Luke 18:7
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) And shall not God avenge his own elect?—There is at first something which jars on us in this choice of an extreme instance of human unrighteousness as a parable from which we are to learn the nature and the power of prayer. It is not as it was with the Unjust Steward, for there, according to the true interpretation of the parable, the unrighteous man stood for those who were relatively, at least, themselves unrighteous. It is a partial explanation that our Lord presses home upon the disciples an a fortiori argument. If reiterated entreaties prevail with men, whose character and wills are set against them, how much more with God, in whom character and will anticipate the prayer? Even so, however, we have the difficulty that the idea of prayer as prevailing, at last, through manifold repetitions, seems at variance with the teaching that condemns vain repetitions, on the ground that our Father knows our necessities before we ask Him. (See Note on Matthew 6:7.) May we not think that here, as elsewhere, there is an intentional assumption by our Lord of a stand-point which was not His own, but that of those whom He sought to teach? Even His disciples were thinking of God, not as their Father, who loved them, but as a far-off King, who needed to be roused to action. They called on Him in their afflictions and persecutions, and their soul fainted within them, and they became weary of their prayers. Might not the parable be meant (1) to teach such as these that from their own point of view their wisdom was to persevere in prayer, and (2) to lead them to reconsider the ground from which they had started? And the one result would in such a case lead on almost necessarily to the other. Prayer hag a marvellous self-purifying power, and the imperfect thoughts of God in which it may have had its beginning become clearer as it continues. It is one of the ever-recurring paradoxes of the spiritual life, that when we are most importunate we feel most strongly how little importunity is needed.

Avenge his own elect.—Literally, work out His vengeance for, the Greek noun having the article. The “vengeance” is not, however, that of retaliation such as human passions seek for, but primarily the “vindication” of God’s elect, the assertion of their rights, and includes retribution upon others only so far as it is involved in this. (Comp. the use of the word in Romans 12:19; 2Corinthians 7:11; Hebrews 10:30.) This is the first occurrence of the word “elect” in St. Luke’s Gospel, but it begins to be prominent about this time in our Lord’s teaching. (See Notes on Matthew 20:16; Matthew 24:22.) The “elect” are the disciples who being “called” obey the “call” (Romans 8:30). The further question, What leads them to obey? is not here in view.

Which cry day and night unto him.—The words look to the coming trials and afflictions of the elect, which as yet the disciples knew not, or knew only in part. To see the world against them, and its rulers crushing them, to fight against overwhelming odds, this would tempt them to think that God was not with them, that He had deceived them. (Comp. the language of Jeremiah 20:7.) In the prayer of the souls beneath the altar (Revelation 6:10), we have an echo of the question. In St. Peter’s insistence on the “long-suffering” of God (2Peter 3:9), we have a proof that he had learnt the answer.

Though he bear long with them.—Literally, bearing long with them. The better MSS. give “and bear long with them.” The English, which suggests the thought that God bears with, i.e., tolerates, His elect, is misleading. What is meant is, that He shows Himself slow to anger “over them,” i.e., where they are concerned. They implore that “long-suffering” for themselves. They are tempted to murmur when it is extended to others.

18:1-8 All God's people are praying people. Here earnest steadiness in prayer for spiritual mercies is taught. The widow's earnestness prevailed even with the unjust judge: she might fear lest it should set him more against her; but our earnest prayer is pleasing to our God. Even to the end there will still be ground for the same complaint of weakness of faith.Shall not God avenge ... - We are not to suppose that the character of God is at all represented by this judge, or that "his" principles of conduct are at all like those of the judge. This parable shows us conclusively that many "circumstances" of a parable are not to be interpreted closely: they are mere appendages to the narrative. The great truth which our Saviour "designed" to teach is what we ought to endeavor to find. In this case there can be no doubt what that truth is. He has himself told us that it is, that "men ought always to pray and not to faint." This he teaches by the example in the parable; and the argument which it implies is this:

1. A poor widow, by her perseverance only, obtained from an unjust man what otherwise she would "not" have obtained.

2. God is not unjust. He is good, and disposed to do justice and to bestow mercy.

If, therefore, this "wicked man" by persevering prayer was induced to do justice, how much more shall "God," who is good, and who is not actuated by any such selfish and base principles, do justice to them who apply to him!

