Dogs, Children, and the Master Who Hears
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we prayed, “Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses.” It might seem at times as if our Lord has forgotten us in the midst of our trials. We certainly believe Him capable of such forgetfulness. “Where is God in my trouble?” “Does He not see me in my pain?” “Does He not hear my prayers?” It’s odd that we ask God to remember us when we are the ones who forget. That awful trait belongs solely to us. When times are good, we think that it all comes from our own effort. When times are tough, we blame God for our troubles. Our sinful flesh is so focused on itself that it constantly forgets its Lord and Master.
And the devil certainly doesn’t help. The evil one is always trying to implant in us a gut-clenching doubt and a trembling fear. “Why would God listen to you?” he says. “You are no Christian! Your faith is miserable and weak! You have to be worthy before God will help you. Why do you bother Him with your prayers? Can’t you see that you are not worthy of His attention?” The devil afflicts us constantly with this stuff.
The Canaanite woman’s daughter was plagued by the devil. The woman comes to Jesus for help. She had heard of Him and has come to believe that He is the Messiah. She cries out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” She acknowledges that Jesus is true God, the Messiah promised of old. Yet, she is a Gentile, not part of the ancient people of God, not included in the old covenant. Still, she pleads, “Have mercy on me!” But our Lord seems to ignore her. He answers her not a word. This woman is shameless. She cries out loud in public, “Lord, help me!” She falls down at His feet and clings to Him. She worships her God and pleads with Him, “Lord, help me!”
The Lord finally speaks to her: “It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.” The banquet is not meant for you. You are a dog not fit for the banquet. It sounds like a refusal, but the woman hears an opening. “I know the banquet is meant for the father and his children. Even so, my Lord and my God, even your dogs are fed with the scraps!” That little bit will be enough. What a great and tenacious faith is displayed here! The woman clings to Christ when all seems dark and a failure. She has only a Word to cling to: Jesus helps sinners. So she persists in her prayer though the devil is shouting in her ear, “You’re not worthy!”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, faith does not cling to the things perceived by the senses. Faith has only the Word, the promises of God. Faith clings to the promise of mercy even when the senses lose hope. As it was with this woman, so it is with you. We are Gentiles and sinners, not worthy for the things for which we ask. We pray, and the answer seems to be a refusal. His deliverance seems to us to be slow. He does not act when we think He should act. Rather, He acts when it is it is good for us.
Gentiles, sinners that we are, we are the baptized child of God. We are no longer merely dogs, waiting for a scrap. We are the true children of Israel. We are children of God who bear the name of our Father upon our foreheads. He has brought us to His table to eat and drink. He has placed us at His right hand where He hears and answers our prayers. We are true children of Israel, walking by faith and not by sight. The Lord always hears, and the Lord always—always—answers. Our Lord tells us, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” He is faithful and true to His Word. And if the world considers us to be dogs, then so be it, for our faithful Master will always take care of us. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.