How One Believing Mother Got Help for an Afflicted Daughter
"Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt, and her daughter was made whole from that very hour." (Matthew 15:28.)
From this text it appears that their are different degrees or qualities of faith, even of genuine faith in the person and power of Christ, and that a great faith can obtain a great blessing.
Matthew's account of this "woman of Canaan" provides us an example of the kind of faith we need if we too would have Jesus say to us in His divine power, "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
Remember first, last, and always that faith, to obtain the blessings of God, must be rightly directed. Beware of the foolish notion that there is some virtue in faith itself, even in misplaced or misdirected faith. No: this woman's faith was great primarily because it was faith in a great Savior: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David." (Matthew 15:22.)
She recognized in Jesus the Jewish Messiah. Though she herself was a Gentile, she believed that this great Jewish teacher and miracle worker was the promised Redeemer, the Son of David according to the flesh, come to fulfill God's promises to His people of old.
Her faith was great therefore because it was based upon the promises of God's written word, and it looked to the Savior there promised. This is the only kind of faith that can even begin to be great in any true sense.
Millions of people, however, profess to have this faith in some measure; yet they do not manifest the quality of faith manifested by the Syrophenician woman - the faith that Jesus called great and that obtained the desired blessing. Further consideration of her example may help us to attain to greater faith.
Notice, then, that this mother seeking help for her daughter persisted in her faith in the face of agonizing delay. "He answered her not a word."
Sometimes it pleases God to anticipate our needs and our prayers, so that we find out afterward that the answer was on the way before we asked for it. At other times the answer comes quickly, while we are still praying. But why should we suppose that it must always be so? Sometimes it pleases Him to try our faith with "Keep on asking, and it shall be given you; keep on seeking, and ye shall find; keep on knocking, and it shall be opened unto you:" such is the commandment of Jesus, correctly translated. (Matthew 7:7, 8.) "For everyone that keeps on asking receives; and he that keeps on seeking finds; and to him that keeps on knocking it shall be opened."
Possibly the woman had heard about this teaching of Jesus, or possibly her concern for her afflicted daughter would not allow her to give up. Though "He answered her not a word," she knew that she could get help nowhere else, and so she kept on crying out to Jesus and to His disciples, "hoping against hope" that her prayer might be granted.
She proved the genuineness and greatness of her faith by persisting in the face of delay. No doubt she knew, and certainly she practiced, the scriptural injunction, "Wait, I say, on the Lord." (Psalm 27:14.)
Again, our Syrophenician exemplar of great faith kept on believing against acute discouragement by the unsympathetic disciples of Jesus.
Here is a tragic part of the story, but Matthew faithfully gives us the record: "His disciples came aad besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us."
Why did they not rather have enough pity in their hearts for the heartbroken woman and her afflicted daughter to join in asking Jesus to grant her request? So they might have obtained not only relief from her crying but greater joy in the saving power of their Lord.
Those disciples were not the last to show more annoyance than sympathy in the presence of troubled souls. How human it is - but how unlike the Spirit of Jesus - to seek to rid ourselves of the sight and sound of fellow mortals hi distress rather than try to relieve their distress. "Send her away; for she crieth after us."
Poor woman! Jesus had given her no answer at all, and now His disciples were trying to get rid of her. Could she persist against such discouragement? Yes, she could: her faith was great.
''But he answered and said, I am not gent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." It is "a woman of Canaan" (Matthew 15:22), "a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation" (Mark 7:26), seeking His help, and Jesus insists that His mission is not to her kind.
It is a further test of the woman's faith, a severe test, but she continued to persevere, even under an adverse "dispensation." Maybe she remembered that the heathen city of Nineveh was spared when it repented because of the preaching of a Hebrew prophet; maybe she remembered the stay of Elijah in the house of the widow of Zarephath; maybe she remembered the healing of Naaman the Syrian. Anyway: "Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me."
Her need of immediate help could not wait for a future change of "dispensations," And somehow In her great need her great faith got hold of the great truth that Peter discovered later; that regardless of "dispensations":
"Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34, 35.)
Whatever real or imaginary changes of "dispensation" there have been, God and His salvation have not changed, nor have the principles upon which His people can obtain His blessings. Individual Gentiles were saved before they were ever called in large numbers, and now that God is saving mostly Gentiles rather than Jews, individual Jews can still be saved in the same way, the only way, that sinners ever have been saved, believing God.
In the greatness of her faith, this woman believed in God rather than in "dispensations."
"But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."
How much can the poor woman stand? How could Jesus say such a thing to her? She has endured the tests of delay and discouragement, and even the difficulties of an adverse "dispensaion" have but served to bring her to her knees. And now Israel's Messiah tells her that for Him to help her, a Gentile, would be like taking bread that belongs to the children and throwing it to the dog.
Ah, but Jesus knows what He is doing! The fiery trial of her faith but purifies and strengthens it. Even as she plunges to the depth of humility, she rises to the height of faith:
"And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table."
"So," she seems to say, "If I cannot have a seat at the table, let me be a little dog, getting at least a few crumbs. Better some crumbs of divine grace than to continue in this present affliction. I shall be thankful for even the least help thou wilt give me!"
"Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it onto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from, that very hour."
She was willing to take some crumbs if she could get no more, but she got all that she asked for. Her great faith obtained a great blessing.
[From AAB, September 26, 1971, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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