Dr. Robert Smith did it again this year. Those of you who attended last year’s Inrush at Fellowship Church were blown away by the great preaching of Dr. Robert Smith. His style was one that anyone could follow his basic outline, yet he had tidbits woven throughout his sermons that would stretch even the most well-versed Bible student. His sermons last year were "The Awful Grace of God" and "Have You Been to Mount Moriah?" Both sermons cut me pretty deep.
This year’s sermon was "Praying Through the Silence of God". The text was Matthew 15:21-28. Here we have a woman who besought Jesus to heal her daughter of demon possession. The three main points in his outline were as follows.
1- Jesus ignores the woman, vs. 23.
2- Jesus rejects the woman, vs. 24.
3- Jesus embarrasses the woman, vs. 26.
Not a very positive sounding outline, is it? His questions were probing. Is Jesus some type of racist in this passage? We love the Jesus who healed all who came to him. We love the Jesus who took time for the sinners. How are we to take Jesus in this passage? How are we to take His silence?
1- The woman was consistently crying out after Jesus and addressing Him as royalty. She refers to Him as "O Lord, Son of David". She was so persistent that the disciples became weary of her. They begged Jesus to command her to go away. Jesus completely ignores this woman. He does not even acknowledge her plea. He doesn’t say "No". He doesn’t say "Yes". He just ignores her. Dr. Smith’s background on Elijah and the widow woman at Sidon was quite appropriate. In I Kings 17:8-16 we have a Gentile woman of this same area who demonstrated greater faith than many Israelites at that time. Now all these years later, we have another Gentile woman in the same area who is demonstrating her faith. How did people of this region know anything of the knowledge of God? Elijah had been there for a time.
2- Not only does Jesus ignore her, then when He does speak, His message is one of rejection. It isn’t even clear if He is speaking to the woman or simply talking to His disciples and continuing to ignore the woman. Whichever the case, when He opens His mouth, He basically says that He wasn’t sent to help people like her. Jesus rejected this woman and remained completely true to His character. How can this be? Yet even after this rejection, she begins to worship Him and continues to call Him "Lord".
3- Now Jesus really gets personal. He states that if He were to minister to this woman it would be like taking the special meal for the children and throwing it to the dogs. Here is where Dr. Smith’s identity as an African American allowed him to be quite frank with the harshness of Jesus’ words. This smacks of racism. Dr. Smith equated Jesus’ saying here as "We don’t serve your kind here". And how appropriate the comment was. Jesus was making an analogy of serving dinner. He had already stated that He was only sent to the children of Israel. Jesus was basically saying, "I can’t serve you dinner". Jesus has ignored her, rejected her, and now he has humiliated her.
Yet this does not stop her from calling Him "Lord" a third time. She continues to assert His deity and authority over her situation with her daughter. Even though He has utterly rejected her in a very embarrassing way, she continues to have faith. She agrees with His statement that she is like a dog, or a second class type of person compared to those "more privileged" than she is. "But," she says, "even the dogs get some crumbs!"
I suppose there could be a fourth point in the outline. Jesus answers the woman’s prayer. He even compliments the woman’s faith. He had criticized the disciples’ faith on numerous occasions. "O ye of little faith" He would say. Yet Jesus says this woman has great faith. First He ignores her, then He rejects her, then He embarrasses her, but now He is rewarding her and exalting her. She had prayed through the silence of God.
I personally enjoyed this sermon as it had no attempt to dispensationalize Jesus’ response. This is the straight forward teaching of who Jesus is. Some may not like it. But there was great truth as Dr. Smith expounded numerous points about the Silence of God. Sometimes God chooses not to answer us. That’s His prerogative. God may even reject us and humiliate us. Will we say with Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" ???
The only downside was that Dr. Smith only preached once this year instead of twice.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman