KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
“Teaching the things concerning the
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off , and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from thereto you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from there. Then he said, I pray therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house: For I have five brothers; that he may testify unto them, unless they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:19-31).
The story of the rich man and Lazarus is without doubt one of the most misunderstood of all the stories in the Bible.ls it a parable, or an actual statement of facts concerning life beyond the grave? It is strenuously denied by most evangelists that this story, as told by Christ, could be a parable. They hold that this is not a parable because it starts out in narrative form. It is argued, because it reads, "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day," that Christ is speaking here of an actual incident that took place. But in the parable of the prodigal son, in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the narrative introduction is found also, for it says, "A certain man had two sons..." Yet it is generally conceded that the story of the prodigal son is a parable and all the fundamentalist preachers love to preach from its beautiful figures, thus applying it as a parable.
Jesus continually spoke in parables. A parable is an analogy - a simile, representation or analogous story - which could even be a fable, so long as it is used to illustrate certain essential points of TRUTH. An analogy is not necessarily the truth all by itself - but is analogous to the TRUTH which it helps to illustrate. For instance, a person might say, "My wife is a regular rabbit." This is a metaphor, or a parable; but we would not conclude from this statement that his wife had two long ears and four feet and that she hopped about clad in fur, but would simply come to the conclusion that this lady is a great lover of vegetables perhaps even a vegetarian. If we were to push the parable to its ultimate analysis, the woman would cease to be a woman and would become an animal.
The disciples were curious as to why Jesus spoke in sometimes confusing parables. "And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why do you speak unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given " (Mat. 13:10-11). Notice, the carnal minded Pharisees and others in His audience were not privileged to understand. Only His disciples received the later, fuller explanations of His parables. Notice! "Therefore speak I unto them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand! And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which says, By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; LEST at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them! But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear!" (Mat. 13:10-16). A parable, then, will confuse, bewilder and perplex the doubting and the unbelieving! It will enlighten only the quickened, true disciple of Jesus Christ! It is quite obvious, from the context, that the story of Lazarus and the rich man is in fact a parable!
Usually, when the story of the rich man and Lazarus is considered, its setting is ignored. At the time the story was told Jesus had just eaten dinner with a Pharisee, at which time He not only healed a man with dropsy, but gave some pointed advice about how to give a dinner party. When He left the house, great throngs followed Him. Many of this great company were publicans and sinners who drew near to hear His teaching, and mingled with them were a great number of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees complained openly and bitterly against Jesus, condemning Him because He received sinners into His company and ate with them. Against this background of biting criticism Jesus stood and gave the teachings found in chapters fifteen and sixteen of Luke. There are five stories which follow consecutively. It is well known, of course, that chapters and verses were not in the original scriptures. We are at liberty to change them when they do not synchronize with other scripture. Any arrangement of chapter and verse division that clarifies or harmonizes other scripture, is more authoritative than that division that beclouds other statements of the Bible. At the beginning of Jesus' discourse in chapter fifteen of Luke the statement is made that "He spoke this parable unto them, saying," (Lk. 15:3). The Greek is very definite in making the word for parable clearly a singular noun. lt is "the parable this." This statement is followed by five separate stories, the first of which is the story of the lost sheep, and the last is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. You see, the teaching in chapter sixteen is but the continuation of the discourse in chapter fifteen, without interruption. Now, which of the five stories He gave them in this sermon was called a parable? The only one of the five which is prefaced by the claim, "And He spoke this parable unto them," was the story about the lost sheep. Was the lost sheep the only one that could be called a parable? And yet, any preacher or believer that I know will answer that the story of the lost coin, as well as the prodigal son, were also parables. Then why was the singular used- "this parable"? It should be clear to any thinking mind that all these stories were ONE PARABLE, like the facets of a diamond, as they tum each scintillates with new brilliance. Each was illustrating a viewpoint of one great truth, and together they compose a whole. And this parabolic discourse of Jesus is continued into chapter sixteen of Luke, including the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The truth is that all five stories are each a fractional part of the complete parable, and when we read, "He spoke this parable unto them," this embraces the entire collection of symbol-pictures which in their completeness constituted the parable which He spoke. It is a careless assumption and an unfounded assertion to argue that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is not a parable!