Avenge - Do justice to or vindicate them. This may have a twofold reference.

1. To the disciples in the time of Jesus, who were about to be oppressed and persecuted, and over whom calamities were about to come, "as if" God did not regard their cries and had forsaken them. To them Jesus gives the assurance that God "would" hear their petitions and come forth to vindicate them; and that, notwithstanding all these calamities, he would yet appear for their deliverance.

2. It may have a more "general" meaning. The people of God are often oppressed, calumniated, persecuted. They are few in number and feeble. They seem to be almost forsaken and cast down, and their enemies triumph. Yet in due time God will hear their prayers, and will come forth for their vindication. And even if it should not be "in this life," yet he will do it in the day of judgment, when he will pronounce them blessed, and receive them forever to himself.

His own elect - People of God, saints, Christians; so called because God has "chosen" them to be his. The term is usually given in the Scriptures to the true followers of God, and is a term of affection, denoting his great and special love in choosing them out of a world of sinners, and conferring on them grace, and mercy, and eternal life. See 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:2; Ephesians 1:4. It signifies here that they are especially dear to him; that he feels a deep interest in their welfare, and that he will, therefore, be ready to come forth to their aid. The judge felt no special interest in that widow, yet he heard her; God feels a particular regard, a tender love for his elect, and, therefore, he will hear and save.

Which cry day and night - This expresses one striking characteristic of the elect of God; they pray, and pray constantly. No one can have evidence that he is chosen of God who is not a man of prayer. One of the best marks by which the electing love of God is known is that it disposes us to pray. This passage supposes that when the elect of God are in trouble and pressed down with calamities, they "will" cry unto him; and it affirms that if they do, he will hear their cries and answer their requests.

Though he bear long with them - This passage has been variously interpreted, and there is some variety of reading in the manuscripts. Some read, "Will not God avenge his elect? Will he linger in their cause?" But the most natural meaning is, "Although he defers long to avenge them, and greatly tries their patience, yet he will avenge them." He tries their faith; he suffers their persecutions and trials to continue a long time; and it almost "appears" as if he would not interpose. Yet he will do it, and will save them.

7. shall not God—not unjust, but the infinitely righteous Judge.

avenge—redeem from oppression.

his own elect—not like this widow, the object of indifference and contempt, but dear to Him as the apple of the eye (Zec 2:8).

cry day and night—whose every cry enters into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (Jas 5:4), and how much more their incessant and persevering cries!

bear long with them—rather, "in their case," or "on their account" (as) Jas 5:7, "for it"), [Grotius, De Wette, &c.].

See Poole on "Luke 18:2" And shall not God avenge his own elect,.... Who are a select number, a special people, whom he has loved with an everlasting love, so as of his own sovereign good will and pleasure to choose in his Son Jesus Christ unto everlasting life and salvation, through certain ways and means of his own appointing, hence they are peculiarly his: and these he will avenge and vindicate, right their wrongs, do them justice, and deliver them from their adversaries, and take vengeance on them; as may be concluded from his hatred of sin, his justice, and his holiness, from his promises, and from his power, and from the efficacy of prayer, and the regard he has to it: for it follows,

which cry unto him day and night; whose prayers he always hears; whose tears he puts up in his bottle; and whose importunity must surely be thought to have more regard with him, than that of the poor widow with the unjust judge:

though he bear long with them? either with their adversaries, their oppressors, and persecutors, who are vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, whom he endures with much longsuffering, till the sufferings of his people are accomplished, and the iniquities of these men are full; or rather with the elect, for the words may be rendered, "and is longsuffering towards them": delays his coming, and the execution of vengeance, as on the Jewish nation, so upon the whole world of the ungodly, till his elect are gathered in from among them; see 2 Peter 3:9.

