Originally published Monday, 23 April 2012.
(We’re continuing on in the idevotion: Intentional Devotion series. Click here to read past posts. PS - freebies @ the end of this post!)
And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is shouting out after us." But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. Matthew 15:21-28 NASB
I wonder how many of us out there have prayed for something and felt as if God was silent. I wonder how many of us have prayed until we felt that surely our constant request had become an annoying clamoring in God’s ears... because certainly we were exhausted with hearing this same prayer from our own lips and it felt like everyone around us was tired of hearing the same prayer too. But yet, the need continued to compel us to cry out for our Lord’s help.
This story is for those of us who have gone through seasons where we felt like God’s work went “quiet.”
Notice in verse 23 that Jesus “did not answer her a word.” And the disciples were even sick of hearing this woman crying out for help. It seemed like Jesus was ignoring her! Then when He finally did give her attention, He appeared to be less than immediately sympathetic.
Have you ever been tempted to feel like God was ignoring you or tempted to think that His response toward you was less than compassionate?
Sometimes all the external circumstances make it seem as though God isn’t paying attention to our plight; or that perhaps, He doesn’t really even care all that much. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Jesus wasn’t ignoring her or lacking compassion toward her need. He was “setting the stage.” This woman who was an “outsider” to the Jewish faith displayed more belief than the very people who were supposed to have been ready and waiting for Jesus’ coming. In addition, her story prepared the way for the Gospel being preached to those outside the Jewish faith. She was a symbol and foreshadowing of the work God was planning to accomplish among the gentiles. And she was a great example of faith! Jesus’ response to her only allowed the rest of us to see her faith and humility clearly displayed. If He hadn’t responded to her the way He did, we wouldn’t be challenged and inspired by her heart for God.
Her story ought to bring us some encouragement for our prayer lives as well! Like the Syrophoenician woman we ought not give up, even when it feels like our prayers aren’t being heard! And in the midst of the seasons where we might be tempted to feel like God isn’t hearing or compassionate toward our need, we ought to follow the kind of example of humility this woman displayed. She didn’t get angry at Jesus. She didn’t waiver in her faith. She cast herself completely at His feet and trusted Him.
Intentional Devotion prayer practice - keep a prayer journal and regularly look back at how God answered your prayers and has faithfully cared for you! Take note of those times when you prayed and God answered quickly and the times when you labored in prayer and waited for Him to work.
Intentional Devotion Bible reading practice - the way this section of Scripture was interpreted and applied is based on a method of Bible study called Inductive Bible Study. This method of study uses a whole section of Scripture and runs that passage through a series of questions in order to process the passage for personal application.
The first phase in the process is called “observation” and contains the basic questions of who, what, when and where. In the above passage we would note the individuals involved in the interaction, where Jesus was going, where He’d come from, where they were at the moment, etc.
The second phase in the process is called “interpretation.” This phase builds on the previous set of questions and asks “why and how is this significant?” In this phase cultural traditions are analyzed, such as “What’s the big deal with this woman being a Gentile,” “Is there any special significance to the fact the she is a woman?” and so on. Sometimes a good study Bible comes in handy for these kinds of questions. Study notes can shed light on historical, cultural, archeological, linguistic and scientific issues that pertain to the text. In this portion of study, it is also good to let the Bible interpret the Bible! Most of the time, Scripture has multiple records of the same event and you can read what the other record noted about that particular instance to get an even fuller understanding of it. This story is recorded in Mark and interestingly enough, in Mark this story is the only one where Mark records Jesus being referred to as “Lord.” So in Mark, this woman’s story reflects a very remarkable depth of faith. Further study of this passage might lead us to look up other interactions Jesus has with Gentiles and/or women. We might also use a word search tool to look up instances when God is silent or waiting to answer someone’s prayer. If you have questions about the original language, you might use a study tool to do some word digging as well. All these bits of study help us understand a passage for the next phase of study.
The last phase in the process is called “application.” God didn’t mean for His children to read His word just to fill their heads with antiquated history. His word is living, active, sharper than a sword and meant to pierce the depths of our lives with transforming truth and love. When we apply Scripture to our lives, we take all the puzzle pieces we just dug up from the previous two phases of study and ask ourselves, “What does this mean for my life?” “How is the truth here challenging or convicting me to live differently?” After reading and studying this passage I was struck by the verse about how God didn’t answer the woman. Her response challenged me to have a deeper faith even in the moments when God wasn’t answering.
This is an extremely condensed explanation of Inductive Bible Study! But I hope it spurs you on to deeper devotional digging! If you are looking for more (and better!) explanation, I love Howard Hendricks’, Living by the Book and Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible Workbook.
Now that you endured all my rambling, here’s the freebie for this month!
Free Download: Click here for a printable download of the Bible Application Square to help you through this study process. Drawing: Click here to send us an email to be entered in this month’s drawing for a free study Bible (drawing entries accepted now through May 30th).
Check out Walking with Jesus 101: One Hundred and One Days of Devotionals to Strengthen your Walk with God Most of us have wished for a Cinderella moment when we could step into a new pair of shoes and in the blink of an eye have our lives transformed. Or, perhaps like Dorothy, we wish we could close our eyes, click our heels and find ourselves instantly transported away from the adventure we accidentally got dropped into. While it might not come from new shoes or heel clicking, God knows our need for a changed life and fresh start! Discover the life transformation that happens when you say "Yes" to God and step into His fullness. Walking with Jesus 101 is a collection of devotionals journeying through the Scriptures that point our feet to God's pathway for living. What walk of obedience, leap of faith or stand of endurance might God be calling you to? He has good things stored up for His children who eagerly seek His highway for living!