The faith of the Canaanite woman stands out as one of the most unlikely and most impressive in the Bible.
Keep reading to understand why. In this post we will explore 5 lessons from the Canaanite woman and her faith-filled conversation with Jesus.
Where is the story of the Canaanite woman in the Bible?
The story of the Canaanite woman is found in Matthew 15: 21-28 and in Mark 7:24-30. In Mark, she is called the Syrophoenician Woman. Here is the short account according to Matthew.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
What does Canaanite mean in the Bible?
Much of the lessons from the Canaanite woman comes from the fact that this woman was not Jewish.
Matthew wants us to know this detail about her.The Canaanites were various groups of people who descended from Noah and lived in the land of Canaan.
Today, the places they occupied are now known as Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Historically, the Canaanites were enemies of the Jews. Think of the children of Israel fighting wars to collect the promised land blessing from God. This land flowing with milk and honey was the land of Canaan.
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations- the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated the, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty, and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2
Characteristics of the Canaanite woman
The woman from Canaan was outstanding because of the qualities and traits we see as she approaches Jesus. The Canaanite woman was
- Emotionally intelligent
Lessons from the Canaanite woman in the Bible
We have already hinted at a few fun facts about the Canaanite woman.
Others will be included as we explore the very moving story of the faith expressed by this gentile woman who nobody thought could express such great belief in Jesus. Sometimes pride can stand in the way of our worship and our need.
#1 Pride can stand in the way of your worship and your needs
The first lesson from the faith of the Canaanite woman has to do with her pride and worship.
The faith of the Canaanite woman was aroused by her need. She desperately needed her daughter to be healed.
Her desperate need caused her to put away her pride.
Here is one of the first characteristics of the Canaanite woman that we can observe and learn from: she was humble.
Like in the story of Naaman, she did not have the luxury of sitting on her high horse while death and destruction were knocking at the door.
As she approached Jesus, she worshiped him.
Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Unlike the Rich Young Ruler, who didn’t seem to need anything, this woman was in such a desperate situation that her last hope was in Jesus.She knew this.
And so she came, boldly to Jesus.When her request went unacknowledged, she took her worship to another level.
She knelt before Jesus and asked again. Humility completely replaced pride.How’s your pride?
Are you desperate enough to approach God, putting everything aside so you can truly worship? So you can truly get what you need?
#2 People don’t always understand what you’re going through
The disciples were annoyed with her persistence. The next lesson from the Canaanite woman’s story is that people sometimes are untouched by the burden of others.
But God is never oblivious to our situation.The Canaanite woman just wouldn’t stop following Jesus around.
She wouldn’t stop asking for her daughter to be released from her demonic bondage.
The disciples asked Jesus to send her away. Maybe they too felt that she was not entitled to the miracle since she was not a Jew.
And Jesus did say his ministry was not to the Gentiles but to ‘the lost sheep in Israel’.
The faith of the Canaanite woman was fueled by the burden she felt as a mother.
The disciples could not relate. There was no record of any of them having children.
Think of how they dismissed the children who came to sit on Jesus’ lap.Her intercession was for her daughter.
The love poured out of her heart. But the disciples could not appreciate this.
So too in life people do not always understand the burden you might be feeling over a particular situation.
This is another one of the characteristics of the Canaanite woman which allows her to stand out.
Her love drove her to intercede on behalf of someone else.And it’s perfectly fine if they do not.
God does. And His ears are always open to petitions and intercessions.
#3 God meets you where you are in your faith and then helps you grow
Like the woman with the issue of blood, the faith of the Canaanite woman was imperfect.
This next lesson from the Canaanite woman is about the movement in her faith journey in just a few minutes.
When she approached Jesus, she addressed him as ‘Son of David’. This was a political title.
She probably saw Jesus as a kind of magician but not as the miracle working God.
This Canaanite woman was said to be Greek. She did not hold the same religious beliefs of the Jews for sure.