L. F. Hurley wrote, "Jesus loved the publicans and sinners and wanted to help and save them. But these self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, whose business it should have been to teach them the love of God and to invite them to love and obey God in return for His grace, not only hated these publicans and sinners, but ostracized and excommunicated them from all the privileges of Jewish worship and fellowship. So, in the presence of both leaders and outcasts Jesus gave this parable, part of it to bring hope to the outcasts and part of it to condemn the leaders for their heartlessness and neglect. The first part consisting of three stories, was for the encouragement of the publicans and sinners; the last part consisting of two stories, expresses His condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes."
There are some serious, solemn and grave implications if indeed this story is not a parable, but a vivid description of conditions as they actually exist for all men immediately after death, as the preachers are wont to proclaim. If this parable is describing conditions actually as they will be in the life to come, then those in heaven will be able to talk to those in hell. Fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives will be able to look across the gulf and see their loved ones in the torment of the fiery regions. Not only will they be able to see them in the lurid flames of hell, but they will hear their piercing cries as they call for a drop of water to cool their tongues. How awful that would be! Could anyone enjoy the bliss(?) of heaven while compelled to listen to the hopeless, screaming pleas of unsaved loved ones and friends just across the narrow gulf. Would not such harrowing din somewhat disturb the heavenly choir with its discord? Worse yet, could that satisfy the heart's love of our heavenly Father who went all the way to Golgotha to save us? Suppose a mother from the heavenly regions could look across the fixed gulf and see her son in the torments of hell; suppose she could hear him crying day and night for a drop of water to cool his tongue because of the burning heat of those lower regions. Would not the mother be as much in torment as the son, and in fact, would it not be more a place of hell for the mother than it would actually be for that son? Therefore, it would seem impossible for anyone to believe that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus Jesus is depicting conditions exactly as they will be in that world to come.
From what you know of Jesus' teachings, could you say that He would use the figure of a rich man, well clothed, and well fed, to represent all the sinners of mankind? Is that condition in itself representative of all iniquity? Again, will you insist that a poor beggar, full of sores, is a proper representative for all the righteous of mankind? Please remember that Jesus said not one thing concerning the rich man being a sinner. He laid not one crime at his door. He did not accuse him of doing a wrong thing. He was simply a rich man, and lived a good life every day, just like millions of people do today, including CHRISTIANS AND PREACHERS. Abraham's word to him was, "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things." I would point out that the vast majority of the people in the United States today has as much or more than the rich man possessed. If the rich man of that day could have had the possessions that the majority of people has today, he would have been in a class entirely to himself. He could not dream of the luxury that the modern day person thinks of as necessities. This being the case, and if the popular church doctrine be true, WE HAD BETTER GET RID OF ALL OUR POSSESSIONS, OR WE WILL SURELY END UP IN ETERNAL BURNING HELL! Then again, Jesus never did say that Lazarus was a good man, a righteous man, a Christian or anything of the sort. The only reason given by Jesus for his being in the bosom of Abraham was that he had lived a hard life in the flesh. lf that is the sole requirement for a good life in the hereafter, then we say again, that all the teachers, preachers and believers of such a doctrine had better get busy living that kind of life! Instead of praying for healing and blessing and prosperity we should all be seeking to be homeless beggars, full of sores, rotting away with loathsome disease! Otherwise we are liable to end up in the same condition in which the rich man found himself.
