“And shall not God avenge his own elect,
which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them?”
~ Luke 18:7
Our verse contrasts God with “the unjust judge” in the previous verses. This man was unrighteous—he “feared not God” (Luke 18:2). He was also without compassion and mercy—he “neither regarded man” (Luke 18:2). He refused to hear the case of the plaintive widow “for a while” (Luke 18:4), though she was oppressed by an “adversary” (Luke 18:3). The widow was one who had no power to avenge herself. She was easily oppressed and taken advantage of, if none would intervene on her behalf. For all of this, the unjust judge was neither compelled to relieve her by duty nor by love.
However, eventually, the woman was avenged. Interestingly, the judge’s heart did not soften to her pitiful estate; neither did his neck bend to transcendent justice. He was made neither righteous, nor caring, but the widow won her case only by “her continual coming” (Luke 18:5). She found neither love nor mercy with this wicked judge, but she did find justice, although it was served both tardy and cold.
The contrast, and the lesson learned by it, could not be more blatant. God is “the righteous judge” (2 Timothy 4:8) and “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). God cannot forsake justice. Though He is “slow to anger,” He “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). The unjust judge did not consider the widow in her estate, but God is “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows” (Psalm 68:5).
Ah, but the contrast continues. In His judgment, God is neither petty nor austere. With Him is found mercy and love in abundance: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15). All of His judgments of His people are bathed in mercy: “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). It is not only that He can show mercy, but “he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18). Mercy is His delight and rejoicing.
Furthermore, the judge had no personal connection with the widow. She was simply another demand on his time. He found her an inconvenience—“this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:5). What was it to him whether she found justice or not? So, the contrast is furthered by considering the relation of the Righteous Judge to “his own elect, which cry day and night unto him.” These are His people that cry unto Him. Though a woman could discard “the son of her womb,” refuse to “have compassion,” and “forget” him, God says to His people, “yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15). He declares, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continuously before me” (Isaiah 49:16).
In light of this testimony, our text is a conclusion that cannot be otherwise. The context of our verse is a parable, and a peculiar one at that. It is peculiar because it is prefaced by the primary purpose for the parable. The first verse tells us, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The whole must be interpreted in light of this purpose, especially our text. If this widow found justice at the hands of an unjust judge solely by her perseverance, how could it be possible that the people of God shall not be delivered when they cry day and night unto their Father? And, shall their deliverance not be much greater through the hands of their benevolent Father in heaven? Christ also answered the question, “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:8).
We must not think that our faith shall not be tried in this matter. Christ frames the promise saying, “though he bear long with them.” As the people of God labor for His cause in the world, as they go forth to war for the sake of His kingdom, they meet with opposition and oppression. This word is spoken to us not to despair of His deliverance, for it seems to us He delays it. It not only seems that way to His people, but also to their enemies. For this cause, they revile and mock, as they did David: “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psalm 42:3). Do we think the man after God’s own heart should have to wait patiently on the Lord’s salvation and we shall not suffer the same? Though we wait on the vindication of Christ in us, we must not despair. “He will avenge them speedily.”
We must give heed that His people “cry day and night unto him.” I see no promise without this cry. Our resolve must be as the Psalmist who declared, “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:16-17). This fervent prayer was not birthed from personal desire for success, nor was it for deliverance from inner personal struggle. His heart was “sore pained” with the “terrors of death” upon him (Psalm 55:4). He cried, “Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me” (Psa. 55:5). Why? “Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me” (Psalm 55:3).
Oh that we would take up the cause of Christ in the world today! Oh that we would be so jealous and zealous for His honor that we would “cry day and night” in prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Oh that we would cry unto God day and night that the nations would be subdued under His feet and that they would give Him the glory due unto His name (Psalm 96:7-8)! Amen!