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“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? And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 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. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 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. 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. And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein”—Luke 18:1-17.
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It is very evident that the first parable has a definite dispensational aspect. God Himself is not an unjust judge but is put in contrast with such an one. The widow does not represent the Church of God, for the Church of God is not a widow. The Church is a virgin espoused to Christ; the marriage feast is to take place after we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The woman here undoubtedly represents Israel. She was called the wife of Jehovah, but because of her sins, unbelief, and spiritual adultery, she was separated from her rightful Husband, and abides in the world today as a widow. What suffering she has endured down through the centuries! During all these long years her earnest cries have gone up to heaven, that she might be avenged of her cruel adversaries. It might seem as though God is as indifferent as the unjust judge. He appears to have no regard for the sufferings of Israel, no interest in their sad experiences. “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.” Her crying at first did not affect him; he was not concerned about her case. But afterwards he became tired of her incessant pleading for help, and he said, “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.” Now the Lord does not tell us that this is the attitude of God, but He explains that it was the attitude of an unjust judge who had no fear of God. How much more will God hear His children, for He is deeply interested in all their trials. He cannot turn a deaf ear to the cry of the afflicted, but in due time He will avenge His own elect. These are the elect of Israel, not of the Church. The cries of God’s elect have been going up to Him day and night, and the time is coming when He will answer their cries. Jesus said, “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” This is a remarkable question. It suggests that instead of the whole world becoming converted, the great bulk of mankind will be found in opposition to God when Christ returns. This is in accordance with what is elsewhere revealed. At the coming again of the Son of Man to set up His kingdom of righteousness, He will avenge Israel of those nations that have persecuted her.
Though this is the dispensational teaching, it is evident from the first verse that the Lord Jesus meant us to get something more out of it for our own soul’s blessing, for we read, “And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” This is a message for everyone of us. Oftentimes when we cry to God in distress or trouble there seems to be no answer; yet all the time His heart is deeply concerned about us, and we are not to cease to pray; nor, because we do not get the answer immediately, are we to give up in despair. We need to remember that God is working out certain counsels in connection with His great plan that runs through all the ages, which may necessitate that some time must elapse before our prayers are actually answered. We find a very significant illustration of this in the tenth chapter of Daniel. We read the prophet prayed about a certain thing for three full weeks, twenty-one days, and during those three weeks he ate neither bread nor meat, nor drank wine. One can imagine how he must have felt as the hours lengthened into days, the days into weeks, and the weeks went on until three had passed. Then at the end of the twenty-one days, he tells us there appeared to him an angel sent direct from the High Court of heaven. The angel said to him: “From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one-and-twenty days.” It is a most remarkable thing—something I would not believe if it were not in my Bible—that God actually heard the prayer of Daniel the first day he began his supplication, and He dispatched an angel to tell him that his prayer was heard, but the angel was twenty-one days fighting his way through the fiends of the upper air to get down to Daniel to bring the answer to him. “The prince of the kingdom of Persia” was not the earthly ruler who sat on the throne of Persia, but an evil angel who sought to control the king’s heart and to thwart the plan of God. In the New Testament Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air.” We are taught that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” So this angel from heaven was twenty-one days in conflict with the evil powers before he could get to Daniel. Then he said, “When I leave you I have to go and face the prince of Grecia.” That was another evil spirit seeking to control the heart of the Grecians. This is a marvelous thing, and it gives us an idea of what goes on in the unseen world, and explains in a very large measure why the answers to many of our prayers seem so long delayed. Perhaps we have been praying for mother, for daughter, for husband, or some other loved one who is still unsaved, and we wonder why God has allowed so much time to elapse ere answering our petition, but there is a conflict going on in the unseen world. Do not give up praying. By your importunate intercession you are putting yourself over on the side of God in this conflict, and He will hear His own elect in due time, who cry unto him night and day.
The second parable is designed to impress upon us the true attitude we should take before God when we come to Him in prayer. “And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” We cannot come to God on the ground of our own righteousness; we have no title to approach Him in that way. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. We can come to God only as confessed sinners, recognizing that all He does for us must be on the ground of grace. These two men had gone to the temple which God had ordained as a house of prayer for all men. One was a Pharisee, a self-righteous man, giving himself credit for exceptional merit. Significantly we read: “He prayed with himself.” That is, his prayer never went up to God at all; it went no higher than the ceiling, because he was simply speaking of his own goodness. Yet it was a prayer of thanksgiving. Is it not right to come to God with thanksgiving? We are taught again and again that is the way we should approach God. But notice this man was not thanking God for what grace had done for him; he was thanking God for what he himself had done, and that is the wrong attitude. When I approach God my heart should be filled with thanksgiving because of what He has done for me, recognizing that everything I have comes by divine grace. But this man said, “I thank Thee for my own goodness; I thank Thee I am not as other men are.” You, perhaps, would not use the same language, but do you approach God in that attitude? “I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers.” Then the Pharisee looked and saw the publican standing there, and he said, “Or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Surely these things are all good, but no man has a right to plead his own goodness as the reason why God should hear his cry. And, actually, most of his prayer was just pretence, claiming a righteousness he did not possess.
The publican stood afar off, conscious of his un-worthiness. He “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” Literally, it might be translated, “God be propitiated to me, the sinner.” Calvary’s cross was the answer to that prayer when the Lord Jesus became the propitiation for our sins. This man, recognizing he needed propitiation, cried to God for that which he knew he did not deserve, but which must come to him by grace if it was to come at all. And Jesus said, “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.”
In which man’s company are you found? Do you stand with the Pharisee, trying to make out a case for yourself? or with the publican, acknowledging you are a sinner, and that your only hope is in the propitiation which God has provided?
In the next verses we have a beautiful scene. We have enacted a picture of the right attitude of soul in which God delights. “And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them.” The disciples felt that the parents were only troubling Jesus, He could not afford to waste His time with children, but the disciples did not know His heart. He is interested in all; and so He rebuked His disciples, and called the parents to Him and said, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Children, in simplicity, believe what you tell them of the Lord. These are the ideal members of the kingdom, who simply take Him at His word. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” That used to trouble me. Though I knew I was saved, yet when I came to that verse and the kindred one in Matthew, I used to wonder if I had qualified in this way: I am not like a child; I am not as innocent as a little child; I have not the same hopeful attitude toward life as little children. How can I, a sinner by practice, ever get back to the comparative purity and goodness of a little child? Then I noticed that “Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children…” He called and the child came. That is what He means when He says, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
It is when we heed His blessed call and come to Him in unquestioning faith that we enter the kingdom. It is this alone that puts us on praying ground and entitles us to bring all our troubles and perplexities to Him, and He has promised to undertake for us.