Yet, in all Scripture, this woman is one of only two people who were complemented by Jesus for this level of faith.
And both people were gentiles. The other was the Centurion soldier.
People like her did not have the luxury of growing up learning about God.
In fact, they were not even allowed into the synagogue where the Torah was read each Sabbath.
Yet their faith exceeded that of the Jews who looked down on the Gentiles (more on that later in this post).
It’s interesting that although the Jews knew the prophecy about Jesus’s coming, so many of them did not recognize Jesus and his power.
What the Jews took for granted, this Canaanite woman did not.
But by the time she finished interacting with Jesus, the faith of the Canaanite woman had grown.
Initially, she called him Son of David. By the end of their conversation, she calls him Lord.
Jesus’ talk with her helps her to see him as more than just a magician. She saw him as God. She was not at the same place in her faith by the end of the encounter.
Is your faith growing as you walk the path of interacting with God?God will sometimes tests your courage and faith
#4 God will sometimes test your courage and faith
Another lesson we can learn from the Canaanite woman is that God will sometimes throw in a few things to see if you really want what you say you want, or to see if you’re really, truly believe.
Jesus tried to discourage the faith of the Canaanite woman. He had the most confusing response to her request.
Jesus calls her a dog.
But note this, the term he used was very different from the term the Jews used.
When the Jews called the gentiles dogs, they meant the worst kind of street dog which rummaged through garbage. They meant the starving and sickly dogs. Plus, dogs were considered unclean to them.
But the term Jesus used referred to a domestic pet dog. Although the Jews meant this title as an insult, Jesus softened his address to her.
Jesus likely said it with a smile, taking the sting out and replacing it with a hint of playfulness.
The Canaanite woman is quick-witted and responds in kind.
She swallows her pride and accepts her position in the Jewish society. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
One of the characteristics of the Canaanite woman which allowed her to access her blessing was that she had a maturity about her emotions.
She could have received Jesus’ words as an insult and stormed away. But she did not.
She recognized Jesus’ tone of voice and facial expression. And she knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish.
Another lesson from the Canaanite woman is that she did not get distracted by what the Jews thought of her.
She came to Jesus on business and she was not allowing herself to get discouraged.
Sometimes God will test your sense of need. This woman emerged victorious.
How would you fare in this situation? Would you walk away feeling damaged in your heart?
Or would you swallow whatever is thrown at you so you can get what you need?
Take this lesson from the Canaanite woman and see where you can apply it in your life.
#5 God responds to persistent prayers of faith
If you learn nothing else from her story, learn this lesson from the Canaanite woman: Never ever stop praying.
God pays attention to prayers that don’t stop coming.
When the faith of the Canaanite woman is compared to the faith of the woman with the issue of blood, there are similarities and differences.
Both women were persistent in faith.
Both women’s faith was imperfect. But the faith of the Canaanite woman was less superstitious.
The woman with the issue of blood thought her faith was activated by touching Jesus’s clothes.
She was Jewish. There were beliefs that supported her faith.
But the Canaanite woman believed Jesus could heal her daughter without any physical contact. Maybe she had heard stories before.
This woman, having not been raised Jewish, believed Jesus’s words alone.
She believed in his power to say the word and the miracle would be done.
So, she did not stop asking.
When the disciples tried to get Jesus to send her away, she did not stop asking.
When it seemed like Jesus was trying to insult her, she moved in even closer and knelt before him.
And Jesus honored her persistent prayer of faith!
Is there something you’re tired of praying about? I cannot promise that your breakthrough is near.
But I can promise that if you keep praying, God will answer when the time is right.
Final words about the faith of the Canaanite woman.
In this post we explored the meaning behind Matthew 15: 21-28.
The lessons we can learn from the Canaanite woman have to do with being humble, putting away pride, remaining persistent in faith no matter what others think and finally, that God is in the business of helping us to grow in faith.
I pray God will give you the strength to have the kind of faith that the Canaanite woman had.