“Let the children be fed first…” v. 27
Sometimes God has to offend me before he can save me. Too often I come rushing into the throne room of God with a presumptuous heart, instead of a heart full of humility and faith. My logic is simple; I have a need. God has the power. Therefore God must help me. If God offends my presumption I am tempted to fall into disbelief. I conclude that, based on my logical presumptions, if God is love, then God should do as I ask immediately. Any hesitation is a sign that God is not real or that he is not a loving God. Surely a loving God would rush to my aid without wasting a moment. Many poor souls have reasoned this way about God and have rejected him because they are offended that he has not performed as they think he should. They have reasoned themselves into darkness. The Syrophoenician woman could have done that but she did not. She shows us the difference between presumption and faith. Since I have trouble spelling Syrophoenician, let’s call her Becky.
Becky had a serious problem. Her daughter was lying at home tormented by a demonic spirit. She had another problem to make things worse. She was a gentile by birth, and at this point Jesus had come first for God’s people, the Jews. This desperate mom doesn’t let anything stop her from seeking help for her child. Becky comes running to Jesus and begs him to heal her daughter. Jesus responds in a way that seems so completely uncharacteristic of his love and grace. He says, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs ” -are you serious? Is Jesus calling her a dog? “Oh no he didn’t!” Some say this was done, tongue in cheek, because the Jews saw Gentiles as dogs. Others point to the Syrophoenician background and suggest he was trying to humble her. Still others suggest he was seeing if she would press in or give up. My theory is simple. I don’t know.
Sometimes the Lord says and does things that just leave me standing there with my mouth hanging open and my head shaking in perplexity. Whatever his exact reasons, I am struck by the response of this woman. Many of us would have responded in one of the following ways. In fact, any time Jesus offends our sensitivities we’re tempted to respond as:
- The victim: (Engage quivering lip) “I- I see. I guess I’m just not good enough for God. He is so unfair to me. He never gives me a break. It’s not my fault I was born this way. I can’t help it. God just has it in for me.”
- The indignant: “What kind of God would allow such a thing in my life? What kind of God would suggest that a person of my importance take a back seat to someone else? How dare he call me a dog (or sinner)?”
- The entitled: “It’s simple. He is a fraud. I have a need and he has the means to meet it. Therefore, I am entitled to his help. He has it. I need it. So He should help me, or he is not a good savior.
- The consumer: “Look it’s your job to fix my problems! You have no right to talk to me that way. If I don’t get what I want from you I’ll go somewhere else! Where’s the manager? I want to file a complaint.”
All of these common responses are forms of presumption. They are born out of a lie. The lie is that God, if he exists and is loving, is somehow obligated to meet our every request because the end game is our happiness. Any hesitation or withholding on God’s part is “proof” that God is either nonexistent or unloving. This is presumption, not faith. It is born of human pride. The Bible says, “God resists the proud. but gives grace to the humble.” Yes friend, even in our day of great human advancement humility is required as a part of true faith. As long as I feel that God should do anything for me, out of some obligation on his part, I will be unable to experience his grace. Becky’s response shows how to come to God in our time of need. Listen to the reply. Let’s break it down:
“Yes, Lord…” – She acknowledged his Lordship even when it seemed he was saying ‘no’. Faith recognizes that God is the master, not me. He is not my servant. I am his.
“yet even the dogs under the table…” – She humbled herself. She accepted that she was the one in the lower position. I have heard it said that one does not strut into the presence of God. She was willing to take crumbs from the table if that was all the master had for her. This attitude soon brought her to a seat of honor at the masters table.
“…eat the children’s crumbs.” – She never gave up. Even in the face of his seeming offense, she could see the goodness of God. Somehow she knew that he would meet her need. If she couldn’t get to the table she would go for the crumbs. This woman pressed in by faith. Many prayers go unanswered because we become offended and give up too soon. Like angry customers on a Black Friday sale, we huff and puff while our “cashier” God is at work, and storm out of his presence because we are offended by the wait time. She didn’t do that.
You see, her faith was characterized, by reverence, humility, and persistence. Jesus responded, “For this statement you may go your way, the demon has left your daughter.” Past tense.
By the time he spoke it was already done. The next time you come the throne room of God, make sure you don’t take his seat. Come by humble faith and watch the demons flee.