Matthew 15:21-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Psalm 121:1-2; Genesis 32:22-32
From Where Does My Help Come? — Lent 2

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

When you have a problem, whom do you look to? To the Lord. He is your help. (Ps. 121:1-2; Matt. 15:25) He is your holiness. (1 Thes. 4:3) But He does not leave you untouched. He touches you. (Gen. 32:25) And you limp away from it. (Gen. 32:31) Forever reminded of your encounter. (Gen. 32:32)

You may choose to forget. But that mark is always on you. Just like baptism. You may choose to forget that you were baptized, but through it you are a marked man. You do not emerge from an encounter with the Lord unscathed. 

It is not the demons you wrestle with—the lusts of your flesh, the urges that take hold of you, the actual fallen angels who tempt you and torment you—they are not the ones who leave you marked by their passing through your life. They have no such lasting power. The Canaanite woman’s daughter was healed of her affliction. (Matt. 15:28) The demon was cast out. The problem gone. It is the encounter with the Lord of Heaven and Earth, to whom she looked for aid (Matt. 15:25; Ps. 121:1-2), that left her marked. Marked not as an evil Canaanite (Matt. 15:22) any longer, but as one of the household who eats from Lord’s Table and is healed. (Matt. 15:26-28)

For Satan is the least of your worries. The Lord Jesus Christ is one you should be concerned about. He who can cast both body and soul into hell (Luke 12:5)—both hell on earth and hell eternally. We don’t call Him Lord for nothing. He is not the powerless wimp of Precious Moments figurines, or Sunday School flannel graphs. He is mighty to save. To save you from demonic attack. To save you from your own desires that wage war on your soul. (1 Thes. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:11) to save you from the suffering which falls on you from desires that are within you. You are architect of your own hell here on earth. You know it. For the suffering in your life which you know so well, is you. It defines you. It is the weakness in your character of which you are ashamed. The temptation that is ever present. And guilty pleasure you comfort yourself with when no one is looking, when life seems too much. But you hate it, even as you love it. Though you despise those desires that seem to have been with you since birth, which seem a part of you more so than any good thing you’ve tried to cultivate. It is you. How can you get away from it if it is part of you? These are your “demons” that all people wrestle with. Though certainly there are evil spirits who play on these problems helping you make them 10 times worse than already are. 

This, dear friends, without help, is despair. Knowing the depths of your own humanity. Your faults. Your vices. Those things which you cling to in the darkest moments, which you despise in yourself. It is awful to confront them. To realize that they are you. You are them. From where do you look for help?

And maybe you’ve wondered, why don’t the people you care about treat themselves better?” Why don’t they treat themselves as someone they care about? Why don’t they see the things you love about them? See themselves the way you see them? I mean, your kids. You’d fight tooth and nail for their good. For their benefit. Or if beloved pet became ill, there is a shocking amount of money and effort you’d go to keep them well and see that they recover. But when something is wrong with you, even when it is diagnosed and you know how to make it better, so often you don’t. Which means, you don’t treat yourself like someone you care about. This is probably because you know yourself too well. You won’t admit it to most people that you hate and despise yourself because of those inborn weaknesses that you know all too well. But it is there. You know that they are one of the root causes of why you don’t treat yourself better, like someone you actually care about, like someone valued by God. Worthy of love. For you are made in His image. (Gen. 1:27; 9:6, etc.)

That’s probably the key to to the Canaanite woman. Would she have been so bold, so obstinate in the face of the Lord’s rebukes if she was asking for herself? Not likely. She was willing, in love for her daughter, to suffer all. To admit all. To admit she was a dog. Unworthy of the scraps that fall from the Lord’s table that by grace and mercy He had poured out on Israel. (Matt. 15:25-26) Yet, in faith, in hope for her daughter, in stalwart love, she trusted in those scraps from Him. Knowing that the Son of David, the chosen one of God prophesied for long ages, had mercy enough for her daughter. (Matt. 15:22, 27)

