I hope you all have been enjoying reading through the bible this year. This is definitely the time where people slow down or check out, so press on! Leviticus is gifted at calming the most enthusiastic, but do what you have to do to not give up. If you are too far behind to catch up, just skip a few weeks and join back in. Don't give up!!
The theme that really stood out to me this week was the radical nature of faith.
"And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone."
Jesus had just come from a long journey. He was exhausted and looking to have a quiet recovery. Surely the people around would have been told he didn't want to see anyone. Surely this woman would have been told the same. However, the first trait of her faith is "but immediately"...In spite of the circumstances, she came rushing in to find Jesus. She was desperate, and when one is desperate, so many obstacles diminish and fall away. Desperation changes the rules It compels you to knock the door down. All things determined by the appearance of what is proper cease to have any hold. Jesus has stated he doesn't want to be bothered. People would have told her to leave him alone to rest. Desperation doesn't care about conventional boundaries. "But immediately" came banging that door down. Either way, she knew He could do it...and believed in His love and goodness would do it.
She was humble in her desperation. Her action was aggressive, but she fell at his feet. Her heart wasn't demanding. She didn't feel like it was her right or something she deserved. Instead she came as a beggar, as one who is "poor in spirit" like in Matthew 5. However, Jesus responds with a no. He rejects her by comparing her to a dog. Most of us at this point would give up. We all know the terrible feeling of rejection. Not many of us understand the rejection from Jesus...though you may feel God has rejected you. You may have had a closeness and intimacy with Him and circumstances have come and stolen that away. Maybe it's even something He has allowed - like Job - and you find yourself reeling in the injustice of the situation. I would encourage you to let God readjust your bearings. After walking with Jesus for almost 35 years now, one of the only things I know is that God is good, and that never changes...and He loves me...and I don't know why...and I don't know why sometimes He seems distant...and I don't know why bad things happen...but I do know He is always good, and I will not rest until that is the declaration of every ounce of my mind, soul, and heart. The great thing about this woman's faith is it will not remain under the weight of rejection. Instead she says, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Jesus responds by healing her daughter.
The other thing I love about this woman is she embraces Jesus placement of her and doesn't try to become something better or someone more deserving. He calls her a dog and she's ok with it! This woman wasn't even one of his chosen people. He didn't want to see her...didn't come to bring healing to her...however, he responded to her faith, in all it's desperate persistence and simplicity. My question is this: Is your faith based on how good you are? Is your faith based on what you do or don't do for the Lord? Earlier in this chapter, Jesus addresses the Pharisees for having hard hearts. They were so about "doing for" and "appearances" that they completely missed the point. Don't make your Christianity about doing all the good stuff and not doing all the bad stuff. Your salvation is not about you cleaning yourself up and making yourself acceptable. We don't deserve our salvation, a dn we can't earn it. We can't earn any favor from God. He freely gives it through faith in Jesus. This smacks pride in the face - let it. Let it come in and kill that pride...The more you embrace your desperate need for God and the fact that you can do nothing to earn it, the more free you will find yourself. He's not gonna answer your prayers because you were a "good christian" this week.
Mark 10 had a passage about the rich young ruler...He thought he had fulfilled the law. He was a good person...but he still felt the ache of his own lack. This compelled him to seek out Jesus. However, he approached Jesus in a much different way than our gentile woman. He was full of pride and self-sufficiency. Jesus didn't respond to that, nor was he impressed. He turned him away because he wasn't willing to admit his lack and give his entire life to Jesus' Lordship. He wasn't poor in spirit. His sense of lack hadn't overpowered his own sufficiency and his need to keep up appearances. Mark 8: 34-6 "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." Unfortunately for the rich young ruler, he faced this truth and walked away unwilling.
One last point about faith and prayer that spoke to me this time through was Jesus' healing of the blind man in Mark 10:46-52. Again, this is a case of a desperate, begging soul. He cries out again and again. People tell him to be silent. They rebuke him, which only encouraged him to cry out all the more. Jesus hears and calls the man before him. I love this man's persistence in the face of obstacles, because like i have already stated, when you are desperate you have nothing to lose. However, what really stood out to me here was what happened when he stood before Jesus. Here is a known blind beggar...I'm sure it was obvious what needed to happen to his eyes. Instead of just healing him, Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do for you?" It's then that the blind man responds and is healed. Sometimes we assume God knows what we need so we fail to approach Him at all. In this passage, Jesus waits for him to be specific. Sometimes we don't ask because we think he knows. We don't want to bother Him...as if He's too busy...or as if His strength will run out. He listens for the song of a heart that realizes it's own desperation and He responds...
How do we practically apply these things? Well the psalms are great examples of how to seek God...how to be real and not hopeless...to conclude this week, I encourage you to read Psalm 42...in it the psalmist is desperate for God, real about his circumstance, and yet full of faith. Not only read it but pray it and let your heart meditate on how good God is, how much He loves you, how much you don't deserve Him, how much you need Him, and how sufficient He is to meet your every need.