The story of the widow who comes to a judge seeking him to avenge her is one that I have always thought about studying, but never had, until now. I’m glad I decided to give in to the urging of the Holy Spirit and take it up this week. What a tremendous blessing to learn from God’s Word as I literally went word for word through this passage found in Luke 18:1-5. As I went word for word through this parable, I focused on descriptive words that God placed in this parable, and then I tried finding multiple synonyms and that allowed me to begin to bring the characters to life and they began developing personalities. I don’t believe anything I assigned to these characters goes beyond what the Scriptures mean to imply, but rather, this exercise helped to enhance the characters and thus enhance the story. Hopefully I can convey that to you, that you might try it for yourself.
This judge is described in verse 2 as a person who feared not God, neither regarded man. This judge did not care about God, nor did he care about his fellow man. This judge was cantankerous, mean, unfriendly, cold, selfish, indifferent, etc. At first glance, there was probably nothing that was going to move this judge to do anything beyond what he felt like doing. He did not show much love toward others, if any at all. Since this judge was approached by a widow who probably had very little to offer, he wouldn’t have stood to gain much by helping her.
Are we not like that sometimes? It takes an awful lot of character to treat all people with love and dignity, regardless of what you can get from their friendship, or by helping them out when they are in need. Jesus was certainly not a respecter of persons. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. That describes everyone at one point. And God is not a respecter of persons either, as He is not willing the ANY should perish but that ALL should come to repentance. So the first thing to ask yourself as you see the judge’s personality begin to emerge is…am I like him in any way?
The widow, on the other hand, as described in verse 3 came unto the judge and asked him to avenge her of her adversary. This widow was helpless. This widow was in need. This widow knew who could help her, and she wasn’t afraid to ask him. This widow probably had very little to offer, but still had a need she couldn’t meet and was hoping the judge would be merciful to her and help her. Perhaps she knew that pure religion is, in part, visiting widows in their afflictions (James 1:27). Maybe she believed the heart of this judge might be softened to her plight. So, risking ridicule, she went out on a limb and sought help.
Now, for the most part, that is indicative of every unregenerate soul who is in need of salvation. We are helpless to save ourselves from Hell. We are in need of salvation. God is able to grant to us salvation, but how many times did we talk ourselves out of seeking salvation, for unfounded fears of rejection? At the time we finally do approach God for salvation, we have very little to offer God, at that moment, but we sought God’s mercy in dealing with us. Unlike the judge in verse 2, who was miserable, God is not. You can come to God without fear of being cast out (John 6:37).
But this widow was cast out by the judge more than once. More than once did he reject her plea. More than once he dismissed her. More than once he sent her away. This lady, however, was not deterred by her lack of standing with this judge. She kept coming back time and again. He, after all was the only one who could avenge her, so she went to no one else. He was the only one that could fulfill her need. There are lessons to be found in this widow’s actions.
She did not have a burden that was so shallow that she abandoned it after one attempt to get her needs met. We are too quick to pray for something that’s “burdening” us, and soon drop the effort after the one and only time we take our request to God…and it doesn’t get resolved. Unlike the judge, we can be assured that God will not ignore us, nor will He cast us out when we bring to Him our petitions. This widow came fearlessly to the judge. We can come fearlessly to God with our prayers and petitions. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come BOLDLY unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in time of need.” But even if we come boldly, it can’t be a one-and-done endeavor. It must be until God answers our prayers according to His will, one way or the other. First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing. That means coming boldly to God, with our petitions, until He answers our prayers. That’s what the widow did. She petitioned the judge for her needs and didn’t stop until a resolution was reached one way or another.
An interesting component to this story, as it unfolds, is that while the widow kept on coming at the judge relentlessly, he was finally moved. He wasn’t moved in his heart with compassion. He was moved in his heart out of inconvenience. This woman had bothered him enough that he granted her request simply to get her out of his hair. His heart hadn’t softened. His selfishness hadn’t lessened. He was still not a God-fearing man. He was still a person who did not respect his fellow man. He hadn’t changed. But here’s the interesting thing, as it relates to God. God’s character doesn’t ever change…yet if someone prays to God enough for something, God may grant it…albeit reluctantly.
You say God’s not going to give me things that are bad for me, if I ignorantly ask for them. It’s hard to understand God granting things to us because we incessantly ask Him for these particular things, but may I remind you of two areas God relented because of the dealings of man. In 1st Samuel Chapter Eight, the Israelites petition Samuel for a king. Up to now, God chose the leader of Israel and He had been the Sovereignty behind the leader He chose. God knew that a king for Israel was not the best way to go, but because of their persistence, God granted them a king. God’s character did not change. God’s judgment did not change. He just granted the king because of the continuous clamoring of Israel for one…but it wasn’t to be so as far as God was concerned.
Another area that God relented because of the hardness of man’s heart was in the granting of divorce. It was never to be so that divorce would enter into the mix among married people. Yet, as people began divorcing, they began taking advantage of each other, and people, especially the women, were getting taken advantage of terribly. People were getting really hurt emotionally, financially, etc. So, in Matthew 19:8, Jesus explains, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” God never intended divorce, but reluctantly told Moses to put parameters in place. So even though God’s character never changes, He does allow things into our lives that He omnisciently knows are going to be difficult for us in the long run.
Now, back to the widow for a moment…it seems paradoxical to say that she was patient and persistent. They seem, at first glance to be antonyms. That is, they appear to be opposite to each other. Patience seems the antithesis of persistence, and vice versa. Persistence is putting our request before God until He answers us. That’s the concept of praying without ceasing. That’s also the concept of praying without fainting. Just keep praying without giving up. Patience is waiting for an answer in between prayers, regardless of how often you pray. Being patient means that you’re not going to take matters into your own hands.
Sarah wanted a child, and God had, after all, promised a child to her and Abraham. It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t necessarily tell us that Sarah prayed for the child, but it is quite possible that she did. She could have gone to God in prayer everyday…showing great persistence in having God resolve her burden of being childless. Praying to God daily for years would show not only persistence, but also great patience. However, she did not always show patience because she took matters into her own hands and tried to “help” God by having Abraham conceive a child with Hagar. Talk about God allowing something to take place outside of His perfect will, but with lasting consequences. So Sarah is an example of someone being impatient.
So this is truly an interesting parable to study from the perspectives of the judge, the widow, God, and us. Focusing on the descriptive words and phrases bring these characters to life and we can see many parallels between ourselves and these characters. That might be a good way to take up any parable. Dive into the characters and bring them to life and make them more personal and easier to relate to. Then, study the interactions between the characters. How did they relate to each other? What lessons can be learned from their relationships and how they dealt with each other? Try to put yourself into each character. Personalize the parable. Get all you can out of it. But whatever you do, don’t casually read over it with your preconceived idea of what the parable is about, because you’ll miss many of the spiritual nuances that have rich application to our lives.