Our Savior meets us in our place of need. It is the intersecting of our hearts' desire with the Person Who has the ultimate qualifications — the Person Who spoke the world into being, the Creator of all things.
In the account of Jesus' intersecting with the woman of Canaan, in Matthew 15:21-28, we see God's providence, "His most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions" (Shorter Catechism Q.11).1 How did Christ draw the woman to Himself? The most visible means is the sorrowful cruelty of the enemy's work in her child. We do not have to imagine the extent of pain caused by wickedness, for we are no strangers to Satan's deceitful powers. Because of His love, the Good Shepherd was seeking the woman. Because of her need, the woman was seeking Him.
If a stage were set to cast the occasion of this intimate worship of our Lord, we would direct the characters to proceed to a particular meeting-place. Everyone would arrive at just the exact time. The stage director would say, "Now hurry along dear woman, do not waste time by seeking to satisfy your needs elsewhere. You are about to meet the Lord Jesus, of whom your heart seeks."
The woman is deliberate in making her way to Jesus. She does not care that others hear her pleading publicly. Her needs are unlike those associated with the usual daily provision of her child. This is the anguished outcry from the depths of a mother's heart. Her child is grievously vexed by Satan's power — the worst vexation possible. She must have the Lord's mercy.
The woman does not wait to be introduced to Christ. She rushes onto the stage and into His presence. She prays openly. "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed" (Mt. 15:22 NKJ). We marvel at such boldness.
Christ does not say a word. The woman may think He is not listening or not interested in helping her. Her crying is continuous. She does not give up.
The stage director shouts, "Hurry disciples, get in your places. Don't forget to display an annoyed countenance. You can smile if you want, it doesn't matter, your words and actions will evidence what is really in your hearts." They, unlike our Master, Who desires to be called upon in the day of trouble (Ps. 50:15), are without compassion. They are impatient and irritated because of the interruption. They want Christ to send her away — get rid of her.
This woman is a Gentile. She is separate from Christ, "excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12 NAS). We know from God's word that Jesus went out from where he was into the district of Tyre and Sidon (Mt. 15:21 NAS). Our great "stage director" had already ordained, before the foundation of the world, that the Canaanite woman would come out of that region to this providential meeting-place of prayer.
The pages of sacred Scripture continually testify to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for His elect. He is faithfully meeting His children in the foreordained activities of our lives.
Christ directly addresses the Canaanite woman's needs. He points out her unworthiness to receive anything from Him. "Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!'" (Mt. 15:25 NAS). After His discourse with her regarding the lost sheep of the house of Israel and the children's bread, He "answered and said to her, 'O Woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour" (Matt 15:28 NKJ).
The stage scene of providence closes. The Scripture does not record the joy in the heart of this believer. We do not know what the life of the daughter was like after she was healed. What we do know is the graciousness of God's mercy and the nourishing strength of answered prayer. We are well acquainted with the enduring night of weeping and the joy that comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5 NKJ). "He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?" (Rom. 8:3 AMP). Our hopes are built on the Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Sustainer. We are in Him, the recipients of His storehouse of mercy. If God spared not His own Son for our sakes, while we were totally depraved sinners, how will he not so much more now, with us as His children, give us freely of His infinite mercy?
As with the Canaanite woman, Christ intersects with us at every point of need. He purposefully comes to meet us at the specific place, in the calm, in the storm. He is always waiting at the intersection, that meeting-place of prayer, to hear the needs of our hearts.
What have we gleaned from this Canaanite woman? Is Christ our sole confidence? Do we submit ourselves to the piercing truth of God's Word that we may rightly identify our true problems and their true solutions? Do we live for the mercies that are without money and without price? Are we faithful in praying for others who are in anguish?
God uses many circumstances to bring us to the meeting-place of prayer. Only in the tender mercies of the Good Shepherd do we find a solace for our souls. As our Savior is drawn to us in love, we are drawn to Him in need. May we plead the righteous mercy of God and hear Him say, "Great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire."
1. G. I, Williamson, Shorter Catechism, Vol. 1., (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973) 40.
- Ina Manly Painter
Ina Manly Painter has a Master of Science Degree in Educational/Counseling Psychology. She and her husband, Harrison, live in Knoxville , TN , where they have been affiliated with Re/Max Preferred Properties as REALTORS, for many years. They have four children, Paige, and wife Christa, Laura, Jared, and Amanda and one grandson, Caleb. They can be contacted by email at [email protected].