John Bradshaw - Dog Food
I'm glad we have this opportunity to gather around the Bible together. Before we open God's Word, let's pray:
Father in heaven, we are thankful that there is a God in heaven that the Bible describes as being love. We are thankful that You so loved the world You gave Jesus for us, and we're grateful for the Bible. Lord, we pray that Your Holy Spirit would guide us now. We thank You in Jesus' name. Amen.
The state of Texas is a really big state. Just for some perspective, six times bigger than Tennessee. If you were to drive across Texas, it would take you about 12 hours to get from El Paso in the west to Beaumont in the east, and about 12 1/2 hours to get from Dalhart in the northwest to Brownsville down in the south. It's big. Now, about 50 miles east of the bottom right-hand corner of New Mexico is the city of Midland, Texas. Population: about 125,000. It's famous for being the home of the...Bush family. President George W. Bush was raised there. After President Obama was sworn in as the United States' 44th president, former president Bush was celebrated back home in Midland. But Midland has another famous resident. I don't mean General Tommy Franks. I'm not referring to the actor Woody Harrelson or the basketballer Mookie Blaylock. Remember 1987?
Well, if you can. In 1987 in Midland, Texas, a little girl just 18 months old fell into a well in her aunt's backyard. The eyes of the world were on that little girl. The well was just eight inches wide, and she fell 22 feet down. Just thinking about that causes a whole raft of emotions to wash over you. The world watched on. Cable news wasn't 10 years old yet. This event was made for it. Now, some people described the whole affair as a media circus, and although that might be true, really it was nothing more than a reflection of the interest the world had in the little girl down the well. Getting her out of there was a race against time, and very clearly her life was in danger. She was stuck in that well for 58 hours, two-and-a-half days. Then-president Ronald Reagan said, "Everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on". She was often referred to as "everyone's baby".
The rescue wasn't an easy thing. How do you get a 20-pound girl out of a pipe when she's wedged tightly way down there? That far down, she was surrounded by rock that was described as "nearly impregnable". Someone called it "as hard as steel". Workers who labored to near exhaustion said that they were kept going by thinking about Jessica. It seems that everyone remotely close to the situation was asked to comment. The physician who delivered Jessica was interviewed by the Odessa American newspaper. She said she was praying for the child. She herself had a baby about the same age. If you're old enough, there's no doubt you watched the television coverage. Why? Why did this story grip a nation and much of the world? Simple. The idea of a baby being stuck under the ground in a well is...horrifying. The poor thing, a baby. Babies are supposed to live, not die. She had to be saved. You couldn't just leave her there. Something had to be done.
When we read the Bible, we read of a great God who created a perfect world in the heart of a pristine universe. But after sin entered the cosmos, it wasn't long until Satan was here in our backyard, causing the mother of the race to eat forbidden fruit, and in doing so, manifest distrust in God. Sin entered the world, and as we know, the wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve would die. They wouldn't live forever. How did God feel? Do you remember how you felt when you found out that someone was going to die? Maybe a parent? A spouse? God forbid, a child? I was with my father when he visited the doctor at the hospital, and he was told there was nothing they could do to save him. My father asked, "You mean I'm going to go home to die"? Never forget that. That's desperate.
I conducted the memorial service recently for a dear lady who was a member of a church where I'd been on the pastoral staff some years ago. She and her husband had been married for very nearly 69 years, and when she passed away at the age of 92, he was not philosophical. He was crushed. The Bible calls death an enemy. That's what it is. When death entered the world, God couldn't simply stand idly by. He spoke up, and He said to the serpent, Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He will bruise your head; you will bruise His heel". Euphemisms are wonderful things, aren't they? God could have said, "You'll be destroyed, ultimately, and He will be tortured and hated and nailed to a cross, and He'll be in unbearable pain and horrible anguish, and I, as His Father, will sit by and witness this horror". And why? Because something had to be done.
A planet filled with God's children would be stuck down a well with no way out, and with time running down, and rather than leave them to perish, "The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost". Something had to be done. And Jesus was prepared to do it. I ran into a friend recently; I asked this friend how things were and what had been happening and so on, as you do, and my friend said to me, "Well, recently I donated a kidney". I thought, "Wow, that's big". I honestly can't remember who it was that the kidney was donated to, but when you know the whole story, it makes a good deal of sense. I mentioned the story in an "Every Word" devotional not that long ago about four gallant men, chaplains on board the USS Dorchester, which was torpedoed by the German navy in the Labrador Sea while on its way to Greenland.
