`A woman of Canaan came and cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David! my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. . . . Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.' Matt. 15: 22, 28.
In the Old Testament we found God's promises of blessing on the godly training of children most clear and sure. Nor were His threatenings on the neglect of this duty less distinct. And in more than one terrible example we saw with what relentless power the threatening came true. In the sons of Aaron and Eli, in the family of David and Solomon, proof was given that the personal righteousness of the father could not save the ungodly child. And we found no answer to one of the most solemn questions that can be put, and which has been as a burning fiery furnace to many a parent's heart: Is there still hope for a child grown up in sin, and passing out from beyond the reach of a parent's influence?
It is in Christ Jesus that God has revealed how completely the power of sin and Satan has been broken. It is in Christ Jesus that God has shown us what it is possible for His grace to do. It is in Christ Jesus, too, we must seek for the answer to every question of a parent's heart. And as it is His earthly life in which we have revealed all that the unseen Father and He now too in His exaltation, are willing to do for us, so there we must find what a parent may hope for from His mighty saving power on behalf of a wandering child. As we study this carefully, we shall be surprised to find how many of the most precious and encouraging words of Christ in regard to faith have been spoken to parents in reference to their children. `Fear not, only believe;' `All things are possible to him that believeth;' `O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.' Such words, which have countless times been the strength and comfort of the penitent seeking pardon, or the believer pleading for some spiritual blessing, are in the first place the parent's property; the blessed assurance that there is no case in which a child, now in Satan's power, is beyond the reach of a Savior's love and a parent's faith. Let us see how wonderfully this will come out in the well known story of the Syrophenician mother, as we think of her daughter's misery, her prayer's refusal, her faith's perseverance, and her rich reward.
Her daughter's misery. `My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil: How many a mother is there who has to pray this prayer for a child possessed with an evil spirit far more terrible than that of which we read there. In this case it was more sickness than sin, it was the power of Satan in the body more than the soul. But, alas! how many of the grown-up children of Christian parents there are who are under the power of Satan, given up to pleasure or worldliness, to self-will or to sin. Let our story encourage them to believe that, however hopeless their case appears, there is One who is mighty to save, the parent's Friend, the children's Redeemer. Let them come to Him with their need, and cry out in prayer, `My child is grievously vexed with a devil.' Let them make full confession of their child's lost estate. Beware of excusing their sin by the thought of what is good or loveable about them, or by laying the blame on circumstances or companions. Bring them to Christ, and say it out that they are lost, under the power of Satan, that they have deserved and are on their way to be with him forever. Hide not their wretchedness. Ask not only that they may be saved and made happy and taken to heaven. Ask nothing less than that they may turn from the power of Satan unto God, that they may be translated from the power of darkness to the kingdom of God's dear Son. Ask that they may be born again, changed from being the children of the devil and enemies of God to be His friends and children. Honor God by confessing their sin fully and clearly, and acknowledging His righteous judgment; ask distinctly and definitely for a full salvation.
Her prayer's refusal is the second lesson this woman has to teach us. Christ appeared to turn a deaf ear to her prayer. At first He did not answer her a word. When He did speak, His answer was worse than His silence; it cut off all hope. He was not sent to the heathen. A second answer, given as she had come nearer and had again worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me! appeared to heap contempt on her misfortune: she was not only a heathen, but a dog. A true picture of what passes in the heart of many a pleading parent! They hear of Christ's love and power, and begin to pray with great urgency. But He answers not a word: there is no sign of thought or change on the part of the lost one. Still they pray, and it is as if the power of sin grows stronger, and the loved one only wanders farther off. Conscience begins to speak of parental sin and unworthiness. Others, who are holier, and have more power with God, may be heard: how can we expect that God should work a miracle for us? And the parent settles down in a quiet despondency, or a vague hope that tries to shut its eyes to its own wretchedness. Oh, the dark, heartrending uncertainty as to the salvation of that child!
Her faith and perseverance. It is for this specially that the mother's example is held up to us. She refused to be denied. She met silence and argument and contempt alike with one weapon — more prayer, more trust. She had heard of the wondrous Man and His compassion; she saw it in His face; she heard it even in the voice that refused her; she would not believe He could send her away empty. She hoped against hope; she believed against appearances, and, what is more, against His very words; she believed and she triumphed. And now, mother! you who are pleading for your prodigal child, you have her example. And not only her example, but a thousand words of promise, and a revelation of the Father's will and the Savior's power and love such as she never had. Let her faith and perseverance put your unbelief to shame. In the face of all appearances and all doubts, let your faith rise and claim the promise of an answer to prayer in the name of Jesus. Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit to have everything searched out and brought to the light that you must confess and cast out. Trust not to the fervency of your desires or the wrestling urgency of your petition; seek your strength in God's promise and faithfulness, in His power and love. Let the soul, in restful deliberate confidence in Jesus, praise Him for His promise and His power to save. In this confidence let nothing shake you from the continuous and persevering prayer of faith. The prayer of faith is always heard.
The wondrous blessing she obtained is for us too. There was not only her daughter's deliverance from this grievous trouble; there was something almost better — a spiritual blessing — our Lord's delighted approval of her faith: `O woman, great is thy faith! be it unto thee even as thou wilt.' Yes, it is in the earnest, believing supplication for a child that the parent's heart can be drawn out toward the Lord, can learn to know and trust Him aright, can rise to that insight into His love which is most pleasing to Him, and bring down into the soul the consciousness of His good pleasure. Mother, who are pleading for loved ones far from the fold, come nearer, come nearer to Jesus. He is able, indeed, to save them. He waits for your faith to take hold of His strength, to accept their salvation. Oh, let not your child perish, because you refuse to come and take time with Him, until His love has inspired you with faith. Mother! come nearer, tarry with Jesus in prayer, trust Him: your child can be saved.
Blessed Lord Jesus! I, too, like the Syrophenician woman, have a child grievously vexed with a devil. Like her I come pleading, `Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.'
O Lord! I would confess the sin of my child. You know it all: unconverted, and an enemy to You by nature, he has rejected Your love, to choose the world and sin. I confess my sin, too, Lord! You know how bitter the thought is, that, had my life been less in the world and the flesh, purer and holier, more full of faith and of love and of You, my child might have grown up differently. Lord! in deep sorrow I confess my sin; oh, let not my child perish, Son of David! have mercy on me.
Blessed Lord! I put my trust in You. I look in faith to Your Almighty power; the things that are impossible with man are possible with God. I look in faith to Your promise to hear prayer. Lord, I believe You hear me; help my unbelief. I lay this perishing child at Your feet, and plead Your love. Savior! I do believe in Your love, and claim deliverance for my child. In this faith I will praise You for Your grace. I will tarry at Your feet day by day in the rest of faith, praising You, and looking out for Your fulfilment. Make haste, O my Lord, for Your name's sake. Amen.