Daily Devotion Friday, 15 December 2023

St Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus  told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.  He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.  In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.”  For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’  And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?  I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’


By contrast with most Christians, who seem to fear the prospect of God’s judgement; many of the authors in the Old and New Testaments appeared to welcome God’s judgement as a vindication. They looked forward to the great Day of Judgement when all things would be set right again. How might we account for this discrepancy? CS Lewis suggests that both Christians and the biblical authors imagine God’s judgement being dispensed in the manner of a Court of Justice. But there is a crucial difference: Christians imagine a criminal case with themselves as the accused in the dock hoping for acquittal; many biblical authors imagined a civil case with themselves as the plaintiff hoping to be awarded substantial recompense from their adversary for damages incurred. 

In the parable that Jesus tells, the woman longs to have her case judged. She believes that she has been the victim of injustice, and if she could persuade the judge to hear her case she would be vindicated. Her persistence pays off: the judge eventually agrees to give her justice. The point of the parable is clear: if even a normally unresponsive judge will eventually dispense justice to a persistent plaintiff, how much more will God deliver justice to his beloved people who are persistent in prayer. To those with just cause, judgement is not to be feared but welcomed. 

But do we have a nagging suspicion that our causes and attitudes are not always just? If so, we can learn from some of the psalmists’ prayers. First, we can learn from their honest confession. “Against you, you alone, have I sinned . . . so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement.” Second, we can learn from the way they ask God for forgiveness and help. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:4, 10) Could we learn to welcome constructive judgement such as this?


“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.”

(Ps. 51:10-11)

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