Happened in 1943 during World War II. There weren't enough life jackets for the men on board, so the chaplains, one a Methodist, one a pastor from the Reformed Church, one a Catholic priest, and one a Jewish rabbi, gave up their life jackets to the soldiers, and they went down with the ship. Oh, that's really big. But Jesus didn't do just that. Romans 5, verse 8 says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". He didn't just die for members of His own team or for a friend or for members of His own faith or citizens of His own country. He died for all. Everyone was important to Jesus. And He demonstrated that one day in an event where people were tempted to think the opposite. It's a remarkable story. Here's what the Bible says: "Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon".
This was a heathen country. It wasn't the Bible Belt. This was more like New England in the United States, where all four states with the lowest church attendance can be found. Jesus had placed Himself where the unbelievers were. Now, notice that: Jesus put Himself where the unbelievers were. Didn't spend all of His time there, but He spent plenty of time where He could mix up with people that just didn't have the light. Jesus told us that we are "the salt of the earth". Salt is designed to diffuse flavor, to impart taste; it's a preservative quality. Salt exists to make a difference. It can't do that when it stays in the salt shaker. It has to get out of the salt shaker and mix up just a little bit. It's then that salt is actually worth something.
Now in Matthew chapter 15, verse 22, the Bible says, "And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.'" You know, it's obvious that somebody had been doing some witnessing. Notice this: The woman knew something about Jesus, quite a bit, actually. She knew that He was the Son of David, the One the Jews called the Messiah. She knew that, so that means that somebody had been talking. Even if all they were doing was talking to each other, they'd been talking. Maybe somebody had been talking to her. She found out about this man who healed. She understood enough about Him to know that He could heal her daughter, and that He had authority over evil spirits. I wonder, now, now, we're wondering here, but I think this is sanctified wondering. There were plenty enough Jews living where she lived.
Do you think one of them witnessed to her? Maybe one of them spoke of this Jesus to her? At least, spoke about Jesus in her presence? That person who spoke about Jesus never saw this woman come to church, or to the synagogue, maybe never knew that she ever responded to the name of Jesus. We don't always know. But she heard. Sometimes people don't respond when we tell them. But we tell them anyway. They don't always accept our invitation or show interest in our faith. But the time comes, and who are they going to call? The time comes, and what are they going to do? The time comes. Just when that time is? That's not up to us. That's up to the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, we let our light shine.
Now verse 23: "But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, 'Send her away; for she cries after us.'" He didn't answer. Why didn't He answer? Now, notice something: He didn't say "no". Jesus didn't say that He wouldn't help. He just said nothing. He was silent for the moment. You pray for healing, and things don't improve? Don't you be thinking that Jesus didn't hear you or that Jesus said no. You pray for a financial breakthrough, and you continue to struggle. Don't think that Jesus had said no. "Not this minute" is not the same as "no". You're praying for your spouse or your children, and you're not seeing any progress. Doesn't mean Jesus hasn't heard you, doesn't mean that He has said "no". Some things take a while, like the maturing of your faith. And this woman's faith was maturing, as we'll see.
Notice the disciples: The disciples intercede for her. Not what Jesus had in mind, but they do come. They come to Jesus concerning a heathen woman. Do they pray for her well-being? Their mind was somewhere else. I'll tell you a story. I was in my home country of New Zealand with my son, with my family, but my son and I were walking, and we bumped into a man as we walked along the street. For some reason, we started to talk, chit-chat, small talk, and he mentioned the name of the town that he was from. It was just 30 minutes from where I grew up. And I said, "Oh, that's the town where a certain rugby star, a star rugby player was from". He said, "Well, how do you know him"? And I said, "I played against him when I was in high school". And he said, "Well, if you played against him, then you had to have played against me because I was on his team in high school". And I said, "Well, what are the chances"?
Thirty-one years before, me and this man I bumped into had lined up against each other on a sports field. He even played the same position that I played, so we marked each other. More than likely I tackled him; probably he tackled me. If, if, if passions had heated up, he might have punched me... uh, not that anybody would do that, but these things happen on a rugby field. And here we are 31 years later bumping into each other on a street one winter's evening. Now, here's what was interesting. He said something that was slightly off-color. In the grand scheme of things, not the most offensive thing that he could have said, but, you know, not what a dad wanted his 14-year-old son to hear at that time, and so my thought was, "Well, that was nice; now we got to get out of here". We walked on a bit further, and I was going one way, and he was going another, and I said, "Nice talking to you. See ya, mate. This was great". And he said, "Yeah, see ya". And as he turned, he turned back and he said, "God bless"!
Now, if someone says that to you on the street of Chattanooga or Birmingham, Alabama, or Dallas, Texas, or Richmond, Virginia, you're not surprised. People say that here. I believe there may even be, uh, many people who, who bumped into others and, um, and said, "God bless you". You know, where I live, there are probably more church members than non-church members. In fact, there's probably more church members than there are, uh, people in the entire area, you know how that can be, inflated church rolls and all. But where I'm from, in New Zealand, you don't say "God bless ya" to a person, unless you're really seeking or you're a believer with a capital "B". This guy was a Christian. In other words, he was open to the things of God. He would certainly have engaged in a conversation. He said to me, "God bless you".
