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Stoeckhardt on Matthew 15:21-28

by pastorjuhl ~ February 22nd, 2010

When the Lord humbles us, then do we first really understand our own condition, who we are; then do we become little, little in our own eyes. When the Lord once lets us feel his heavy hand, when he takes the joy out of living and gives us trouble, then we realize, – oh, that we would truly realize it! – not only that everything earthly about us is vain and worth nothing but that we personally are nothing in ungrateful creatures, not worthy of God’s goodness and kindness, not worthy of experiencing anything good here in the land of the living. And when we in our need and fear then flee to the Lord, but are rejected by him, when the Lord in spite of our pleading permits cross, heavy burdens to be laid on  us, then first do we really realize, – oh, that we truly realize it! – we are not worthy that God should hear our praying and pleading. We have no rights before God. Our person has no worth in God’s sight. When God withdraws comfort and mercy from us, hides his gracious, friendly face from us, we confess: Yes, I am not worthy of your mercy. What there is about us, all our life and activity, all is abomination before God, yes, rejected, lost and condemned in the sight of God.

We today still, as did that woman, hear similar words in the Word. God’s Word, Scripture, and preaching often speak very harsh words, conclude all human life under sin and wrath, stating that all men are liars, faithless, rebellious, and so are repudiated and rejected. And a fearful, troubled soul draws such harsh words to itself and says: Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, I deserve it, strike! Oh, it is easy to say and to confess with the mouth: I poor, miserable sinner, I lost and condemned creature, I depraved man! But that needs to be and must be inwardly, spiritually recognized, understood, and experienced. And by God’s grace we learn to grasp and understand in the school of cross and humiliation.
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Such faith, that is wrestling with death, that may be overpowered at any moment but yet does not die, is according to God’s judgment and assessment already strong faith. A mere, weak sigh in mortal terror: Lord, help me, is a miracle, a miracle of God. Such a thing man is not capable of doing by himself. Faith is strengthened and shows its power and strength when a person appears to be at his weakest. When courage has been crushed, self-confidence is also crushed. And so trust, trust in God, faith is able to strike root and to grow. When you humble me, you make me strong!
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True, dogs are excluded from eating at the table with children. The bread is meant for the children and does not belong to the dogs. But yet it happens that crumbs fall off for the dogs to eat. Thus Gentiles, the rejected, the unclean have no claim to the inheritance of God’s children. However, it could happen that a few morsels of grace might incidentally pass on to them. This is what the woman means. She regards it as possible. Yes, she expected this of the Lord. He was rich in grace and mercy, had helped thousands already. And so he would not compromise himself and his dignity, rather would he glorify his grace, were he out of pure grace even once to grant the petition of a poor heathen woman. And so since the woman renounced all claim, all right, she notwithstanding hoped for mercy, surrendered herself, though she was nothing and wanted to be nothing, surrendered herself completely to the Lord’s mercy. Such was her faith, her great faith. Yes, a glorious work and miracle of God, a glorious fruit of grievous humiliation.
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Faith does not rest on one’s person but completely on him in whom we believe. It is faith when one completely forgets his ego, his own worth or worthlessness and looks directly to Jesus, the only Helper, Savior, and Redeemer, to the merciful God. Therefore, the more inadequate we become, the stronger becomes faith. The more completely man despairs of himself, all the firmer and more zealously does he cling to his God and Savior. Faith hopes for mercy. Faith rests completely on the boundless grace and mercy of God and Christ. He credits it for everything. Faith depends on grace and mercy, meant for the poor, the needy, just for poor sinners, for the undeserving and the unworthy. Therefore, when we humble ourselves before God, when we recognize and experience within ourselves that we are nothing, are worthless in God’s sight, that we are lost, condemned, rejected, faith then comes into its own right, then there is room for faith, then do we first really come to know the Lord’s mercy. It is out of grace that the Lord does not reject the rejected but saves the condemned. To that faith clings. And this faith becomes strong and is well-grounded just when man gives himself up for condemned and lost.

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