Furthermore, of those who believe this story to be a literal statement of the condition of men after death, and that the wicked are tortured in an abyss of fire and brimstone, none actually believes that a single drop of water from one finger of one man could in any measure alleviate the excruciating pain of hell's merciless flame. None actually believes that a drop of water could actually exist anywhere near the place, much less cool the tongue of any unfortunate victim of this abominable torture chamber. The only thing in the parable which the advocates of eternal torture insist is literal is its reference to fire and torment. If they attempt to explain the remainder of the parable at all they are compelled to give it a symbolic meaning, else they are faced with unreal circumstances which they do not themselves believe. Another difficulty with the literalist interpretation involves the rich man being bodily and physically in a place of torment and flaming heat immediately after his burial. Do disembodied "souls" in the spirit world have tongues? Now, who would deny that if we could have exhumed the body of the rich man at the very time at which Christ spoke of him that it would have been stone cold in the tomb and possibly in a state of decomposition? If he had a tongue at all it would be in the grave- not in hell!
These are but a few of the difficulties which confront us when we try to take the story of the rich man and Lazarus literally. Many have contended that, by the very words of Jesus, the doctrine of ETERNAL DAMNATION is confirmed and established, and all the so-called fundamentalist preachers thus misapply this parable completely, using it as the basis of belief in eternal punishment - BUT IS IT? Who has ever heard an evangelist explain the meaning of the "purple and linen" in which the rich man was clothed? What explanation has ever been given for the fact that the rich man had "five brethren" and not, say, four or six? What significance is there in "the dogs licking the poor man's sores"? All these significant details, which must have meant something, or else they would not have been included in the story, are never explained by evangelists and are passed over as if they were entirely superfluous, having little or no special meaning. It is my deep conviction that this parable, like all the
parables and teaching of Jesus, is a parable of the Kingdom of God and teaches us KINGDOM TRUTH. That is what Christ meant it to do. It is not instruction of the existence of heaven and hell, orthe conditions therein. It is not instruction on the state of the departed. On many occasions the Son of God spoke a parable, thereby conveying spiritual truth as well as prophecy. In this parable both abound!
THE RICH MAN
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is without question one of the least understood of all the teachings of our Lord. What is its aim? It is a similitude of something, for all the parables are similitudes, even though, like the parables of the prodigal son, and the unjust steward, both of which are in direct connection with this one, they are uttered like simple narratives, always beginning with, "A certain man," or 'There was a certain man." Of what, then, is this parable the similitude? Whom does the rich man represent? Who is the poor neglected beggar full of sores, lying at the rich man's gate?
This story was never intended to be Jesus' belief and teaching on heaven and hell, but Jesus was holding up to ridicule all the teaching and spirit of the Pharisees and scribes and doctors of the law. It is real satire - par excellence! In this marvelous story the Holy Spirit bids us behold the power of Jesus' prophetic spirit as His vision scanned the unborn centuries still to emerge from the bosom of time. Behold the power of our God! in whose hand are the nations; He sets them up and knocks them down as if they were tin soldiers. The fact that He foretells the future, fulfilled in detail by the march of events, constitutes the proof of God's reality, of His power, of His omniscience, as well as the fact that He has revealed Himself clearly and unmistakably to man.
Why was the rich man lost, and why was the poor man saved? There was nothing in the position of either that would of necessity open or shut to them the gates of the Kingdom of God. No man was ever lost simply because he was rich, neither was any man ever saved simply because in this world he had been poor and miserable.
Both the rich man and the beggar had passed through life in the position in which it had pleased God to place them, and that position could not be in itself a position of sin; on the contrary, to both were entrusted talents which they were bound to employ for God 's service, and to both He had given opportunities to honor and glorify Him. It was not the difference in their earthly position, but the difference in their response to that position, that made the difference between them when they were called into judgment.
