Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Canaanite Woman: A Woman of Scripture

[Today we'll wrap up the (Gentile) Women of Scripture series, you can find Ruth here, the woman at the well here, and Rahab here.]

Can I be honest? This woman and her interaction with Jesus had me scratching my head for a good three days. Really, go read Matthew 15:21-28. I mean at first Jesus ignores her pleas for mercy, (I can count on my hand the times Jesus doesn't reply to someone) then because she keeps crying out the disciples turn to Him and basically say, "Look, Jesus, You should send her away. She keeps crying, she's getting on our nerves, should we tell her to go for You?!" And finally He responds by telling her that He has come for the lost children of Israel, He's come for the Jew. And so she bows herself down in submission to Him (she obviously knows He is the Messiah) and worships Him. And still He seems to want to dissuade her:

But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. (Matthew 15:26)

Boy, if Jesus had said that to me when I'd been pleading for the life of my child I'd probably just sit and cry (or I'd be shocked at least for a moment). But not this woman, she was there to fight, she knew He could deliver her daughter from the spirits and refused to give up.

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. (Matthew 15:27)

Oh, she's a quick one! And so Jesus marvels at her, can you imagine? Jesus just sitting there for a moment, jaw agape. He sees that she has "great" faith and sends her on her way with the assurance that her daughter will be fine.

Now that aside, how does this apply to our faith, what lesson can we pull from this, how does this connect to the other three women of our series? Truth be told I started this series because I was studying Pentecost. And what is one of the things that happened at Pentecost? The Gentile was brought into the family of God. The lost were found and redeemed. The faith went from the Jew to the Jew and the Gentile. God opened up the gates and declared for all to come. The Jew, the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, everyone can come! But you must believe.

One verse really stuck out to me (verse 27) and that's where God started me at with this woman. The crumbs. Jesus says it isn't right for Him to take what is for the Jew to give to a dog and the woman retorts, "Yes, but even the dogs are fed crumbs." The dogs get the crumbs, the left overs! What struck me so significantly about this verse is that I had just been studying the Law of the Old Testament, and in that God commands that when one harvests their crop they must leave some for the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger that is amongst them. It is as if this woman who wasn't a Jews and probably didn't know the Law understood this concept. Jesus came to feed the Israelites first, but the crumbs, the left-overs were rightfully for the stranger.

It strikes me that while crumbs may not sound great, or that God loves the Jews more, we have to keep in mind that the Jews walked all those years in the wilderness being fed by God. And what did He choose to feed them? Manna...Crumbs from heaven! And those crumbs were enough, heck they were more than enough! Left-overs in the field were more than enough to sustain Ruth. God's crumbs are plenty, and are something to rejoice over!

Admittedly this can be hard to hear, especially for all us non-Jews. Our pride tends to puff up, but really let us consider this. God isn't a respecter of persons, the Bible tells us that repeatedly. So, obviously God isn't playing favorites, He doesn't love them more than us, so what's the deal?

I have two children. They're both small and I love them both. But the fact remains that my boy is nearly two years older than my girl. Now, I give my son bigger portions of food, I give him food that takes a little more effort to eat. Does this mean that I love my little girl any less? Do I love her with an inferior love because I don't think she is ready for steak just yet? I love her just as I love my son, and truthfully it is the very fact that I love her that keeps me from giving her things she isn't ready for! I give her just what she needs lest she be overwhelmed or choke.

Similarly God loves us. The Jews started out with the manna that fell from the sky just as crumbs would fall from a table. And you know what? That was exactly enough to take care of them, and it taught them to depend only upon God. It taught them to wait beneath that table eagerly expecting those crumbs to fall. And they weren't under that table eating crumbs for eternity, when God determined they were ready He brought them up to the table and gave them the next step up. And so the Gentiles are brought in. For a time we need to learn that same dependence, that same eagerness, that same persistent pursuit of food, of His provision. And when we get to the point where He decides we are ready for more than just crumbs He'll step us up to the corn. He'll bring us to it, but out of love for us He will not give us more than we are ready for. And so we must wait upon the Lord.

One last thing about this woman. When she approaches Jesus she's pleading for mercy, and for the deliverance of her daughter from evil spirits. We see in this woman a child-like faith. She knows who Jesus is, she knows what He is capable of, she knows that He can do this work and save her daughter. She asks Him to have mercy on her, why and what is this mercy she desires? She asks for Him to deliver her daughter, and in doing so He will have mercy upon her. Any parent knows how heart wrenching it is to see a child being afflicted. Do our hearts not break for our children when they are hurt, do we not cry out for deliverance when we see them going astray? And when our child heals, or returns from disobedience do we not rejoice? In delivering the daughter He is being merciful to the parents. And this is what the woman cries out for. She knows He can do this, and she has it in her mind that she will not leave until she hears from God. She'll wait there behind Him for as long as it takes, but she will hear Him answer. She knows He can answer and refuses to let a slight delay in that answer deter her. She hears those around her saying He will not answer, that she should give up and go home, she hears all this and still she has faith. He will answer, but she must wait.

We are called to have this faith. To know that God does hear us, and that even though He might seem silent, He might seem as if He will never answer, we know He will. It may not be what we want to hear all the time, but He will answer. He hears us when we call, we can be sure of that. Sometimes it is beneficial for us to have to wait. But He will answer in His timing.

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