February 27, 2011


Matthew 15:21-28

21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28 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.

To those who are saved, there is not question as to whether or not God hears and answers prayer. Each of us can probably recall a specific time when God intervened in a situation in answer to prayer.

Isaiah 45:11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.

We cannot doubt that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Yet many times it seems as though our prayers are not heard, for they are not answered, or at least not answered as expected.

Notice in our text that Jesus had no kind words of comfort for the woman, as he had for other, yet the answer came because of her determination and persistence.


First, a woman of Canaan... She was not of the children of Israel, to whom the Lord came. She had no assurance that he would hear her, for at this time, he had no dealings with the Gentiles. The gospel was not yet open to the non-Israelites.

Second, she cried unto him... The cry was desperate and persistent. This was no a soft, gentle cry, but a shouting cry.

Third, have mercy, or pity, on me.

She did not plea for justice, as did the woman with the unjust judge who continued to cry out, Avenge me of mine adversary. Rather, she cast herself, for her daughter's sake, on the Lord's mercy, with the plea, have mercy on me.

It was the publican in Luke 18:13, who cried out, God be merciful to me a sinner.

At this time before the door of the gospel was opened to the Gentiles, she had no official claim on his mercy. She had done nothing by which to claim his mercy, but that did not discourage her a bit. Her daughter was involved, so she would continue though the disciples themselves tried to get her to leave the Lord alone. But she would not take the Lord's seeming indifference as an answer.

Fourth, O Lord, thou Son of David... Though not an Israelite, she realized who he was, and the power and authority he had from the Hebrew God. Even this Gentile woman knew the Scripture, for she realized Christ was the rightful king, as the Son of David.

Notice that she did not say, Thou seed of Abraham; rather, she said, thou Son of David.

Son of David referred to his kingly heritage. She addressed him as the king of not only the Jews but of all nations.

Fifth, boldness. Bing a non-Israelite did not discourage her. Though she did not have the promise we have, she approached him boldly.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

How much bolder should we be in our approach to the throne of grace? If we come before him with sins confessed, we have no need to fear that he will turn his back upon us.

Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Are our hands clean? The Lord knows if our spirit is right with him. Is the desire of our heart for the Lord to hear us strong enough to search for, repent of and turn from iniquity?

How many other parents of that day with similar needs thought, "He is sent to Israel, and I am not part of Israel, so it will be useless to go to him with my cause"?

Is the desire of our heart to fulfill our own lust, or is it for his honour and glory?

Note that it is never useless to go to the Lord.

Let me insert here that our main business is not with answers to prayer, but with our answer to the call of God. Our duty as well as privilege is to obey the call of Spirit of God.

The first call is his call to salvation, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved...Acts 16:31. He did not say, pray and you shall be saved. He said, believe and ye shall be saved. The Lord himself said that he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:6.

Romans 10:13, whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

However, Romans 10:9, 10 clearly tells us that salvation requires believeth unto righteousness.

The second call is found throughout Scripture, the Spirit calls all who profess his name to holiness:

Leviticus 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.
1 Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Sure, one can have great boldness and loud words as he calls on the Lord, as did the Pharisee in Luke 18:11. But boldness cannot replace holiness before the One Who Hears and Answers prayer.

We know God hears our prayer, yet we also know that he does not hear the prayer of the wicked:

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

Proverbs 28:9 ¶ He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

If we expect the Lord to hear us, we must follow David's words:

Psalms 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

We must examine our hearts, and try to place them in tune with the Lord as much as possible.

Sixth, my daughter... Her pleading was not for herself, other than for mercy upon her in delivering her daughter from the snare of the devil.

It was for her daughter's sake that she made a great spectacle of herself, following the Lord with continual shouting out for his mercy. No doubt, she was drawing much attention to herself, but she did not care.

Her plea for mercy was not for herself, but for another—her loved one, her daughter. Her heart was entwined with her daughter, and the healing of her daughter was mercy on the mother.

Do we have enough love and concern for others that the Lord's mercy on them is mercy on us.

Of course, we have a comfort this woman did not have. We come though the work and blood of Christ, and plead for mercy for his sake. She could not.

Her heart's desire was for someone outside of herself. Her motivation was her daughter.

Let me point out an interesting comparison here. The promise of salvation for a pagan husband is a chaste conversation coupled with fear... 1 Peter 3.

However, here for the daughter it is pleading with a heavy heart for the Lord's mercy.

