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The unjust judge

June 2002 | by Edgar Andrews

Last month we saw how discouragement is one of Satan’s major weapons. Depressed and discouraged Christians pose little threat to his kingdom and bring no glory to God. Jesus told the parable of the ‘unjust judge’ to help us resist the temptation to ‘lose heart’ (Luke 18:1-8).

The Greek word translated ‘lose heart’ (AV ‘faint’) is a combination of the words ‘bad’ and ‘out’. A literal rendering in English might be the slang expression ‘cop-out’. When we lose heart, we are ‘copping out’, resigning our responsibilities and failing our calling.

The point of the parable

The unjust judge represents God by way of contrast. The strength of the analogy between God and the unjust judge lies in the total contrast between them.

The point of the parable is this: If an ungodly man like the unjust judge can be moved to answer the widow’s cry, how much more shall God, who is perfect in love and righteousness, open his hand and heart to his needy children!

In Part 1 we saw first how God is altogether sovereign in knowledge and power, unlike the judge with his limited jurisdiction (‘a certain city’).

If we serve such a God, we have no right to ‘lose heart’, for he makes ‘all things work together for good to those who love God … who are the called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

Secondly, we saw that while the judge ‘did not fear God’, God himself always works to glorify himself. The Father glorifies the Son and the Son glorifies the Father in perfect reciprocity.

If God is masterminding all things for his glory, there is nothing we should fear. His purposes will be gloriously fulfilled, and his children will partake of that fulfilment. There is no room here for discouragement.

So, what more can we learn from the parable of the unjust judge?

Regarding man

The unjust judge, we are told, ‘did not .. regard man’; that is, he had neither concern nor consideration for his fellow men. All that mattered to him was his own comfort and well-being. How typical of many today!

But does God regard man? He most certainly does. To begin with, he created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27). This inestimable privilege was granted to no other created being.

Glorious as they are, even the angels are not treated thus, but are destined to serve mankind as ‘spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14).

Why did God bestow such privilege on man? Because he has purposed a glorious destiny for humanity. Psalm 8 expands on this theme: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of him?

‘You made him a little [or for a little while] lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour … you put all things in subjection under his feet’ (Hebrews 2:6-8).

Hebrews points out that this destiny is as yet unfulfilled. Man is still, for a little while, under probation, not least because of Adam’s fall and the rebellion of the human heart.

At present we see none but the man Christ Jesus crowned with glory and honour (Hebrews 2:9).

But he is the fore-runner of ‘many sons’ whom God is ‘bringing to glory’ through Christ’s salvation (Hebrews 6:20; 2:10). Believers, as representative of mankind, look forward to an eternity of glory with Christ, the church’s heavenly bridegroom.

‘Behold’, writes John: ‘what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God … and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be … but when [Christ] is revealed we shall be like him’ (1 John 3:2).

With such a prospect, how can we lose heart?

Poverty and riches

But that is not all. God’s loving regard for human kind is such that, to accomplish ‘so great a salvation’ (Hebrews 2:3), ‘he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

‘Though he was rich’, declares the apostle, ‘yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Christ came ‘to seek and to save that which was lost’ and ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (Luke 19:10; Matthew 20:28).

It is precisely because God regards man with such gracious and unchanging love in Christ, that we have no reason to lose hope. Paul argues the point with irrefutable logic:

‘What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ (Romans 8:31-32).

No room there, then, for losing heart!

All the wrong reasons

The unjust judge dispensed justice of a kind, but he did so for all the wrong reasons. He was not interested in the merits of the case, merely in his own comfort. By contrast, God is perfect in justice – Christ wields ‘a sceptre of righteousness’ and has ‘loved righteousness and hated lawlessness’ (Hebrews 1:8-9).

Now this, of course, would not be good news to sinners if they had nothing to argue but the merits of their own case. But those who are taught of the Spirit have learned to plead the merits of another, namely, ‘Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And unlike the unjust judge, God pays special attention to the merits of his Son. So much so, that we who trust in Christ are ‘accepted in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace’ (Ephesians 1:6-7).

Of course, this is mercy. But it is also justice! For Christ has paid the price for our sins to satisfy the justice of God, so that no further penalty can justly be exacted from us, sinners though we are.

God has ‘made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

No weariness with God

The judge in the parable had another problem – he grew weary of the widow’s incessant pleading. But God does not grow weary of the prayers of his people!

‘Have you not known?’ expostulates Isaiah. ‘Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary… He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might he increases strength…

‘Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:27-31).

Because God does not grow weary of our prayer, we who wait on him with the expectation of faith also will not faint. We shall not lose heart because our great and gracious God himself does not lose heart.

He may delay his answer to his people’s prayers – he often ‘bears long with them’ (Luke 18:7). Nevertheless, asks Jesus: ‘shall he not avenge his own elect who cry out day and night to him? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily’ (Luke 18:8).

Will he find faith?

The parable has a sting in its tail. Having declared that those who wait upon God in faith will, like the widow, be vindicated, Jesus adds: ‘Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

What does he imply by these words? He is telling us that the faith that waits upon the Lord, and cries out to him day and night, is a rare commodity. It will be scarce when he returns to earth, and it is scarce today.

Where is the fervent effectual prayer and spirit of Elijah? (James 5:16-18). Where are the warriors of faith of whom we read in Hebrews 11? Where are the men and women ‘who know their God [and] shall be strong and carry out great exploits? (Daniel 11:32)?

We should examine ourselves. Are we among those who lose heart, and ‘cop out’ of the spiritual warfare? Or are we fighting ‘the good fight’ and running the race God has set before us, ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-2)?

The reality of our faith will be demonstrated by unwearied prayer and fervent expectation. God will not fail us.