Ask

In Matthew 15, we find the Lord saying something that just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps that is because we are not first-century Jews understanding the lingo. Most of us have been around kids or those younger than us and heard the jive talk, yes a dated reference, or we tried to use a hip word, like cool, only to be reminded it was no longer cool. Or even worse you heard it was sick and stayed away, though it really was something perfect for you. As Jesus shares His response we need to be educated on Matthew 15:26~And he answered, It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (ESV) This woman who has come to Christ has brought her deepest need and seems to be meeting the requirements of Psalm 55, more than we might suspect. 

The 55th Psalm is a psalm of lament where the psalmist is surrounded by his enemy and in desperate need. This sounds just like the woman here in Matthew 15 who is crying out, not for herself, but her innocent child, who is plagued. So, let’s take hold of the three reference points offer and learn: Children, bread and dogs. 1st—Children: The Jews are God’s children (τέκνον teknon) this word reminds us that God is our heavenly Father. 2nd—Bread: Do we give bread (ἄρτος artos) to dogs? (ἄρτος artos) This is the same word Christ Jesus uses in John 6:35 as He references, the first I Am saying, I Am the bread (ἄρτος artos) of life. 3rd—Dogs: Jews referred to Gentiles as (κυνάριον kynarion) little dogs. This would have been the way a Jew would speak about Gentiles in casual conversation.

Jesus is reminding us that His earthly ministry is first to the Jews and they take precedence over His ministry to the Gentiles. Paul writes concerning the Gospel in Romans 1:16~For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (NIV) This poor woman respectfully fires back, Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs…Matthew 15:27~ She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (ESV) The woman first recognizes Jesus’ divinity. Then she doesn’t deny the priority of Jews in God’s plan but suggests that it doesn’t exclude Gentiles.

This Canaanite woman demonstrates a complete absence of pride as she humbly continues to ask for mercy, saying, Lord, I am whatever you say I am. In other words, I’ve no right to ask, but please help me. She is willing to be content with the crumbs that fall from the Messiah’s table. She believes the crumbs of His ministry are enough to heal her daughter. Such faith! She offers a wonderful example of 1 Peter 5:5~In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (NIV) 

It’s because of her humility in great faith, Jesus says in Matthew 15:28 ~Then Jesus answered her, O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire. And her daughter was healed instantly. (ESV) Though she probably hasn’t heard it, the woman is following one of Jesus’ principles for answered prayer: ask, and it will be given to you. Luke 11:9~So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (NIV) If we want to be Fortified in our Faith then we must become persistent in our prayers.

What are you asking of God right now? Where are you asking Him to move in your life? What are you knocking on heaven’s doors for today? Whatever it is, be persistent. God will answer, and when He does, I want you to accept what He says. 



Fortified

After confronting the Pharisees and scribes about their hypocrisy, Jesus explains that our hearts are the origin of defilement. Then He withdraws. Matthew 15:21~And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. (ESV) Known as southern Lebanon, it’s about 40 miles to this Gentile region where Christ will minister and reveal how faith can be Fortified.

The first thing we need to do to help fortify our faith is to become a person who is persistent in prayer (15:22-28). One thing we all need to be reminded of is that our requests, needs, and desires must be made through or in persistent prayer. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6~Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV) Not being anxious can be pretty hard. That is why as we journey through this Gentile territory, we meet a Canaanite woman who comes persistently to Jesus. Now the Canaanites were bitter enemies of the Jews when Israel was settling the Promised Land. 

The woman comes to Jesus and cries out, “Have mercy!” Matthew 15:22~ And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, Have mercy on me, O Lord (κύριος kyrios), Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. (ESV) Despite her pagan background, she calls Jesus by His messianic title, Son of David. She also reverently addresses Him as Lord (κύριος kyrios), meaning master or controller, you got what I need. She says I know who you are and I call on you.

Now Jesus ignores her at first. Matthew 15:23~But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” (ESV) Matthew 15:24~He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (ESV) We know His answer is meant to test the woman’s faith, for Jesus does minister to Gentiles. In Matthew 8:5-13, He heals the Roman centurion’s servant with a word. Moreover, He chats up a Samaritan woman who He offers living water to at the well in John 4:7-29. All the more this woman cries.

