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An Unlikely Believer

Who are your heroes of faith? They may be martyrs who faced death for the sake of the gospel or missionaries who have endured hardship. These individuals look like heroes, at least to us. They expect great things from God and attempt great things for Him.

The Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter would not have appeared on that list for any of Jesus’ disciples. For one thing, she was a Canaanite! A pagan and not of Jewish descent. But she at least knew enough about Jesus to address Him by His messianic title and to ask Him to show mercy (v. 22).

Although Jesus ignored her at first, she persisted. His silence seems uncharacteristic. Why didn’t Jesus respond at once? His explanation was related to His mission. He had come as the Son of David, seeking “the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24). Before He offered Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Jesus offered Himself to Israel as their long-awaited King. This does not mean that God had no interest in non-Jews. God had promised that the Messiah would be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 49:6).

Jesus’ use of the term “dogs” to refer to the woman in verse 26 seems surprisingly harsh to modern ears. In some cases the Old Testament employs the term dogs in a derisive sense (Ps. 22:16). But dogs were also employed to help shepherd the flock and as guard dogs (Job 30:1; Isa. 56:10). Jesus’ point was simply that the children come first. Encouraged by this, the woman turned the metaphor on its head to make her case (v. 27). She did not see Jesus’ response to her request as “no” but as “not yet.” Her good humor was a reflection of her faith.

>> Delay does not always mean that God is denying your request. What are you waiting on today? Have faith that God does hear and that He will answer you, even if you do not sense His response right away.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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