Both the connection of the parable, and its particulars throughout, show that its awful warning is addressed to those who in Christ's day enjoyed the greatest privileges. Observe the particulars respecting the rich man. He was one of Abraham's seed, one who even in hell could not forget his election, but still cried, "Father! Abraham." He was "clothed in purple and fine linen, "the raiment of the Kingdom, and, as a child of the Kingdom, he "fared sumptuously every day." Who is this man? The rich man in this parable represents the Jewish nation, the house of Judah, and particularly their leaders who embody and personify the spirit and character of the nation. This rich man, in torment, calls Abraham, FATHER. Abraham also recognized such a relationship for he speaks to the rich man as SON. "Son, remember..." Here the rich man is seen to be separated from his father, for "In hell (Hades) he lifts up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off , and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, FATHER ABRAHAM, have mercy on me...but Abraham said ... SON (Grk., teknon offspring), between us and you (Grk., YOU PEOPLE) is a GREAT GULF FIXED: so that they (Grk., the ONES) which would pass from hence to you (Grk., YOU PEOPLE) cannot; neither can they pass that would come from thence." If we rightly divide the Word of God we will see that a plurality of people is being addressed, rather than a single individual. Clearly, this rich man was of Israel, of the seed of Abraham, and a blessed and highly favored company. The Pharisees boasted of their descent from Abraham and expected to enter Paradise because of that fact.
Purple is the color of royalty. Fine linen stands for righteousness in this instance the righteousness of the law, established by the priests and Levites who, dressed in white linen, officiated in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the nation. The rich man was "clothed in purple and fine linen. "Those who are in purple are rulers. The rich man was a ruler. And Jesus never uttered His parables or sermons concerning someone away off in Siberia or China. He spoke to and of the Jews, the church of His day. Judah was the royal tribe, and purple is the color pertaining to royalty. The kingdom of Judah had the ministry of the priesthood - clothed in fine linen. The whole nation, in fact, was called to be a kingdom of priests unto God (Ex. 19:6). By this language Christ was making His meaning very clear to the Pharisees.
This rich man "fared sumptuously every day." But this is not talking about natural food. The Jewish nation was the favorite of heaven -rich in the mercies and blessings of the Lord. No nation in the history of time had been so highly favored as the house of Judah. They had the elaborate sacrificial service of the great and glorious temple in Jerusalem. They had the scriptures, the holy law and covenant of Yahweh. They had the oracles of God, the prophets. They were rich in covenants and promises, rich in the word of God that had been delivered to them. Judah was, indeed, a RICH MAN - with the very riches from the hand of God - rich in oil and wine, rich in doctrine, rich in word, rich in history of holy men, rich in ritual and pomp and ceremony. Ah- how rich he was! Paul spoke exultantly of this vast wealth possessed by Judah, saying, "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever" (Rom. 9:3-5).
The final factor identifying the rich man is the fact that he had "five brothers." "I pray thee therefore father ABRAHAM, that you would send him to my father's house: for I have FIVE BRETHREN; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment" (Lk. 16:27-28). He mentions the fact that his brethren were five in number. But why five? If this is not a parable we can hardly see the reason why the number of his brethren should be so definitely enumerated. If it is a parable then the number given is as symbolic, and significant as any other item in the story. Naturally we ask who are these five brethren. The rich man is a son of ABRAHAM, through Isaac and Jacob, and you have only to read through the lists of the offspring of Abraham to find out who it was that had five brethren. "Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: the sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and lssachar, and Zebulun: the sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: and the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padan-aram" (Gen. 35:22-26). This passage plainly reveals that JUDAH had five brethren. Jacob's first wife was Leah, and of Leah were born Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, lssachar, and Zebulun. These were all full-blood brothers. Judah was one of Leah 's six sons. He had five brethren! So when this rich man says, "I've got five brethren," it identifies who he is! If this telling detail has no significance for modern evangelists who preach from this parable, let me assure you that it meant a great deal to those to whom Jesus was speaking, because they knew their history, they held great pride in their ancestry, they knew who their brethren were, they knew exactly who He was talking about! It established to them the identity of the rich man Judah, the southern kingdom of the Jews!