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though {d} he bear long with them?

(d) Though he seems slow in avenging the harm done to his own.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 18:7. οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ, etc., will not God avenge, etc., the question implying strongly that He will, but the emphasis is rendered necessary by appearances to the contrary, which strongly try men’s faith in His good will—long delays in answering prayer which wear the aspect of indifference.—τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν α., His elect: standing in a close relation, so named to support the previous assertion. But in the dark hour of trial it is difficult to extract comfort from the title. Then the doubt arises: is the idea of election not a delusion? What are we to the far-off Deity?—τῶν βοώντων: from these words down to the end of the sentence (ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς) is a single clause meant to define the situation of “the elect”. They are persons who keep crying to God day and night, while He seems to pay no heed to them, but delays action in their case, and in their interest. The words down to νυκτός describe the need of Divine interference; those which follow describe the experience which tempts to doubt whether succour will be forthcoming.—μακροθυμεῖ: this verb means to be slow, leisurely, unimpulsive in temper, whether in punishing or in succouring, or in any other form of action. Instances of the use of the verb in the first-mentioned occur in 2Ma 6:14 (cited by Pricaeus) and Sirach 35:22 (οὐ μὴ βραδύνῃ οὐδὲ μὴ μακροθυμήσει ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς, frequently quoted). In Jam 5:7 it is applied to the husbandman waiting for harvest. Here it is applied to God’s leisureliness in coming to the help of tried saints. The construction καὶ μακροθυμεῖ is of the Hebraistic type.7. And shall not God] The argument is simply a fortiori. Even an unjust and abandoned judge grants a just petition at last out of base motives when it is often urged, to a defenceless person for whom he cares nothing; how much more shall a just and merciful God hear the cry and avenge the Cause of those whom He loves?

avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him] The best comment is furnished by Revelation 6:9-11. But the ‘avenging’ is rather the ‘vindication,’ i.e. the deliverance from the oppressor.

which cry] Literally, shout. It is “strong crying,” comp. James 5:4, ‘the shouts of the reapers of your fields.’

though he bear long with them] Literally, “though being longsuffering in their case.” Here the longsuffering of God is shewn not to His elect (though they too need and receive it, 2 Peter 3:9), but to their enemies. See Sir 35:17-18—another close parallel, probably an interpolated plagiarism from this Gospel. The elect are far more eager not only for deliverance, but even for vengeance, than God is. They shew too much of the spirit which God reproves in Jonah. But God knows man’s weakness and “therefore is He patient with them and poureth His mercy upon them.” Sir 18:11. But the best supported reading is καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ αὐτοῖς. This would denote that the longsuffering is shewn toward the elect. He is pitiful to them, in the midst of their impatience.Luke 18:7. Θεὸς, God) Who is a most righteous Judge.—ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν, effect the avenging of) These words are presently after repeated with the greatest force.—τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ, of His own elect) He is speaking of those elect in particular [besides the general truth taught by the parable] who were living at that time, and who were about to escape safe through the destruction of the city.—βοώντων, who cry) as being in great straits, to ask for their being avenged. [As being destitute of every other aid. This was the sacred anchor of David, Psalm 55:17-18.—V. g.]—[ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς, day and night) They severally cry night and day; but the cry of all, taken collectively, is undoubtedly altogether continuous, and never ceaseth.—V. g.]—μακροθυμεῖ) A striking reading [which, though the margin of the larger Edition judged it to be the inferior reading, is notwithstanding preferred to the other reading by the Germ. Version, which follows the margin of the Second Ed.—E. B.[198]] Any one may readily perceive the force of the construction (involved) in it: The elect cry to God, but God μακροθυμεῖ, bears long (delays the answer long), in their case (respecting them). The verb of the former member of the sentence in the text passes into the participle βοώντων, who cry; whilst the verb of the other member, μακροθυμεῖ, bears long (delays His purpose long), remains unmoved. I have brought together several examples of this construction, which has been assailed by many in all quarters, in my note on Mark 3:27. Moreover in this passage there is commended that long-suffering [long tarrying in executing His purpose] on the part of God, whereby He regards both the wrongs done by the wicked and the sufferings of the saints in such a way (comp. Isaiah 64:11-12) [Psalm 83:1-2] as that He does not immediately make an end of both, although men think that His wrath against the wicked and His compassion towards the saints require a most speedy end to be made. At length there is accomplished that which is said of the just, Sir. 35:22 (Al. 32:18), οὐδὲ μὴ μακροθυμήσει ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς Κραταιός.

