We had just finished lunch and were sipping tea when my friend shared her frustrations about prayer. Her forty year old unmarried daughter had no interest in her mother’s faith. Praying passionately God would give her daughter Christian husband so she would become a Christian proved vain. Her daughter remains an unbeliever and single to this day. My friend feels like the woman of Canaan pleading with Jesus to help her daughter only to be ignored.
If Jesus has not responded to a prayer there is a good reason. We ask and receive not because we ask amiss (James 4:2-3). How can God yoke her unbelieving daughter to a believer when the Bible tells us “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers?” Unlike my friend’s experience, Jesus answered the prayer of the persistent Canaanite woman for her daughter, but there is evidence the woman lived to regret it.
Jesus heard the Canaanite woman’s prayer the first time she cried out for help. He ignored her. Refusing to be denied the woman pleaded with Jesus’ disciples to help her. They could not help her and could not get rid of her, so they asked Jesus to send her away. Instead of doing what his disciples requested, he explained why he did not respond to her. God had given him a specific job to do on earth. Restore the lost sheep of Israel. The woman was a gentile and their time to be adopted as children lay in the near future.
In the middle of Jesus discussion with his disciples the troublesome woman stopped pleading for help and tried worship. When she stopped begging for help and worshiped him, Jesus told her why he did not want to help her. It is “not right” to give the children’s bread to dogs. Some translations say “not good”. Instead of respecting God’s wisdom she relied on human wisdom. “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s table” Matthew 15:27.
Smart woman. She acknowledged Jesus spoke the truth. Everything went downhill from there. Acknowledging Jesus spoke the truth also acknowledged she was willing to receive something that is not right and good. Her persistence put Jesus in a no win position. If he refused to give her what she wanted, she would hate him and everyone who heard about it would hate him for his lack of compassion. If he gave her what she wanted wrong and bad things would enter her life and she would wonder why?
Matthew has three stories of people bringing a demon possessed person to Jesus. Where was the woman’s daughter? The fact is some people invite devils into their life and do not want to be free. I was invited to a pagan ceremony in downtown New Orleans as an observer. Before they started, the leader gave instructions on how to bribe devils to leave you alone during the ceremony. The pagans who brought me to the ceremony did not participate. They did not want strange spirits to enter them. Most of their fellow pagans did. They marched around the image of a snake painted on a pole as they summoned spirits knowing the spirits would enter them.
The daughter’s absence strongly suggest she was not ready to be free of her devils. Her mother did not think Jesus knew what he was doing and refused to be denied. Jesus gave the woman what she wanted, “Oh, woman your faith is something else. What you want is what you get” Matthew 15:28 The Message Bible. The woman had faith to move mountains, but she did not have love and without love you gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2-3).
I surveyed twenty different translations of the Bible. In all of them the woman said, “Have mercy on me.” ME! Love is not self-seeking. Shouldn’t she have said, “Have mercy on my daughter.” Her demon possessed daughter made her life a misery. Mother was seeking what is best for mother, not what is best for her daughter. She believed if the demons were gone life would be wonderful again. The real problem was not the devils, but the daughter who allowed devils to enter her life.
The Bible tells us what happens when devils are cast out.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26
Jesus swept the daughter’s house clean, but the daughter was not seeking him. Jesus knew the devils would come back. He also knew if he granted the mothers request the final condition of her daughter would be worse. That is what happens to people content to be dogs eating scraps off the floor. If you were a dog before you ate the scraps, you will be a dog after you eat the scraps. A dog returns to its vomit (2 Peter 2:22). That is why it’s not right and good to give the children’s bread to dogs.
Jesus knew the door allowing Gentiles to enter his kingdom would soon open. If the woman had respected his wisdom and waited for God’s time both the mother and the daughter could have become children. They could have enjoyed bread at Jesus table instead settling for scraps under the table. Then Jesus could have healed her daughter without her condition becoming worse. His Spirit would have displaced the devils in her life and prevented them from returning with friends.
Jesus is wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. He knows how to keep his hands clean and his heart pure. If you give him no choice he will give you want you want. The misery you bring into your life is your fault not God’s.