The table laden with rich foods and dainties, at which the rich man dined, reminds us of God's unbounded provision for His people. But Judah's condemnation stemmed largely from his preoccupation with the gifts instead of the Giver. That Judah's blessings became Judah's curses is clear from Rom. 11:9 where the divine pronouncement is recorded: "Let their table become a trap." Was it not Judah's perverted attitude towards the good things God had given them which brought the swift judgment of God against them? The law with its damning glory was but cause for pride to their Pharisaic self -righteousness. What they were, and what they had- their prophets, their kings, and their position led the nation on to its awful fall. It was natural that the Jews, having sole possession of a pure and divine religion, should think themselves the chosen of heaven. But rather than becoming a Kingdom of priests and a blessing to all the nations of the earth as God intended, they despised and hated all who were not favored as they were, and regarded the other nations with contempt. Their spirit was indeed one of extreme exclusiveness. They were the prototype of the Laodicean church who in the book of Revelation is Pharisaic in its boast, "I am RICH ... and have need of nothing" (Rev. 3:17). That utterance embodies in a simple phrase the abominable attitude of the Pharisee towards God and man. It echoes the language of him who thanked "the God within" that he was not as other men, "not even as this publican." Little glimpsed he the truth of his real state, that he was "poor, blind, miserable, and naked" even as the Laodiceans were to be in all their vain self -sufficiency.
Christ's condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees was not an invective tirade against His enemies; for He loved His enemies as He taught that others should. But He saw piety turned into a pretense by the religious teachers of His time. He saw how they shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men and went not in themselves; how they devoured widows' houses and for a pretense made long prayers; how they compassed sea and land to make one proselyte, who, when he was made, was but a child of perdition; how they painfully kept the letter of the law and the traditions of men, while they omitted the weightier matters of judgment, mercy, faith, and love toward God and man; how they loved the uppermost seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplace; how they bound on men burdens that were grievous to bear, while they touched them not with one of their fingers; how they disfigured their faces and put on a sad countenance that they might appear unto men to fast, while they were full of all hatred and hypocrisy. Such insincerity toward God, such degradation of holy office, such wrong done the sacred rights of souls, such blind leading of the blind, such obstruction to the entrance into the Kingdom of God was to Him high crime against all that is holy in heaven and earth. It grieved Him. It was a sight that saddened Him wherever He went as long as He lived. They might call Him a sinner, a sabbath-breaker, a blasphemer, a devil, a mad man; they might dog Him at every step, ply Him with catch questions, try to trap Him, weave a web of conspiracy about Him, stir up the people against Him, incite the fear and jealousy of the civil power, resolve on putting Him to death; all this He could endure with serenity, and utter nota word in self-defense. But the hypocritical religious tyranny of His time was to Him a perpetual grief. They required rebuke; and in His scathing, consuming denunciation of them there must have been in His voice such inimitable pathos and power, and in His face such an expression of sadness, sweetness, and fearlessness as to terrify His foes and sting them into fury as He tore the mask from their depravity.
Thus ends the portrait of the Rich Man!
Who is the poor neglected beggar full of sores, to whom the very dogs show more pity and kindness than the rich man? The rich man "fared sumptuously every day" while Lazarus was lying at his gate a mass of sores, loathsome and in want, and yet uncared for and unpitied by him who enjoyed so many blessings. Who is this poor, wretched, pathetic, despised man?
The Jews looked upon the heathen nations about them as barbarians and dogs. It seems quite clear therefore that in this parable Lazarus is the people lying at Judah's gate who are recipients of none of the blessings so lavishly bestowed upon them. In the rich man we see the children of the Kingdom, who as such were clothed in purple and fine linen, rich and increased with goods, daily feasting on the finest of delicacies, contrasted with the heathen world, lost, full of sores, and lacking everything. Lazarus was laid at the rich man's gate full of sores, which denotes his cast-out and spiritually deficient condition.
"Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores" (Lk. 16:21). A more accurate translation of the phrase, "moreover the dogs," would be, "the other dogs." The Greek word translated "moreover" is ALLA which means OTHER and not MOREOVER. My good friend, Elwin Roach, has done exhaustive research on this passage and shares the following enlightening information: Thayer's Lexicon gives this definition: "alia... derived from 'alia, neuter of the adjective 'alios, meaning OTHER THINGS." Strong's Exhaustive Concordance also gives this same definition of ALLA. In Lk.16:21ALLA is in the NOMINATIVE case, indicating that it is a word that names the subject, and that it belongs to the noun or pronoun that it names. Therefore, the DOGS, as the subject, are named or modified by the word OTHER (the OTHER DOGS). The word OTHER is an article in this case and is an adjective and, like ALL ADJECTIVES in the Greek, it is declined and agrees in gender, number, and case with the word it modifies. In other words, if the noun is in the nominative, plural, and neuter case, then so will the adjective be also. And this is what we have with "OTHER" and "DOGS". Both words are declined in these three declensions, indicating that "OTHER " definitely belongs to "DOGS" and is its modifier. What is the word saying then? Primarily, for all who cannot follow the grammatical intricacies stated above, it is saying that LAZARUS IS JUST AS MUCH A DOG AS THE ONES LICKING HIS SORES! I am sure that all my readers are aware that dogs will on occasion lick the sores of humans and other animals but most often they are found licking the sores of their own kind- other dogs! Neither Lazarus nor the dogs are, of course, literal dogs, but they serve as figures of the heathen nations surrounding Judah, and without the abundant blessings of God they soothe one another the best way they can, except when they are fighting- as dogs often do. Lazarus was a dog- a Gentile- for he found himself in the dog class.
In this parable Lazarus was both a beggar and a dog- a beggar in his own eyes, but a dog in the eyes of the rich man. Begging in Bible days was always done at the gate of the city where people passed by. To understand the picture presented here let us go back for a moment to an interesting and informative passage of scripture found in Gen.10:25. "And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; FOR IN HIS DAYS WAS THE EARTH DIVIDED..."Peleg- or rather, the event associated with his name- is of special interest at this point. "In his days was the earth divided." Evidently this was a most memorable event, and Eber named his son in commemoration of it. The name "Peleg" means "division." Almost nothing else is said about Peleg apart from mention of his family line and how long he lived. The fact that the earth was divided in his days seems the only possible item of distinction that can knowingly be attributed to Peleg himself. The important thing concerns the meaning of this indicated "division of the earth." It is obvious that this division was the division of the peoples that took place beginning with the Tower of Babel. We have such statements as this: "From these were the isles (coasts) of the Gentiles DIVIDED IN THEIR LANDS; and every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations," and again, "These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were THE NATIONS DIVIDED in the earth after the flood" (Gen. 10:5,32).
The descendants of Noah migrated over the whole face of the earth, forming tribe after tribe, city after city, and NATION after NATION. Let all men know that it is the almighty God who is the designer and architect of all the nations in the world. The time periods and localities in which nations flourish have all been pre-arranged by the will of Him who "works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). The truth of this cannot be made any plainer than it is by Moses in Deut. 32:8: "When the Most High DIVIDED THE NATIONS their inheritance, when HE separated the sons of Adam, HE SET the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel." Paul refers to this verse when in Acts 17:26-27 he says, "And has made of one blood ALL NATIONS of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and HAS DETERMINED THE TIMES BEFORE APPOINTED, and the BOUNDS OF THEIR HABITATION; that they should seek the Lord."
How clearly the passage quoted above reveals that it was GOD who, from the beginning, set the bounds of habitation (national boundaries) of ALL NATIONS. These boundaries were established in relation to Israel and with a view to their being able to seek after the Lord. While there may yet be a future, and more glorious fulfillment of this, yet it is remarkable that the ancient land of Palestine was originally reserved by the wisdom and goodness of the Lord for the possession of His ancient people and the display of the most stupendous signs and wonders. The theater was small, but wonderfully suited for the convenient observation of the whole human race - at the junction of the two continents of Asia and Africa, and almost in sight of Europe. From this spot as from a common center the reports of God's wonderful works, of His mighty power and awesome glory, of the glad tidings of salvation through the obedience, suffering and resurrection of His glorious Son, of the wonder filled outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as the faithful disciples of Jesus were set ablaze by the life and power of their glorified Lord, might be rapidly and easily wafted to every part of the globe. Yes, God set the bounds of habitation for all nations and set the children of Israel at the crossroads, to the end that ALL NATIONS should seek after the Lord. Out of Israel came Christ; out of Christ has come the church, His bride; out of the church shall come the man child, the holy sons of God destined to bring deliverance to the whole creation that the word promised to father Abraham might be fulfilled: "And in your seed shall ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED" (Gen. 22:18). ALL NATIONS shall be blessed! From the dawn of human history the mighty God not only designed the nations of men to inhabit this planet He also planned and purposed to bless them- each and every one of them!