That certainly is not to say that the chaste conversation is not needed for our children, nor that prayer is not needed for pagan husband. I am simply pointing out a comparison.

I will say, however, we cannot expect those we are concerned about to have something we do not have, a consistent Christian life.

This woman was motivated by the closest thing to her heart, maybe even closer than for her husband. My daughter, my daughter was her loud cry, and she would not be quieted by the disciples. Rather, she followed them as they went about the area. She was not going to give up until the Lord freed her daughter from the snare of the devil.

Seventh, vexed with a devil. The devil takes many forms. During Christ's time on earth, the devil had been given special power to manifest himself. The devil was granted unique power over men at that time to show the glory of God, and to show the Lord's total authority over even the devil himself.

Then and now, the devil was and is simply a servant of the Lord.

Today, he takes many different forms apart from such physical manifestations.

Eighth, answered her not a word. Though there certainly was nothing wrong with her prayer, he answered her not a word. He appeared to totally ignore her.

Though our prayers are right and proper, pleading for mercy, his lack of words of comfort cannot discourage us.

His ignoring her did not discourage her a bit. Her daughter was at stake, so she continued to raise a cry for mercy.

The enemy may tell us, "Your prayer is not the right sort; therefore, you will not be heard." But the woman's prayer was the right sort. Her prayer was, Have mercy on me.

Note: her prayer was not, "Lord, I deserve you to hear me out." We must say with the woman as Jacob said unto the Lord in Genesis 32:10 [Lord] I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies..."

What have we done to deserve the least of his mercies? NOTHING. That is why we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Prayers are answered because of him and his relationship to the Father, certainly not for our own relationship to the Father. We can claim God's promises because through Christ, and through Christ alone.

Ninth, his disciples encouraged him to send her away. She was following them and making a big scene.

Note: She was not embarrassed to follow after Christ, and make a very public display of her plea. However, it was embarrassing to the disciples, who wanted Christ to send her away.

How many times have I prayed, yet the heavens seemed to be of brass. I was as sincere as a heart attack, yet there were no answers to my prayers. I cannot count the times that my prayers have seemed to be totally unheard and even rejected.

In the times of discouragement, I remember how the Lord has answered my prayers in the past.

How many times have we been like the poor woman in Matthew 15? Rather than a kind word from the Lord or promise from the Lord, we seem to have been brushed off by him. He seems to ignore our pleas, and we become discouraged because we receive no promise to our soul.

We pray even with heavy hearts, yet it seems that peace and assurance is still as far away as though we never prayed.

Such silence had turned more than a few away from the Lord, and caused them even to doubt the existence of God.

Tenth, I am not sent... This was a discouraging answer, but she refused to be discouraged.

Eleventh, Then she came... Rather than the discouraging answer turning her away, she saw that the answer got the Lord's attention enough to speak to her. Even with this discouraging answer with no hint of help in Christ's words, they caused her to become more determined.

And worshipped him. How many of us would continue to worship the Lord though everything was discouraging to our cause?

Twelfth, Lord help me was the continued and sincere cry of her heart.

We must continue to cry unto the Lord, constantly in prayer. Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. The Lord tells us that there is always the prospect of losing our praying spirit, for the answer may be long in coming, or not come at all.

The result is that we can become depressed and discouraged, feeling "what's the use?" Which has been my case many times.

The walls of Jericho did not fall down on the first day. Rather, it fell on the seventh day. How many people in the multitude that marched around Jericho felt it was a waste of time when there was no results for six days? The people inside the walls thought the Israelites were crazy, until the last time around.

Rain did not come the first time Elijah prayed on Mt Carmel, but it was the seventh time. Think of the rejoicing of the pagan priests who lives were on the line when it did not rain for six times.

"I have tried, and God's promises do not work for me." Remember, the enemy is an expert at using our feelings against us. Our faith does not rest in feelings, but in facts as presented in Scripture.

Habakkuk 2:3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

Many times, we must chose to follow our feelings, or follow the word of God. We must not allow our feelings to count the word of God of none effect.

Matthew 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Feelings many times are our worse enemy. Feelings cause even Christians to doubt God's promises, or even doubt the existence of God. But doubts can not change the fact of the Lord God.

and there is no place where the devil so resists us as when we pray. Sometimes it seems as if all the forces of hell sweep between us and God when we pray. What shall we do? Give us? No! A thousand times No: Fight the thing though on your knees. Wrestle in your prayers to God and win.
It is the prayer in which we actually wrestle in the power of the Holy Spirit that wins out with God. (R.A. Torry.)

