God bless you in the exalted name of Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
Dogs hold quite a difference of status in our current American culture than they did in the Eastern culture of the Bible. In our Western culture “a dog’s life” epitomizes a life of ease devoid of anxiety. However, dogs in the Bible lived in squalor and were forced to scavenge for food. Although they were used as watch dogs (Isaiah 56:10) and for guarding flocks (Job 30:1). Of all the domesticated animals, there was a particular revulsion for them. They are on occasion juxtaposed with swine (Isaiah 66:3; Matthew 7:6; II Peter 2:22) for both were unclean animals whose repulsive behavior was a cause of distain.
To speak of oneself as a “dog” was to portray oneself as insignificant or irrelevant (I Samuel 17:43; 24 14; I Samuel 9:8) or to the miserable treatment one is receiving (I Samuel 17:43; II Samuel 3:8; II Kings 8”13). To refer to someone else as a “dog” is an insult depicting them as among the lowest on the social scale (II Samuel 16:9). Paul also called false apostles “dogs” (Philippians 3:2). “Dog” was also a name the Jews used for Gentiles. Jesus seems to also intentionally echo the same Jewish sentiments to the Gentiles when he rebuffs the Syrophoenecian woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30.
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.
This lady was not an Israelite. We will read later on that she was a Syrophenician, a Gentile. She had a daughter that was vexed, held captive, by a devil spirit, and she wanted Jesus’ help. Jesus tells her that he came to minister unto the lost sheep of Israel. How would that make you feel? Under similar circumstances most of us would have given up, but not this woman. First Jesus ignored her; then He said to His disciples, “I’m not here to help her.” Still, she came she and worshipped him, saying, “Lord, help me.” This Gentile mother wouldn’t leave Jesus alone! Jesus seemed to keep putting her off, but perhaps he was waiting for something. He finally responds to her saying:
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.
Jesus told her it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. Did Jesus just call her a dog? Most of us would have gone home angry. But look at how she responds to Jesus: “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” She was really saying, “Lord, I don’t need the whole loaf. Give that to the children, although most of them won’t take it. Just give me a crumb. I know what your bread will do.”
She was not talking about how much humility or faith she had; she was talking about how powerful Jesus’ bread is! She was saying, “Call me anything you want, but heal my daughter.” Then Jesus told her, “With faith like that, you can have anything you want!” Jesus had taken this woman to the limits, and she’d passed the test. He knew her faith would turn His power loose. We know Jesus had no animosity for this lady, but he knew his mission. His comments to her were designed to build her believing or at least reveal it to him. No one is an inconsequential “dog” in God’s eyes.
Great faith always takes God at His Word, and that’s what this Gentile woman did. It paid to hang on and refuse to give up, because she received the answer she’d come for. Her daughter was made whole! This mother refused to accept anything less, she wanted her daughter to be healed, to be whole, to be clean and she would not stop. She reached Jesus’ heart. He saw the faith, the believing, she had for her daughter to receive it. He just could not deny it. She desperately wanted healing. People have got to desperately want it. Nobody likes to be sick, but do you believe God can do it? If I believe it, I go. Nothing is going to stop me. Tear down the walls, whatever I have to do to get there. That was the heart of this mother.
And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. 25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. 29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. 30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
Jesus just spoke the Word and the devil was gone because the mother had faith for her daughter. As parents, we have authority for our children. She persevered, and she got it. That is what we have to do whether we are ministering healing or receiving it. We have to persevere when we are ministering, and we have to persevere when we need help. No one is ever too insignificant to help or to deserve help. No one should ever view themselves as unworthy of deliverance. No one ever earns it; it’s bestowed by grace. It only ever takes a crumb of the bread of life. How far are we willing to go to get it?
We’ll do a little bit more on dogs tomorrow.