June 12, 2011 INTRODUCTION – Our theme = Your Kingdom Come – – a prayer Jesus Christ the King expects His disciples to pray as a way of life; and a prayer that He expects us to expect Him to answer – first in our Jerusalem, and then to the ends of the earth.
A huge difference in the kingdom of darkness – that many of our friends and neighbors and co-workers are stuck in; and the kingdom of God – – is the king of the kingdom of darkness – otherwise known as Satan – could care less if you ever care about anyone but yourself – – in fact he will encourage you to be obsessed with yourself, and to live a self absorbed life.
But the King of the Kingdom of God – Jesus Christ – will never allow you to be obsessed with yourself. Not only that- – but if you continue to walk with Him – – He will place the nations on your heart, and will fully expect you to play a role in seeing His kingdom advance to their doorsteps.
Now for that to happen – – that is – – for you to be His instrument to advance His kingdom – first in your immediate sphere of influence, and then to the ends of the earth – – you must know this King intimately, and understand with deep confidence how He operates, how He thinks, and what He is after. And thus you must learn to not stumble over things that so many who initially seek Him stumble over.
For most of you – I’m sure I do not need to tell you that – the primary way God has revealed His Son to us is through his word. Perhaps what I do need to tell you – is that there will be times when you come to His word – and things will not be as they seem. Put another way – – first impressions of our great King can be very misleading. Both things you read in His word, and the seeming non or unloving responses you get from Him in your own life.
And few passages reflect that more than our next passage in our Matthew series – Matthew ch. 15:21-28. Let’s read it – and I think you will pretty quickly see what I mean.
Five observations or truths from this passage that are absolutely crucial for us to be grounded in – if we are going to know this King, and be used by Him to advance His kingdom.
I. There is a time to fight; and a time to hide, when being oppressed and attacked by our enemies. Vs. 21
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had just been accosted by some Pharisees and Scribes that had come all the way from Jerusalem to attack Him – and His leadership of those that were following Him. He confronted them with their hardness of heart and duplicity, which was the real issue going on with them. And it was that battle that led Him to withdraw to a Gentile territory wherein He knew – no Jew – however demonically or hatred inspired – would dare pursue Him.
Was and is Jesus God – and thus could Jesus have just sent these jerks to an early retirement? Yes He was and He is; and yes He could have. But while He was on earth – He chose not to avail Himself of the attributes of deity, and lived fully as a man – dependent upon God. And as a man – dependent upon God – one thing He was dependent upon was the renewing and refreshing of the Holy Spirit, when His soul got weary.
And one of the things that makes us weary more than other things, is when you are doing your best to serve the Father, and you are attacked and maligned by hard hearted, self serving folks.
Friends – and fellow warriors – if we want to end well – and be used by God to advance His kingdom – – we must develop the discipline of withdrawing with our Heavenly Father from time to time – to allow Him to renew and recharge our spiritual batteries. It is the only way to stay on your toes, keep a smile on your face, and to keep from becoming cynical and bitter and withdrawn from the bumps of life., and the attacks from our critics.
2nd observation or truth to help us be useable in His hands
II. The King’s silence must not be interpreted as disinterest. Vs. 23 (please note – that that’s what His disciples concluded). Jesus did not answer her a word, so the disciples – watching this apparent disinterest – put two and two together and came up with five – – five being that Jesus didn’t care, and that this lady was being a nuisance to Him.
Have you ever asked for something for yourself or for someone else – – and it seemed like Jesus Christ was deaf to your plea, or that He somehow decided that you were a waste of time – – or that there was someone else that was more important and strategic than you?
Well you need to know – especially when your request has to do with sickness or anything else that the devil and his demons are behind – – Jesus is absolutely interested and concerned. But His timing is often not ours. And He sometimes delays to see how determined we are.
Please know that God’s delay should never be interpreted as God’s disinterest. Because He sees the whole picture including the future, He knows when it is best to move and act. His raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11 is a good case in point.
3rd observation or truth
III. The King’s obsession with or devotion to Israel must not be misinterpreted as exclusive. Vs. 24,26
This response of Jesus Christ, which I believe was to His disciples, but which was most certainly heard by the Syrophoenician woman, has caused lots of consternation and confusion over the years. First He doesn’t respond at all; then He seems to communicate that His Father only sent Him to minister to the Israelites, which communicates that His Father only cares about the Israelites. So is He explaining why He is choosing to ignore this woman, or is He testing His disciples’ faith, and/or their knowledge of God and His will and ways, and whatever faith this Canaanite woman had? I would vote for the latter and here is why.