Without doubt Lazarus represented the neighbor kingdoms in Asia, Africa and Europe, right at Judah's gate, without promise, without covenant, without hope, without Christ, without God in the world. It is interesting to note that LAZARUS is the Greek form of the Hebrew name ELEAZAR meaning "he whom God helps," or "whom God aids." The Greek word for "name" is ONOMA, and not only means "a name," but also carries the thought of ONE POSSESSING A CERTAIN CHARACTER. Putting this all together the passage could well be translated, "There was a certain begging one who POSSESSED THE CHARACTER OF NEEDING GOD'S AID." Stand with me for a moment while with bowed head and reverent heart we behold a scene which illustrates in tones clear and vibrant the sacred key contained in the remarkable name of this beggar, Lazarus. Our Lord Jesus Christ in the course of His preaching comes into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. A very remarkable people dwelt there. The Syropheonician were directly descended from those who had invented letters. The first written language we know anything about is Phoenician. But they were heathen; they were very enterprising; they were renowned for their industries, and their magnificent houses, and their wonderful enthusiasm in everything they undertook; but, like the ancient Greeks, with the highest culture, and the most extensive commerce, and great valor on sea and land, they were debased idolaters. When the people of Israel came into possession of the land of Israel, they halted in their work, and did not drive these heathen out, and there never was a time when they were not a thorn in the side of Israel. The Philistines, the Phoenicians, and all that bordered upon the sea were a perpetual curse to Israel and a defilement to the land. They were held in great contempt and abhorrence!
Now a remarkable thing about Jesus going into such quarters as these is this, that He never went beyond the borders of Palestine to preach His Gospel; so far as we can tell, not a step. Some contend that He did, but their information is rooted in legend and fable, not in the Word of God. So Jesus came to the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He came to His own (Judah, for He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah), and His own received Him not, and He came in these three years to minister to His own people, and to die, first for Israel, and then for the world. Now the Israelite had the conception that all nations outside were Gentile heathen outcasts, that God would not listen to them. Coming into the borders of Tyre and Sidon a woman, who evidently was a woman of station, is attracted by the splendor of Christ. This woman was a Gentile, for it says she was a woman of Canaan. But she beholds the Christ, His love, His magnanimity, His great divine personality goes out as He speaks to the multitudes there, and proclaims that He Himself has the power to give rest to the weary, to give salvation to the sinful, healing to the sick, and out of the depths of despair to guide all humanity into the paths of faith, and hope, and life, and love that lead to heaven here, and heaven above.
In that wonderful instant this woman begins to pray to Him. She has a daughter that has a devil, and she is emboldened to ask for healing for her daughter. Oh, I see Him standing there, and He looks at her with great compassion, and yet He utters words that are just the bitterest that can come from His divine lips. He looks at her, and she is pleading, "Oh Lord, you will not send me away. You have healed so many; you have saved so many; please don't send me away." He looks at her and He says these words: "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and He walks right off. There she is, and He is gone. Now she is going to give up praying surely. She has gone in vain to Him; she has gone in vain to the apostles, and she has come back to Him, and she is told that He is not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Now, she is a Canaanite; she belongs to that accursed race, and, almost in despair, she looks at His retreating figure. Oh, how hard it is! How hard that answer is!
