"I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." Luke 11:8
It was midnight! Very late indeed for the times in which our Lord lived. An unexpected visitor arrived and much to the chagrin of the host, there was nothing in the pantry with which to dispense hospitality. And the traveller was hungry, hungry! What shall he do? He thinks of his neighbour who can help him out of his difficulty. Leaving his midnight guest to sit at a bare table, he goes to his friend at a most inconvenient hour and beseeches him for the loan of three loaves, enough to stay the man's hunger until the morning. But the loan is not forthcoming very easily! The man is comfortably settled in bed, his children are with him and his movements may disturb them. At the same time the visitor is not easily sent away empty-handed and in fact there eventuates a tussle as to whether the man at the door will make himself such a trial that the man in bed will conclude it will be better to arise and supply him with the loaves, rather than lie in bed and listen to the persistent, urgent call of the man in the street. Our Lord says the issue will be settled by the man getting out of bed, going to the pantry, getting the loaves and giving them to the caller. It will be because of his importunity.
WHAT IS IMPORTUNITY?
It is persistent pressure, maintained in spite of every obstacle, difficulty and hindrance. The widow before the unjust judge, pleading to be avenged of her adversary, besieged the judge until he was afraid that she would weary him and so granted her request. Here the friend, conscious of his need and knowing the resources of the one up in bed, will not take " no " for an answer. He persists, not intending to go away until all the disinclination to get out of bed is overcome and he has the loaves he must have to feed the unexpected visitor at the midnight hour.
That is importunity. It is the pressing of a demand almost ruthlessly, without consideration for the comfort and ease of the one whose answer is sought. When you turn to the word used in the Greek New Testament "anaideia" you see the idea even more clearly. The word is nowhere else used in the Old or New Testaments.
It is translated in the lexicon "barefacedness, "shamelessness." The effrontery of the man in coming to his neighbour at such an hour as midnight, his audacity in knocking him up, and his impudence in refusing to go until he got the bread: all this is gathered up in the word that falls from the lips of our Lord. This man is a barefaced friend who, refusing to take "no" for an answer does not intend to leave the doorstep until the required three loaves are in his hand. And our Lord tells His disciples that this is the man with whom their Heavenly Father loves to deal, : the man who knows what he wants and will give nobody any rest until he gets it. If there is a disciple with that sort of spirit then let him ask and he shall receive.
The man who turned up at midnight knew nothing, of course of this battle of wills going on in the next street, and possibly when he sat down to the three loaves, his host did not tell him, but they were both satisfied, for the host had got what he went out for and the guest had received what he came in for.
Now the lesson drawn by our Lord is quite simple. "Ask and ye shall receive." The subsequent illustration of the father and the son, related one feels, to this lesson, is also clear: "How much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him." The believer, therefore, who desires the vitalising, life-giving nourishment of the Spirit, must ask with barefaced shamelessness until the blessing is received.
Recently I endeavoured to show that the filling of the Holy Spirit appears in Scripture to be for two purposes: the withstanding of Satan and the powers of darkness by the believer, and the bearing of a testimony even though it may involve death to the witness. There seems to be no possibility of any person being filled with the Spirit merely to have some kind of glorious spiritual experience and thrill. You will notice the same lesson is implicit in this passage. The loaves are not for the man who begs for them; he can return to his house, go to bed and sleep contentedly; for he is not hungry. The loaves are for this hungry friend who has arrived weary with the journey. Keeping that in mind we shall think more particularly upon this barefaced, shameless importunity that cares nothing about the rest, complacent and comfort of heaven itself until the Holy Spirit is given in all His fullness to meet and satisfy the needs of these weary, tired out wanderers, spiritual and religious vagrants, homeless and without anything to meet their need.
And if that is our position then what we need is a barefaced shameless spirit that presses in upon God relentlessly until the blessing is received. Very great thought has been given to the ministry of the Word for some considerable time, and from every angle known to the preacher, the Word of truth has been set forth. Care has been exercised to see that the truth was as plain as such a profound Gospel may be. Pains have been taken to present the essential issue in such a way that it could not be misunderstood. The results however, have been disappointing. There is a steady trickle of those who are being influenced Godwards but nothing that could be conceived as being an outstanding work of God. Yet the people are coming in! I am bound to suppose that men and women who are coming week by week intend some meaning to their presence, in that they feel the services are helpful and in greater or less degree are getting what they want if not what they need. But that movement amongst the congregation which one would desire in not experienced.