Thirteenth, it is not meet, or morally good and right, to take what is for the house of Israel, v. 24, and give it to the dogs. The Gentiles at this time were still considered dogs, or the unclean beasts of the field.

At this point, I can see the Lord, who himself was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, (Isaiah 53:3) turn to her with a look of compassion. At this point, she may have thought, "Though he seems to be ignoring me, the look on his face says so much more."

Lamentations 3:32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.

Luke 7:12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.

She continues her desperate plea for her daughter.

Sinner or saint must look to Jesus. The sinner for eternal life, and the saint for his merciful intercession with the Father on our behalf:

Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Can or will the Lord turn a deaf ear to a cry for mercy? The cry, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner brought justification to the publican in Luke 18:13.

Fourteenth, crumbs... "Are there not any leftovers from the table?" Again the woman's need was overwhelming—it was her daughter, and she was not going to be put off by the Lord's apparent disinterest in the situation.

Note: The woman understood that though the Lord spoke discouraging words to her, his mercy would reach even her.

Fifteenth, great is thy faith... The public display of humiliation that even the disciples wanted to stop; the discouraging words from even the Lord, did not discourage her. It was her daughter who was at stake in this situation. She was in the clutches of the devil, and the mother would be discouraged.

Sixteenth, be it unto thee even as thou wilt. Her persistence paid off. She would not quit pleading for this great need in her life.

Though the pleading was for her daughter, it was mercy to this distressed woman to release the daughter from the clutches of the wicked one.

Though the Lord seemed to ignore her, she continually cast herself on the mercy of the Lord, and she obtained what she needed.

[Streams in the Desert, 5/13]

"We know not what we should pray for as we ought." (Rom. 8:26.)
Much that perplexes us in our Christian experience is but the answer to our prayers. We pray for patience, and our Father sends those who tax us to the utmost; for "tribulation worketh patience."
We pray for submission, but God sends sufferings; for "we learn obedience by the things we suffer."
We pray for unselfishness, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice ourselves by thinking on the things of others, and by laying down our lives for the brethren.
We pray for strength and humility, and some messenger of Satan torments us until we lie in the dust crying for its removal.
We pray, "Lord, increase our faith," and money takes wings; or the children are alarmingly ill; or a servant comes who is careless, extravagant, untidy or slow, or some hitherto unknown trial calls for an increase of faith along a line where we have not needed to exercise much faith before.
We pray for the Lamb-life, and are given a portion of lowly service, or we are injured and must seek to redress; for "he was led as a lamb to the slaughter and ... opened not his mouth."
We pray for gentleness, and there comes a perfect storm of temptation to harshness and irritability. We pray for quietness, and every nerve is strung to the utmost tension, so that looking to Him we may learn that when He gives quietness, no one can make trouble.
We pray for love, and God sends peculiar suffering and puts us with apparently unlovely people, and lets them say things which rasp the nerves and lacerate the heart; for love suffereth long and is kind, love in not impolite, love is not provoked. Love BEARETH ALL THINGS, believeth, hopeth and endureth, love never faileth. We pray for likeness to Jesus, and the answer is, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong?" "Are ye able?"
The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance, every trial, straight from the hand of a loving Father; and to live up in the heavenly places, above the clouds, in the very presence of the Throne, and to look down from the Glory upon our environment as lovingly and divinely appointed. Selected.

I prayed for strength, and then I lost awhile
All sense of nearness, human and divine;
The love I leaned on failed and pierced my heart,
The hands I clung to loosed themselves from mine;
But while I swayed, weak, trembling, and alone,
The everlasting arms upheld my own.

Ai prayed for light; the sun went down in clouds,
The moon was darkened by a misty doubt,
The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears,
And all my little candles flames burned out;
But while I sat in shadow, wrapped in night,
The face of Christ made all the darkness bright.

I prayed for peace, and dreamed of restful ease,
A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose;
Above my head the skies were black with storm,
And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes;
But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew,
I heard His voice and perfect peace I knew.

I thank Thee, Lord, Thou wert too wise to heed
My feeble prayers, and answer as I sought,
Since these rich gifts Thy bounty has bestowed
Have brought me more than all I asked or thought;
Giver of good, so answer each request
With Thine own giving, better than my best.
-- Annie Johnson Flint.