“A woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed’” (Matthew 15:22).
In 1929, French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer was selected to head an archaeological dig in Ras Shamra in Syria. Three years later, while dig- ging near a temple, his team uncovered an amazing stela, or stone slab, which contains a carved relief of the heathen god Baal.
The ancient Canaanite religion had dozens of deities, but Baal is probably the most familiar. Known as the god of storms, he is depicted in the carving as unleashing a storm, holding a spear as a lightning bolt in his hand. Baal was at one time worshiped as the highest-ranking male deity by the Phoenicians and canaanites.
The Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter grew up believing in false gods and would have been very familiar with Baal. But none of the gods of her religion had been able to help her child, and she was desperate.
She had heard that Jesus healed all kinds of sickness and set out to ask Him for help. When she first approached Him and pleaded for assistance, He didn’t answer, but the woman didn’t give up. Even when His words seemed to rebuff her, she continued to plead her case.
When she fell at His feet and begged for help, He told her, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (verse 26).
Her comeback was rapid: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (verse 27).
At this point Jesus stopped imitating the heartless manner of the Jews, compassionately commended her, and reassured her that her daughter would be healed.
This woman couldn’t have known that Jesus was trying to teach His disciples—who had been raised to hate the Canaanites and many others— to have a heart for the people of the heathen nations around them. Despite the obstacles, her belief in Him persisted, and she was warmly rewarded for her great faith.
Dear Lord, strengthen my faith and help me to look on unbelievers with the eyes and mercy of Christ.
For Further Study: Matthew 15:21–28; Romans 3:21–26; 10:12