Week of Dec. 1

New Life for "Dogs"?

Read: Job 22; Mark 7-8

"And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Mark 7:27, ESV


William Carey, prior to becoming a missionary, read and re-read Isaiah 54:5 which states, “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of Hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called God of all the earth” (NASB). It affects me deeply to know that it was Carey’s study and application of the Word of God that led to his lasting global legacy. Let’s ponder how we may expand our global vision today.

A Biblical Lens

Mark follows the passage on the Pharisees and defilement with the passage about a Syrophoenician woman’s sick daughter. Hello! In Ashlock speak: “Immersing ourselves in the situation helps greatly with clear application.” This caught my attention, even though I have conducted many years of studies in Mark. In the former narrative, Jesus teaches that defilement is moral, not ritual, in nature (7:23). Our focal passage becomes morally significant in light of its placement here. It holds profound implications for the later missionary expansion to the Gentiles. In brief, Jesus demonstrates that all foods are clean, and all people are clean! No, no, no! Please do not doubt me because Peter, an eyewitness to this moment, later applied it to his encounter with Cornelius (cf. Acts 10, Cornelius). He knew what Jesus meant here in this moment, and it informed his moral decision-making later when Jewish tradition reared its head. Morally, this passage should “sanctify” all races and classes of people, but elitism and racism are quite pervasive in the church (i.e. sanctity of life).

Let’s seek to see what Jesus saw today. It may sound silly to claim that Jesus ventured into Tyre for a holiday, but that was the case (7:24b). This was not a preaching mission, nor was he trying to stay one step ahead of Herod Antipas (cf. NAC). Jesus saw a human life. The Gentile mother of a demon-possessed daughter prostrated herself before Jesus which was a sign of deep reverence (7:25; See 1 Kings 17:8-24; cf. Philippians 1:20). We are being challenged here to expand our pro-life values circle beyond the unborn to encompass all humanity. Let’s follow Jesus’ example.

Jesus spoke to her out of his Jewish mission and context (7:27). Do not misunderstand. He let her know plainly that his mission was to the Jews (7:27, “dogs,” common Jewish parlay for the Gentiles). I spoke suggestively about Jewish-Gentile relations, so we must not read our “White, Western Christianity” into these words. He talked directly to her! He stated concisely the mission that he was sent to fulfill. We do no wrong to tell people that we follow a Savior who speaks to all humanity and requires a radical change of heart in order to be redeemed.

Jesus was pure in his motive and intent to complete the mission that God had given to him. Mark allowed the history to unfold as it occurred. He did not put words into Jesus’ mouth, even though he penned his gospel after Pentecost and the Gentile mission expansion had begun. Jesus brought healing into that woman’s home. It is significant to me that a Gentile woman was the only person to address the Savior as “Lord” in Mark’s gospel (cf. NAC; cf. Faithlife, “Sir,” for deep respect). Non-Christians are quite often more respectful of Christ than are his own disciples. She knew that the Jews took precedence, but she also sensed in Jesus’ life that he cared about all humanity. That is the witness that we should emulate.

A Moral Crossroad

I reread the news account of the devoutly Christian, young human rights activist and humanitarian who was captured by ISIS, tortured and raped repeatedly throughout her captivity, then murdered in 2015. Kayla Mueller’s captors sought to gain a renunciation of her Christian beliefs, but she would not do so. She wrote a letter to her parents while in captivity and stated, “. . .I have come to a place in experience where, I have surrendered myself to our creator.” One wonders what would compel a person to take the love of Christ into a hostile, anti-Christian pocket of the world. Jesus! The hope that is in Christ compelled her to go. Our Savior took the love of God into a hostile world, and he commanded his disciples to do the same.

The moral crossroad? The President announced in recent days that Kayla's chief captor had “died like a dog” in a U.S. Navy Seal Team raid. The moral irony—and, I am certainly not speaking politically—is that Kayla did not view even her brutal captors as “dogs” (7:27). Christ’s radical spiritual eye surgery will help us to see the hard and, at times, dangerous moral crossroads ahead of us. Jesus is Redeemer, and the redeemed know it and spread it; come what may (Isaiah 54:5; Matthew 5:9).

For Your Heart

William Carey came to mind this morning as I read Mark 7. He had become the pastor of the Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester, England (1789). The church was divided and spiritually ill due to the worldliness of its members (Mark 7:20-23). Despite his prayers and fervent preaching, the soul sickness in that place hindered conversions and he became heartbroken for those who did not know Christ as their Redeemer. He called for the church to be dissolved in September 1790, then to adopt a solemn covenant that embodied New Testament faith, life, and discipline. Only those who embraced this covenant could be accepted as members of the newly-constituted church. The church was revived. Carey led his own sisters, then his wife, and many others to redemption in Christ. Isaiah 54:5, and other passages, had been the backdrop to Carey’s pastoral leadership, and it became the catalyst for his global mission vision (Mark 7:24-30). Here is a shocking Mark 7:27 statement: Christ led Carey to India where he threw his life to the “dogs.” God’s word applied to our hearts, then used as a lens to see the world, will transform “dogs” into humans that God loves right before our eyes (Jonah 4:1-2, 10-11; “should I not have compassion on Ninevah”).

For Your Journaling

1. Write down who are “dogs” to you, meaning those to whom you would never share the gospel. I invite you to read Isaiah 54:5 and Mark 7:27-30 and ask God to help you to see those people as the Redeemer sees them.

2. Now, write down how God intends to use you to reach those people. Pray over your plan and invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to accomplish it. Seek wise counsel from others in the church as you fine tune God’s leadership (cf. Acts 13:1-3).