Now, now, you might say, "Well, he was always a believer, and so, uh, maybe that wasn't so important". Uh, not so, because God has given to His end-time Christian people in the last days some really important truths to share with everybody, so there were some things that maybe he could have been blessed by. The opportunity was lost because all I wanted to do was get out of there. If we'd talked about what I did in my work, I could easily have said, "Hey, you know, there's a Christian TV channel. It's, it's on right here; it's on in your community. It's run by people from my church. Why don't you watch that Christian TV channel run by my church? You would love it"! That would have been an opportunity to connect him with the everlasting gospel.
Of course, if he had not known Jesus, yeah, that might've upped the ante even more. But I wasn't thinking about that. I should've known. A guy I hadn't seen since I had played rugby against him 31 years ago. God was opening a door for me. But I was looking through the door and seeing what the disciples saw: someone rough around the edges, someone to get away from, not somebody to get close to. An opportunity lost...when something should've been done. The disciples see a heathen woman, and instead of saying, "Here's a soul; here's somebody that we can witness to; here's somebody who might embrace the wonderful truths of the gospel," they intercede for her: "Hey, let's get rid of this woman". Not the right approach. Verse 24: "But He answered and said, 'I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'"
We've read this story, and we've said, "Well, that's just Jesus saying He has only come for the Jews". No, no, no. No way. He's very clear: the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This woman was one of them. Not a Jew, but one of the sheep that the Jews should have gone out there for. Jesus came for anyone who would accept Him. The disciples didn't understand that. I wonder if we do? How many times do people show up completely out of the blue? Not often. When they do, they've been watching TV, or they've been out of the church for years. Typically, lost people don't come to us. The parable is of the Shepherd who went to the people. The servants who went out and invited people to come to supper, they went out to them. The sower went forth to sow. They don't come to us. We must go to them.
Babies stuck down wells 20 feet under the earth don't get out on their own. We had some Bible workers working for us on an It Is Written Revelation Today series, engaging with people in the community, finding people who want to study the Bible. They're encountering people who've been watching certain television networks, certain TV programs. They've believed certain Bible teachings, but they have never found anyone who shares those views. But by going to the people, by seeking them out, by engaging with them, Bible workers are finding people who want to follow Christ. They are there. They are all around us. And something must be done. Verse 25 says, "Then came she and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!'" No need to justify herself, or no attempt to justify herself. "I have a need. Lord, help me". She was appealing to Jesus' grace and to His mercy. "But He answered and said, 'It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.'"
Now, we've wondered about this, haven't we? Jesus calls her a dog. But wait. "Kunarion" in the Greek, little dog, pet dog, a dog that might live inside, a puppy. Now, in Revelation when it talks about the lost and it says, "Outside are dogs," that word is "kuon", dog, big dog, smelly dog, outside mongrel dog. Different to this "dog". Jesus says, "It isn't right to take the food that I'd give to the children and give it to the little doggies". Um, you know, take something off my plate and give it to the dog waiting there at my feet. But still, a dog is a dog. And Jesus was virtually saying here, "It isn't right to give the blessings of Israel to a gentile, a foreigner".
But here, this woman exercises faith. And this woman is smart. She says, verse 27, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table". I don't need a big bowl of food. I don't need you to set me a place at the table. I don't need my cup to run over. I just need a drop. I just want scraps and crumbs. It's like when the centurion spoke to Jesus, and he said, "Don't come to my house; just speak the word". That's what she's saying here: "You're big enough, so big that a tiny amount of Your blessing will suffice. And if I can't eat the food the children eat, I believe that a crumb will be enough. I have faith in You to give it. I believe You'll supply. I've come a long way, and I'm not letting You go now. I will not let You go unless You bless me". Really, that's what she was saying.
Verse 28: "Then Jesus answered and said unto her, 'O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.' And her daughter was made whole from that very hour". Great faith! "Lord, You can heal my daughter. You must heal my daughter. I'm not taking 'no' for an answer". Now, just an aside here: Prayer isn't a club that we use to beat God into submission. Let me say that again: Prayer is not a club that we use to beat God into submission. "No" is "no". And sometimes that's just what He says. Now, now, I've heard people say, I'm sure I've said myself, "God doesn't say 'no'; He either says, uh, 'Not now,' or He says, 'I have something better for you.'" So you could say that a "no" is really God saying, "I have something better for you". But if you are praying for a million dollars, and God sees it in your best interests not to get that million dollars, well, that's "no"... "No, I have something better for you".
