The Princess and the Pauper
Read: 1 Kings 16:28-33; Matthew 15:21-28
Quick. What picture comes to mind when you hear the word princess? I think of a gracious lady who acts with dignity and has access to fine things. After all, didn't I dress up as a princess several times, for Halloween crown and all?
Quick. What picture comes to mind when you hear the word pauper? I think of someone in need. Someone who has very little.
This morning, I was reading from 1 Kings 16 which chronicles the lives of several of Israel's kings, each one worse than the one who preceded him. When the text introduces us to Ahab, the worst of the bunch, we also meet the monarch's wife, Jezebel. The mention of that name now brings to mind the portrait of a woman who is wicked and treacherous; however, the first thing that we learn about her is a sad irony. She was the daughter of King Ethbaal of Sidon, meaning that this woman was a princess.
I can't put that title together with Jezebel, given the qualities of a princess that are a part of my thinking. She truly was not only wicked, 1 Kings 18:2, she was also one who urged her husband on to greater depths of depravity. She wasn't content to do what was abhorrent to the Lord. She also brought Ahab down to depths of evil rather than urging him on to do what was good, 1 Kings 21:1-16; 1 Kings 21:25-26. Such unappealing qualities she displayed, and what a terrible influence she was. If we look a bit into Jezebel's background, we discover that she was a Canaanite woman. Her people were among those who had descended into such wickedness that the children of Israel were to leave none of them alive when Joshua finally brought them into the land God had promised them. The evil they had sunk to, if left unchecked, would poison God's people and bring gross wickedness and revolting practices into their land. The princess was permeated by the wickedness of her people, and she acted accordingly.
Can anything good come out of Sidon? Praise God. The answer is a resounding yes.
In Matthew 15:21-28, we are introduced to another Sidonian woman. She has no title, and we are never introduced to her by name. I am calling her a pauper not because I know anything about her economic state. No, we're not given that information, but if a pauper can be described as someone who came to Jesus with a desperate need, that truly could be said about this lady. She was not a Jewish woman. No, she was a Gentile and there was another strike against her in the eyes of the disciples. She was a Canaanite. How interesting it is that she cried out to Jesus, addressing Him as "Son of David", speaking to Him using the Jewish title. Her cry for help was met with disdain. The disciples wanted the Savior to send her away. He didn't do it. Instead after some silence, the Savior spoke of His mission that was first to the children of Israel. He said that the bread He offered was to go to His people and not to dogs. If this lady were haughty, that statement might have put her off. However, her answer displayed her humility that was mixed with the knowledge that Jesus could do what she had asked. He could bring relief to her demon possessed daughter. She was not ashamed to display the fact that she had a great need and no way to meet it out of her own resources.
It is interesting that the word for dog that Jesus used here is not the same word He employed in Matthew 7:6 which spoke of a wild dog. Jesus' statement to her spoke not of a picture of a vicious street dog but rather a dog that might be near enough to a family's food and able to catch the crumbs that fell from the table. The woman had enough understanding of Jesus' mission that she was ready to do just that. Jesus' response to this Sidonian woman? He commended her for having great faith and answered her cry according to that faith. Can anything good come out of Sidon? Jesus' answer was a resounding yes.
Let's end with two lessons, one from the princess and one from the pauper:
1. The princess' lesson
If we have influence, and each person does, let's use it to encourage one another to be more like Jesus. The princess, of course, did just the opposite and brought grief and destruction into the lives she influenced. Doesn't it stand to reason that as we grow together and lean on the Holy Spirit for strength and direction that we will be a positive influence, sharpening each other, Proverbs 27:17?
2. The pauper's lesson
If we have needs, and everyone does, let's keep calling out to Jesus for help. Sometimes, He is silent, but even when He is, let's not stop reaching out to Him in prayer, Luke 18:1-8. Let's remember the Sidonian woman who was not put off by either Jesus' silence or the disciples' disdainful words.
John Newton said: “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring, for His grace and power are such none can ever ask too much.”