SHEEP DOGS

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Saturday, December 31, 2005
Mat 15:21-28 (21) Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. (22) 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. (23) But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. (24) But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (25) Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. (26) But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. (27) And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. (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. The Lord Jesus Christ plainly tells us that the sons of men are divided up between "sheep" and "goats" (Mat 25:31-32). Further, as the Good Shepherd He gave His life for the sheep (Joh 10:11), but not all men are His sheep (Joh 10:26), and that His sheep are (in obvious contrast to the non-sheep) such as hear His voice and have eternal life (Joh 10:27-28). Scripture also makes clear that faith in Christ to save is a paramount evidence of eternal life and being born of God (Joh 6:47; 1Jo 5:1 et.al.). Yet in our text today is a woman of great faith but somehow not a "sheep." Howso? The utterance of Mat 15:22-28 showcases the fact that the promises of a coming Savior, King, Messiah were emphatically Jewish in nature: to wit, that Christ should be "manifest unto Israel" (Joh 1:31), and "raised unto Israel a Saviour..." (Act 13:23), for (as He said to the Samaritan woman), "salvation is of the Jews" (Joh 4:22). So "Jewish" are the covenantal promises (including redemption by blood) that saved Gentiles are by grace deemed to be included in "the commonwealth of Israel..." (Eph 2:11-13), "...graffed in among them..." (Rom 11:17). But until He Who was "made under the law" (Gal 4:4) fulfilled that Law (Rom 10:4; Gal 3:13) and abolished it by a New Covenant (Eph 2:15; Col 2:14), His earthly ministry (though not the blood of His redemption) was of necessity restricted to the circumcision: Rom 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: In accord with this, His disciples were similarly then restricted in their early ministry (Mat 10:5-6) until Christ broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile by the cross (Eph 2:11-17) and later ordered Peter and Paul to preach Christ unto the uncircumcision (Acts 10:20-28; Acts 9:15; Acts 26:16-18), the "door of faith unto the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27) having been opened. Since Christ was a Jew, salvation was "of the Jews." That salvation was "of the Jews" was one thing. That it was only "for the Jews" is a different story. It was their vain conceit that none but their nation had favor with God, conveniently overlooking the fact that there were before Moses, Jacob, or even Abraham righteous men like Abel, Enoch and Noah who certainly were not Jewish nor circumcised. They also tended to overlook that God had shown mercy and favor to Gentiles even after Abraham or the later Law of Moses. This is why, for example, John the Baptist told the Viper Jews to not place much stock in their racial pedigree (Mat 3:7-9). The subject of Jesus' first public sermon was of a similar bent: Gentiles were not utterly excluded from God's mercy and favor, as witnessed the examples of the Zidonian widow and the Syrian army captain, Naaman (Luk 4:24-27). For this, they tried to kill Him (Luk 4:28-29). That Christ's giving of His life is expressly for "the sheep" (Joh 10:11, 26) is true. The limitation of His "not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mat 15:24) cannot refer to His eternal salvation of His people for which He came (Mat 1:21) since the blood-redeemed have always been an elect group out of "every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev 5:9 c/w Rev 7:9 et.al.), as the examples already given demonstrate. The Canaanite woman ("a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation," Mar 7:26) was a dog, not because she could be no "sheep" in a salvation/redemption sense, but because "dog" denotes something that is deemed to be on the outside (Deu 23:18; Rev 22:15) and she was outside of the distinctively Jewish OT covenant. Being no descendant of Abraham nor a proselyte to Israel, she was yet a stranger and alien (Eph 2:11-12), a "dog," yes...but an RCA kind of dog: one that had inwardly heard the Master's voice (Joh 5:25) and so was barking up the right Tree of Life. The Bread of Life (Joh 6:48) of Whose fullness she would graciously partake in the last day (Joh 6:54-58) and Who would soon generally eliminate Jew/Gentile distinction (Gal 3:28-29) here tossed her a few crumbs. Her faith is to be judged as valid and proof of God's grace operating outside of the natural, national Jewish covenant (as with Abel, Enoch, Noah, Naaman, Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9, etc.). Jesus did not say unto her, "O woman, fake/shallow/temporal is thy faith...," but "GREAT is thy faith." She sincerely called Jesus Lord, which Paul tells us is the mark of the Spirit within (1Co 12:3), Whose quickening power to regenerate is independent of the will, whim or work of the flesh (Joh 3:8; Joh 6:63; Joh 1:12-13; Tit 3:5). Jesus similarly said of a Roman centurion's faith, "...I have not found so GREAT faith, no, not in Israel" (Mat 8:10). Considering that the Lord was well acquainted with the likes of the Spirit-filled John the Baptist (Luk 1:15; Luk 1:44 --- an obvious child of grace), this was a glorious confirmation of the centurion's eternal condition. So, too, for the woman of Canaan: then a dog to the covenant of race but a sheep of the covenant of grace.

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