Sunday, October 16, 2016

Holy Stubbornness

"In that town there was a widow"

On Sundays I like to let an ancient Christian writer explain something about a passage of scripture. This time I've got Ephrem the Syrian, one of the early Christian Movement's greatest poets, among other things. Theological trivia of the day: he's technically not discussing the actual Gospel of Luke but a portion of the Diatessaron, an early attempt to combine the 4 gospels into one continuous story. The result is the same for our purposes but FYI the scripture quotation below is from Luke, not from the Diatessaron. It's also my first try here at translating the scripture myself, something I might try again sometime if it turns out ok. The link leads to my traditional NET Bible.

Jesus told a parable to teach them they should always pray and never get discouraged. “There once was a judge in a certain town," he began, "who had no reverence for God and respected nobody. And in that town there was a widow. She kept coming before him with the plea, ‘Give me justice against my opponent!’ For a while he rejected her plea, but finally he told himself, ‘I may not revere God or respect anyone, but this widow is wearing me out! So I will give her justice, before her constantly coming before me becomes intolerable!’”

The Lord concluded, “Listen to what this unjust judge is saying! And won't God most certainly make sure that justice is done for his chosen people, who plead with him day and night? Will he delay executing justice for them? I'm telling you he will see to it that they receive justice -- and soon! But even so, when the Son of Man comes will he find any faith on the earth?”

Gospel of Luke 18.1-8


How was that unjust judge immoral and wicked? How was the upright judge gracious and just? The first in his iniquity was not willing to vindicate the widow, and in his wickedness, he was not willing to put her mind at rest. The justice of God knows how to vindicate, and his grace discerns how to give life. The iniquity of this wicked judge was contrary to the justice of God, and the wickedness of this rebel was in opposition to the grace of the gentle One. His wickedness therefore was stubbornness, for it dared to go against the fear of God. His boldness was stubborn, for it refused the lowly person.

These two were stubborn, but persistent prayer was even more stubborn. The persistence of the widow humiliated both the iniquity that was rebelling against God and the boldness that was behaving arrogantly towards human beings. She subjected them to her will, so that they might provide her with a vindication over her adversary. Persistence transformed these two bitter branches, and they bore sweet fruit that was against their nature. The iniquity of the judge brought about a righteous judgment and a just retribution for the falsely accused woman. His wickedness gave peace to the afflicted one, although iniquity does not know how to judge, and wickedness does not know how to give refreshment.

Persistence forced these two evil and bitter branches to give good fruit against their nature. If we persist in prayer, we should be even more able to prevail on the grace and justice of God to give us fruit that agrees with their nature. Let justice vindicate us, and let grace refresh us. Accordingly, the fruit of justice is the just reward of the oppressed, while the giving of refreshment to the afflicted is the fruit of grace.

Ephrem the Syrian (born c. AD 306 died after 373)
Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 16.16.

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