Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
The Importunate Widow
WITH all his ungodliness and with all his inhumanity, there was a widow in that city who brought the unjust, judge to his senses. His boast within himself was that he neither feared God nor regarded man, but there was a widow in that city who made him both fear her and regard her. There were many widows who had adversaries in our Lord's land and day, and He must have known more than one of them. His own mother Mary may very well have been one of them. Who knows but that she herself was this very widow with an adversary? Nothing is more likely. At any rate, whoever this widow was, by this time she was driven all but beside herself with adversity and oppression and robbery. She had spent all her living on daysmen and mediators, but the unjust judge was a companion of thieves and he would not hear her advocates. And, had it not been for her fatherless and fast-starving children, she would soon have been laid out of sight and out of hearing in her dead husband's forgotten grave. It was her orphaned and starving children that made their mother to be like a she-bear robbed of her whelps. Avenge me of mine adversary! She stood in the way of the unjust judge's chariot all day and cried out, Avenge me of mine adversary! She burst in upon the business of his court and cried, Avenge me of mine adversary! She stood under his window all night and cried out, Avenge me of mine adversary! And he would not for a while. But after that day when this wild woman suddenly sprang in upon him with a knife hidden away among her rags-after that day he said, Because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. There is a tinge of blood in the original ink that is lost in the tame translation, because there was a gleam of blood in the widow's wild eye on that last day of her warning and appeal to the unjust judge. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night to Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.
Now it is not by any means every woman who has the making of a "widow indeed" in her. And it is not by any means every soul under sanctification who cries for victory over sin day and night. There are many-even gracious souls among us-to whose case this Scripture does not by any means answer. But there are some other souls who say unto their Lord as soon as He has spoken this about the widow and her adversary to them: Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no parable. Now we are sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee: for by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God. Such souls are sure that He knows all things about them, at any rate; and by His knowledge of them and of their adversary they believe that He has come forth to them from God. And, like one who has come forth from God and who knows the secret things of God, He here announces to us who are God's elect among us, and who are not. Every elect soul, He says, is like that widow in that city. For every elect soul is poor, and downtrodden, and dispossessed, and desolate. Is, or ought to be. As that widow had an adversary who had done all that to her, even so, every soul, elect to a great salvation, has an adversary who has done all that to it, and far more than all that. I do not know, and I cannot tell you, the name of that widow's adversary in that city. But if you do not know I will tell you the name of the universal adversary of all God's elect in this city. It is sin. This widow had only one adversary, and so it is with the elect. You never hear from their lips a demand for vengeance against any adversary of theirs but one. And all elect souls have one and the same adversary. And this is as good to them all as the seal of their election, this, that their only and real adversary is sin. Now you would all like to be assured, would you not, that you are among God's elect? You would all like to get a glimpse, for a moment, into the book of God's decrees, so as to read your name there. But you do not need to climb up to heaven in order to make your election sure. Who is your adversary? Who makes your life a burden to you? Who persecutes and oppresses and impoverishes your soul day and night continually? Against whom is it that you, almost demented, cry without ceasing, Avenge you of your adversary? Sin is the spot of God's children. Sin, and the woe it works in the soul, is the seal of God's elect. Have you that spot? Have you that seal? Has your sin dispossessed you, and beggared you, and driven you beside yourself? Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal. Now, are you such? Look well into yourself and see. Among all your adversaries, who is it that drives you day and night to God, like this woman to the judge? Do you think that our Lord counts you up among His Father's elect? I think He does? I am sure He does, if your adversary that you cry to be revenged upon is sin.
Avenge me! the widow cries. Her heart is full of her great wrongs. Her heart is full of a great rage. Her heart is full of fire. And she here puts her hot words into our mouth. She teaches our sin-tortured souls how to pray. She says to us, Remember me. Imitate me. I got vengeance done at last on mine adversary. Take no rest until you have got vengeance done on yours. She being dead, yet speaketh. Let us imitate her. Let us call on God as she called on the judge. Let us dwell day and night before God on our great wrongs. Let us keep ever repeating before Him what we have suffered at our adversary's hands. Tell Him that it is past telling. Tell Him that you are beside yourself. Tell Him that all He can do to your adversary will not satisfy your fierce feelings. O sin! O sin! How thou hast persecuted my soul down to the ground! How thou hast robbed and desolated my soul! How thou hast made my life a burden to me! How thou hast driven me sometimes beside myself with thy cruel and bitter bondage! How my soul sometimes seeks death to escape from thee! O thou foul and cruel tyrant, I will surely be revenged upon thee yet!
