Second reading: 2 Tim 3:14-4:2
Gospel: Lk. 18: 1-8
First reading:Exodus 17;8-13; It is in answer to prayer that God grants us His graces. There are many gifts, which he has granted us without being asked. But there is certain grace which is bestowed upon us only on our asking. We should ask, and ask shamelessly and persistently like in the first reading and in today’s gospel. We must approach the throne of grace continuously through prayer. We have here the story of the war with Amalek. The Amalekites were the posterity of Esau, who hated Jacob because of the birthright and blessing, and this was an effort of the hereditary enmity. Israel had been quarrelling with Moses (v. 2), and now God sends Amalekites to quarrel with them; wars abroad are the just punishment of strifes and discontents at home.
Joshua is the commander-in-chief in this expedition, that he might be trained up to the services he was designed for after the death of Moses, and be a man of war from his youth. He is ordered to draw out a detachment of choice men from the thousands of Israel and to drive back the Amalekites.
Moses was not only a standard-bearer, but an intercessor, pleading with God for success and victory.. How Moses was tired (v. 12): His hands were heavy. The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still. We do not find that Joshua's hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses's hands were heavy in praying. The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it. When Moses held up his hand in prayer Israel prevailed, but, when he let down his hand from prayer, Amalek prevailed. To convince Israel that the hand of Moses contributed more to their safety than their own hands, It seems, the scale wavered for some time, before it turned on Israel's side. Even the best cause must expect disappointments as an alloy to its successes; though the battle be the Lord's, Amalek may prevail for a time. The reason was, Moses let down his hands. Note, when he could not hold up his hands, he would have them held up. Moses, the man of God, is glad of the assistance of Aaron his brother, and Hur. We should not be shy either of asking help from others or giving help to others, for we are members one of another. Moses's hands, thus stayed, were steady till the going down of the sun; and, though it was with much ado that he held out, yet his willing mind was accepted. No doubt it was a great encouragement to the people to see Joshua before them in the field of battle and Moses above them upon the top of the hill: Christ is both to us—our Joshua, the captain of our salvation who fights our battles, and our Moses, who, in the upper world, ever lives making intercession, that our faith fail not.
Second reading: 2 Tim 3:14-4:2
Here the apostle, to confirm Timothy in that way wherein he walked.Timothy had been an eye-witness of, having long attended Paul. Now what is it that Timothy had so fully known in Paul? The doctrine that he preached. Timothy had a great advantage in being trained up under such a tutor, and being apprised of the doctrine he preached.
He directs him to keep close to a good education, and particularly to what he had learned out of the holy scriptures (v. 14, 15): Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. Note, It is not enough to learn that which is good, but we must continue in it, and persevere in it unto the end. Then are we Christ's disciples indeed, Jn. 8:31. We should not be any more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, Heb. 13:9. And for this reason we should continue in the things we have learned from the holy scriptures; not that we ought to continue in any errors and mistakes which we may have been led into, in the time of our childhood and youth but this makes nothing against our continuing in those things which the holy scriptures plainly assert, and which he that runs may read. If Timothy would adhere to the truth as he had been taught it, this would arm him against the snares and insinuations of seducers. Observe, Timothy must continue in the things which he had learned and had been assured of.
Gospel: Lk. 18: 1-8
This parable has its key hanging at the door; the drift and design of it are prefixed. Christ spoke it with this intent, to teach us that men ought always to pray and not to faint, v. 1. It supposes that all God's people are praying people; all God's children keep up both a constant and an occasional correspondence with him, send to him statedly, and upon every emergency. It is our privilege and honour that we may pray. It is our duty; we ought to pray, we sin if we neglect it. It is to be our constant work; we ought always to pray, it is that which the duty of every day requires. We must pray, and never grow weary of praying, nor think of leaving it off till it comes to be swallowed up in everlasting praise. When we are praying for strength against our spiritual enemies, our lusts and corruptions, which are our worst enemies, we must continue instant in prayer, must pray and not faint, for we shall not seek God's face in vain.
Christ shows, by a parable, the bad character of the judge that was in a certain city. He neither feared God nor regarded man; he had no manner of concern either for his conscience or for his reputation; he stood in no awe either of the wrath of God against him or of the censures of men concerning him: or, he took no care to do his duty either to God or man; he was a perfect stranger both to godliness and honour, and had no notion of either. It is not strange if those that have cast off the fear of their Creator be altogether regardless of their fellow-creatures; where no fear of God is no good is to be expected. Such a prevalency of irreligion and inhumanity is bad in any, but very bad in a judge, who has power in his hand, in the use of which he ought to be guided by the principles of religion and justice, and, if he be not, instead of doing good with his power he will be in danger of doing hurt. Wickedness in the place of judgment was one of the sorest evils Solomon saw under the sun, Eccl. 3:16. 2. The distressed case of a poor widow that was necessitated to make her appeal to him, being wronged by some one that thought to bear her down with power and terror. She had manifestly right on her side; but, it should seem, in soliciting to have right done her, she tied not herself to the formalities of the law, but made personal application to the judge from day to day at his own house, still crying, Avenge me of mine adversary; that is, Do me justice against mine adversary; not that she desired to be revenged on him for any thing he had done against her, but that he might be obliged to restore what effects he had of hers in his hands, and might be disabled any more to oppress her. II. He applies this for the encouragement of God's praying people to pray with faith and fervency, and to persevere there in. What assurance they have that mercy will come at last, though it be delayed, and how it is supported by what the unjust judge saith: If this widow prevail by being importunate, much more shall God's elect prevail. For, This widow was a stranger, nothing related to the judge; but God's praying people are his own elect, whom he knows, and loves, and delights in, and has always concerned himself. She was but one, but the praying people of God are many, all of whom come to him on the same errand, and agree to ask what they need, Mt. 18:19. As the saints of heaven surround the throne of glory with their united praises, so saints on earth besiege the throne of grace with their united prayers. [3.] She came to a judge that bade her keep her distance; we come to a Father that bids us come boldly to him, and teaches us to cry, Abba, Father. [4.] She came to an unjust judge; we come to a righteous Father (Jn. 17:25), one that regards his own glory and the comforts of his poor creatures, especially those in distress, as widows and fatherless. [5.] She came to this judge purely upon her own account; but God is himself engaged in the cause which we are soliciting; and we can say, Arise, O Lord, plead thine own cause; and what wilt thou do to thy great name? [6.] She had no friend to speak for her, to add force to her petition, and to use interest for her more than her own; but we have an Advocate with the Father, his own Son, who ever lives to make intercession for us, and has a powerful prevailing interest in heaven. [7.] She had no promise off speeding, no, nor any encouragement given her to ask; but we have the golden scepter held out to us, are told to ask, with a promise that it shall be given to us. [8.] She could have access to the judge only at some certain times; but we may cry to God day and night, at all hours, and therefore may the rather hope to prevail by importunity. [9.] Her importunity was provoking to the judge, and she might fear lest it should set him more against her; but our importunity is pleasing to God; the prayer of the upright is his delight, and therefore, we may hope, shall avail much, if it be an effectual fervent prayer.