PENTECOST 11, A – August 20, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Romans 11:1-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. (Matt. 15)

 

            How is your prayer life? Do you think you pray enough? Scripture says to “Pray without ceasing.” Jesus says, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you.” God tells us to pray, and so we know that prayer is very important. He promises to hear—how this should encourage us to be faithful in prayer!

            But what about when you are depressed, when life is going against you, when even God Himself doesn’t seem to care? At such times we need to pray more than ever. Unfortunately, it is also at such times that prayer is especially difficult.

            Learn from the Canaanite woman from today’s Gospel. What an example she is of persistent prayer! Jesus Ignores her, then rejects her, and then calls her a dog. Still, she persists. Consider this woman, and learn to:

PRAY, EVEN WHEN GOD SEEMS TO BE AGAINST YOU

Begin by remembering that you are speaking to the Lord of all creation. Be humble before your God!

Consider this woman. If she had become discouraged because of Jesus’ response and given up, or walked away in anger, then her daughter would not have been helped. Nor would Jesus have had any praise for her. Yes, silence from God is very difficult to handle. But giving up or becoming angry with Him solves nothing. It only leads to sin. Be humble and keep praying, as did this Canaanite woman!

“Lord,” she humbly addressed Jesus. But, she wasn’t just seeing Him as ruler; she saw Him as Savior. She believed this because she saw it. She had not only heard about Jesus helping many. He was now there, in Canaanite territory, the region of Tyre and Sidon. This was evidence of His goodness and mercy, for no pious Jew, and certainly no rabbi, would travel there.

Ø  After all, God had long ago condemned and cursed the Canaanites as idol worshippers who did detestable things. The Jews therefore detested them. The Rabbis called them, “dogs,” wild dogs who were unclean and ate human filth.

And yet, behold, Jesus was there! He had made Himself accessible to her. The woman held on to this.

We know even more than she knew. The Lord of all creation came in our flesh to stand with us on this earth. Jesus is your Savior, for He came to ruler for you! He will hear and help you, for He came in mercy, to help and save those in need. God came down from heaven for you, to die on the cross for you and so save you from your sins. This is how much God loves you. Hold on to this and never let it go, especially when He seems to be silent! As Joseph Scriven put it so well in his hymn:

Can we find a friend so faithful

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness—

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Jesus not only knows our weakness and shares our sorrows—He is the one who gave His life to save you from your sins. Hold onto this! No matter what you see or feel, don’t ever doubt the Lord’s desire to help you. God is Jesus, the Savior! Hang on to this, and pray.

And, as you do, be confident – even while humbly leaving things in God’s hands. Remember: you are not God. There is much you do not know. Is what you are praying for good for you, or would receiving it actually hurt you in the long run? And, what will tomorrow bring? You do not know how it might change your circumstances, and so your prayer.

If God doesn’t answer right away, well, He may be delaying so that He can teach you, and others. Perhaps this is why Jesus did not answer the woman. She was crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy!” “Son of David” was a Jewish title. If Jesus had helped her right away, perhaps others would get the idea that, if they just said the right words, Jesus would help them.

This is not so, however. Jesus doesn’t respond because you say the right words. He saves those who believe in Him. We need to believe, to trust in His goodness, and not in our words. Only faith receives God’s blessing and praise. Faith says with the woman, “Yes, Lord.” Faith confesses God to be true and His ways to be right and good, and so trusts Him while expecting His mercy. This pleases Him.

The Canaanite woman believed Jesus was good and would help, and so she accepted it when Jesus called her a dog. She saw His goodness behind His words. Yes, He called her a dog—but not as other rabbis would do. Other rabbis referred to Canaanites as wild dogs; Jesus called her a little dog, a family pet that would wait under the table. Such dogs were welcomed and cared for by the family. And so she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” They would be enough; and they are, for even God’s crumbs are powerful to save. And you are far more to Jesus than a dog! You are His precious child who He took as His own when He put His name on you in your Baptism. He will have mercy on you!

Hold onto this, especially when you feel insignificant or ignored. The devil will tempt you with thoughts of unworthiness. You will feel less important or less faithful than others. Remember, through faith in Jesus you are far from insignificant. You are not a foreigner to God, nor are you a dog. You are His precious child, a member of His family! Just as a good father gladly listens to his children’s cries, your heavenly Father listens to you and will respond to you—always!

So keep praying! Don’t ever give up, even when God is silent and unresponsive. He is your Lord Jesus, and He will have mercy.

In His arms He’ll take and shield you,

You will find a solace there!

In the blessed name of Jesus, our Savior, who hears your every cry and brings your every prayer to His Father. Amen.