Read: Jeremiah 52:1-23; Matthew 15:21-27
That's not how the old saying goes, but that little revision could have been a motto for me this week. May I explain? I sent a short e-mail in which I asked a question. When I walked back in the office to check whether or not I had received a response, I was disappointed. Undeliverable. Rats! What did I do? Oh yes, it was my fault. Apparently that dot between the first and last name of the recipient is important. I typed again, and once again, I returned to the computer seeking a response. Undeliverable. Again? The dot was there, and I had been careful to capitalize those letters that needed to be written in upper case. Even so, there was the mistake. I fixed it and hit send again. Third time's a charm, right? No, Undeliverable again! This time, it was a double letter. Doesn't the computer know that it should ignore what obviously was simply my heavy touch on the "k"? I could call her instead of e-mailing, but now I was on a mission; so, I typed again. Success. I received a response. There's something satisfying about staying at a task, isn't there?
Staying at tasks seems to be important to God too. Let's look at a faithful man and a faithful woman of scripture who stayed at the tasks that the Lord gave each of them.
Jeremiah. If at first you don't succeed, prophesy, prophesy again. What a faithful man. In Jeremiah 1:1-10, we are introduced to this prophet who was to call the people back to God. We learn that God chose him and decreed that he would be a prophet even before God formed Jeremiah in the womb, Jeremiah 1:5. What a faithful prophet Jeremiah turned out to be. This was true even though God told him that the people wouldn't listen to his words, even before the prophet had uttered one word for the Lord. Even though God's mission must have sounded less than fruitful, Jeremiah was not to be deterred by either what God had told him concerning the lack of results he would see or his own youth. God promised to be with him and gave Jeremiah His word. He was simply to speak what the Lord showed him. Jeremiah obeyed God. He wept and called the Lord's people to repentance for 40 years. In spite of his steadfastness, Jeremiah had to watch the people reject the God they once loved. Gone was their early love for God which Jeremiah said was like the affection that a bride shared with her bridegroom, Jeremiah 2:1-2; Jeremiah 3:4. Jeremiah watched the destruction of the beautiful temple. The place where God had chosen to meet with His people. The place where sacrifices were offered. All of the lovely articles that had been fashioned for the Lord's temple were destroyed or taken to Babylon. Jerusalem was laid waste and its king and his sons were killed, Jeremiah 52:1-23. The prophet's heart was broken by the rebellion of the Lord's people which led to so much death and destruction as chronicled in the Book of Lamentations. A book that Jeremiah also wrote. Yet, in spite of personal peril and rejection, Jeremiah was faithful to prophesy God's message. He chose to please God through his obedience, rather than pleasing man by telling them words to tickle their ears. How good it is that God looks at faithfulness, rather than the outcome that can be seen. Was there a tremendous turning back to God wrought through Jeremiah's on-going faithfulness? No, but the prophet honored and pleased God because he continued to both love and cry out on behalf of His people.
The Canaanite Woman. If at first you don't succeed, pray, pray again. We meet this unlikely pray-er in Matthew 15:21-27. There were no fuzzy feelings of friendship between this unnamed woman's people and the Jewish people of Jesus' day. In fact, it would not be expected that she would even be approaching Jesus since the Canaanites were known to be idolators. Yet, all of a sudden, there she was. A woman with a great need, and she was not afraid or too shy to cry out for Jesus' help. She referred to Him as the Son of David. We don't know how she came to know Him by this precious messianic title. We do know that she had a daughter who had a great need, and we have every reason to believe that this mom knew that Jesus had the power to bring relief and freedom to her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon. Perhaps that is why she did not give up. When Jesus did not say anything to her at first, she didn't give up. When the disciples told the Savior to send her away, she didn't give up. Even when Jesus said that He had only been sent to the Jews at that time, she didn't give up. I love Jesus' response. He told her that she had mega faith, and He answered her prayers to Him by healing her daughter. What if she had given up? She could have slumped her shoulders and simply walked away. It surely looked as if her cries wouldn't be met with positive results. She could have left in a huff with bitter words on her lips. Instead, it appears that she knew two precious truths. She had a great need, and she needed to humble herself before the One Who could meet that need. She wasn't deterred by any roadblock that seemed to be in the way of answered prayer. What an honor she received when the Master spoke of her faith and granted her request. The prophet and the pray-er. They didn't stop doing what pleased and honored the Lord.
What about us? The world often looks so dark, but let’s gain strength from Jeremiah and the Canaanite woman. Even if people reject the Savior we hold out to them, let's keep speaking the words the Lord gives us. Even when it looks like we can't see anything that the Lord is doing, let's ask the Lord for the mega faith to keep praying.
Let's do these things, even if it seems at first that we aren't succeeding. Why? Because God calls us to be steadfast, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58.