[198] ABDQLX read μακροθυμεῖ; Vulg. “patientiam habebit;” Rec. Text, μακροθυμῶν, with abc.—E. and T.Verse 7. - And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him? The Master tells us that God permits suffering among his servants, long after they have begun to pray for deliverance. But we are counselled here to cry day and night unto him, and, though there be no signor reply, our prayers shall be treasured up before him, and in his own good time they will be answered. Though he bear long with them. With whom does God bear long? With the wrong-doers, whose works and words oppress and make life heavy and grievous to the servants of God; with these who have no claim to consideration will God bear long. And this announcement gives us some clue to the meaning of the delay we often experience before we get an answer to many of our prayers. The prayer is heard, but God, in the exercise of mercy and forbearance, has dealings with the oppressors. It were easy for the Almighty to grant an immediate answer, but only at the cost often of visiting some of the oppressors with immediate punishment, and this is not his way of working. God bears long before his judgments swift and terrible are sent forth. This has ever been his way of working with individuals as with nations. Was it not thus, for instance, that he acted towards Egypt and her Pharaohs during the long period of the bitter Hebrew bondage? We who would he God's servants must be content to wait God's time, and, while waiting, patiently go on pleading, sure that in the end "God will avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him." And shall not God

The emphasis is on God. In the Greek order, "and God, shall he not," etc.

Though he bear long with them

A very difficult passage, and interpretations vary greatly.

(1.) The verb μακροθυμέω means to be long-suffering, or to endure patiently. Such is its usual rendering in the New Testament.

(2.) Them (αὐτοῖς) refers not to the persecutors of God's elect, but to the elect themselves. The Rev. cuts the knot by the most literal of renderings: "and he is long-suffering over (ἐπι) them."

(3.) The secondary meaning of restraining or delaying may fairly be deduced from the verb, and explained either (a) of delaying punishment, or (b) of delaying sympathy or help.

The Am. Rev. adopts the former, and throws the sentence into the form of a question: "And is he slow to punish on their behalf" ( ἐπ' αὐτοῖς) ? I venture to suggest the following: Καὶ not infrequently has the sense of yet, or and yet. So Euripides' "Thou art Jove-born, and yet (καὶ) thy utterance is unjust "("Helena," 1147). Aristophanes: "O crown, depart, and joy go with thee: yet (καὶ) I part from thee unwillingly" ("Knights," 1249). So John 9:30 : "Ye know not from whence he is, and yet (καὶ) he hath opened my eyes." John 16:32 : "Ye shall leave me alone, and yet (καὶ) I am not alone," etc. Render, then, "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry unto him day and night; yet he delayeth help on their behalf," even as the unjust judge delayed to avenge the widow? Surely he will, and that ere long. This rendering, instead of contrasting God with the judge, carries out the parallel. The judge delays through indifference. God delays also, or seems to delay, in order to try his children's faith, or because his purpose is not ripe; but he, too, will do justice to the suppliant. Tynd., Yea, though he defer them.

"He hides himself so wondrously,

As though there were no God;

He is least seen when all the powers

Of ill are most abroad.

O there is less to try our faith,

In our mysterious creed,

continued...

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