Oak Grove Baptist Church

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“The Widow and the Unjust Leaders”

Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for July 15, 2018

  • Lesson Text: Luke 18:1-8
  • Background Scripture: Luke 18:1-8
  • Devotional Reading: Psalm 145:13b-20

Luke 18:1-8 (KJV)

1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?


TODAY’S LESSON AIMS


Learning Fact: To retell Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge.

Biblical Principle: To explain what the parable teaches about prayer.

Daily Application: To identify a spiritually mature Christian to use as a role model for persistence in prayer.


INTRODUCTION


Contest of Wills

Today there are at least a dozen “judge shows” airing on American television. Their popularity is traced to the launch of The People’s Court in 1981. The formats are often the same: judges preside over certain types of cases, listen to evidence presented by each side, and issue rulings. Usually these programs last a half hour and feature two cases; thus each case is wrapped up in a little under 15 minutes.

Not so the legal drama of today’s lesson! Our lesson text features instead a drawn-out process in which two people having entrenched viewpoints engage in a contest of wills. It may remind us of the old conundrum “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” Jesus used this parable to call attention to important truths concerning our relationship with the ultimate judge, the judge of judges: Almighty God

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LESSON BACKGROUND

Time: A.D. 30

Place: Perea

Whereas last week’s lesson was drawn from an incident that occurred during Passion Week, this week’s study actually moves back a bit on the time line, to perhaps a couple of months before Passion Week.

Immediately before giving the parable of today’s lesson, Jesus had been addressing a question of the Pharisees concerning when the kingdom of God would come (Luke 17:20). In doing so, He issued some very solemn warnings about the future, most of them tied to His second coming. The suddenness of Jesus’ return will catch many people off guard; they will be engaged in ordinary, routine activities “when the Son of man is revealed” (17:30). His return will not be a time for looking back and attempting to save anything of value, as indicated by the ominous warning, “Remember Lot’s wife” (17:32). After the time frame of Jesus’ teaching shifts from the future (17:20-25) to analogies between past and future (17:26-33) to the future again (17:34-37), Jesus puts the spotlight on the future with the parable that follows.


Jesus’ Parable: Luke 18:1-5

1. Whom was Jesus talking to? Why did He emphasize prayer? (Luke 18:1).

After the intense instruction of Luke 17, Jesus returns to His common teaching method of using parables. The word them refers to Jesus’ disciples, as noted in Luke 17:22. Perhaps they are taken aback by Jesus’ teaching concerning His return. The analogies to lightning, the flood of Noah’s day, and the destruction of Sodom in chapter 17 indicate much turmoil to come. How does one prepare?

The preparation of prayer is foundational. The word translated not to faint carries the idea of “be not weary,” which is how the word is translated in 2 Thessalonians 3:13. It’s vital not to get worn out as one prays always. Stay focused! The story at hand is out of the ordinary among Jesus’ parables in that the purpose is stated at the outset before He begins the parable.


2. How was the judge described? (Luke 18:2).

The first person described has no redeeming qualities. To have no fear of God is to have no concern for God’s righteous standards. Neither does this judge care about what people may think about any decision he renders. One gets the impression that he is entirely self-centered. Cold and insensitive, he lacks any degree of compassion for anyone.

This is not the kind of character that judges are to possess, according to the Law of Moses. Judges are to judge God’s people “with just judgment” (Deuteronomy 16:18). They are not to “wrest,” or pervert, justice (16:19). They are to show no favoritism and must not allow bribes to influence their thinking (16:19). Judging in this manner reflects the just character of the Lord himself (10:17, 18). The judge is not given as a symbol of God, but rather in contrast to Him.


3. Why was the widow particularly vulnerable and what should have been the judge’s responsibility toward her? (Luke 18:3).

Widows in antiquity are especially vulnerable to being mistreated or taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals (which is often the case today as well). The Law of Moses includes several commands that widows be properly cared for and not be abused or abandoned (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 24:17-22; 26:12, 13; 27:19). Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day with their heartless treatment of widows, stating that they “devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers” (Luke 20:47).

We are not told what this widow’s adversary has done to her. But we keep in mind that this is a fictional story; unstated actions are unimportant. What is important is that the widow needs someone to intervene on her behalf, which she hopes this judge will do. The verb came in the Greek indicates a continual coming; that is, she comes repeatedly in an effort to persuade this callous judge to show a measure of concern for the law.


4. What reason did the judge give for finally helping the widow? (Luke 18:4, 5).

Jesus does not specify the amount of time that passes before the judge tires of the woman’s persistent nagging. His decision to hear her out is not based on any change in his personal character; he still neither fears God nor has any concern for people. His reasoning is purely pragmatic: “If I help her, I’ll get her off my back, and she’ll quit bothering me!”


What Do You Think?

If you were to discuss persistent prayer with someone who models it, what would you want to learn regarding his or her motivations? Why?


Talking Points for Your Discussion

- Regarding intecessory prayer

- Regarding prayers of praise and worship

- Regarding prayers of petition

- Regarding prayers of thanksgiving


Principles: Luke 18:6-8

5. What was the point of the parable in which Jesus was he trying to explain to the disciples? (Luke 18:6, 7)


Jesus does not say specifically how the unjust judge decides the widow’s case. The implication, however, is that the judge adjudicates in the widow’s favor.