As she comes before Christ, she kneels, and says, Lord, help me. This is an all too familiar picture. Where we, as believers kneel before our Lord to plead our desperation in great prayer and supplication. As Jesus answers her, He uses three points of reference known to the Jews. Saying in Matthew 15:26~And he answered, It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (ESV) Now for us, who are not Jews of the day and don’t understand this reference, it would seem that Christ is without compassion. Yet, we know that Jesus cares for us and that we are to cast all of our cares and concerns upon Him. It was the psalmist who first penned in Psalm 55:22~Cast thy burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain thee: He will never suffer the righteous to be moved. (KJV) 

What burden is there in your life that needs to be cast on Christ. Why not embrace the 21-Days of prayer and fasting this year to set a tone for your faith and life moving forward. Go ahead and cast the burden that you have been toting around on Jesus. He cares for you and will be the one who sustains you. Let the Lord become your strength today.



Metamorphosis

Yesterday, we finished our discussion by learning that we are a tree of righteousness. Today, we want to recognize the root of defilement that wants to creeps into our lives, if we are not careful (Matthew 15:10-20) Next, as Jesus calls the people to Him and tells them to listen and understand. Matthew 15:11~ it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. (ESV) If Pharisees and scribes think eating without ceremonially washing their hands defiles them. Jesus is about to upset their apple carts as He explains defilement is not an external matter, such as only eating certain foods or washing hands. 

Christ Jesus says people are defiled by who they are on the inside. Wait, you mean defilement is about our hearts? Yes, it is a spiritual matter. Why do you think the Lord didn’t punish David who ate the bread of Presence in 1 Samuel 21:6? It is because David’s heart was right and human need is always more important than tradition. So Christ Jesus says, it is what comes out of our mouths that defile us. Because our words reveal the condition of our hearts! Pharisees and scribes know God’s Word, therefore they ought to have known what God says to Samuel when he almost anoints the wrong person to replace king Saul. 1 Samuel 16:7~But the LORD said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him…(NIV)

The disciples come to Christ Jesus and say, you know you just offended them right? Our Lord Jesus Christ is certainly aware He’s offended them, but it is necessary to reveal the truth. He responds to His disciples by talking about weeding life’s garden Matthew 15:13~Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. (ESV) That means traditions can become a weed in our lives that choke out the good growth God has planned. Matthew 15:14~Let them alone; they’re blind guides. and if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (ESV) The Pharisees and scribes are blind to the true meaning of God’s Word. The pit was a hole, or cistern, dug in a field to provide water for animals. A blind man walking through such a field would fall into the pit. It speaks to their spiritual condition and needs. We are to be light and reveal the help and hope that is found only in Jesus. Romans 2:19~if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark (NIV). 

In disappointment, Christ Jesus asks if they’re still without understanding? Saying in Matthew 15:17~Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? (ESV) This means food going into the body can’t defile a person because it passes thru and gets expelled. But what is in our hearts can come out of our mouths. Listen to how this is rendered by Mark 7:19~For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body. In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. (NIV) Enjoy that pork BBQ today, for Daniel is coming.  

Mathew 15:19-20~out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (ESV) Are you guilty of any of these sins today? Don’t be too quick to answer as Jeremiah 17:9 reminds our hearts are desperately deceitful. All you have to do is look at our great nation as living proof! There’s no power on earth that can change our hearts. It takes a heavenly intervention. One born from a spiritual metamorphosis, a change from the inside out that alters our heart

Hear me clearly, only Jesus Christ can bring true and lasting change. We can go and get an education, make lots of money, take different medicines to help us, or even adapt to a more sophisticated culture, however, none of these will change a single heart. Today, I want each of us to pray the prayer of Psalm 26:2~Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; (NIV) As you move out from your devotional time, keep asking the Lord to help you walk the straight and narrow as you prepare for the Daniel fast next week.