Wait Means Wait
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 15:25b (Holman) . . .and said, “Lord, help me!”
Jesus’ words had sounded gruff, but the Canaanite lady saw in them a gleam of hope. “If He cares about lost sheep, maybe He will help this poor lost lamb.”
She didn’t see in Jesus’ rebuttal a flat-out no. She reminds us of two vital truths. A seeming “no” can be a “yes” in disguise, and wait means wait, not no.
In the lady’s first request she had mentioned her daughter. This time she mentioned only herself. The mother totally identified herself with the daughter.
Identifying ourselves with the troubles of others is a chief component of successful intercessory prayer. When young, I read a biography of Rees Howells, who was famous for his intercessory prayer ministry. I did not agree with every thing Howells espoused, but was touched by the fact he often prayed for the trials another person was suffering to be transferred to him. We may not need to go this far when interceding, but we do have to care deeply for the people we pray for.
Matt. 15:26 He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.”
Few words from our Master have caused more consternation than these. They seem out of place coming from Jesus’ lips. He was testing her severely.
Jesus was verbalizing the commonly accepted perception of His day. Jews were in, Gentiles out. Israelites were sheep, which even if they were lost were ritually clean. Gentiles were dogs, which at best were always ritually unclean.
This we know about Jesus. He never did and never will love one nation more than another. He dealt with Israel differently, based on covenants He made with their ancestors. He promised to use them as His chief instrument for saving the world. They had a special role in His service, but His love for all is constant.
Matt. 15:27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!”
Jesus was gruff again, but she still did not read a “no” into Jesus’ “wait.” Remember, yes means yes, no means no, wait means wait. Wait will ultimately become yes or no, but until God renders His final verdict, wait means wait.
She was not a Jew; not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; not a person of distinction. Our Master proved her by fire. Her response here showed when Jesus reproved her, He improved her. His delay was making her stronger.
God proved her, as He did Job. She needed to know what she was made of spiritually. God reproved her. Like the Prodigal Son, she had to be humbled.
God improved her. Like Abraham, she grew strong through God’s testing (RM 4:20); like Jacob (GN 32:26), she wrestled with God until He blessed her.
Note her humility. Jesus called her a dog. She agreed. Faith never exalts itself to arguing against Christ. We never gain ground by disagreeing with Jesus.
To serve Jesus, we have to know ourselves for what we really are, what the Bible says of us. We are sinners – saved sinners yes!! – but sinners nonetheless.
One evidence of true humility is being willing to be proved and reproved, in order to be improved. The deeper down humility goes, the higher up faith grows.
Great faith is rooted in humility. Our weakest moment precedes God’s mightiest. Paul felt dead in the cause just before God worked in Asia (2 C 1:8ff).
Our weakness allows God to “show Himself strong. If you are feeling weak, you are in a good place. God can do His work with less hindrance than you have been putting up. The stage is set for His might” (Indeed magazine, 3-13-9).
Blessed are the believers humble enough to avoid any arguments of merit in their prayers. Let grace be the only oil on our prayer wheels. Don’t try to bribe, lever, or buy-off God. Recall the Prodigal’s intent: Father, let me be a servant.
The lady in our text showed, in addition to humility, seriousness. She was in dead earnest. Some people pray nonchalantly. To them it is a harmless gamble. They are not serious about it, but don’t want to miss a chance to win a prize. Do not trifle with God. If you’re going to pray, pray! Come to Him like you mean it.
In addition to being humble and serious, this lady was tenacious. She kept coming. Value perseverance. Few prayer goals are reached in a single stride.
Persevere. Remember, even when it seems Jesus’ face is frowning, love rules His heart. Faith finds encouragement even in discouraging circumstances. It draws nearer to God by grasping the hand that seems stretched out to push it away.
Humble, serious, tenacious–she kept pressing Him. “I’m a dog? Okay then, give me what dogs receive. Good masters don’t let their dogs starve to death.”
She knew others from Tyre had traveled to Jesus in Israel. He healed them. He could do it again. His being here in her territory spoke volumes to her. “You are here on my ground. Yes, I’m a dog, but You brought Your table all the way here to Tyre, and scraps that fall off Your table should not be begrudged to a dog.”
This lady recognized the value of what Jesus had to offer. The worth of a crumb is determined by the value of the food on the table. The world’s best steak and potatoes will never be better than crumbs from our Heavenly Master’s table.
We who sit at the Lord’s table, and enjoy its culinary delights, can learn a valuable lesson here. Spiritual opportunities and blessings we take for granted would be a feast to many. At least offer it to them. Let’s not say “no” for them.
Matt. 15:28 Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured.
Her faith was great. Thus she became one of the found, not lost, sheep of Israel. She shared not Abraham’s seed, but his faith, which was more important.
In the way Jesus treated this pagan, Gentile lady, He sent a clear, earth shattering, history-altering newsflash. Faith in Jesus will be the readily available and only way by which Gentiles can fully enter in the blessing sent through Israel.
This dear lady received precisely what she asked for. This is not always the case. Even if we are humble, serious, and persistent, we are often making wrong, unwise requests. In these cases, our requests are kindly and graciously denied.
Jesus always responds with infinite wisdom and love. His yes, no, and wait are equally worthy and loving. God is as loving if He lets the sickness continue as He is if He heals it. He is as kind when He says no to a job as when He says yes.
Her faith was great. Have we learned from her example? She taught us true faith will increase, not decrease, due to trials, whether God says yes, no, or wait to our prayers in times of difficulty. Is our faith passing the test?
She learned the value of letting disappointments in prayer lead her to pray harder. How are we doing here? Is God’s “wait” driving us to pray more or less?
She taught us, whatever God does with our prayers, He has our spirit in mind. His physical healing or lack thereof are efforts to influence us spiritually.
Are we agonizing about something non-spiritual? Have we stopped to consider what God may want to accomplish in our spiritual life through this?
The delay forced her to take inventory of herself. Have we used God’s delay to ponder if maybe we have sinned? Have we not dealt with some evil?
Be careful here. Sin causes suffering. Each sin has consequences that can’t be untied, but much suffering results not from a given sin, but from sin in general, as a consequence of our sin-scarred world. About these troubles we can pray.
She was, without doubt, able to appreciate the gift more than she would have had Jesus healed her daughter immediately. While praying for certain things, are we taking time to thank Him for other things He has already granted us?
She learned a request to a great man was not as needed as a prayer to the living God. Do we grasp the fact Jesus is God? Have we received Him as Savior? Do we treat Him as Lord? Are we mindful He is the Almighty, we are the weak?
She let Jesus prove and reprove her, in order to improve her. Do likewise.