GOD IS AN UNJUST JUDGE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 21, 2018
1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
— Luke 18:1-8, ESV
Did you know that Morgan Freeman murdered his first wife? Did you know Tom Hanks was a low IQ child with a crippled back who blindly stumbled into fortune and fame? Did you know Robert Duvall was a dysfunctional young adult who lived with his parents until the day he killed a man for trying to harm two young children in the neighborhood?
None of these things are true, of course, about the actual men. But it is true about the parts they played as actors in famous films. Freeman was Ellis “Red” Boyd in The Shawshank Redemption, Hanks was Forrest Gump, and Duvall’s first screen appearance came as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.
This brings us to today’s sermon title. Did you know God is an unjust judge? Not that the Sovereign of the universe could ever do wrong, by no means; but, in a parable He plays the role of an unjust judge. It was the Son of God’s way of making some key points about God the Father, the kingdom of God, and those of us who live in it, now and forever.
The kingdom of God is a kingdom you cannot see, but with faithful focus you can find yourself in the midst of it, and it in the midst of you. It is an invisible kingdom now and a visible kingdom to come, but before the days of glory there will be a season of darkness. The time just before the second coming of Christ will be like the “days of Noah” and the “days of Lot” (ref. Luke 17:26-28). Injustice and immorality will be rampant, and the size and strength of God’s people will wane to a small remnant.
The going is going to get tough. So what are God’s people to do? Jesus said, “Pray and not lose heart.” Then He gave us this parable to build a platform for prayer, perseverance, and patiently waiting for the kingdom of God to come.
The Interpretation of the Parable
In the parable, God plays the part of “a judge who neither feared God nor respected man … the unrighteous judge.” He withholds justice for a time and people suffer for it. At the end, however, he rules in favor of the widow, against her adversary, and all is right in the world.
Except for the fact that God is altogether righteous and absolutely holy, the parable pits Him spot on. God fears no one, but rather should be feared. He is sovereign, omnipotent, and His decree is the final word. God does not respect man, in the sense that no man is His equal, no man is His peer, no man can thwart His power. And, at the present time, God is withholding justice from our increasingly unjust world, a world where good and godly people suffer persecution while the most petulant perpetrators seem to gain power and go free.
What about the “widow in that city?” Widows in Jesus’ day were the most dependent people in town. Their basic needs often had to be met by others. They could by no means afford a paid advocate and had to plead their own cases in court. Without a kinsman redeemer or a kind judge, they lived with little or no hope. So are we, my fellow Christians, in this present world, whether we know it or not.
The widow is you and me, my male Christian friends. The widow is you, too, all you married and unmarried Christian women. The widow represents “the elect,” all of the children of God, living in the kingdom of God, often suffering and crying out for help, until justice and the kingdom of God come fully and visibly into view.
Every Christian should ask, who is “my adversary?” Jesus said it is the world, or the secular systems of power and authority that are opposed to the kingdom of God. Concerning this Jesus prayed in John 17:14, “The world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Paul wrote we are betrayed by our own flesh or earthly desires and desperately cried, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (ref. Romans 7:24)? Peter warned us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ref. 1 Peter 5:8).
So there you have it, the classic Christian identification of our adversaries. They are the world, the flesh, and the devil. They want to rob God of His glory. They fight to keep people away from God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, they delight in doing as much harm as possible to the name of God and the named children of God.
All that remains to be interpreted is the concept of “justice” and the answer to the painful, Job-like question, “Will not God give justice to his elect?” What is justice? Justice is the vindication of God and His word, the complete redemption of God’s people, and the final punishment of evil and unbelief. Will it come? Yes, there is no doubt about it. When will it come? The parable concludes, “Speedily … when the Son of Man comes.”
Therefore, the picture painted by the parable is perfectly plain. God is in control and His word is the final authority. Christians are completely dependent upon God’s word, God’s grace, and God’s timing. Our adversaries will wax worse as the time nears for the second coming of Christ. Justice will be seen and served, then. Yet the revelation of eschatological fulfillment is not the primary purpose of the parable. It is such more practical and applicable. The parable is pointed at us to motivate and mobilize us to pray, “Always to pray and not lose heart.”
The Application of the Parable
Prayer is communication, a Father and child talk between God and the Christian. It is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why the parable features two characters, not one. I have a friend who does all the talking when I call, then tells me it’s been nice to hear from me. But I didn’t say anything! God must feel that way sometimes when we pray.
We are to speak, to make our requests known, to ask boldly for justice and mercy. Then we are to listen, to the Spirit’s pen mediated through human history and personality in the Bible, and to the still small voice of the Spirit inside of every Christian. We strain our inner ears until we hear the Spirit speak the language of peace. Peace can be spoken with a “no,” when conjoined with contentment. Peace can be spoken with a “yes,” which brings anticipation and excitement. However, peace is most often spoken with a “wait,” and wait on the Lord we must, with patience and perseverance.
Learning how to pray is a life-long pursuit for the sincere Christian. It requires time, practice, and most of all, trouble. If time spent in honest prayer could be posted on a graph, the spikes would be highest in times of sorrow and suffering. Never waste them, for all believers can testify that it is in the valleys where our prayer life is most fervent and our faith deepens.
Prayer is communication and connection. I have life-long friends with whom I remain close. I have other friendships, equally important in my life, which no longer remain. What’s the difference? Those whom I remain in constant contact with remain close friends, while others drift away. It sounds trite but it is true, God is the best friend you will ever know. Keep Him close, in prayer.
Prayer is communication, connection, and control. God does not need your permission to take control of your life. Grace is sovereign and violent, the Spirit goes where He wills, and “the elect” will be His! Yet once you become a child of the King, you have a responsibility to constantly submit to His reign in His kingdom, to His loving and wise rule over all of life. This is maintained by various spiritual disciples, not the least of which is prayer.
False prophets say that prayer is a means to control God. Their so-called word of faith can compel God to surrender anything asked for in prayer, just name it and claim it. Such nonsense it utterly contrary to what Holy Scripture and history reveal about our sovereign God. Prayer, as taught by the Lord Himself, is a matter of saying to God, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
As illustrated in the parable, prayer is serious and joyful communication between the sovereign Father and needy child, which maintains a rich, warm, and trusting Father and child relationship, which helps the child find peace in the Father’s kingdom, even if it is a kingdom we cannot quite see, yet.
The Answer to the Question
The parabolic passage is not over yet. Strangely, it ends with a rhetorical question fit with an implied negative answer. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Given the prevailing context in the Gospel of Luke, the answer is, not much. There was not much faith on earth in days of Noah, nor Lot, nor at the first coming of the Messiah, nor will there be during the last days of planet Earth before Christ comes again.
But there will surely be some. There will be some Christians on earth when Christ comes again, this is promised in Scripture. There will be some churches still true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, holding fast to word and Sacrament, public worship and witness, and engaged in good works for the kingdom of God.
Chief among the good works the Good Shepherd will find us doing when He returns is the one highlighted in this parable, prayer. The King and the kingdom are here. The King and the kingdom are coming. So let us “pray and not lose heart.”
Our God is no unjust judge. He is absolutely just and abundantly merciful. He will hear us and help us when we pray.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org