The Syrophenician Woman- A New Testament Shadow to the Gentiles

The Syrophenician Woman- A New Testament Shadow to the Gentiles

An unnamed woman gets introduced in the gospel of Mathew 15 and again in Mark 7. St. Mathew calls her a Canaanite woman and St. Mark attributes her as a Syrophenician Greek. Jesus compares her to a dog.

“And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”- Mathew 15:22,23

I feel almost embarrassed to see how Jesus behaves with this woman who is clearly suffering. He says He has been sent only for the lost sheep of Israel. His demeanor shows He isn’t available for or interested in helping her. His response to her request was first silence and then an excuse. Neither of which inspires confidence, much less worship.

And yet this is her response.
“Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” –Mathew 15:25

Jesus was getting closer to his betrayal, suffering, and death on the cross. In a little while, He was about to die for this very woman and the rest of the world. His sacrifice was about to rip away the veil that separated God and man. So why did he treat her so poorly?

“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

This interaction would mostly leave me with an impression of an unfair God. In her place, my response would have probably been to raise accusations against the indifferent God of the Jews.
But then she said,
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
I can’t tell exactly why Jesus behaved this way. But the account leaves me with a sense of marvel at the concept of faith according to Jesus as expressed here.
What was her faith? When Jesus confronted her with her inadequacy in receiving anything from Him, she did not respond with blame or disappointment with God. She did not grumble as Israel did in the wilderness. She did not walk away. She held on to one thing- the goodness of God.
Her response acknowledged that she was not worthy of help. She didn’t have the right to receive. She accepted that the salvation came for the chosen people, God’s elect, the seed of Abraham but she held on to the overflow of grace that the Jews received and she staked her claim to partake of it.
All salvation is salvation through God’s covenant with Abraham. It traces back to Genesis when God makes a covenant with Abraham saying “And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.3)
Her argument here is simply one of humility, perseverance, and truth. Yes, I am an unworthy foreigner. But Your grace abounds toward Israel and through Your promise of salvation for them, I receive salvation by faith. She didn’t question his goodness and his grace but instead, she depended on it.
A test of faith often brings us to our knees admitting our lack of credentials but also gives us an opportunity to express our steady confidence in the promise God has extended to us. When I look at this incident, I see God working in her to establish a new shadow for all the believers that come after her. I am able to see not an unfair God but a God working to reveal His heart to us through faith and actions of people like this gentile woman, encouraging us to trust in Him, to be humble before Him and to believe in His goodness especially when our faith is tested.

The Works of God

The Works of God

I spent the past week desperately reaching out to my family and friends as the floods engulfed Kerala. I watched the news and scanned social media platforms trying to piece together the state of my people, my home. Heartbreaking videos and images of my neighborhood reached me as overnight, the waters lapped at the stairs of my home trapping my grandfather, our staff, and our neighbors. One by one, the phones died out and all networks failed until only one line remained available to me-prayer, the direct line to the presence of God.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I – Psalm 61:2

As soon as I opened my heart to God I was immersed in His comfort and strength. When I went to Him, my heart was overwhelmed with pain as I watched my people surrounded by destruction, but as I knelt before Him, He overwhelmed me with such promises that my heart learned to trust in Him yet again. These promises of God changed my heart, changed my perspective and lifted me up from a place of despair to the place of quietness. So I will share what I received from the Lord with all who seek comfort and strength in this grim day.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you – Isaiah 43:2

Yes, we are surrounded by trouble but the God of our salvation is in our midst. Yes, we may pass through such grim realities as we sojourn in this fallen world but His will toward us is good. The Bible promises that we will face difficulties and challenges but His grace is enough.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof… God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early-Psalm 46:1-7

Contrary to what the economists and the politicos have to say about Kerala, the word of God leads me to believe that past our pain awaits a great abundance and favour of God that no man can explain or understand.

We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance- Psalm 66:12

All these words gave me peace and understanding. But the words that filled me with the most hope is  “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10

John 9:2 says “but this happened so that the works of God would be displayed in him”. Join me and believe that God’s work in us and through us is to make known to the world that He alone is God, that He is good and His mercy endures forever. I believe what remains of Kerala is going to be transformed by the work of God and by it the world will witness that our God keeps His promises.

The Parent’s Mission

The Parent’s Mission

Lily walked home her head hung low with sadness. The classroom bully had called her ugly yet again and all her classmates had laughed with him. Shoulders drooping, cheeks still wet with tears and her uniform askew, she carried on. She saw her father’s scooter outside the house and her mood turned anxious. Thirteen year olds have little control on how far their emotions swing from moment to moment. So much of what happened in the young one’s soul depended on her external realities. She looked up as if in prayer but it was just a habit. She hoped to sneak past her father who was in the living room, trying to avoid any unpleasantness, but no such luck. “Girl, where are you sulking off to? Look at the state of you! You are so untidy and ugly” If the taunts of her classroom bully had felt like a heavy stone in her heart, her father’s words fell like a mountain that obliterated her strength.

Parents possess the great power to mold their children’s future. As Christians, we are called to use this power according to God’s will and purpose.

What is God’s will and purpose for us as parents?

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:5,6).

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He quoted the above verse (Mathew 22:36-40). One of the first and abiding requirements of the law and commandment of the Lord is that we love Him and that we hold His words in our heart. The next part of that commandment is to teach it to our children.

