There’s a story that appears twice in the Gospels, once in Matthew and again in Mark. The first instance is found in Matthew 15:21-28. A desperate Gentile mother approached Jesus and the disciples as they traveled, trying to get some help for her daughter, who experienced some demonic oppression.
It’s a peculiar passage in that Jesus, at first glance, appears to be cold and even rude to this poor woman seeking deliverance for her child. He essentially calls her a dog in the statement penned in verse 26,
“It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” (KJV)
Even more peculiar is the woman’s response in the very next verse. Her humble reply was,
“Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then upon hearing her response, Jesus answers her reply as well as her initial request for help, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
I struggled to understand the progression of this conversation until God used two things to illuminate my spirit and open my understanding of what took place that day.
Humility before God
First, a pastor friend and mentor in my life preached a sermon from this text explaining that Jesus wasn’t dealing with this woman cruelly or rudely in an attempt to drive her away. Instead, He was bringing her to a place in which she would both recognize and express her humility before God in the flesh.
That preacher went on to use his family pet, a Golden Retriever, as an illustration of the type of humility, loyalty, and undeniable love and affection that God desires to see from His people. That lesson stuck with me. It made a powerful and lasting impact in my heart and soul, but something else happened last year that made a far more profound impact in terms of how I read this account from Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The Rescue Dog
The second thing that happened occurred during the summer of 2020 when my wife and three children adopted a rescue dog. Her name is Millie, and she’s a Pomeranian born and bred as the byproduct of a puppy mill. Puppy mills are breeders who specialize in over-producing animals to be sold at large chain pet stores. For them, it’s all about supply and demand, purely for profit and personal gain, no matter what happens to the puppies that aren’t purchased as family pets.
Often, when the dogs don’t sell as young pups, they quickly outgrow their appeal to many would-be pet purchasers. Unfortunately, many of these dogs end up relegated to a short life lived in malnourished and filthy conditions within the confines of a small crate or pin.
The adoption group we found specialized in finding homes for dogs in these kinds of deplorable living conditions. Poor Millie had been living in a wire crate for nearly two years, from what we’re told. She had allergies and parasites, and she only weighed 4lbs when her average weight should’ve been around 10lbs. She was skittish and shy, but she allowed my kids to take turns holding her wrapped in a blanket for the 4-hour drive back from Savannah, GA, all the way to our home about an hour north of Atlanta.
I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t what I expected in the adoption process. I was angry about how we found her and concerned for all of the other animals still needing a home.
Most of all, I was heartbroken about her condition. As if the malnourishment and worms weren’t enough, upon arriving at our house, we soon realized that Millie couldn’t even walk right on solid surfaces. It’s a common condition among rescue dogs that have been confined to wire crates for excessive periods. It was almost like she was walking on her tip-toes, checking each step for solid footing, anxious about every move. We set up a crate for her with a lovely clean padded floor and comfy bed with some toys that she could enjoy.
We never once closed the door on that crate, but for the first several weeks, she only came out of it when she needed to eat, drink, or “do her business.” It was a safe place for her, and it took months for her to stop spending most of her time there. It was all she’d ever known.
Days and weeks went by with us speaking softly, giving her good food, getting her the veterinary medicine she needed, and being patient with her, giving her time to adjust and come to us little by little. In a matter of months, she grew from 4lbs to just over 10lbs, and we’re happy to say that now she loves to welcome us home and sit in our laps with a toothy canine smile from a face that expresses mainly gratitude and excitement.
I completely understand that when most people see Millie, they see a family pet, but I can’t look at her without seeing a beautiful picture of God’s grace. We paid nearly $400.00 in adoption fees and countless vet bills to take possession of her and get her healthy. We rescued her from a slow death, suffering in pitiful living conditions, unwanted, unloved, and with no hope in sight.
We brought her to live with us, not merely as a family pet, but as a full-fledged member of our family with all of the privileges and benefits that being a family member affords. She eats the finest food, she sleeps in our beds, she goes on trips with us, and she’s always sheltered and fed without so much as asking. She is loved and provided for as one of our own.
God’s Rescue Dog
You see, that’s what Jesus did for the woman in Matthew 15, and that’s what Jesus did for me! The desperate mother in this passage was a rescue dog, and so was I when Christ saved me. As a direct result, there’s virtue in expressing some dog-like qualities in the Christian life.
I don’t know if there’s anyone as excited to be in my presence as Millie. And the loyalty and love she expresses walking by my side, step for step, and sitting or lying at my feet are unequaled. Every once in a while, I’ll drop a morsel of food from the table for her to enjoy, and not a single time has she turned her nose up at what I gave her, nor has she acted ungratefully.
No matter what it is, as long as it comes from me, she’s happy and eager to receive it. Consequently, one of the prayers that I’ve started to pray for is that I could become more like Millie in specific ways. Oh, that I would find such joy in simply being with the Master, walking by His side, sitting at His feet, and happily receiving all that He offers with a truly grateful heart; a product of grace and one of God’s rescue dogs.
Josh attended seminary through Rock of Ages Baptist Bible Institute out of Cleveland, TN. He has held about every position one could hold in a local church: Sunday school teacher, Children’s Church Preacher, Bus Ministry Director/Worker, Missions Director, Choir Director, Song Leader, Janitor, etc. In October of 2005, he was ordained as an Assistant Pastor at Rest Haven Baptist Church, and that’s where he served until God called him into the Pastorate at Enon Baptist Church in Alto, GA at the age of 32. He stepped out by faith in obedience to God’s instructions and quickly received a call from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free Home, GA where he now serves as Pastor. In his free time, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife (who is his high school sweetheart) and three children: Zoey, Ava, and Jack, as well as reading, writing, hunting, cooking, weight lifting, and martial arts.