgotten our larger purpose on this earth. Is not Jesus saying that prayer is a much more effective way of combating actual injustice since we are appealing to the Lord of heaven and earth who can actually help us? And have we forgotten that the most pressing issue for people is to be saved from the wrath to come?
Who is talking about the second coming of Jesus? It’s a chilling question, because deliverance from sin and evil, and the making of all things new in a resurrected heavens and earth, doesn’t seem to be our foremost concern right now. Injustices will always abound in the present, evil age. The greatest solution, according to Jesus, is that we should always pray to the Lord and not lose heart in the struggle because he has the power to deliver.
Jesus loves his church; he is the mighty defender of his people. He is God and we are not and maybe that’s what needs to be remembered most right now in our wait for the second coming:
The Lord brings to nothing the plans of the nations,
he frustrates their counsel and makes their schemes fail.
But all that the LORD in his heart has intended,
the plans he has made, will forever prevail.
The nation the LORD embraced is most blessed,
where he is acknowledged to be God alone; this people he claims,
his inherited portion, the one he has chosen and calls as his own.
Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who trust him,
who hope in his love,
and, in awe, him revere.
They trust that from death he will rescue and save them,
and keep them all living when famine comes near,
the Lord we await is out help and protection, our heart is glad trusting ion his holy name.
O Lord let your covenant love be upon us, as we hold to you and the hope that we claim.
Psalm 33, Trinity Psalter Hymnal.