Now looking at this man with a traveller on his doorstep and not a crust in the house, we may perhaps learn lessons of some importance to us. This man has
A MORAL ANGUISH
His friend arrives famished and weary. It does not appear that he felt condemned because his pantry was empty at least of loaves but it is quite clear that as he looked at his friend and heard his story, he knew that he must do something for him. Moral anguish is a God-given blessing. It is only when we think about it that we realise to what extent, if any, we possess it. It is strange to us today to recognise that for many years there were professing Christians who saw no evil in keeping slaves and disposing of them in the market when they had no further use for them. There was a time when the conditions of child life in England aroused no Christian conscience. There is a good deal of the priest and the Levite in many if not all of us, not nearly so much of the spirit of the Good Samaritan as the world needs. But what about a moral anguish of mind concerning the spiritual needs of people about us? Does it matter if men and women die in their sins? What really is our condition of mind concerning folk about us? Do we ever feel the redemptive need of the great nations, as we should? Is there a man on our doorstep in this midnight hour, with great soul needs and we without any sense of moral or spiritual obligation towards him? The man in this parable had a friend in great need and in the consciousness of that great need and of the moral obligation imposed upon him he pleaded for the loaves. And now the moral anguish is elevated to
EARNEST MEDIATORIAL ANGUISH
Did the petitioner expect much difficulty in getting the loaves? They were friends, and friends and friendship might and should prevail. Whether he was surprised or not the loaves were forthcoming. The need of the traveller, the appeal of the friend was insufficient to move him. He has four reasons:
1) The man does not wish to be troubled. He prefers to sleep and let those
who have a need solve their difficulty as best they may.
2) Then the door is shut. This is not the time for open house. A man is entitled to think that the midnight hour obliterates all obligations.
3) Then the children are in bed and disturbance may mean the upsetting of the household for the whole night.
4) Finally he cannot rise and give him. Not even for a friend will he do it. Let it mean their separation in future, he will not rise and give him. But then the caller, recognising the validity of the reason also remembers the condition of his friend waiting at the empty table. To return home without the loaves would be a great deprivation. And so, if the man will run the risk of ruining their friendship rather than get up he will run the risk of rupture by insisting and persisting. The more obstinate the man upstairs, the more insistent the man out on the front doorstep. Perhaps if he were asking for himself he would give in, but he cannot as he thinks of his friend. At last the battle is won. Down comes the man, into the pantry for the loaves and then to the door to thrust them into the hand of the barefaced and shameless friend who positively would not go away. Our Lord declares that that is the kind of intercessor the Father delights in. Mediatorial anguish that must receive and will not be turned away is the power that moves the heart of God.
Now how shall all this be applied? I think we may judge that if any believer desires the full blessing of the Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father will grant him the blessing he seeks, not by any deep stirring emotional experience, but by sending a need on his doorstep, a spiritual need so that he will be conscious of the need of this one and inevitably must turn to God for the answer to that need. Intercessory prayer that feels the need of another and holds on to God, for the blessing for them until God grants it, is the barefaced shamelessness that delights our Father in heaven. If He shouId seem to reject our petition that is to be no argument for yielding, but rather for pressing the more strongly. For when we are concerned about others to pray for them, when we really mean it, God is ready to answer our prayer.
But do we know anything about it ? And do we really desire to be so earnest? And if we do, how can we be in earnest about being in earnest? The traveller knows that the friend upon whom he calls at midnight has a good heart, but he does not know the one who has a good pantry. The man with the good heart does know the man with a good pantry, and that is why he goes to him. He has intimate and recent knowledge of him, for loaves do not keep very long. Now, if a man is a friend of God, it means that he knows, in measure, the inner life of God by personal experience: " I have called you friends for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you." declared our Lord. Friendship, therefore, carries with it a growing knowledge of the inner life of God. Knowing God like that of necessity creates Godlike characteristics, and these draw men, as they think to us, but really with a deep hunger to God. That is how the traveller arrives. The man does not select the traveller to call upon him; the traveller selects the host! Hence the friend, knowing the real need of the traveller and no less knowing the abundant resources of his friend, presses his request to a conclusion.
How then, can anyone become a barefaced shameless intercessor with God, able to take from the hand of God against every obstacle all that is needed? How can the humblest believer prove this promise: "Ask and ye shall receive." The steps into this experience may be discerned by those who will.
LET US BRIEFLY INDICATE THEM;
1).Let the experimental knowledge of God's inner life be my chief concern. " This is life eternal to know Thee the only True God." Let me tell God this solemnly on my knees as coming from my heart. The knowledge of God is the occupation of eternity, and it were well that we began the quest here. When God knows our hearts it means He will surely by His own methods and ways bring us into the experimental knowledge of His own inner life. We may trust Him for this.
2).Let us read the Word of God for the revelation of God. It will be by the Word that the revelation will come. The mind must be furnished with truth and it is through the Word that enlightenment comes to the understanding.
3).All revelation of God to the believer is intended to have its counterpart in experience. Let us, therefore, bow very low indeed before the Lord that what He is pleased to unveil shall be made real and vital in the life. The indwelling Spirit, scaled to us by the Living Lord in our redemption, will certainly make the heavenly revelation to be a present experience in the life.
4). The needy ones, so drawn by this Divine magnetism, as they think, to us, will make us to know as never before our nothingness, inability, incapacity and worthlessness.
5).So back to God for what you know God is and has. Your intimate friendship that has brought you into the knowledge of Divine resources will strengthen your faith to take what God has to give. Your barefaced, shameless laying hold of God will delight your Heavenly Father, bless your fellow needy one and enrich your heart in an evergrowing faith.
"Ask and ye shall receive."
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