Saturday, February 6, 2010

What do you deserve today?

So often today we are urged to indulge ourselves in some sinful pleasure with the persuasive enticement that we somehow deserve it. You've worked hard, you deserve a break today. You've been under a lot of stress lately, you deserve a weekend retreat at our spa. Treat yourself, pamper yourself, be good to yourself. When you turn your car on, does it return the favor? Why shouldn't you surround yourself in luxury? Buy a "BMCaddiLexucedes", you've earned it. Dare I say, you deserve it!

But what is it we really deserve? Are we here merely to strive for a life of ease in luxurious surroundings only to die later and bequeath what's leftover by then to our children? Studying God's word can help us keep it all in perspective. This short story about a lowly Canaanite woman's request of the Son of God demonstrates.
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Mat 15:21-28 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.

After reading this passage I was puzzled and somewhat perplexed as to why Jesus treated this woman the way He did. Not only did He refuse her request at first but later in the exchange He referred to her as a "dog".
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What was Christ most concerned with when He arrived on the scene in Jerusalem? The Jews had taken the law of Moses which was really God's law and turned it into little more than a scorecard, a checklist really. They had totally missed the point! God wants us to obey him because we want to, not in a sense of having to because we're being coerced. He wants obedience from the heart not the head obeying the spirit of the law not just the letter of it. (Heb 10:16)

This woman was a Canaanite and thusly a Gentile. Jesus did not come to expressly minister to the Gentiles rather leaving this task to Paul. He came to minister, as He said, to the house of Israel. Being from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, she was from an area known for its worship of the pagan god, Baal. It would be highly likely then that her daughter would indeed be inhabited by an evil spirit. As a location of unscrupulous practices, it would not have been unusual for someone from there to approach Jesus with an attitude of trying to get something for nothing from Him. In other words, get what she can from him so she can be about her business. "If He is indeed the great healer He is purported to be then let's see if He'll heal my daughter." While Christ may have known her heart, those standing by would certainly not have known. In fact, the disciples asked that Jesus quickly heal her so she would leave them alone. Christ, of course, handles it perfectly, teaching His disciples and us a valuable lesson.

The woman's first request to heal her daughter was ignored by Jesus. She recognizes his stature in the community as a Jew and even further as the Son of David, of royal heritage.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David
It was not apparent though whether this was a true sign of reverence or just a ploy to flatter Him, butter Him up so to speak before making her request. Why did He ignore her at the beginning? Maybe he was trying her faith to see how strong it was or demonstrating to bystanders that the pearl of great price was not given to just anyone. He may also have been eliciting a demonstration of the effect of persevering supplication. Either way, it serves as an effectual example for us.

The disciples were annoyed and suggested her request be granted if for no other reason than to just get rid of her.
Send her away; for she crieth after us
Christ's response has dual meaning - 1. that He will not be goaded into exercising the power of God to merely alleviate a nuisance and 2. at that time He was sent to the house of Israel first and such requests from others would be considered on a case by case basis.
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The woman threw herself at Jesus' feet humbling herself, did him reverence and cried out a proper cry for a poor sinner signifying that her case required it; that it was such, that she could not help herself, nor any creature help her, only He, in whom she firmly believed.
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

It might be helpful to know how the Jews of that time viewed the Gentiles. As the specially chosen ones of God, the Jews looked down on all who were not so chosen as mere dogs. Even though the Jews were only perfunctorily following a righteousness checklist and were not really any more worthy than those they detested, they still looked down their noses at the uncircumcised as lowly "infidels". Dogs of that time were not cared for once they were full-grown. Puppies though, lingered around the master's table in hopes of picking up any scraps that might fall to the floor. Once they became adults, they were turned out to fend for themselves, begging on the streets and eating whatever garbage they could find only occasionally being fed at home. So to refer to someone as a "dog" was quite an insult.

But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
The woman persisted, humbly accepting her "dog" status that even as such she was willing to settle for even the crumbs of Christ's mercy. Let it be that the best food should be given to your children - let the House of Israel have the chief benefit of thy ministry; but the dogs beneath the table eat the crumbs. So let me be regarded as a dog, a pagan, as unworthy of everything. Yet grant one exertion of Thy almighty power displayed so signally among your children, and heal the despised daughter of a despised heathen mother.
And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
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.
That is, her trust, confidence, and belief was great. The word here seems to include, also, the humility, gratitude and perseverance manifested in pressing her suit. Jesus' reward is for those that demonstrate obedience, trust and humility and seek Him in truth and sincerity.

Let's not talk about what we deserve or entertain thoughts of self-aggrandizement but rather of humility and gratitude. The word "deserve" can be broken down into two syllables "de-serve" as in "un-serve" or "not-serve". In other words, the opposite of serve as we're instructed by our Lord Jesus. What we deserve is death on a cross and anything we receive better than that is by the grace and mercy of the Lord our God and Jesus Christ. For it is by His sacrifice we are saved.

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I strive to be as the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-11 receiving the word with all readiness of mind, and searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so. Check up on me in your own bible. Should you find me in error please let me know immediately. We must prove all things (1Thes 5:21) and rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim 2:15) together lest we be deceived. (Matt 24:24)

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