So she came to Him. And she did not leave unscathed. She left an utterly humbled sinner, bowed down low before her saviour and her God. (Matt. 15:25) Marked by God’s grace to her.—not just healing for her daughter, but salvation for herself and her household. For she believed in the holy one of Israel. (Ps. 121:2; Matt. 15:25) Despite being one of the shattered remnant of Satanically inspired Canaan (Matt. 15:22)—that nation born from incest (Gen. 9:22-24), that nation whose sins were so foul, and complete they were judged by God for annihilation (Gen. 15:16; 10:15-16), that nation whose gods were an abomination of sexual deviance and human sacrifice (1 Ki. 21:25-26; Lev. 18:21NKJV; 1 Ki. 14:24)—yet, she who turned in faith to the Lord was saved. (Matt. 15:28) Saved from the demons that afflicted her and her child. Set free. For she looked to the One to whom all eyes must look for help. (Ps. 121:1-2)

You can walk away from your demons healed. Restored. With a new character. But no one walks away from the Lord unmarked. Jacob didn’t. He was a different man. A better man. The Canaanite woman didn’t. She was no longer a judged, despised woman, but a saved woman, a child of God. A woman of persistence, whose faith moved moved the mountain known as Jesus. 

For when the Lord calls you by faith, when He casts out your demons—be they actual demons or metaphorical, those things that sully you (1 Thes. 4:7a, 3-6), make you unblean, less than you were created to be—He does not leave you unmarked or unchanged. For He kills you to your old self, to your old character, and gives you a new nature. A new self. A new character. No longer that of “Canaanite evil doer,” that of slut, whore, loser, gossip, glutton, failure or whatever demonic name you or the world have given you.

He renames you. He gives you His own name. For when you are called to faith by Holy Baptism He marked you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. (Matt. 28:19) And He sends His Holy Spirit into your heart to wrestle with you. Which means He hangs onto you. He grabs hold of that part of you that you are keeping from Him. He will pin to the floor and kill it. Strip that evil identity away from you. Give you joy, peace, aid in time of need. For He causes you to cling to Him. (Gen. 32:25-28) To wrestle and not let go. For He is not letting go of you. So that He will wrestle in your conscience all the days of your life and He will win. Not your sin. Not your demons. Not your desires. He will take that stuff from you. It may happen today, tomorrow, His wrestling may change you in time and give you victory in your life over those demons which plague you. But if you keep on wrestling with them, don’t forget that He’s holding onto you. He will not let you go. For He has placed His name on you and He can not forget Himself. (Matt. 28:19; 2 Tim. 2:13) He keeps blessing you with His name. Putting it on you. Claiming you whenever in sin you reject Him. For that’s what it meant when Jacob asked the Lord’s name and the Lord didn’t give him His name. But instead blessed him. (Gen. 32:29) For to be blessed of the Lord is to have the Lord’s name placed on you. That’s what Aaron did in the Aaronic Benediction you receive at end of every Divine Service. He placed the name of the Lord on the people. (Num. 6:22-27) The Lord bless you, the Lord keep you, the Lord look upon you… Three times His name is placed on you. That’s what you receive in Holy Absolution too: forgiveness in the name of Father (1) and of the +Son (2) and of the Holy Spirit (3). The name of God. The name God gives you. By this the Lord Jesus reveals Himself to you. 

Jacob saw Jesus face to face by wrestling with Him. The Canaanite woman by bowing before Him and verbally wrestling with Him. You and me see Him by kneeling before Him in the Sacrament, where Jesus not only marks you, but puts Himself into you. So that you don’t walk away from an encounter with the Lord without being marked by it. Marked by His name. Marked by His forgiveness. Changed. Strengthened. For He declares you innocent. Not guilty.  Free from your past. A new man. Healed of your afflictions. And He hangs on to you. Wrestles with you. Puts your sinful desire to death. Eternally. If not today, if not tomorrow, in the resurrection. But each day, He gives enough grace, sufficient grace to keep hanging on to Him. (2 Cor. 12:9)

In +Jesus’ name, Amen. 


—Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Regina, SK