I love the story in Matthew 15:21-28, of the interaction of Jesus and a Canaanite woman. It is not your normal “Jesus does a miracle” story. Do not get me wrong, all of the miracles of Jesus were great, but this is unusual (if there is a “usual” for Jesus). We normally think of Jesus as kind and compassionate, and eager to minister to the hurting. This story does not work that way.
The woman calls to Jesus to deliver her daughter suffering from demon possession. Jesus’ first response is to ignore her; v.23 “Jesus did not answer a word”. Ever feel that your requests are just plain ignored? Well, here is an example of it happening! She called enough times to aggravate the disciples. They said, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” Next, Jesus declares, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He told her that He would not grant her request because she was not part of the covenant with Israel. So, first Jesus ignored her, then he told her no. Lastly He insulted her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Jesus was the bread and she was the dog. Not the “usual” Jesus.
As unusual as the story is so far, the next part is the amazing part. The woman agrees with Jesus that she is a dog that willingly eats the crumbs that fall from the master’s table! The psychologists would have told her to not lose her self-respect. But Jesus said she had “great faith” (v. 28). I can only imagine her thinking might be. Maybe she realized her daughter’s problem was one of millions in the world, and the world was a small part of the universe, and the universe is small to God. Therefore, a single crumb falling from God’s table would be large in the universe, gigantic compared to the world, overwhelmingly massive to her. Isaiah says that God measures the islands of the earth as if they were “fine dust” (Isaiah 40:15). Crumbs were more than what she needed. She just needed her daughter delivered.
Most of us quit praying when we feel like we have been ignored. We definitely would quit praying if Jesus told us no. Would anyone keep praying for something if were ignored, told no, and insulted on top of that? I think not. But Jesus said this woman had “great faith”. Her petition was granted. Her daughter was healed.
I want to have “great faith”.
There are several words for “hope” in the Old Testament. One of the root words for hope is “kaw-vaw.” It is usually translated as “wait.” “Hope” is a nice word. “Wait” is not, especially in western society. For us, it seems life should be done at great speed and everything done with maximum gain in mind. So waiting is always bad.
How good are we at waiting in the doctor’s office, at a traffic light, in line at the bank, etc? Do we get bored, frustrated, impatient? How does this word, “kaw-vaw” connect to hope? It also means “to expect” or “look eagerly”. Wouldn’t it be great if anytime we had to wait, that we would turn our hearts to God and listen? Hope then, can be defined as “the quiet expectation of good things that God wants to do in us and through us.”
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness.
Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.
Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You. Psalm 33:18, 20-22
Who could possibly be big enough to thwart God and His love toward us? People, demons, the devil himself? Not a chance.
But, do we really believe we are continual recipients of God’s love? Here is how we can tell. When we act unloving to anybody (even our enemies), it is because we feel unloved.
If we cannot be separated from God’s love, why do so many people feel unloved? It is because people have trouble, hardships, persecution, money problems, feel they are in danger, and even threatened (see Romans 8:36). Having these things in our lives certainly distracts us from experiencing God’s love. But Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39. Paul was convinced because he believed the Word of God rather than his circumstances. If we are not walking in love to all of the people around us, we are showing that we do not have faith that God’s Word is true and His love is never failing.
Today, let’s sweep fear, anger, doubt, and anxiety away. Let’s meditate on God’s unfailing love until our hearts burst forth with love and compassion for the weak and frustrated souls that God puts in our path.