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Pleading for Mercy

(Mark 7:24-30)

Lesson 7 -- fourth quarter 2009
October 18, 2009

by Mark Roth
thoughts for the International Bible Study
© Copyright 2009

Do you take silence for an answer?

I get tired of asking. I don't like to be a pest. I don't like to plead. I don't like to feel like I'm at someone's mercy, helplessly dependent on another's whim and fancy. So if I ask once or twice and get no answer, I will generally quit in disgust and resignation. Unless being ignored makes me mad...but that's another problem for another occasion.

Unfortunately, this mentality carries over into my praying too easily. After I petition God steadily and regularly for awhile without getting the desire of my heart, I tend to quit. How easily do you quit?

The Syrophenician woman made a request of Jesus, "but he answered her not a word" (Matthew 15:23). That didn't keep her from continuing her pleas, eventually seeming to drive the disciples to distraction: "His disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us." So long as Jesus didn't deny her request, she refused to take no answer as a "no" answer. The Master's silence and apparent disregard didn't deter her.

So let's keep asking! Let's not give up! Even if we must pray 23 years for the salvation of a friend or family member, let's do it!

Of dogs

Does it bother you that Jesus seems to call this woman a dog? It sounds so racist and contrary to His loving character. And have you ever wondered why she went along with the analogy? It seems so groveling and overly subservient. Well, I do not believe the Lord called her a dog, much less considered her one. It seems to me that He merely used a figure of speech to call attention to the boldness and enormity of her request. She continued using the figure of speech in order to convey her knowledge of her own unworthiness as well as her willingness to accept even the smallest favor from His hand.

I suspect most of us need more of her attitude. We tend to have quite a formidable opinion of ourselves. While it is true that we are joint heirs with the King of Kings, He also expects us to walk with one another in humility and service. Rank and pride, positioning and preening, arrogance and presumption -- none of these have a place of honor in the King's court and family. "It shall not be so among you," said Jesus (Matthew 20:26). "I am among you as he that serveth" (Luke 22:27). Why shall we do differently?

Oh, if you're still troubled by the canine comparison Jesus seemed to stoop to, have you ever said you wanted to hear something "straight from the horse's mouth"? If you have, I doubt you had in mind hearing some horse talk. No, you simply used a familiar figure of speech to communicate your wish to hear something directly from the source. You had no intention of demeaning anyone by calling them a horse.

And crumbs

This woman would settle for table crumbs. She wasn't after the whole portion. She didn't even ask for the leftovers. How could she ask for so little? Because she knew that was all she needed! And because she knew the "little" was actually plenty large. She believed crumbs from the Master would amply satisfy the desire of her heart. She understood the Lord's greatness and, therefore, also understood the amazing sufficiency of His crumbs.

How easily satisfied am I? How readily do I get hurt and offended because I got less than what I thought I deserved (or needed, for that matter)? When I have those sufficient crumbs from the Master, shall I quibble with Him for giving the leftovers or even the main course to another? Here are some truths I need to remember better:

"No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11).

"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

"Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6).

"Having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:8).

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).

This concludes my comments based on the passage for the International Bible Study. To read my comments on the alternate lesson developed by Christian Light Publications, click here: Training Children for God.

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