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Daily Devotion for January 14, 2014

<i>Jesus and the Canaanite Woman</i> by Mattia Preti, c. 1660. | Matthew 15:21
Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti, c. 1660. The improvements in figure painting of the late Baroque show clearly in the exceptional rendering of woman. Interestingly, most paintings of this story include a dog in the scene. Perhaps to identify it?



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


From Israel, a song of exuberant praise to God. The lyrics are straight from the Bible: Deuteronomy 6:4, with a line from Zechariah 12:9, repeated three times. (The second verse is in English.)

Prayer for the Morning

Heavenly Father, I do not fear this day, for you are with me wherever I might go, your light to shine ahead, your footsteps to lead the way. I do not fear this day, for your word will be my guide. Your strength will sustain me and your love revive me, this day and all days. I do not fear this day, for you are with me. In the name of Christ, I call upon you.


Ancient Prayer for Those Who Govern

Lord God, I pray for all kings and others in authority. You, Master, have given them the power of sovereignty through your majestic and inexpressible might, so that we, acknowledging the glory and honor which you have given them, may be subject to them, resisting your will in nothing. Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, harmony, and stability, that they may blamelessly administer the government which you have given them.

For you, heavenly Master, King of the ages, give to the sons of men glory and honor and authority over those upon the earth. Lord, direct their plans according to what is good and pleasing in your sight, so that by devoutly administering in peace and gentleness the authority which you have given them they may experience your mercy. You, who alone are able to do these and even greater good things for us, we praise through the high priest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be the glory and the majesty to you both now and for all generations and for ever and ever.



Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made me one with your saints in heaven and on earth. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know myself to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.

<i>Christ Carrying the Cross</i> by Fra Angelico, c. 1438.
Christ Carrying the Cross by Fra Angelico, c. 1438.

Psalm 117 (KJV)

O praise the Lord, all ye nations:
praise him, all ye people.

For his merciful kindness is great toward us:
and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.
Praise ye the Lord.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV)

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 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.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

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 from that hour.

Notes on the Scripture

In today's Scripture, Christ travels across a national border into Phoenicia, part of the Roman colony of Syria. Tyre and Sidon are ancient cities which, although they lay in the land promised to Abraham and Moses (map) were never really conquered by the Hebrews. In the day of Joshua, Tyre (but not Sidon) was allotted to the Tribe of Asher (map), but it was not held. The littoralLittoral: of, relating to, or situated on the shore, especially a sea shore. strip where Lebanon lies today became the land of the powerful, sea-trading Phoenicians, and even the great Empire of Israel under David and Solomon ended just south of Tyre (map).

What, we may fairly wonder, was Jesus doing traveling outside Israel? For Sidon and Tyre were synonymous with idolatry and fornication (see Matthew 11:20-24); they were not only heathen, the land of the Hebrews’ dearest enemies (the Canaanites), but also ports filled with sailors, which have been dens of iniquity since time immemorial.

The Bible does not tell us “why”, but two motives seem reasonable. First, Christ is coming near the end of his ministry and has entered the phase when He will prepare for the crucifixion. He seeks a short time of solitude and quiet. He is safer in Phoenicia, away from the hand of the Herods, the Pharisees and scribes; and He is also insulated from the hoards of Jews who now follow him wherever he goes in Galilee and Judea.

But, perhaps a more important reason is that He has one more thing to accomplish in his ministry: A token to prove to the disciples that his grace will extend to the Gentiles. For this was the only time He ever ventured outside the land of the Jews (other than the flight to Egypt as an infant).

Most theologians will credit Christ with foreknowledge of the events told in today's passage. If so (and it makes perfect sense), his treatment of the woman is a bit of theater. When He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” He is playing devil's advocate. Indeed, it would be hard to think He was sincere, as the sentiment would contradict both his own words and the great body of prophecy, e.g., that He would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” (Luke 2:32) Also, see Psalm 117, above.

The key to the woman's approach is when she kneels before Christ and calls him simply Kyrie, “Lord”. A request to a great man had to be turned into a prayer to the Living God.

When Christ makes the remark about giving the children's food to dogs, it is not quite as harsh as it sounds to us, because the word He uses refers specifically to household pets. He might be teasing her a bit; one could reasonably imagine a slight smile in his tone. Or, if not, He is requiring her to show persistence or steadfastness, which is so often recommended to us in various epistles (e.g. Colossians 1:23).

endless knot

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James 1:19-21 (NIV): My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

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