Monday, March 4, 2013

Luke 18 - Persistent Prayer and Entrance into the Kingdom

LINK: Luke 18

BACKGROUND

171. Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow: Luke 18:1-8

The parable of the persistent widow was very applicable at the time. Widows were often left destitute with no means of earning income (despite the instructions in the Law and the prophets to do otherwise: Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 16:9-15; Psalm 146:9; Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 7:6). 

An Eastern judge would have moved from place to place and set up his courtroom in a tent. In this society, women did not go to court. So, a widow had no one to represent her.  Also, she would not have been able to pay a bribe to the judge's assistants so that they could alert the judge to the case. 

Knowing the background to this parable helps you understand that her persistence was incredible! She had everything stacked against her, but she did not give up! This judge did not fear God or love men, but because she was persistent, he granted her justice. The text says that the judge did not want to be "worn out" with her persistence so he gave in. In the Greek, this means "to beat the face black and blue" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:Volume 2, p. 156) which could mean "expose me in a public scene" (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) -- i.e. ruin his reputation. 

Unlike this judge, God loves and cares for the children of God, and He loves it when we persist in prayers of faith. Not only that, we have open access into His presence (Ephesians 2:18; 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22), an Advocate (1 John 2:1) and High Priest (Hebrews 2:17-18) who requires no bribe but represents us before the throne of God, and the Holy Spirit who assists us when we pray (Romans 8:26-27)!

172. Jesus tells the parable of the two men who prayed: Luke 18:9-14

Jesus said in Luke 13:30 that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. This parable illustrates that point. The Pharisee's self-righteous rituals would not make his prayer heard, but the tax-gatherer who humbled himself and threw himself on the mercy of God would be heard. 

174. Jesus blesses the children: Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17

Children were not a waste of Jesus' time and were important to Him. These children ranged in age from babies to preteens. In the Mark and Luke accounts He said we were to receive the kingdom with child-like faith.

175. Jesus speaks to the rich young man: Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30

The rich man thought he could "do" something to gain eternal life. Jesus has just said we must receive the kingdom like a helpless child (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), but this man wanted to know how he could help himself to get there.

Jesus shook this man's false perception of what is good. Nothing we do is going to reach the perfection of God's goodness. Not even keeping five of the ten commandments dealing with human relationship that Jesus quotes in this passage. (The Mark account has a "do not defraud" which is not one of the commandments, but some commentators believe it is a paraphrase of the 10th commandment in Exodus 20:17 or a supplement to "you shall not steal" and "bear false witness.").

Even if the man had kept them all, he did not have total devotion to God because he loved money more (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23), breaking the first commandment to have no other gods before him. The Jewish mindset was that a man's riches were an indication of God's blessing. So Jesus, when lovingly asked the rich man to give up all His wealth and told His disciples that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom, was speaking counter to everything they had ever understood about God. The camel (the largest animal in Palestine) through the eye of a needle comment related to a Jewish proverb of the time that depicted the impossible. 

This made the disciples wonder if they could even enter the Kingdom, and Jesus responded by indicating that it is impossible to enter by human effort, but God can make it possible by His grace (Job 42:2; Ephesians 2:8-10)!

177. Jesus predicts his death the third time: Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34

He had already announced that He was to die and rise again on two previous occasions (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23). He was now on the road to Jerusalem, and He reiterated this point. This is the first time He spoke of His betrayal, condemnation, mocking, scourging, and crucifixion.

179. Jesus heals a blind beggar and his companion: Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43

This miracle was performed as Jesus left the city of Jericho (Matthew 20:29) though He first encountered the men as He approached it (Luke 18:35). 


The Matthew account has two blind beggars, and the Mark and Luke accounts have just one. According to The Harmony of the Gospels, "the second and third gospels single out the more vocal of the two" (p.170). These blind beggars called Jesus the Son of David revealing that they knew that He was the long anticipated Messiah. The religious leaders were blind, but these blind beggars could see. By the authority of God, He was able to heal them of their physical blindness.


REFLECTION
per·sis·tent  (pr-sstnt, -zs-)
adj.
1. Refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

I love the story of the persistent widow!  I want to be like her by persisting in prayer and praying "without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?  

Recently, I met some unwanted opposition from the enemy. It came at a time when God had called all of us on the ministry team I am involved with to become more persistent in our prayers. The opposition was instantaneous with the increased prayer and fasting that had just started, I wanted to give up and go and run away and crawl in a hole!  

Yet, God kept saying to "persist in prayer and do not give up." Even though I asked many to pray with me, I struggled from Tuesday - Saturday night with the lies the enemy was telling me until I realized at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning that I needed to just go to my "prayer closet" and claim and pray through Scripture related to the issue. I was determined to keep praying until I heard my Righteous Judge and was able "to discern the difference between true conviction of sin from the Holy Spirit and wrongful accusation from the kingdom of darkness" (Praying God's Word, p. 330)

I heard truth from Him and was freed from the struggle!

Persistence pays off! He loves us enough to speak to us in every situation.

Praise be to Him!

APPLICATION

Do you have nagging and lingering issues that You have not truly prayed through?  Carve out time for prayer today and be persistent in it! Do not give up!

Read a biography on a man who prayed persistently: George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles  by Basil MillerIt helped shape my prayer life in my early years as a believer. It would be a great story to read to your kids (there is also a short story about him in Veggie Tales: Gideon Tuba Warrior).

Pray Scripture and claim God's unfailing promises. He LOVES you!  I prayed through the chapter "Overcoming the Enemy" in Praying God's Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds by Beth Moore on Sunday morning. It is an excellent resource. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially this chapter. 

PRAYER

Lord, our Righteous Judge, we praise You with all our hearts. I thank You that we have an Advocate and High Priest who lives to make intercession for us. Holy Spirit guide us as we persist in prayer. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen. 
Post a Comment