In the Bible we meet several gentiles who were helped by God. Among them the account of the Syrophoenician woman is quite significant because of her conversation with Jesus. Today there’s a lot of talk going around as to why Jesus made such a rude statement. Our attention however should be on her clever reply because in it there are some strong lessons for us. Lets see what her statement meant to Jesus and what are its implications for us.
Text: Mark 7:24-30
A. Her reply was a statement of humility: In ancient Israel Dogs were not household pets. They were considered unclean and not allowed in Jewish homes. The gentiles were likened to Dogs and Jews did not associate with them in any way.
B. Neither the Greeks paid any regard to Jews. Jews were inferior in their sight. The Greeks took prestige in their quest for wisdom and knowledge. The vast number of mathematicians (Pythagoras), physicians (Hippocrates), and philosophers, (Plato and Aristotle) with Greek origins confirm this.
C. This woman admitted that Jesus’ wisdom and power exceed the wisdom and knowledge of humans and he alone could set her daughter free. She fell at his feet and begged for his mercy.
Lesson: The Bible says “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” (Proverbs 3:34). The atheist cannot see God because God actually mocks their pride. To the humble people who seek him earnestly in the other hand he reveals himself and his power. Now humility generates faith which is my second point.
A. Her reply was a statement of faith. The Bible says that the news about Jesus spread like wild fire because of the miracles he performed, (Matthew 9:26) and his message, (Mark 12:37b). Hopefully some one witnessed to this woman about Jesus and everything he did.
B. She was aware of the custom that Jews did not associate themselves with gentiles because it made them ceremonially unclean. Which is why She came to meet Jesus while he was alone.
C. When Jesus said it’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs he was actually testing how genuine her faith was? He was pleased at her reply so much that he granted her wish. (For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.)
Lesson: Without faith we cannot please God, (Hebrews 11:6). The man can throw some money at the feet of their pagan deities and make a wish. The petty deities will always respond to money. Not so with God. He responds to faith only. Now faith generates persistency which is my final point.
A. Finally, her reply was a statement of persistency. Instead of feeling embarrassed and going back home at Jesus’ seemingly rude saying, she insisted that Jesus drives the demon away from her daughter.
B. Persistency is an indispensible quality of prayer that God answers. Jesus stressed this truth in two of his teachings. In the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), The guest in the midnight (Luke 11:5-8) and his teaching on prayer (Luke 11:9-10).
C. Let me warn you though. Persistency can not be used to limit God to the frame of our own thinking, (Luke 22:41-42). There are times that God’s answer is a “no” because he has a greater purpose and he grants us grace to move on with life, (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
Lesson: The application to draw from the account of the Syrophoenician woman about persistency is that we must not loose heart when answers delay but pray without ceasing, (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because it’s persistency that release the answers.
Jesus said to the woman “Because you said this, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” The truth is the words we speak in times of crisis exposes the degree of our faith, humility and persistency. Our words affect our reactions to the problem. It’s important that we speak the right words because they become the outcome of our prayers.
Take Job’s wife for example, (Job 2:9). There was absolutely no faith, humility or persistency in her words and I am sure she is not the kind of person God wants us to be.
Consider Job’s. He spoke in humility, (“Should we receive what is good from God, and not also receive what is evil?” – Job 2:10). He spoke in faith, (“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth” – Job 19:25). He spoke words of persistency, (“In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with moral impropriety.” – Job 1:22).
Image: Roger Prata