The Canaanitish Woman

Here the Lord passes in the most striking manner to what is outside all the promises, to a race that was accursed according to the promises made to the people of God, to the place that the Lord quotes as an example of hardness of heart (chap. 11); and He shows, whilst at the same time recognising the dispensations of God towards His people and His faithfulness in sending them the Messiah, what a heart comes to that is driven by its need, and by the faith which goes right to the heart of God, and what that divine heart is for the wants that faith brings to Him, what He is in Himself outside dispensational rules. The Lord goes towards Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanitish woman comes towards Him. Her daughter was tormented with a demon. She recognises the Lord as the Heir of the promises in Israel, as Son of David. This was truly faith as to His person. But what part had a Canaanitish woman with the promises made to Israel, or with the blessings that were granted to them as the people of God? The Lord does not answer her. Deeper lessons were to be given of what man is, but also of what God is.

The disciples would have wished the Lord to grant her what she asked, in order to get rid of her; but the Lord maintains His place as Son of David. He is sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The need of the poor woman rises above her formal acknowledgment as the Son of David. "Lord, help me." Her wants are simple. They are plainly declared. But the Lord wishes to put her thoroughly to the test. "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto dogs." The Lord acknowledges the dispensations of God with respect to His people, however wicked they might be, and the woman does so also; but lessons far deeper are here taught. The poor woman - man as shown in her finds his place. He is under the curse, without promise, having a right to nothing, or the power of the demon. He must own his condition, and that is what the woman does. She is a dog, but in need. Her hope is not in any right that she possesses, but in the free goodness of God. It is a need which comes face to face with God come in grace. She fully recognises what she is - a dog; but she maintains that if it be so there is sufficient goodness in God for such beings. Could God say, "No; there is not"? Could Christ represent Himself thus? Impossible! By faith want is met across all the obstacles of Jewish rights and personal unworthiness; thoroughly owning them, but placing itself outside every right in immediate contact with the goodness of God.

Such is faith. It recognises the state of ruin and of wretchedness in which we are; humble and true, it brings its need to God, but counts on what He is. Now He cannot deny Himself. Besides, it is the key to all the gospel. Jesus was the Christ, the Son of David, a Minister of the circumcision; but behind, so to speak, God was there, in all the fulness of His grace, and He passed over the strait limits of Israel and of the promises to be Himself in grace - grace which sufficed for everything. The curse might be there, complete unworthiness; but if want was there, and placed itself by faith on the ground of the grace and goodness of God, the barriers disappeared, want and God met together, and the answer was according to His sovereign goodness, the riches of His grace, and according to the faith which counted upon it. The daughter was healed, the Canaanitish woman happy, and God in Christ revealed. J. N. Darby.

To the inexperienced eye of man, nature is often confounded with grace; but the intelligent consciousness of Christ as the heart's object, of His presence, of the seal of His approval when one thinks of Him, cannot be confounded with anything. … When He reveals Himself to our heart, and the heart communes with Him in all things, and seeks only the light of His countenance, then He is known, well known. There is none but He who thus communicates Himself to the soul when it walks in the way of His will, as expressed in the Word.