God’s Word for You
Luke 11:5-8 bold persistence
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, July 9, 2018
5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine who is on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to set before him.’ 7 Then the one inside replies, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, he won’t get up and give him anything on account of their friendship, but on account of his bold persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
What are we to make of this illustration by our Lord? It is not a parable. It’s really an argument from the lesser to the greater, or as one commentator said, “from the worse to the better” (Trench). Maybe it would be healthy to just break apart all the pieces from the story Jesus tells (as Lenski does, Luke p. 625) and put them in terms of our relationship with our Father in prayer.
- “A friend.” The Heavenly Father is much more than a friend.
- “Midnight” (Greek μεσονυκτίον, mesonyktion, is the middle of the night, but more midnight than just any old time in the darkness, cp. Mark 13:35). There is no bad time for addressing God. Many of us pray in the small hours of the night, sitting up on the edge of our beds after loved ones have gone to sleep, to wrestle in prayer with our Heavenly Preserver who promises to listen to us and to answer us.
- “A friend of mine who is on a journey.” You would not bother a neighbor about this (our culture with its open-all-night-stores doesn’t quite realize what it’s like to actually have nothing to offer to someone), but God invites us to pray for anything and on behalf of anyone. Even an unbeliever—whom God would never listen to—can benefit if a Christian intercedes on his behalf, as when God told Abimelech the Philistine to ask Abraham to pray on his behalf (Genesis 20:7).
- “I don’t have anything to set before him.” Hospitality was important in the Eastern world. Recall Abraham so eager to please three strangers who appeared near his tent and his bowing, polite words, washing their feet, the invitation to rest and be refreshed while an entire banquet was prepared for them (Genesis 18:2-5). Even the Gentile ruler of Malta was happy to be host to Paul and his shipwrecked companions for three days (Acts 28:7). But here the contrast is between a truly unreasonable request (who would expect more than a drink of water or wine at midnight?) and every request we make of our Heavenly Father. He invites us to pray and to ask for whatever we need. Jesus promised: “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).
- “Three loaves of bread.” I am not impressed by commentators who think that our requests will always be for more important matters than a few dinner rolls (these artous “loaves” were small; three would be just enough for a traveler’s meal). A starving man will ask for what he needs at the moment; he may not know what more to pray for, but he will be blessed because the Holy Spirit knows what we need even if we cannot articulate it (Romans 8:26).
- “My children and I are in bed.” Here the neighbor—who represents the Father in Jesus’ comparison—has a flimsy excuse. Everybody’s in bed! My children are asleep! I can’t get up and prepare anything for you because I might wake them up! This is taken to be selfish by some, unfriendly at least, but we might see it as simply practical in our culture. Yet this isn’t how our Heavenly Father reacts. There is never a bad moment for him; never a reason for him not to hear us or to grant what we ask for.
A minor, but increasingly important, issue, is that the neighbor in the analogy is clearly a man and not a woman, as we see in the Greek masculine pronouns such as autou (αὐτοῦ) and the consistently masculine forms of “friend” (Φίλε, ϕίλον, ϕίλος), etc. Note also that this man has children—perhaps many children—but there is no mention of a wife. He is the Father and they are his children. This is yet another picture of our relationship with God the Father. A recent movement in certain Reformed churches such as the United Methodist Church has resulted in statements like this one: “The United Methodist clergy and laity (should) be encouraged to use diverse biblical images and titles for God, including masculine/feminine metaphors” (Book of Resolutions 2016 No. 8008, p. 679). This has resulted in Christian ministers using the pronoun “she” for God, even in the Lord’s Prayer, which violates the language of Scripture and in fact calls Jesus Christ (a) a liar, or (b) in error—either of which would be impossible and are more than offensive. It is blasphemy on the part of the Methodists and others to insist on these things and this shows that feminism in these denominations is a goal unto itself at the cost of anything else, and that the authors and propagators of this movement are false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing (we will discuss this further in chapter 15). A Christian who remains in a church body that espouses this teaching is like a man climbing aboard the Titanic and offering to paint the deck after the lifeboats have all launched.
Notice that the point of Jesus’ analogy is that we be bold in our prayer. Jesus will talk about persistence in another place (Luke 18:1-8). Here his point is to be like this man who showed “bold persistence.” This word, anaideia (ἀναίδεια), does not have a favorable track record in Greek. In Sirach 25:22 it is translated “impudence.” In Proverbs 7:13 it is “impudence” (RSV) or “with a brazen face” (NIV). In Isaiah 56:11 it describes a dog with a “shameless appetite.” Jesus is looking directly at you and me and saying: Go ahead. Be bold. Be shameless in your requests. You have faith in me; go ahead and pray big! My Father will answer.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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