Jesus’ explanation of this parable should not be taken to mean that God is the equivalent of an unjust judge. God is the very essence of justice (Deuteronomy 32:4). Jesus is drawing a contrast between God and the unjust judge in arguing from the lesser to the greater: If this poor woman with no hope received help from a wicked unscrupulous judge, how much sooner and greater will be the help a loving heavenly Father gives to His own dear children. Responding to prayer is part of His nature as not only a righteous and just judge but also a compassionate heavenly Father.


What Do You Think?


How did a time of persistence in prayer result in your spiritual growth?


Talking Points for Your Discussion


- In ways unseen to others

- In ways seen to others but personal to you

- In ways others could see and learn from

The phrase though he bear long with them carries the idea of longsuffering, as the same Greek wording is translated in 1 Corinthians 13:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. It appears that Jesus is telling us that God exercises His own brand of persistent patience as He delays answering those who call on Him. There will be an opportune time to respond, but that time may not come as soon as we would like.

This speaks to the issue Jesus raises in the parable: When will God come to the defense of His people (His elect) who are under attack from their enemies? When will He carry out retributive justice on their behalf?

Considering again 2 Peter 3, we are told concerning “the day of the Lord” that God in His longsuffering is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (3:9, 10). Paul echoes this thought in Romans 2:4. Part of God’s seeming failure to come to the aid of His beleaguered, suffering people is that He is giving those enemies a period of time, an opportunity, to turn from their sinful ways and find His salvation. Thinking of your own previously lost state, aren’t you glad He does?


What Do You Think?


How does (or should) God’s concern for justice influence how you pray?


Talking Points for Your Discussion


- Regarding prayers for yourself

- Regarding prayers for your church

- Regarding prayers for your nation


6. What did Jesus mean when He said God would “speedily” avenge His own? (Luke 18:8a)


Again, Jesus assures His disciples (and us) that God will come to His people’s defense in the proper way at the proper time. What must be kept in mind, however, is that speedily has to be understood according to God’s timetable, not ours. Again to the apostle Peter: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The speed will occur when God determines that the time for judgment has come (compare Hebrews 10:37).

From our standpoint, God often does not act as quickly as we would like. As the prophet reminds us, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). We are to trust that He, as the righteous judge, will bring about justice in His time.

When that time comes—and come it will—it will happen in no uncertain terms. Abraham asked, during his “negotiations” with the Lord over Sodom and Gomorrah, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Most assuredly He will, at the right time. His timing is always perfect (compare Galatians 4:4, 5). Waiting for that perfect timing is, of course, the hard part for us (compare Psalm 94:1-7).


7. Jesus ends the parable by asking a rhetorical, yet profound question. How should we as Christians apply it to our lives? (Luke 18:8b).


In the parable just told, the unjust judge is the one who is concerned about becoming worn out because of the widow’s persistence. But in our time of waiting for our judge (God) to act, we are the ones who may grow weary at His seemingly delayed response to our cries for justice. This leads to the question that Jesus raises here as He concludes His parable.

The verse before us should be read in light of Jesus’ teaching regarding His second coming (see the Lesson Background). The question thus is asking the disciples to consider whether their faith will be strong enough to survive the wait until Jesus returns. During that time, they (and we) may have to endure ridicule, persecution, etc. Will faith continue or collapse?


What Do You Think?


Without giving advice, how would you counsel someone who struggles in prayer waiting for God’s help?


Talking Points for Your Discussion


- Considering the person’s level of spiritual maturity

- Considering the nature of the need

- Considering appropriate and inappropriate use of Romans 8:28; etc.


POINTS TO PONDER

Jesus’ rhetorical questions in the parable do not require a specific answer on the spot, but rather is a challenge for self-examination and reflection. Each person reading this parable is challenged to consider whether he or she will be judged as a person of faith. Such reflective reaction is similar to what Jesus’ disciples will experience later during the last supper as each asks in turn “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:20-22) when learning of the pending betrayal.


CONCLUSION


Steadfast Prayer

It is easy when reading this parable to forget, or at least fail to give attention to the dual purpose for it. That purpose is stated in the opening verse: “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). We can get so caught up in the issues of God’s justice and the timing of His action on behalf of His people that we overlook the fact that this parable is also meant to help us with our prayer life, and proper prayer should begin with self-examination.


What Do You Think?

How did you grow spiritually during a time when you prayed for God to change your circumstances, but He ended up changing you instead?


Talking Points for Your Discussion

- Regarding patience

- Regarding how you view circumstances

- Other


PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we live in a time when so many voices are raised in protest, in anger, in defiance—but so few voices are raised in prayer. May we not allow the unchanging evil around us to silence our prayers. We ask this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.


THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

Prayer is a plea to the highest court of appeals.


ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON

In next week’s lesson we will discuss what Jesus said about “Entering God’s Kingdom.” Study Luke 13:22-30.


LESSON SUMMARIZED BY

Cathi Sasportas

Jesus Is All Ministries

https://www.jesusisall.com 

 

WORKS CITED 

Holman Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible Publishers. 

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. 

Scofield, C.I., ed.  The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2018 by permission of Standard Publishing. 

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook