“It is grace, not place, which makes people believers.”

8 Feb

MATTHEW 15:21-28

Jesus went out from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. Behold, a Canaanite woman came out from those borders, and cried, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely demonized!”

But he answered her not a word.

His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away; for she cries after us.”

But he answered, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

But he answered, “It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

But she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Ryle’s Thoughts:

We see, in the first place, that true faith may sometimes be found, where it might have been least expected.

A Caananitish woman cries to our Lord for help, on behalf of her daughter. “Have mercy on me,” she says, “Lord, Son of David.” Such a prayer would have showed great faith, had she lived in Bethany, or Jerusalem. But when we find that she came from the “coasts of Tyre and Sidon,” such a prayer may well fill us with surprise. It ought to teach us, that it is grace, not place, which makes people believers. We may live in a prophet’s family, like Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, and yet continue impenitent, unbelieving, and fond of the world. We may dwell in the midst of superstition and dark idolatry, like the little maid in Naaman’s house, and yet be faithful witnesses for God and His Christ. Let us not despair of any one’s soul, merely because his lot is cast in an unfavorable position. It is possible to dwell in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and yet sit down in the kingdom of God…..

We see, in the last place, what encouragement there is to persevere in prayer, both for ourselves and others.

It is hard to conceive a more striking illustration of this truth, than we have in this passage. The prayer of this afflicted mother at first seemed entirely unnoticed–Jesus “answered her not a word.” Yet she prayed on. The answer which by and bye fell from our Lord’s lips sounded discouraging–“I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet she prayed on, “Lord, help me.” The second answer of our Lord was even less encouraging than the first–“It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Yet “hope deferred” did not “make her heart sick.” (Prov. 13:12.) Even then she was not silenced. Even then she finds a plea for some “crumbs” of mercy to be granted to her. And her importunity obtained at length a gracious reward. “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire.” That promise never yet was broken, “Seek and you shall find.” (Matt. 7:7.)

Let us remember this history, when we pray for ourselves. We are sometimes tempted to think that we get no good by our prayers, and that we may as well give them up altogether. Let us resist the temptation. It comes from the devil. Let us believe, and pray on. Against our besetting sins, against the spirit of the world, against the wiles of the devil, let us pray on, and not faint. For strength to do duty, for grace to bear our trials, for comfort in every trouble, let us continue in prayer. Let us be sure that no time is so well-spent in every day, as that which we spend upon our knees. Jesus hears us, and in his own good time will give an answer.

Let us remember this history, when we intercede for others. Have we children, whose conversion we desire? Have we relatives and friends, about whose salvation we are anxious? Let us follow the example of this Canaanitish woman, and lay the state of their souls before Christ. Let us name their names before Him night and day, and never rest until we have an answer. We may have to wait many a long year. We may seem to pray in vain, and intercede without profit. But let us never give up. Let us believe that Jesus is not changed, and that He who heard the Canaanitish mother, and granted her request, will also hear us, and one day give us an answer of peace.

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