June 5, 2022 Faith is Desperate for Mercy

Faith is Desperate for Mercy

June 5, 2022




Scripture reading: Matthew 15:21-28.


The church is under assault. It is under assault by critics. It is under assault by society, which has come to embrace all kinds of vile and wicked behavior and lashes out at any who would call into question the sinful deeds of man. It is under assault by the government which seeks to force the church to conform to wickedness. But perhaps the greatest assault comes from some within the church.


A false gospel has been promoted for decades among evangelicals. As a result of this false gospel, there are many who think they have faith when they only have some kind of mental agreement.


This short passage reveals something about genuine faith: Genuine faith is desperate for mercy and does not give up until it receives it! This is the main point of this beloved Scripture. But there is an additional truth about faith that this Canaanite woman manifests. Let us consider these two revelations. For, if we see what genuine faith embraces, we may test our own faith and emulate this woman’s faith. We may direct our hearts to the object of faith.


I stated that there are two truths about faith that we need to see here. Yet, before we consider these, we must first see that this Canaanite woman knew where faith must be placed. She cried out to Jesus:


“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” (verse 22)


She recognizes Jesus as the Lord! And she recognizes him as Messiah, too. The term, “Son of David,” is the OT term for the promised Messiah. Thus, she places her faith in the right object, the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in no one else will save. Only faith in Christ saves. This is the consistent and constant revelation of the Bible.


In order to possess saving faith, we must trust in Christ as Lord of heaven and earth. And, we must know that he is the promised Savior of the world, the Messiah.


Today’s message is on how saving faith shows itself. So, having established that Christ is the only object of saving faith, we move on to what faith does.


First, see that this woman sought mercy from the Lord. She cries out, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord!” She desired mercy on behalf of her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon.


What is mercy? This joint definition of mercy and grace is quite good:


“Mercy is God’s favor that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is God’s favor that gives us what we do not deserve.” – Rolfe Barnard


Mercy is an expression of God’s favor. Because God is holy and just, when we sin we deserve punishment. For those who have placed their faith in Christ, the full punishment for our sins were born by Christ at the cross and we will not be punished for them. Thank you, Lord! This is a divine fact! Yet, it is still true that God is not pleased with our sin and neither is he satisfied with sin remaining in our lives. Therefore, he will take measures to help us eradicate sin in our lives. This is God’s discipline towards those he loves.


Therefore, we need mercy both in the final judgment (our faith in Christ takes care of this matter) and in our everyday living.


This woman sought mercy for her daughter. Her daughter had a demon. The text does not reveal why her daughter had a demon. However, demonic activity has its source in rebellion against the Lord. Thus, either this woman or her daughter had been involved in some practice that acted as an invitation to demonic presence. Mercy was a true need for this family!


She was from Tyre and Sidon. These were Gentile cities. During the time of King David and Solomon, Tyre was an ally of Israel and there were friendly relations between the two nations. However, not long after those kings, Tyre became an enemy of Israel and is condemned by the prophets as rebellious, idolatrous, and guilty of fornication (Is 23:1–18; Jer 25:22; 27:1–11; Ez 26:1–28:19; Jl 3:4–8; Am 1:9, 10)[1]


She was not one of God’s covenant people. She lived in an immoral land. Yet, she sought mercy! Not only did her faith seek mercy, but it persisted when she did not receive her request.


But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”[2]


Jesus did not answer her! Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt that Jesus did not answer you? Have you brought to him a need and it seems as if the heavens have been closed to you, as if they have been closed with an iron ceiling and all your prayers seem to just bounce back?


This woman was not answered. Yet, she did not give up. Don’t give up! Especially, in your request for mercy. Do not give up!


Genuine faith is desperate for mercy and does not give up seeking it! This is true for those who are not in the covenant, that is to say, for those who have not yet surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus…like this Canaanite. It is also true for those who have come to Christ already. We still need mercy after we have come!


Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [3]


Verse 16 I see as one of the most uplifting verses in the entire Bible! Do not shrink back once you recognize your need for mercy! If you belong to Christ then, when you approach God, do so with confidence! Confidence! Why may we have confidence? It is not because we deserve anything. It is because God is willing to dispense mercy! If we need mercy, God will give it! The Lord is not stingy. He is merciful!


Our greatest hindrance to receiving mercy is ourselves! Sometimes we feel either our sin is too great or our sin is too frequent and we will lack confidence when we approach the Lord. This is why the author of Hebrews encourages his readers! Because he knows that this is a common experience.


The woman asked Jesus for mercy but he did not answer her. Then, his disciples tell the Lord to send her away because she is crying after them for help. Jesus did not answer her but she cried out all the more! When the disciples asked the Lord to send her away she surely heard them! So, she was rejected twice.


Then: He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”[4]


She hears a third rejection. How does she respond?


But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”[5]


She kneels before him – a sign of humility. And she says three simple words: “Lord, help me.”


How the Lord answers her has shocked some people:


26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”[6]


He calls her a dog! How would you have responded, if you were this woman? I think most people would have been quite offended. Most would have left and given up. This is a fourth rejection of her plea. But she doesn’t give up! Her faith is desperate for mercy!


