The Book of Mark
Text: MARK 7:24-30
1. There are many lessons in this story of the Syrophenician woman.
2. In Matthew 15:22, this Gentile woman is referred to as “a woman of Canaan.” Mark refers to her here as “a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation” (Mark 7:26).
3. This story reminds us that God loves the whole world (John 3:16). Jesus is the Saviour of the world. John 4:42 says, “This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
4. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
5. Our Lord has instructed us to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
6. But the greatest lesson here is the Syrophenician woman’s importunity.
I. HER FAITH (MARK 7:25, 26)
1. Before we consider her importunity, let us consider her great faith. Faith must precede importunate prayer. James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.”
2. This Syrophenician woman’s daughter wasn’t just sick. She had “an unclean spirit” (Mark 7:25).
3. She was “grievously vexed with a devil” (Matt. 15:22).
4. Matthew 21:22 says, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
5. Mark 7:24 says our Lord departed “into the borders of Tyre and Sidon.” This is northwest of Israel and was known as Syro-Phoenecia.
6. Spurgeon said, “Let us always plow to the very end of the field, and serve our day and generation to the extreme limits of our sphere.”
7. Up until this time our Lord had traveled among the areas populated by Jews. But now He deliberately entered into the country of Phoenicia, “into the borders of Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 7:24).
8. In this pagan land, there came to our Lord this Syrophenician woman, and she “came and fell at His feet” (Mark 7:25).
9. Matthew 15:22 says she cried out to Him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil” (cf. Mark 7:26).
10. Matthew 15:25 says, she “worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me.”
11. She called Jesus Lord (Matt. 15:22) and that is impressive. First Corinthians 12:3 says, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
12. Also, by referring to our Lord as the son of David (Matt. 15:22), she was acknowledging that He was the Messiah.
13. As we consider the faith of this Syrophenician woman, we should also consider her background. Matthew tells us this was “a woman of Canaan” (15:22). The Canaanites worshipped devils and idols, but we read here that this woman worshipped our Lord (15:25).
14. Way back in the days of Noah, God put a curse on Canaan (Gen. 9:20-27).
15. God repeatedly told the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites (Ex. 23:23-33; Joshua 3:10; Judges 1:1).
16. Unger’s Bible Dictionary tells us that the Canaanite fertility cults were more base than anywhere else in the ancient world. The Jews worshipped the true God, but were continually in danger of being contaminated by the lewd and sensual worship of their Canaanite neighbors, with their immoral gods and goddesses.
17. Baal worship originated with the Canaanites. When we consider how wicked and idolatrous the Canaanites were, we should not be surprised to discover that demon-possession was very common among them (Mark 7:25, 26).
18. Apparently the fame of our Lord had reached the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and this desperate Syrophenician woman went to Him for help (7:24-26).
19. We have here a great lesson on faith.
II. HER IMPORTUNITY (MARK 7:27, 28)
1. We have here a great lesson on importunity. The word “importunity” is found only once in our King James Bible, in Luke 11:8.
2. Another great passage on importunate prayer is Luke 18:1-8 – the parable of the unjust judge.
3. By the way, notice the person who prayed with importunity was a widow (Luke 18:3). And in Mark 7 it is a Syrophenician woman.
4. It appears from Scripture and from experience that woman seem to be more earnest and effective in their praying than men. Many pastors tell me that the women outnumber the men at prayer meeting, and that is certainly true here at our church.
5. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “importunity” as: “Pressing solicitation; urgent request; application for a claim or favor, which is argued with troublesome frequency or pertinacity.”
6. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says “importunity denotes shamelessness, and is used in the Lord’s illustration concerning the need for earnestness and perseverance in prayer (Luke 11:8). If shameless persistence can obtain a boon from a neighbor, then certainly earnest prayer will receive our Father’s answer.”
7. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament says “importunity” is “a very striking word to describe persistence.”
8. EM Bounds wrote, “Importunity is made up of the ability to hold on, to press on, to wait with unrelaxed and unrelaxable grasp, restless desire and restful patience. Importunate prayer is not an incident, but the main thing, not a performance but a passion, not a need but a necessity. Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, trial and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from Him who tries our faith that He may enlarge it: that tests our strength to make us stronger. Few things give such quickened and permanent vigour to the soul as a long exhaustive season of importunate prayer” (Purpose in Prayer).
9. EM Bounds said importunity in prayer “surmounts or removes all obstacles, overcomes every resisting force and gains its ends in the face of invincible hindrances. We can do nothing without prayer. All things can be done by importunate prayer” (Ibid).
10. But though the word “importunity” is found only once, the doctrine is found throughout the Bible.
11. We see Abraham’s importunity in Genesis 18:27, when Abraham said to the LORD, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes.”
12. Importunity means shameless, urgent, fervent, earnest prayer. Interestingly, Webster’s Dictionary also says, “which is argued with troublesome frequency or pertinacity.”
13. Certainly our Lord was not offended at the Syrophenician woman’s argument (Mark 7:28-30).
14. Matthew’s account is more detailed (Matt. 15:22-28).
15. The importunate praying of the Syrophenician woman was a wonderful example of insistence, and earnestness, and perseverance to ultimate victory in prayer,
16. In the face of almost insurmountable obstacles and hindrances, she pressed on. At first, our Lord appears to have paid no attention to her desperate cry (Matt. 15:23). He ignored her cry for help, and His disciples asked Him to send her away (Matt. 15:23).
