October 16, 2018

An Army of SLJW’s

Intercessory Prayer, Ruth Palmer

By Chaplain Mike

Sunday’s Gospel
• Luke 18:1-8

Many of the chapter divisions in our Bible were unfortunately placed. We come upon a good example of this in our Gospel reading today.

In Luke 17:20-37, Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and his disciples about “the coming of the days of the Son of Man.” He is speaking about a future that his followers and the world around them will face. It is likely that Jesus is referring to the difficult days around 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and leveled the temple. However, as many commentators point out, when the Bible speaks of historical events like this, the images often look beyond those specific occasions to the eschaton, the end of history, when God’s judgment and salvation will be made fully known throughout the heavens and earth. The near event points to the far-off event.

In that context—the anticipation of the days of God’s promised, surprising intervention in history, turning everything inside out and upside down—we come to chapter 18, where Jesus tells his disciples a parable “about how they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).

The last part of Luke 17 emphasized a few important truths:

  • The Kingdom of God is in our midst (thus available for us to enter and experience).
  • After the Son of Man suffers, he will be vindicated and God’s justice and salvation will be made clear on earth.
  • In those days, Jesus’ followers must be alert and ready.

How can we be alert and ready? What does that look like? The answer to these questions is the focus of Luke 18:1-8.

  • We pray always.
  • We don’t give up.
  • Though we may be powerless in the world around us (like the widow in the parable), we persist in making our case before God.
  • We have assurance that our God is not like the authorities of this world, who sometimes make decisions, not on principle, but for their own selfish reasons. Even they get right it right on occasion; how much more our righteous God!

Jesus’ parable is a funny story. The characters are stereotypes, caricatures who represent the extreme ends of society’s spectrum. The helpless widow. The powerful judge. She has spunk. He is lazy and careless. She finds creative ways to get under his skin. He gets exasperated and finally gives in. It’s a delightful rabbinic folk tale in which the underdog triumphs.

So, after predicting doom and destruction, Jesus says, in effect, “But wait a minute. Let me tell you a story that will make you smile. It will give you guidance about how to face these difficult times.” Then, in this parable he gives us an unforgettable, winsome character to imitate. Jesus is encouraging us all to be like this gutsy poor Jewish woman—

Don’t give up. Don’t automatically accept the place of a doormat before the powers of this world. Show a little spirit! Keep praying! Keep believing! Keep crying out for justice! Don’t take “no” for an answer! Don’t quit when you hit the wall! Find another way! Keep on keeping on!

Finally, our Lord ends his tale with a pointed challenge: “How much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (v. 8, MSG).

When Jesus comes back, he’s looking for an army of spunky little Jewish widows, the kind who never give up.

Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV)—

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

Comments

  1. Thanks Chaplain Mike,

    I’m not as inclined towards the A.D. 70 likeliness, but I’m glad that you included that near events may point to far off events.

    This is besides the main point. This is a very appropriate story for our times. I see things unraveling before my eyes: families, the government, businesses, the churches, etc. It would be very easy to throw in the towel. This story makes it clear what our strategy should be.

    “Don’t give up. Don’t automatically accept the place of a doormat before the powers of this world. Show a little spirit! Keep praying! Keep believing! Keep crying out for justice! Don’t take “no” for an answer! Don’t quit when you hit the wall! Find another way! Keep on keeping on!”

    Amen.

  2. Thanks for the devotional. A humorous but unsettling parable this Lord’s day. God is not like the lazy, uncaring judge. “He will quickly grant justice to them”, so we are called to faithfully and persistantly pray now for what “his chosen ones” may not (and ultimately will not) receive until the eschaton. We may receive justice or healing or provision, etc. now when we pray and we are encouraged to do so.

    However, being faithful prayers, servants, witnesses, worshipers,etc, means we actively particpate and engage in these things now but in light of God’s future fulfillment of all he has promised. This does not seem like a very quick response! We “always pray” (in word and deed) while receiving occasional deposits of this future hope/promise in the present. But if we are not cultivating an eternal perspective with others, we may “lose heart” if “quickly” means this instant or next week, or next year. I know I need the Holy Spirit to fill me with faith, hope and love enabling me to pray the “Our Father” with a now and not yet assurance.

  3. Dear Chaplain Mike,

    You so very often write about things I have been struggling with – something about the Holy Spirit perhaps?

    With everything that’s been going on in the world over the past several years, and the bad stuff seemingly speeding up and becoming more ominous, I wonder if we’re on the cusp of the tribulation. (Hard to say, as our perspectives are generally limited by our own life spans, but still, I wonder.) Anyways if we are in or very near that point, I wonder how do I pray? It’s God’s will, after all. And then on top of this confusion, there is so much clutter in Christian circles in how to pray correctly. Sometimes, it brings me to an absolute standstill.

    These verses are a welcome drink of cool water. Jesus is just saying that we should pray, and persistently. God doesn’t prescribe that I pray grand, world-altering prayers. He just wants to hear from me, even if I don’t know what to say (the HS can help with that too!). Because God is who He is and will gladly answer the prayers of his confused creatures like me, I am confident that the answer will be “yes” to Jesus’ question in verse 8.

  4. I love the “Intercessory Prayer” painting. Where do you find this art?

    • Lisa Hayward says:

      Hi Steve,

      Ruth Palmer is a personal friend and awesome artist. You can find her work on Redbubble and many other online artists stores. She has also recently been selling some of her prints in Target stores. If you go to http://www.redbubble.com and look her up, you will find a very large selection of her work and you can also write her there. Ruth is a very classy and kind person. She will write you back and make you a friend! I hope this helps!
      Very sincerely, Lisa Hayward

  5. David Cornwell says:

    This is a wonderful passage, one of my favorites. It has so much to teach us if we will but hear.

  6. “spunky little Jewish widows”

    It took me nearly half an hour to figure out what a SLJW is.

  7. What a great antidote to the ‘beam me up Jesus, it’s hopeless down here’ attitude that you run into all too often.

    The other type of “cheap grace” http://disjournal.blogspot.com/2010/10/other-type-of-cheap-grace.html