When God created Adam and Eve He blessed them to multiply. When God blessed Noah He again called them to be fruitful and multiply. The promises to Abraham meant that he would be the “Father of multitudes”. The Bible calls children a gift and reward from the Lord. Jesus emphatically declares the Kingdom belongs to them.

In the New Testament, Apostle Paul writes to a child raised according to the above verses. He says to him “From infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16). This child is none other than Paul’s spiritual son Timothy, who learned the word of God from his mother and grandmother.

Parenting is without a doubt the toughest mission God puts before us. It is also the easiest mission to mess up. Like Lily’s father, Adam, Noah, Abraham and EVERY other parent down the line, each one has made parenting mistakes which echo across hundreds of generations. But you can return to God’s will and purpose starting today.
Begin by the rebuilding of the family altar where you can set your child down to tell them about your heavenly Father, to teach them to love Him and His word, to assure them of His unfailing love for them. Pray that they, in turn, honor their Father and mother in the Lord. Then hope.

3 John 4 says “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Indeed I hope we all experience this great joy without fail. God bless you.

The Joy Of The Lord

The Joy Of The Lord

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantlyPsalm 118:15
On a recent trip back to the village of my childhood, my father and I were driving down familiar roads. On either side of the road stand homes that are so grand they should be called mansions. My father tells me that just five decades back, before there were roads, in place of these mansions stood tiny walled structures with temporary roofing. Many homes barely had doors and almost none had electricity. Yet in the winking light of kerosene lamps, dusk was always greeted with singing and prayers offered to the Lord most high from each of these homes. Their homes were humble and their earnings meek but their praises reached the heavens anyway.

And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God—you, your sons and daughters Deuteronomy 12:13

Christians are meant to live lives that make other people stop in their tracks and wonder about the glorious, victorious, merciful God we serve. Our families are called to come together each day in the presence of God to declare how mightily He has led us thus far. We are asked to remember the blessings, gifts and victories He has given us and offer all our praises to Him and Him alone. Our songs, testimonies and stories always point to the God who saves us and lifts us up. These are to be shared generation after generation.

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemiesZephaniah 3:14-15

The greatest reason for our merriment and our gratitude is the freedom we have received in Christ. Instead of carrying the heavy yoke of sin and condemnation we have been set free to REJOICE. Our melodies and merriment come from the transformed nature of our hearts and it always points to God. Our celebrations are not merely about the new car or a successful graduation or financial outpouring, but it’s rooted in our knowledge of how God preserved us against all odds, so that our tent may be full of the sound of victory in Christ.

The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will renew you in his love; He will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival- Zephaniah 3:16-20

God is part of your merriment. We do not have a faraway God. Our Father in heaven is not a distant figure. He is a father who gathers His children into His warmth and embrace and lets loose a shout of joy so pure it becomes our strength! His Joy over your salvation and reunion with Him is part of the relationship you now have with God. This exultation and celebration is reflected in the parable of the prodigal son returning and the father rejoicing over him filling the home with merriment of a father who says “My son was lost but now he has come back to me!” (Luke 15: 22-24)

So rejoice and be glad, for you are chosen for this purpose. Shout and sing and praise Him for He turned your mourning into dancing. When the world asks you about the smile you wear, the bounce in your steps and the song on your lips be sure to tell them what your God has done!

The Joshua View

The Joshua View

Joshua was born into slavery in Egypt. He watched Israel being tormented by the Egyptian slave masters who made their lives bitter, with harsh labor, beneath harsher whips. He watched Moses bring hope to his broken people and witnessed the plagues tear apart Egypt. He watched the Red sea part for the children of God, only to drown the Pharaoh and His army. He watched Manna fall from the sky and water pour out from a rock.

He was walking the desert with lakhs of people who witnessed the same things he did. Yet unlike him, they got discouraged and rebellious. When Joshua was sent to Canaan with the other spies, only he and Caleb were able to see beyond the might of the giant Canaanites and be confident of their victory through the Almighty God of Israel.

He saw the power and will of God, shepherding Israel to the Promised Land and he was able to believe God to deliver on His promise. But because the rest of Israel doubted, complained and grumbled, Joshua had to watch everyone he crossed the red sea with, perish and die in the wilderness. Forty years later, Joshua was still in the desert, still burying his people. The last one he lost was his beloved, revered leader- Moses.

God chose Joshua to be the leader of the remainder of Israel. So he supernaturally overcame the might of Jordan only to face the mighty walls of Jericho. Where others saw a dead end, Joshua saw the captain of God’s army with a drawn sword (Joshua 5:13,14). After seven days of uncompromising obedience, Joshua watched the walls fall down.

The obstacles Joshua faced were great and mighty. From Pharaoh, the red sea, the merciless desert, and the giant Canaanites to the walls of Jericho, God’s strength proved mightier still. What he witnessed, gave him boldness to order the sun and the moon to stand still and they obeyed him. The bible records it thus “There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.” (Joshua10:14)

Our life may be full of ups and downs, threats and obstacles, glory and humiliation. If we look at our circumstances, our challenges and our oppressors with the Joshua View, all we will see is the Sovereign God who is on our side. What is before our eyes may be unfavorable, impossible or unimaginably painful yet if we turn our eyes and look at the cross we will surely only see victory through Jesus.

Dearly beloved, when you look ahead, if you heed God’s voice, He will surely heed yours and fight your battles for you, grant you days where even the sun and the moon follow your schedule. The Joshua view is not mere optimism. It is a savage old way to see the world through the unshakable knowledge of the greatness of God. If you watch for the greatness of God, surely you will see the goodness of God.