"Shall not God avenge His own elect?"—Luke 17:1-8
Prayer is specially appreciated in the garden of grief,
because it brings us into the immediate Presence of Him who is able to
deliver and console. As prayer is our most effectual weapon against our
adversary, he endeavors to weaken the arm that wields it by suggesting
doubts of its efficacy. Can our imperfect petitions reach the infinite
Ruler, or change His purposes? Sometimes the darkness seems deeper, and the
storm more fierce. Then we are apt to pray with less fervor, or even desist
from what seems useless. Knowing how His disciples are thus tempted, our
Lord taught them, on diverse occasions and especially in the parable of the
importunate widow, "always to pray and not to faint."
Believers in Christ have, in these words, an absolute
reply to all skeptical objections. He who was in the beginning with God, in
the bosom of the Father, knows the Father's heart. He is at the right hand
of the Majesty on high, before whom countless petitions are presented, and,
knowing how our petitions are received, encourages us to go on presenting
them. He confirms to us this high privilege. We may "pray." He impresses on
it the seal of His Divine authority. We "ought to pray!" He teaches
us that not on special occasions alone, but at all times, in every trouble,
we "ought always to pray!" And though hope still deferred makes the
heart more and more sick, still we are to pray in full assurance of the best
answer, in the best method, at the best time "Men ought always to pray and
not to faint."
The argument in the parable by which our Lord enforced
this duty was one, not of resemblance but of contrast. In every particular
the "unjust judge" was the reverse of "Our Father." If the widow gained her
suit, how much more certainly will God's elect! (Luke 18:1-8).
Like many Oriental judges this man seemed to glory in
saying, "I fear not God, neither regard man." The widow knew it, yet, having
no other resource, she appealed to the official minister of justice. Some
villain, taking advantage of her weakness had stolen her cow, or robbed her
orchard, or filched part of her ground by removing the ancient landmark, and
was threatening further injury. So she went to the magistrate for protection
and redress. "Avenge me of my adversary." She had no influential friend, no
public press to appeal to, no power to compel or money to purchase
justice—yet she persevered. At first without success. One day the judge had
not yet risen; another day he had retired early. Now he was at dinner; now
with friends; now too busy. At length he promised to help her, not because
of duty or pity, but because annoyed by her pertinacity. Many a seemingly
good deed is prompted by no better motive.
Our adversary, the devil, wages perpetual war against the
elect of God, seeking to beguile or drive them into sin. Alas, that many
should treat their foe as a friend! They give heed to his counsel, admit him
to their abode, make over to him their chief treasure, and do his drudgery
as a delight; little dreaming that all the while he is apprehending their
Happy they who, whatever their sorrows, appeal against
sin as their foe. They know that the sin which is in them is not of them—not
what they were made for or wish—but an invader claiming what was never
rightfully his, a murderer seeking by separating them from God to destroy
them—as in the case of Job, trying to make earthly trouble an occasion of
spiritual injury, by distrust and resorting to wrong methods of alleviating
it. Therefore, the children of God appeal to Him for support. This adversary
tries to rob me of a good conscience, to snatch away my robe of
righteousness, to destroy my peace, to invade my heart, which belongs only
to You. Help me, O my Father! I cannot struggle alone against an adversary
so strong! Trials sent by You are, I know, for my good, but the enemy puts
poison into the cup, whose bitterness alone would never harm me. He perverts
Your dispensation of merciful chastisement into an occasion of malicious
injury. Counteract his devices! Drive away from this Gethsemane the lurking
devil who would make it a desert of doubt, instead of a garden of
The judge, "for a while" turned a deaf ear to the
supplicant; and God sometimes appears to "bear long" with the elect. The
rain does not at once descend on the parched ground; the empty cistern is
not filled; the light does not shine; the adversary mocks. But we are taught
"to pray and not to faint." God never delays to listen, but chooses His own
time for letting His help appear. Jesus tarried long after the urgent
message that His friend was sick. The woman of Canaan repeatedly urged her
petition, and Paul prayed again and again about his thorn in the flesh. Our
Lord Himself, in Gethsemane, shared in this seeming delay. He who was thus
tried as we are, bids us, in spite of discouragements, "always to pray and
not to faint."