Her answer, in verse 27, reveals that she recognized that she was not deserving, but that she also expressed faith in the fact that the Lord’s power was so great that even his “left-over” power was enough to heal her daughter. We will look at her answer more carefully in a moment, but recognize that, after four rejections, she is still pleading! She still believes in the Lord’s power and continues seeking his mercy.


Because she was desperate in her faith, the Lord answered her!


Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.[7]


See that the Lord honored her faith and her persistence and granted her desire. Her daughter was healed that very instant!


We must see that real faith keeps seeking mercy and does not give up until it is received!


There is another quality of her faith that we must see.  Let’s read verses 26 and 27 again:


26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”[8]


This is faith: agreeing with God when it goes against our natural ideas.


Because this woman was a Gentile, and all Gentiles were considered to be dogs, when Jesus says that the children’s bread should not be given to dogs, he revealed that the Jews were in a special relationship with the Father and, by virtue of this relationship, it was right to grant them grace and mercy. But, Gentiles not having this relationship, were like dogs in that dogs don’t deserve good food.


Surely, being classified as a “dog” does not sit well with the natural disposition of nearly anyone. See that she agrees with the words of our Lord! She replies that even the dogs can eat the leftovers. In other words, she agrees that she is a dog!


This is the mark of true faith. It agree with all that God has revealed. It subsumes all natural notions and ideas to the words of God. Show me a so-called Christian who does not believe all that the Bible reveals and I will show you a Christian in name only. It is not possible to fail to trust what God has spoken and to possess saving faith.


I do not mean that there cannot be points of revelation that are difficult to understand. I do not mean that there can be portions of Scripture that seem contrary to popular opinion or so-called “scientific” consensus. I do not even mean that there cannot be points of revelation that we may find hard to accept. I mean that the true child of God accepts the words of God in spite of these things. This is because God Himself is trustworthy. If He is trustworthy, so are his words. The Lord Jesus Christ trusted every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God through the prophets (4:1-4). This woman from Tyre trusted in the words of the Lord even though they were contrary to her.


Here is faith! Trusting in God’s word when it is contrary to us, when it is contrary to our ideas, contrary to our desires, contrary to our monetary interests (a frequent point of contention).


The faith that this woman possessed was honored by the Lord. He said to her, “Great is your faith!” Can the Lord say this about you? We have seen this morning that her faith had two qualities which made her faith great.


  • Her faith was desperate for mercy. And,
  • Her faith fully trusted in what the Lord had spoken.


It is a divine fact that there is such a thing as false faith, a faith that is not born from above but is, rather, just some kind of mental agreement to some facts revealed by God. Of course, we must agree with God on all that he has revealed. We just saw that. But simply agreeing with God does not constitute saving faith.


These two qualities of genuine faith that this woman revealed are not the only evidences of true faith. They are the ones that are clear from her interaction with the Lord Jesus. In prior days we have identified other elements of saving faith. Do you remember what some of those were? They are important to know so that we may test ourselves to see if we are really in the faith or whether we simply have some kind of mental agreement.


They are:


[1.] Regular attendance in the local church. The Scriptures present this as an evidence of regeneration. Those who are not an active part of a local church have not been regenerated (I John 2:19; Hebrews 10:24-25; Eph 2:19-22).


[2.]Loving our brothers and sisters (John 15:17; I John 2:9-11; 3:11-18).


[3.] Abiding in the Scriptures, that is, longing for them and meditating upon them (John 8:31-32; Psalm 1:1-2; 119:9-11; 15; 23; 48; 78; 97-99; 148; Acts 2:42; Eph. 6:17; I Peter 2:2).


[4.] Sharing the gospel (Mark 16:15; Acts 4:20; 31; 8:1-4; Eph 6:15; Phil. 1:7; I Peter 4:11).


[5.] Obedience to the commands of God (Luke 6:46; I John 2:4-6; 3:4-10).


These are evidences that the apostolic authors identify as proof of genuine faith. When one or more of these lifestyles are missing then we have reason to doubt our faith. It could be that one of these characteristics is missing from our life in a temporary way. For example, many modern disciples find it challenging to share the gospel with others. There may be more than one reason for this (the most common one is a lack of intentionality or practice). When a believer recognizes their failure in any area, they confess and take measures to come into the Lord’s will. In other words, I believe one can lack one of these traits temporarily. But the true disciple will correct their own waywardness and not remain in disobedience. Therefore, if one has never exhibited one of these lifestyles, this is a sure sign of not being regenerated. If this applies to you, you must come to the Lord with humility, confessing your lack, and see the Lord change you! Seek and you will find! Knock and the door will be opened to you! Ask, and you will receive! The Lord’s hand is not too short that it cannot save!


It is a good thing to review these matters before the Lord and strengthen your faith. If we add this woman’s faithful pursuits to the five evidences that we have just reviewed, we have seven proofs of genuine faith. Seven is too much for many to deal with at one time. Today, allow yourself to be encouraged and directed by this woman’s faith. Look to these two matters!


  • Be desperate for mercy. Never cease pursuing it! And,
  • Fully trust in all the Lord had spoken. Cast away your sinful doubts. Embrace the words of God!


If you cultivate these things then the Lord will say to you, “Great is your faith!”


I wish to hear those words from the Lord. Do you?







[1] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Tyre. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 2111). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 15:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 4:14–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 15:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 15:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 15:26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 15:28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 15:26–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.