Sometimes that's just what God says. Paul prayed three times, and then God said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient". He said, "Don't pray about that any more. We'll go another route; it's going to be okay that way, too". Whatever God wills, we'll trust that. We pray for what we want, and we accept that God knows best. But this woman was a woman of great faith. "Lord, I believe You can do it. I believe that You are a big God". Is your God that big? Is your faith up to coming boldly to the throne of grace, like this woman did? She simply took Jesus at His word. He had said, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest". She hadn't heard that, but she believed it anyway. So what's our excuse? Do we believe the promises of God? Faith is all about believing the promises of God and expecting God to carry them out.
Compare this with the scribes and the Pharisees. They had Jesus in their midst, and they're wanting to kill Him. They can't see Him clearly because the light shines too brightly for them to handle. But this dear woman who didn't live in Jerusalem, didn't own a Bible, didn't have an air-conditioned classroom in a church, she saw in Jesus something she just had to have. The question is: What are we doing with our privileges? Are we recognizing our blessings? The blessings that we have in the western world often become a curse to us. We have plenty of food, so we eat ourselves to death. We have plenty of money, and so we fritter it away or spend it "for that which is not bread".
We have open access to the heart of God, churches on every corner, programs, guest speakers, television networks. And so why is it that we are so often cold instead of white-hot, so often spiritually lethargic instead of possessing a vibrant faith, so often indifferent to the spiritually-dying rather than doing all that we can to share Jesus, save souls? What it takes is a surrender to Jesus. And then there's another side to this story. We've addressed it already, but we'll go over that ground again. Even the disciples were reluctant to bother with the unclean gentiles. People around them going to Christ-less graves, and they weren't affected by that. Jesus architected this whole thing so that they could see, and so that we can see, the value of a soul. The people who had been given every opportunity to understand the truth were without a knowledge of the needs of those around them. No effort was made to help souls in darkness. They had to be convinced. And we must be convinced that we mustn't rest while there are lost souls around us.
Jesus wanted the disciples to be interested in working for the salvation of others. That's what He wants for us, to know the blessing of being available to God to reach others. Where there isn't any active labor for others, love wanes and faith grows dim. Reaching others is so important God gave us a mandate in the Bible. He gave us a message to share. He commissioned us, and He even told us that Jesus won't return until the gospel has gone to all the world, the 10/40 window, the islands of the South Pacific, Communist nations, hermit kingdoms, and your street and your community. And don't kid yourself; there are people all around us who are in as much darkness as Buddhists in Asia and Muslims in the Middle East. They're all around us.
Jessica McClure Morales now lives less than two miles from the well she fell down. She doesn't remember the event, obviously enough, but she knows that she was saved by people who cared, saved because help came from above. Because those people cared, she's alive today. If I remember correctly, she had a little toe amputated. Other than that, there are no visible scars, visible reminders of her time down the well, except for a little scar on her forehead, which means that every time she looks in the mirror, if she should stop to recognize it, she sees a sign that somebody came to save her, and she was saved when she could not save herself.
When you hear the name of Jesus, remember that Somebody came to save you. When you see the Bible, remember this book contains the story of Somebody who came to save you, the great plan of salvation, the gospel message. Remember the young lady, well, remember the lady who came to Jesus, and she asked for dog food, "Doesn't take much, just give me a crumb". Remember this woman who had a need burning in her heart, and she came to Jesus, and she pled, and she demanded in an appropriate sort of way. She believed that He was able to bless, and she told Him she was there to be blessed. Does your faith work like that when you come to God in prayer? "I believe in You. I know You're the Son of God. I know You're the Prince of Peace. I know You exist to bless; I know You want to lift me up; I know You want to bless my life".
You come to God with those thoughts in mind? "All right, just give me a crumb; just give me a little bit, that'll be enough. Lord, bless me". She was a woman of great faith, and her faith was rewarded. She'd heard of this Jesus, and she believed that He could do in her life what He'd done for others. God can do for you what He's done for others. We want to pray now and tell God we expect His blessing. Tell God, "Even if it's the crumbs, we'll take the crumbs; that's enough". Come on, let's pray together:
Our Father in heaven, we're encouraged today that a lady came to Jesus and exercised great faith, "Just give me the crumbs". She believed that You could do in her life what needed to be done. She believed a little from You would go an awfully long way. And we pray the same. You are our hope; You are our strength; You are our way forward. And we pray as she prayed: Give us the crumbs. Give us, give us as much as we need and all You can, but we'll take what You decide is right for us. Father in heaven, I'm reminded, too, of this young lady who went down the well and now has a visible reminder of the fact that she was saved. Our visible reminders in the palms and the feet and the brow of Jesus, we thank You for help from above, for rescue and salvation. Give us grace to live in faith and in trust. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.