The argument is a twofold contrast. The JUDGE was
unrighteous. He would help for the sake of a bribe, but disregarded the
widow who could pay him nothing. To him truth, equity, honor, were unmeaning
terms. How much more will prayer be heard by the infinitely righteous One,
whose promise and oath are pledged to uphold His law, support the needy, and
punish the wrong-doer! The judge was unmerciful as well as unrighteous. This
widow's tears had no effect on a nature steeped in selfishness. How much
more will prayer be answered by a God merciful and gracious, whose name is
Love, who pities His children, whose throne is a throne of grace, whose
nature is ever to have mercy! The judge, if willing, might be unable by
infirmity, absence, or press of engagements, to attend to the widow; but our
God never slumbers nor is weary, is always at hand, and, however numerous
the applicants, can give undivided attention to each one, at every moment
and without delay.
There is also a contrast between the PETITIONERS. In the
parable the suitor is a widow, indicating helplessness. There was nothing in
her position to commend her to notice. But believers belong to the highest
of all aristocracies. They are the chosen of God; their names are enrolled
in the archives of the royal palace; their peerage dates from before the
foundation of the world; they are kings and priests unto God. However poor
and despised in this world they claim relationship with glorified spirits,
angels are their ministers, they belong to the Royal Family of Heaven. "And
shall not God avenge His own elect?"
The widow applied on a private and personal matter.
Protect me—avenge me of my adversary. This enemy of
hers had not insulted or injured the judge. But the cause of God's elect is
His—as well as theirs. They are the Lord's jewels, and Satan tries to
rob the royal treasury. His success would be God's dishonor, whose heart is
set on bringing His many sons to glory; therefore the foe who would hinder
them is His foe too. If he who touches us "touches the apple of His eye,"
our petition is for God as well as for ourselves.
The widow was not summoned by the judge. On the
contrary, his notorious character discouraged her. But God's elect are
specially invited by the King. The Ruler's chosen Ambassador says, we "ought
always to pray and not to faint." Should we not then "come with boldness to
the throne of grace?" How can prayer be disregarded by Him who commands it?
The widow might fear lest importunity would incense the judge. But our
persevering supplication is welcomed by our Father, who loves to hear His
The widow drew up her own petition. The judge had
given her no advice how to approach him or what to ask. But our petition has
been indited by the Judge Himself. He has taught us what to pray for, and
even furnished us with words and pleas. He has recorded promises with which
to back up our requests.
The widow was alone. There was no crowd of
petitioners appealing against the same adversary. But God's elect are an
innumerable multitude. The saints in heaven unite with those on earth,
saying, "How long, O Lord, how long? How long shall the adversary assail
Your Church, distress Your children, seek to despoil and destroy Your
elect?" Crowds of petitioners stand day and night in the Presence, with one
heart and voice saying, "Avenge me of my adversary." If the solitary
petitioner was heard, will not the countless hosts of God's elect be heard?
Most of all, in the way of contrast, is the consideration
that the widow stood before the judge, without advocate or friend to
plead for her, whereas we have with us God's own Son to support our
petition, and ensure a favorable response. "He ever lives to make
intercession," and "Him the Father hears always." If the widow, standing
there alone, was successful in her suit, how much more will God avenge His
own elect, when they come before Him in numberless array, and with God's own
Son for Advocate.
Do we hesitate to take this comfort to ourselves, fearing
we are not of the elect? They are described as those who habitually pray.
This we are all commanded to do. If we accept the privilege and obey the
command, we have the best reason to know that we belong to the elect. If we
feel that sin is our chief adversary, earnestly strive to resist its
assaults, and fervently pray God to help us, we are among the elect of God,
whom Jesus described as praying day and night unto Him.
"And will not God avenge His own elect? He will avenge
them speedily, though He bears long with them." Trials often are removed
speedily, in a literal sense. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes
in the morning." And when deliverance seems delayed, yet in view of an
eternity of bliss, it comes speedily. When we reach our eternal home we
shall be astonished at the shortness of the journey which has led to such
unending bliss; and the lightness of the afflictions which wrought out such
an exceeding weight of glory.
Let us then never grow faint in prayer, but be assured
that we are answered in the best way, and that although sometimes the very
reverse of what we ask may seem to be sent, such disappointment to our
passing wishes is the real granting of our habitual desire—to be purified
from sin, to enjoy more of God, to be made more fit for heaven, and thus to
be delivered from our adversary. Yes, even in disappointment, we will
rejoice that God is answering the prayer of His elect, "though He bears long
"Grant me a life of active zeal," I said.
He laid me on sick bed.
"O let me rest with You in pastures green!"
Only steep crags are seen.