The Canaanite Woman

A Portrait of Desperate Faith

By Evan Wiggs

(Mat 15:21 NASB) And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.

(Mat 15:22 NASB) And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed."

 

The woman looked out her window and watched her little girl as she played in the mud just outside. Her little hands were inexpertly flapping a mud cake from hand to hand just as she had seen her mother do many times as she had made the family bread over the small clay oven of the house. The daughter was gaily talking with the small stick doll wrapped in some scrap cloth. She was explaining the importance of making the bread exactly right and with the very best ingredients and assuring the doll that it would enjoy the final product. She had a small mud mound that was the oven and she laid the pats of mud upon it and "cooked" the bread and carefully fed the stick doll. The mother laughed as she saw her strong husband in the childís movements and face. Her heart swelled with love for this child of their union. Surely Baal had blessed them. She had not been too sure of Baal and his dark temple at the center of town but this child was a ray of sunlight to her. Her dark eyes were full of mischief one minute and then full of compassion and love the next. So full of life, always questioning, running just ahead. One minute running after a butterfly and the next running to her mother with a small bunch of half wilted flowers, picked from the Palestinian hills around their house at the edge of the village, gripped tightly in her small fist. Yes, this child was a delight to her mother. They would cuddle before the fire at night before they went to bed and she would sing the lullabies of her childhood to her own child. She would watch her bright eyes slowly shut in sleep and she would tuck her in with her heart nearly bursting with love for this lovely child.

Yes, she was unusually lovely. The other villagers talked about the special blessing of Baal on the child. Such grace and beauty combined was very good. She was destined for good things. Once or twice the mother had seen some of the priests of Baal lurking around her house leering at her daughter and something dark would brush her soul. She knew not what and it disturbed her, but Baal was the one who had given her this gift had he not? She prayed to the small statue of Baal in her house that she kept in the special altar area. She prayed for him to keep her daughter safe and that he would bless her with good things. But it was not to be.

One day, the daughter came to her mother and asked innocently if she could play with a friend from further into the village. A small dark shadow passed over her heart, but what did she have to fear? Was not Baal watching over her child. She allowed her to go with her friend and watched as they linked arms and skipped off towards the village. She did not come back. Something else came back much too late. Something very dark and cruel had come back. Something very vile and black had come back. The dark eyes so full of life had come back full of hatred and corruption. Those dark eyes that had looked at something they should have never seen were now full of that unimaginable blackness. When she would look fully into her motherís eyes there seemed to be no bottom to the obscene madness in them. There seemed to be something much bigger than her daughter within her, something coiling and black, with baleful eyes of putrid yellow staring unblinkingly and venomously.

Her bright and lovely daughter was suddenly doing strange things at the Baal altar in the house. She would mutter and make motions at the small statue. Small grunting sounds like an animal in pain would escape her lips. When her mother would try to intervene, she would suddenly whirl and speak in guttural words and liquid hatred would flow from her eyes. This went on day after day, week after week. Her husband would leave early in the morning and come back very late at night smelling of wine. She would cry herself to sleep, her daughter running the streets back to the Baal temple.

They tried the exorcists. The daughter would look at them contemptuously and mutter unintelligible words a them. If they persisted in their incantations she, with superhuman strength, would remove them from her presence. Soon none would come.

She prayed to the heavens. She lost her faith in Baal. Had she not prayed to him? He was silent! He just stared sightlessly out from her altar. She lost her faith in any God. The world was empty and only evil was her days. What had she done to bring this calamity upon herself? Tears were her companions and heartache was her sister.

Then one day, a dear friend came and told her some news. There was one called Jesus of Nazareth of whom it was reported that he had visited Sychar and told a woman of all her sins and the whole village and come to believe in him as some kind of god. It had even been said that he had cast demons out at a word.

At that word something happened in the womanís soul. A hammer hit an anvil and resounded with sparks of hope. She didnít know why the mention of a Jewish magician should give her such hope, but for the first time in a very long time she smiled. But surely he would not come to the her region, for the Jews avoided it like the plague. Her friend reminded her that he had been to Sychar which was not all that far from their village.

Several weeks later the friend came excitedly came to her house. Her daughter was sleeping off a night of temple debauchery in the house. "He is just outside the village! Jesus of Nazareth is by the south well! Come and see him!" The hammer and anvil began their chorus in her heart. Surely there was nothing to this Jewish magician? But what if there was! She ran with all her strength towards the South well.

When she arrived all was confusion and there seemed to be a large contingent of Jewish men. Which was the Jesus? She looked around desperately. She was afraid they would leave and leave her just hoping for something. She opened her mouth and cried out.

(Mat 15:23 NASB) But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is shouting out after us."

(Mat 15:24 NASB) But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

(Mat 15:25 NASB) But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"

 

Her crying out disturbed the large group of Jews and they called out to her to be quiet. At their demands she only cried out the more. Desperation had overtaken her soul and she wanted help no matter what the cost to herself. She saw them go over to a man sitting under a tree and he looked at her and said something.

When he looked at her something happened. The earth suddenly shifted and nothing was the same. She knew what it was to be in the presence of something bigger than herself with her daughter, but this was something even different than that. Here was a presence of immense love and goodness like she had never even knew existed. Suddenly hope became a flaming torch in her heart. She knew something very good was going to happen.

She went forward to him. She became aware of what he had said. It was said with such kindness that it drew her to him. It seemed contradictory for the words themselves seemed to be a rebuff, but they drew her to him. She knelt down in worship before him and cried out for help from her depths. It was a cry for not just her daughter, but for herself and her people. In an instant she saw the evil that was herself and her people and the need for this man to forgive them. Her cry was from the deepest part of her and reverberated in the heavens.

(Mat 15:26 NASB) And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."

(Mat 15:27 NASB) But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."

(Mat 15:28 NASB) Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.

When he spoke it was like the sun came out after weeks of rain. He quoted a proverb to her about not letting the dogs have the food of the children. For an instant pride flared, but quickly humility ruled and with tears coursing down her cheeks, she appealed to his strength with her weakness.

She saw his eyes light up with delight as he pronounced his pleasure at her faith. Her daughter was healed at that instant. She knew it, the darkness over her own soul had also vaporized. She felt newness and life and hope and love. She looked deeply at him in gratitude and then ran home to take her daughter in her arms again. Such laughter rang out of that house that day. The neighbors all ran over to see what had happened and were amazed to see the woman with her arms full of the household idols take them and dump them in the rubbish.

This is my rendition of what I imagine happened around the small story in the Bible about the Canaanite woman. That story has always touched my heart. I have even in the spirit heard the womanís plea for help and felt her desperate faith. Faith to grab hold even though everything points away, faith to go over, around and through the obstacles hold us back from the very great promises in Godís word. Jesus is our all in all, He is the answer, He is the source. Just as the Canaanite woman found him so can we. We need to humble ourselves just like her and appeal to his strength with our weakness. He will answer, surely He will fly to our aid.

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