First of all for the disciples – they knew the O.T. backwards and forwards, and thus they had to know that the prophet Isaiah especially – often prophesied of the Messiah – that He would minister to the nations or to the Gentiles. For instance: In Isa. 9:2, when God says, “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” It seems this would include the Gentiles if not specifically be pointing to them.
In Isa. 42:6 – speaking of the coming Messiah – God says, “I will give You as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.”
In Isa. 49:6 – God says to or of the coming Messiah, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The disciples may or may not have known about what happened to Jesus as a small boy in the temple before Christ ascended and the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. But I’m sure they eventually found out about it. And I want to make sure you do not overlook it. It is recorded in Luke 2 starting with vs. 25, “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Luke – by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was very careful to record that this man was very devout and godly and filled with the Holy Spirit – – and thus every word He prophesied of the Messiah’s calling and destiny is from the very heart of God, which includes being a light of revelation to the Gentiles.
Doubtful that this woman knew of any of this. But perhaps she knew or had heard that when Jesus Christ came into Capernaum – a Roman centurion came to Him and begged Him to heal his servant, and when Jesus saw this man’s faith – He not only healed His servant immediately, but He also remarked that He hadn’t seen this kind of faith anywhere in Israel (ch. 8). Or perhaps she heard of Jesus going into the country of the Gadarenes, which was a Gentile region and casting out demons of two terribly demonized men, who were most likely Gentiles (ch. 8).
Was Jesus sent first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? Yes. Did Jesus Christ – when He first sent the twelve out – door to door and town to town – command them to only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? Yes. Does God love the Jewish people to this day; and has He made covenant promises to them that He intends to fulfill? Yes. But from the very beginning of the formation of the people of Israel – – God has always meant that they would be His instrument to reach every tribe, tongue and people; and while God sent Jesus initially to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; He always meant for His Son to be a light to all the nations; and while He first sent His 12 disciples only to the lost sheep of Israel – He always meant for them to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
So I believe what Jesus was doing here was testing both His disciples and this woman with their knowledge of His love for all people. The woman passed the test. The disciples were clueless as was so often the case.
By the way – in the gospel accounts – – the disciples were often rebuked for their lack of faith; Gentiles were often commended for their great faith.
IV. The King’s passion to destroy the cruel works of the devil must never be underestimated; and the King’s compassion for the victims of the enemy of our souls also must never be underestimated. Vs. 22, 25
My point is simply this: in your prayer life and in your journey with Jesus Christ the King – – your prayer might not get past the ceiling when you selfishly ask for a new hummer or second home on the lake; but when you ask for mercy and deliverance for yourself or for someone else who is oppressed by the cruel one, I can promise you our Lord will respond with a vengeance that makes the devil and all his demons shudder; and He will respond to your cry with a compassion that has healed and delivered many a wounded soul over the centuries.
In light of this truth – can I exhort you a bit? There have been a number of times where towards the end of our worship in song time together – the presence of the Lord has been very strong, and the sense of His love and compassion for all has also been very strong – – and yet when the worship team finishes – – everyone (with a wonderful exception here and there) is silent. I believe this silence is not golden. Instead these are golden opportunities to stand in the gap in prayer for our neighbors, our state, our nation, and the nations.
God wants to convince each of us during our worship times that He loves us with an everlasting love; and I think He delights in our enjoying Him and His love in those moments. But I believe He delights even more in our turning those times into times of fervent intercession for those who have never once felt or known His love and compassion for them. Let’s not be like Israel who thought His love started and stopped with them. Let’s instead be that House of Prayer for the nations that Jesus was so zealous for.
V. The King’s quickness to respond to persistent faith against all odds must never be doubted. Vs. 22-28
This Syro woman could have easily walked away after Jesus refused to answer her even a word. She certainly could have walked away in dejection when He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She definitely could have understandably walked away when He said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she persisted in her cry for mercy and deliverance for her daughter. Nothing would deter her from getting what she knew a just and good God should give her.
Some of you have given up way too fast. Jesus has made it clear in His teachings on prayer that persistence is crucial to access His power and response. Persistence develops spiritual muscle and endurance that is absolutely crucial if you want to be the kind of person that God can use in times of crisis, and in the lives of those that the enemy has sought to destroy.
CONCLUSION – Today happens to be the Global Day of Prayer. Tonight we are having a regional wide meeting at the Naz church at 6:30, which I hope each of you will attend. But I think it would be fitting if we took some time right now and prayed for our missionaries, and for whoever or whatever else you want to pray for re: the nations.