17. But she was not disheartened. She was not discouraged. Then our Lord answered her by saying, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).
18. Undaunted, she came closer, fell at his feet, and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me” (Matt. 15:25).
19. Our Lord responded to her cry for help by saying, “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs” (Matt. 15:26).
20. To the Jews, the Gentiles were considered “dogs” (cf. Mark 7:27).
21. According to the Bible, the Gentiles were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
22. But rather than give up, this Syrophenician woman turned our Lord’s rebuke into an argument for her case, and our Lord commended her for her argument (Mark 7:27-30; Matt. 15:28).
23. John R Rice said, “Let us say reverently that sometimes Christians ought to argue with God in prayer as this woman did” (Matthew).
24. In his great biography of George Muller, AT Pierson said George Muller “used argument in prayer” (chapter 10).
25. “This method of holy argument-- ordering our cause before God, as an advocate would plead before a judge – is not only almost a lost art, but to many it actually seems almost puerile. And yet it is abundantly taught and exemplified in Scripture. Abraham in his plea for Sodom is the first great example of it. Moses excelled in this art, in many crises interceding in behalf of the people with consummate skill, marshalling arguments as a general-in-chief marshals battalions. Elijah on Carmel is a striking example of power in this special pleading. What a zeal and jealousy for God!”
26. “Of course God does not need to be convinced: no arguments can make any plainer to Him the claims of trusting souls to His intervention, claims based upon His own word, confirmed by His oath. And yet He will be inquired of and argued with. That is His way of blessing. He loves to have us set before Him our cause and His own promises: delights in the well-ordered plea, where argument is piled upon argument. See how the Lord Jesus Christ commended the persistent argument of the woman of Canaan, who with the wit of importunity actually turned his own objection into a reason. He said, ‘It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the little dogs.’”
27. “Truth, Lord,’ she answered, ‘yet the little dogs under the master’s tables eat of the crumbs which fall from the children’s mouths!’ What a triumph of argument! Catching the Master Himself in His words, as He meant she should, and turning His apparent reason for not granting into a reason for granting her request! ‘O woman,’ said He, ‘great is thy faith! Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.’”
28. “We are to argue our case with God, not indeed to convince Him, but to convince ourselves. In proving to Him that, by His own word and oath and character, He has bound Himself to interpose, we demonstrate to our own faith that He has given us the right to ask and claim, and that He will answer our plea because He cannot deny Himself.”
29. AT Pierson said arguing with God is “almost a lost art.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon called it a “holy art.” It is indeed a holy art, but unfortunately has become a lost art today.
30. And it is clearly taught in the Bible. Isaiah 41:21 says, “Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons.”
31. Spurgeon said, “The ancient saints were wont to argue in prayer.”
32. Spurgeon also said, “Why are arguments to be used at all? The reply is, certainly not because God is slow to give, not because God needs to be informed of any circumstance with regard to ourselves or of anything in connection with the mercy asked. The arguments to be used are for our own benefit not for His... The best prayers I have ever heard in our prayer meetings have been those which have been fullest of argument. Sometimes my soul has been fairly melted down when I have listened to brethren who have come before God feeling the mercy to be really needed, and that they must have it, for they first pleaded with God to give it for this reason, and then for a second, and then for a third, and then for a fourth and a fifth, until they have awakened the fervency of the entire assembly” (Effective Prayer).
III. HER ANSWER (MARK 7:29, 30).
1. We have here a vivid illustration of Luke 11:9 and 10, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
2. This suggests persistence. The Syrophenician woman’s persistent prayer was answered, and we can be confident ours will to.
3. “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer” (Psalm 102:17).
4. Are you destitute? The Syrophenician woman was destitute. She was desperate. She had a daughter who “had an unclean spirit” (Mark 7:25). She was “grievously vexed with a devil” (Matt. 15:22).
5. Our Lord said in Matthew 21:22, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
6. The Syrophenician woman believed, and so she received.
7. Sometimes, the reason we do not receive is because we do not believe.
8. James 1:6 and 7 says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
9. When we consider the story of the Syrophenician woman, it almost seems like our Lord was putting her off. But she would not be put off.
10. And after she prayed with great importunity, our Lord said, “O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matt. 15:28).
11. God does not always answer our prayers immediately. He wants to train us and make us stronger in faith and stronger in prayer and stronger in our understanding of Scripture, by compelling us to pray fervently and earnestly.
12. So He does not always give us what we ask in answer to the first prayer; He wants us to pray through to victory.
1. Importunate prayer can cast out devils. It can remove mountains. It can command the energy of God.
2. Perhaps there is someone here today like the Syrophenician woman.
3. You may be a mother like her. You may have a daughter like hers. Maybe not “grievously vexed with a devil,” but perhaps oppressed with devils. Or unsaved or worldly or backslidden. Maybe sick.
4. You may have a heavy burden like this woman did. Or perhaps your situation is quite different from hers. But now the Holy Spirit is urging you to pray with importunity.
5. We are to pray fervently, persistently, urgently, and earnestly.
6. Or perhaps you have prayed, but you have been wavering. Or maybe you stopped praying altogether.
7. The Syrophenician woman did not waver. She did not give up. She kept on asking till our Lord granted her request.