This woman did not know how to stop praying. She had been to Christ, and to the apostles, and she goes after Christ the second time, and always finds a repulse. Yet she goes after Him again. I like to see that woman. Now, you watch what she says this time. This time she goes right off , and sees where her error has been. She goes after Him, and she seeks Him until she finds Him, and then she falls at His feet; and for the first time she does that which gets her an answer to her prayer- she worships Him. Notice her prayer. The first prayer was a long one, a very long one, and this prayer is a totally different one. It is a very short one. "Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, LORD, HELP ME." When she worships Him her prayer comes right down to three words. What are they? When she worships Him, she says, "Lord, help me!" And how does He answer her? Oh, how mysterious it is; the most cruel answer that could come from human lips seem to come from His lips that day. There she is; she is worshipping Him. She says, "Lord, help me." And now the great Lord raises Himself , and points down at her, and says, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs." How many American women would go on praying after that? I can imagine how you would start up and say, "I thought you were a kind man. I thought you were God, but you call me a dog, I am not a dog, Sir. I am an American lady. I have rights. You are discriminating against me because of my race. You are a male chauvinist pig!" Every bit of the devil of pride and feminism would be aroused. How the eyes would flash hell-fire, and the teeth clinch, and the face become pale with passion, and the heart cry out for revenge, if you, oh women of America, were refused bread and called "a dog!" I do not believe there are a dozen women upon God's earth that would stand that, and I tell you that the greatness of this woman 's faith is measured by just that fact, that she lay there at Christ's feet, and she heard Him lift His voice and point His hand, and say, "You dog!" and go off , and she still loved Him.
Now, did she stop praying? Not a bit of it. That woman went right after Him quickly. She went to His feet, and she made her last appeal, and I think it one of the most touching things in all the story of prevailing prayer in the scripture. All her heathen pride has gone. She cannot give up the hope that is bound up in her. She hears Him call her, even in the words that repel her, and she goes to His feet, and she says: "Lord, that is true; I am only a dog; but the little dogs" (for that is the word in Greek- the little dogs, the wee little dogs) "eat from the crumbs that fall from their master's table, and I will take the place of a dog, but I want this crumb. Help me; help my devil-possessed daughter. Give me that crumb." Now, the Lord looks up, and now He speaks the words that ring through the ages. "0 woman"- His own heart is touched to the deepest depths by her humility- "0 woman, great is your faith! It has stood all these testings; it has stood all My hard answers, all My silence, all the apostles' reproaching, all of My driving you down and back; and now you are willing to take the place of a dog. YOU SHALL TAKE THE PLACE OF MY OWN DAUGHTER. O woman, great is your faith: be it unto you even as you will." She willed her daughter's deliverance from the devil that grievously vexed her, and her daughter was delivered in that same hour.
Lazarus means, "Whom God helps." And the plaintive cry of this Canaanite woman, at the very border of the land of Israel, in all her spiritual poverty and ethnic loathsomeness was, "Lord, HELP ME!" What could be a greater commentary on the true meaning of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus than the expressions found in this remarkable story. When you remember the expressions, "the dogs," and, "the crumbs which fall from the master's table," these parallel precisely the expressions found in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. "And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man 's table: the other dogs came and licked his sores." Lazarus' association with the dogs and his lying at the rich man's gate, fed upon crumbs that fell from his table, places him quite convincingly in both the "dog" class and the "Gentile" class. In the encounter with the Canaanite woman it was the "dogs" that ate the crumbs, while in the parable of the rich man it is Lazarus who eats the crumbs. How beautifully this confirms to our understanding Lazarus' identity with the "dogs." The "dogs" of that day were the non-Jewish pagans, and this woman was a Canaanite, the vilest of the vile. Lazarus lay at the rich man's "gate," and this woman encountered the Lord at the "border" of the land of Israel. How plainer can language be! As to religion, all that the nations had of truth and reality were the crumbs that fell from the Jewish table. The heathen had no prophet; they had no scripture revealed by the Holy Spirit; they had no great temple service instituted by the God of heaven; they had no covenant with the true and living God; but in Eph. 2:11-12 Paul calls the saints to remember that they being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, at that time they were:
1. Without Christ
2. Aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel (the house of Israel, many