Sermon on Luke 18:1-8, for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost (C), "Pray, and don't give up!"

Sermon Notes:
Today: lesson in prayer, persistence/determination, justice, suffering, and the character of God. 
V. 1 Don’t surrender to discouragement or impatience! Have confidence to continually bring your prayers before God, knowing that He desires and invites them and has compassion. Christ is engaging with what is likely our common experience of frustration with regard to prayer: giving up prematurely. We are promised that we will face difficulty and crosses that will test our faith and persistence. Christ wants to build up our hearts, our resiliency, determination. 
“do not lose heart” Ephesians 3:13 “over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”
“do not lose heart” 2 Cor. 4:1, 16 in the ministry, or while our “outer self is wasting away”. 
Jesus tells various people to “take heart” when they were ill, when they needed forgiveness, when they were afraid because they didn’t recognize who Jesus was, or when they were to face tribulations in the world. See also Ps. 27:14/heart, courage, patience. Security of hearts in God!
Psalm 10 seems to tie into this passage quite closely—the wicked person’s disregard for God, His law and judgments, and his oppression of the poor and helpless. The question of the afflicted, of whether God hears or answers. The final deliverance of God’s saints by His justice for the vulnerable, and strengthening their heart. 
Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 82:2-4 English Standard Version (ESV) (God judges the courts) 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Isaiah 1:17 English Standard Version (ESV) 17 “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 English Standard Version (ESV) “8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
V. 2 Fear of God and respect of man—together, or even separately, these can make for a decent judge, to administer justice. But this judge had neither to urge him toward doing what was right. 
V. 3 a widow is vulnerable because no one else was there to advocate her cause. A judge, and the court system, is meant to provide protection for the vulnerable and helpless, those who cannot advocate for themselves. (OT passages about advocacy: Ps. 68:6). Here the legal system was failing her, but her persistence overcame it. “Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance”—Virgil. 
V. 4-5 This is so pathetic its almost humorous. He acknowledges his failure to observe justice, but he caves in because he’s tired of her complaints. “She will make an end of me by wearing me out.” Wearing-out is literally box or bruise under the eyes. Imagining a frail older women figuratively beating up this worthless judge is an amusing picture, except for the fact that he was failing to do his public duty. That was why she resorted to persistence as the only way to reverse her failed appeals. Finally he gives in, for the wrong reasons, but gives her the justice she deserves. On earth we may face such people, who don’t fear God or respect men, and they may have to be dealt with in the same way. 
V. 6-7 Jesus is clearly making a comparison from the negative to the positive, between the unjust judge to God as just judge. He’s saying that if at the very least, a scoundrel will do what’s right under such persistent pressure, how much more is God, who IS just, IS loving and compassionate, going to do what is right for His saints. 
V. 7 reminds of the saints beneath the altar in the 5th seal (Rev. 6:9-11) who had been martyred for the Word of God and their testimony, and they cry out for vengeance against their enemies, but God says not yet, because more are still to die”(!). The rhetorical question Jesus raises is “will he delay long over them?” 
V. 8 God will give justice swiftly. Here we deal with our perception of time vs. God’s tracking of time. 2 Peter 3:9 deals with this same question, about the apparent delay or slowness of the Lord in returning. We are tempted to see it as slowness, and unbelievers are tempted to scoff at God’s promises altogether. But God doesn’t perceive time as we do, but is outside of time. His “delay” is actually patience, because He wants all to be saved. God’s timing is always perfect. But Jesus also asks, more doubtfully, whether He is going to find faith on the earth? Implied, is whether all will have lost heart because they felt their prayers weren’t being answered, or justice being denied them? The challenge to have faith is raised to us. The purpose of Jesus’ parable is that we would always pray and not lose heart. Develop a prayer life that surrenders to God, but does not surrender to circumstance. A prayer life that finds security and takes heart in the midst of trouble by taking hold of the cross and promises of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not against our faith, but He knows our weakness and our wavering. The negative example of the unjust judge better illustrates the need for persistence than a just judge would. In God, we DO have a just judge, and we don’t need to doubt or wonder whether He will give justice. He WILL, but the timing is what requires our persistence. 
Isaiah 11:4 English Standard Version (ESV) 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Isaiah promises that Jesus will be the just judge who will defend the weak and vulnerable, and destroy the wicked. 
God’s promises and grace in the test: 
o Jesus’ invitation to persistence in prayer
o Jesus’ affirmation that God is just 
o God will finally deliver justice to His elect
o Jesus’ promise to return again
Who is a better example of persistence in prayer than Jesus? His prayers and compassion for the people. Patiently brought God’s Word to the people, against resistance and rejection. Prayed in the garden for another way, but submitted to God’s will if there wasn’t. Watched as human justice failed Him miserably—no fear of God or respect of man, when He was tried. Justice took a back seat to silencing Jesus. At the last, when all hope of human justice had long since faded, when Jesus breathed out His dying breaths, and even God’s justice seemed slow in coming, Jesus uttered this last prayer: “Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit.” His final petition was entrusting Himself to God’s justice, which alone rules beyond the grave. His prayer showed that even in death, He had not lost heart that God would vindicate Him, or clear His name of the false accusations and injustice leveled against Him. If all else fails, will we lean on God, even if all earthly justice fails us? No matter how things go in this life, even if wicked judges and evil adversaries should seem to prevail against us—if all human justice fails—only God’s justice rules beyond the grave. Only God can right what is wrong in this life; and that justice comes through Jesus, who endured all the injustice of our sin. As God declared Jesus’ innocence by raising Him from the dead, so also we trust that whatever is not handled in this life, God will settle by His final justice in the end. May God grant that we can endure our crosses in life, never giving up on Jesus, and taking heart to answer His invitation to prayer. He will return to bring justice to His elect. Amen! Come Lord Jesus! 


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