Persistent Pleas, Powerful Prayers, a Proud Pharisee, and a Penitent Publican

February 10, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Luke Chapter 18 starts of with the parable that is sometimes called the parable of the unjust judge or the parable of the persistent widow. The primary lesson of this parable is: keep praying; don’t quit.

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Luke 18:1-8

There are four characters in the story: the judge, God, the widow, and her adversary. Obviously setting aside any comparisons between ourselves and God, with which of the remaining three characters do you identify? The judge did not fear God, which is a huge problem for any human being. Fear of God is the solution to overcoming fear of man. The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. This was a judge who forgot that he himself would be judged AND he didn’t care about helping others. Don’t care about people so much that you disregard God, but don’t think that God wants you to disregard people.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in the culture where the parable is set. Both because of their gender and the lack of a male protector, they were often the victims of injustice. Somebody had done her an injustice and she had no recourse, except for one thing: persistence. She would not leave the judge alone. Do you identify with the widow? Do you feel powerless because of a lack of money and influence? If so, remember that you can still be pesistent. This lady was waiting for the judge every time he showed his face, and she would plead her case continaully.

Perhaps you are like the adversary in the parable. Have you taken advantage of someone who was easy to take advantage of? I hope not, but, if so, remember that God often takes up the cause of those who seem helpless, and often punishes those who mistreat the poor.

If even an unjust judge will be moved by continual petitions, how MUCH MORE will our loving Heavenly Father be moved by our persistence in prayer?

The second parable in Luke 18 deals with the prayers of two distinct types of people.

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Luke 18:9

The parable of the praying Pharisee and the praying publican is intended to show the danger of self-righteousness.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Luke 18:10

One man appeard outwardly religious and one man was openly sinful, and, while we know something of Jesus’s teachings and ministry and can guess who is going to be commended by Jesus and who is going to be condemned, the lesson would have been very controversial and surprising to Jesus’s audience when He orginally taught it.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood to pray, and there is nothing inherently wrong with standing while we pray if we are standing for the right reasons. Posture is not as important as piety when it comes to prayer. The verse says that he “prayed thus with himself,” and this is perhaps intentionally worded to make it seem like he’s somewhat unconsciously praying TO himself and addressing himself as God. The Pharisee’s prayer amounted to arrogance and contempt disguised as gratitude. He even workded in an insult to the person praying next to him.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luke 18:12

The Pharisee clearly considered himself even more religious than he was requrired to be, and was very impressed with himself.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Luke 18:13

Both the Pharisee and the publican were in the vicinity of the Temple, but one of them strode arrogantly right up, and one meekly stood far off.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:14

Self-righteousness is just as much a sin as the sins of which the Pharisee accused others. Furthermore, it is an even greater bar to justification. God gives grace to, and justifies, the humble. He resists the proud and self-righteous. If we persist in trying to justify ourselves, then God will not justify us.

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  1. […] a Wrongdoer, and a Witness (John 12:2-15) 90. Truth, Torture, and Trepidation (John 18:38-19:8) 91. Persistent Pleas, Powerful Prayers, a Proud Pharisee, and a Penitent Publican (Luke […]

  2. […] Pouting Prefers Possessive Purpose (Luke 15:25-32) 32. A Good Story about a Bad Man (Luke 16:1-10) 33. Persistent Pleas, Powerful Prayers, a Proud Pharisee, and a Penitent Publican (Luke […]


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