Not Hearing Does Not Mean Not Listening

Kneeling humbly at His feet, she sobbed. “Lord, help me!”

“It is not right to take bread meant for children and toss it to the dogs,” Jesus replied. “Yes, Lord,” she gently whispered, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus held out His hand and pulled this woman to her feet—this woman to whom He had been sent. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

Belva ran home to find her daughter sitting on her bed, brushing her doll’s hair, and in her right mind. She never had another seizure. Years later, as she often did, Mara asked her mother to tell her a story as she tucked her into bed. “Mommy, tell me the story of Jesus again. 

I love this story on so many levels. I’ve had to stop and dry my eyes several times before proceeding. Here was a woman that the religious world would have steered clear of, and yet God steered Jesus right to her front door. Let’s walk through the details and discover just how much God loves and esteems women—even those (especially those) whom society doesn’t believe are worth the ground they walk on.

Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21).

After Jesus’ earthly ministry had begun with turning water into wine, He had performed miracles left and right. Just a few days before this encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, He had fed 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves and two fish. Later that evening, as the disciples struggled to stay afloat in a life-threatening storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus defied nature and walked on the water to calm their sinking hearts and the turbulent sea. Even as they sailed away to the distant shore, Jesus knew the religious leaders were behind closed doors plotting to kill Him. He needed to get away from the hustle and bustle to catch His breath—or at least that’s how it appeared to the disciples. But rather than going to a retreat center for a respite, or even to Mary and Martha’s for a good meal, Jesus headed to the city of Tyre, some 30 miles away. They traveled on foot for several days over rough and rocky terrain.

Matthew used the word “withdrew.” Jesus “withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.” He didn’t just leave; He withdrew to be by Himself to get away from the crowds.

I am sure the disciples questioned their new itinerary. If Samaria wasn’t bad enough, now we’re going to Tyre! That heathen land of the cursed Canaanites! What is He thinking?Tyre was a business capital whose position on the coast provided easy access to foreign trade. But along with the bountiful commerce emerged bountiful idol worship. Tyre and Sidon became centers for the worship of Baal and Asherah, where prostitution and human sacrifices were the norm. 

Jesus had already said that it was the sick who need a doctor (Matthew 9:12).

And this is exactly the sort of place where a doctor would head. Mark tells us, “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it” (Mark7:24).

But you just can’t keep news like that quiet. Jesus was in town! A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him (Matthew 15:22).

Matthew calls her a Canaanite. Apparently, he couldn’t forget that this gal was from a race of people that were longtime enemies of the Jews. Mark simply refers to her as “a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia” (Mark 7:26).

Either way, she was a Gentile with “less than” stamped on her forehead. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly” (Matthew 15:22).

Did you notice that not an ounce of pride was in this woman’s plea? She didn’t care what anyone thought. She was begging for the life of her child. Her greeting hints that she believed Jesus was also God’s Son because “Son of David” was a term associated with the coming Messiah.

By approaching a man in public, she was so far out on a limb you can almost hear the branch cracking beneath her feet. But she didn’t care. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her daughter. She was a gutsy risk-taker and making a public fool of herself was immaterial.

Jesus did not answer a word (Matthew 15:23).

Does it bother you that Jesus didn’t answer her right away? Does His silence cause your heart to wince? I’ll admit that when I read the words or lack of them, I find myself cringing a bit. This must-have screamed rejection to this wounded woman, but Jesus had something up His sleeve. He was using this as a teaching tool in the lives of the disciples and in the lives of all who would read the words for years to come.

Oh, dear friend, just because we don’t hear an immediate response from God does not mean He’s not listening. It does not mean He has rejected our request. It may simply mean He has something else in mind or wants to take us to a deeper place of understanding. He may be taking us to a place that is so good, our minds need the pause to find it. What we do see and hear of God’s working is minuscule compared to the magnificent workings we cannot see.

S. Jaynes

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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