And He spake this parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray. Not once; not twice; not seven times; not a thousand times. But always till we are avenged of our adversary. We are not to pray against a besetting sin for a time, and then to despair and let it have its own way with us. We are to pray always. We are to pray on till we need to pray no longer. No sooner is one such prayer offered than we are to begin another. No sooner have we said, Amen! than we must say with our very next breath, O Thou that hearest prayer; to Thee shall all flesh come. No sooner have we risen off our knees than we must return to our knees. No sooner have we opened the door to come out of our closet than we must shut the door again, and return to our Father who seeth in secret. To whom else can we go? To whom else can we tell it all out, how our iniquities still continue to prevail against us?
Always, or as it is rendered in the seventh verse, day and night. All day and all night; the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. The first thing in the morning and then all the day. When you open your eyes, and before that, always say this, When I awake, I am still with Thee. When you rise off your bed always say, Awake, my soul, and with the sun thy daily stage of duty run. When you wash your hands and your face say, Wash Thou me, and I shall be clean. When you bathe your whole body say, There is a fountain filled with blood, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. When you dress yourself say, He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness. And then when you go forth to your day's work say with David when he went forth to his day's work, On Thee do I wait all the day. What is your occupation? Whatever it is say as you again enter on it, The kingdom of heaven is like this, and that, more than on earth is thought. Are you a carpenter? say So was He. Are you a mason? say Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid. Are you a laundress? say His raiment was shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. Are you a cook? When you burn yourself, then say with Brother Lawrence, Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? And say with him also, Even the dogs eat of the crumbs. Are you a preacher? say Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. Are you a physician? say Physician, heal thyself. And say Esculapius healed many, but at last he succumbed himself. And say at every patient's door with Sir Thomas Browne, Peace be to this house, and health from the God of their salvation. Are you a banker? say to yourself, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. Are you an aurist? say He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? Are you an oculist? say He that formed the eye, shall He not see? Do you own horses, or ride or drive, horses? say Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. And are you not good at driving? Then say like the English clown: I have driven into the ditch, O Jesus Christ, take Thou the reins! When on the street you see a prisoner in the hands of his jailor, say There goes John Newton, but for the grace of God. No, it was when John Newton saw a scaffold that he said that. And, speaking of John Newton, if you are a shoe-black, say If only for the credit of Christ, I will be the best shoe-black in the parish. When you meet a funeral, take off your hat and say The sands of time are sinking. When you meet a marriage, say Behold, the bridegroom cometh! When the sun sets in the west, say There shall be no night in heaven. When you lay your head down on your pillow say, if only out of respect to your sainted mother, This night I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. When you cannot sleep, say At midnight will I rise and praise Thee. And when you awake in the morning, say Nevertheless, I am still with Thee. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.
There is a well-known system of medicine that, most paradoxically as one would think, for a cure prescribes a little more of that which caused the sickness. I do not know whether that is sound science, or whether it is what its enemies call it. That is not my field. But this is. And I am safe and certain to say that whether homœopathy is sound medicine or no, it holds in divinity, and especially in this department of divinity, unfainting prayer for sanctification. If you are fainting in prayer for sanctification I recommend and prescribe to you Samuel Hahnemann's dictum similia similibus curantur. Only not in small doses. The opposite of that. Small doses in prayer will be your death. The very thing that has caused your whole head to be sick, and your whole heart to be faint,-hitherto unanswered prayer, answered or unanswered, pray you on. The answer is not your business. It is importunate and unfainting prayer that is your only business. And, always, more and more importunate and unfainting prayer. Similia similibus. Mix up your medicine with every meal. Make your whole meal upon your medicine. Have it standing ready at your bedside all night. Take it the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning. And if you hear the hours striking all night, betake yourself to your sure febrifuge and sleeping draught. In plain words, when you faint in prayer for a holy heart continue all the more instant in that prayer. Pray always for a holy heart, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watch thereunto with all perseverance. The next time you feel your heart ready to faint in that kind of prayer, call to mind Who says this to you, and where He says it. This, that men ought always to pray against this adversary, and not to faint.
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find such prayer on the earth? I do not know. I cannot tell. The earth is too large for me to speak for it, and too far away from me. My matter is, shall He find such prayer in me? Shall He find me in my bed, or on my knees? Shall I be reading this parable of His for the ten thousandth time to keep my heart from fainting? Shall, Avenge me of mine adversary, be on my lips at the moment when the judgment-angel puts the last trump to his lips? And shall I be found of him on my knees, and with my finger on this scripture, when the trumpet shall sound, and I shall be changed?
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Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'The Importunate Widow'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wbc/t/the-importunate-widow.html. 1901.