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it is an interpolation from Matthew, XXIV. 40. strengthens the preceding illustration.
In the East, much of the wheat is ground for bread by women with hand mills. It is a familiar sight to see these women sitting together engaged in friendly conversation, and turning their mills. See A Diary of My Life in the Holy Land.
The terrible scrutiny of God has no need of time. One of the women is taken into Christ's kingdom; the other is rejected. By these illustrations Christ teaches us that in all the ranks of society the fearful scrutiny and discrimination will take place.
On the stage of the world's great play the good and the bad are commingled. Sometimes society is able to distinguish the good man from the evil man; but its judgment is not universal nor inerrant. Full oft beneath a fair exterior the foul sin hides. It requires the judgment of God to make the absolute classification, and it is of this classification that Christ speaks.
As the Lord had spoken of these persons being taken, the disciples wonder where they are to be taken, and they ask: "Where, Lord?"
The Lord answers not directly; man can not now comprehend these mysteries. But he teaches them that the elect will instinctively come to the Son of God, as the raptorial birds instinctively are gathered together where a cadaver of a beast lies in the field.
We must observe in this place that the term ȧerós, eagle, is a generic term including very many species of raptorial birds. The eagle preys upon lambs, hares, rabbits, other birds, such as grouse, and carrion. In Scriptural language the term eagle is loosely applied in general to large raptorial birds. Hence vultures would be included in the term.
The illustration is very strong. The dead body of a camel, horse, or other beast lies in the field. By some strange instinct the raptorial birds discover its presence, and are gathered to it from all points. The Lord deigns to make use of this figure to describe the assembling of the just around the Son of God. The figure does not assert any similarity of nature between the two objects of attraction. The force of
the simile is in the flight of the birds from many points to a common center, and the gathering of the just from the four winds around the Son of God. There is not a similarity of number: the birds are a relatively small number; the assemblage of the just is made up of the countless host of the waiting dead. One point alone is illustrated, that no man will need to be directed whither to go in that day. With a surer instinct than the eagle is drawn to its prey, he will be drawn to his Lord and judge.
LUKE XVIII. 1-8
I. And he spoke a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2. Saying: There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man:
3. And there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying: Avenge me of mine adversary.
4. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5. Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming.
6. And the Lord said: Hear what the unrighteous judge saith.
7. And shall not God avenge his elect, who cry to him day and night, and he is longsuffering over them?
8. I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily. Howbeit when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
I. Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς, καὶ μὴ ἐνκακεῖν.
2. Λέγων: Κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει τὸν Θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος, καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος:
3. Χήρα δὲ ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτὸν, λέγουσα: Εκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου.
4. Καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἐπὶ χρόνον: μετὰ ταῦτα δὲ εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ: Εἰ καὶ τὸν Θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι, οὐδὲ ἄνθρωπον ἐντρέπομαι,
5. Διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην, ἐκδικήσω αὐτὴν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με.
6. Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος: Ακού σατε τὶ ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει.
7. Ὁ δὲ Θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς, καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ ̓ αὐτοῖς;
8. Λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει. Πλὴν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς;
In the seventh verse μакроlvμeî is found in N, B, A, D, L, Q, X, II, et al.
The aim of the present parable is to recommend faith and perseverance in prayer, during the time of persecution. The Lord predicted that terrible days should come upon the elect in that interval that should intervene between his first and second coming. In the calamities of those days, the Christian's support should be prayer, and the Lord admonishes men to understand well the nature of prayer. The parable also implies that the answer to prayer is sometimes apparently deferred by God for his own wise reasons.
We say apparently deferred; for a good prayer is always heard. God chooses in his wisdom what to give. The good we do to our friends is only a relative good; we may give them a hurtful thing, in the belief that we are benefitting them. But God gives the absolute good. This good may be the testing of our faith by withholding what we ask for. We can not follow the workings of an infinite mind. We know that God hears us always, if we pray aright, and hence we should pray always with earnestness and confidence, and leave to God the election of what is best for us.
The Lord illustrates this by the example of a wicked judge who is moved by the persistence of a poor widow to render her justice. To strengthen the figure a judge is chosen who feared not God, and regarded not man. Many men who fear not God, are moved to certain just actions by a certain regard for society. But in this judge there was no motive to move him to do a good deed. And his client is a poor widow without any social influence.
The judge resists her for a while, but finally, moved by no good motive, he does her justice, to be free from the annoyance of her coming.
We are persuaded that the Evangelist employs the verb Vπwπia in the fifth verse in the metaphorical sense, to "annoy greatly." The first meaning of the verb is to strike one under the eye; and hence its derived meaning, to beat black and blue. But a judge could not reasonably fear personal violence from a poor widow. What he wished to avoid was
the vexation of her continual coming, and he rid himself of this by granting her petition.
The force of the illustration is this: An evil man, in whom there is no natural or supernatural goodness, is moved by the petition of a poor widow, for whom he cared nothing, to grant her request, because it was persistent. Much more will God, a being of infinite goodness, be moved by the prayer of man whom he loves.
The Lord speaks of avenging his elect. The elect of God are oppressed by the wicked powers of the world. In their sufferings they cry to God to defend them from their oppressors, and God speedily hears them. The elect of God do not ask for vengeance upon their enemies. They have been taught the prayer of the Master: "Father, forgive them." But they cry to God to help them, and that cry always reaches Heaven. Sometimes God hears his elect by letting them die by the hands of persecutors. These receive the crown of martyrdom. At other times, he plucks away a sorrow, and gives a temporal blessing; but he can not entirely remove the cross, because the essence of the Christian life is to take up the cross, and follow Jesus.
The lesson is plain: Pray always, God hears you; but do not measure God's hearing by what your poor eyes see.
There is some difference of opinion as to the exact meaning of the phrase, “and he is longsuffering over them.” · Some believe that the form of the question denies that God will be longsuffering in regard to the evils that men practice toward his elect. This opinion is impossible, for the reason that it contradicts God's declared attitude towards evil men. The sense seems to be that God, who is long suffering regarding his elect, inasmuch as he allows evil men to afflict them, will eventually avenge them, and that avenging will come speedily as God reckons duration.
The reason that prayer fails is that faith fails. Hence the Lord associates with prayer its basis, faith. Prayer is faith speaking to God. When faith is weak, its prayer will be feeble.
The form of the question in the eighth verse demands a negative answer. It imports that before the last days there
(29) Gosp. III
will be a great falling off of faith. In this dim border land of mystery we can not see those issues clearly. The Lord has not willed to reveal the mysteries of the last days more clearly, and we leave them till a clearer revelation shall be made in the coming of our Saviour. No evil is so great as the loss of faith. A man may have faith and not please God; but without faith it is impossible to please God. A man can exercise no vital function without the principle of life in him; and in like manner no man can do anything good in the spiritual order without faith, which is the basic principle of the spiritual life. If all those who lost their faith since the beginning of Christianity, were assembled they would form a mighty multitude. The Lord saw all these. He saw also the dreadful days which shall immediately precede the end of the world. Though the prophecy is dim there seems to be predicted in these a trial of the Church in which many shall fail. The long fierce warfare that the world has always waged against faith will culminate in that last effort of the powers of evil. It is good for us to know that we live in a world which is opposed to our faith. It is good for us to know that faith may be lost. It is good for us to know how Christ prizes faith that we may fight the good fight, and keep the faith.