A beggar named Lazarus, who was covered with sores, was brought to his gate. He was always craving to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table. In fact, even the dogs used to come and lick his sores.Luke 16:20-21
I am sure we are all familiar with the two following stories:
A man was on a small yacht in the middle of the ocean when a rogue wave hit him and capsized the boat. He grabbed onto a life preserver and prayed for God to save him while he watched his boat sink. Soon, a dolphin came swimming along side him. The man pushed the dolphin away so he could continue to pray for God to save him. A little while later, a fishing boat came by and offered to pull him out of the water. “That’s OK”, he told them, “God will save me” so the fishing boat went away. Yet later, a cruise ship came by and offered to pull him out of the water. “That’s OK”, he told the captain of the ship, “God will save me” so the cruise ship sailed away. Eventually he died of exposure and dehydration. When he got to heaven, he was mad at God and asked “Why did you not save me when I asked?” Peter told him: “A dolphin was sent to tow you to the nearest land mass and you pushed it away. A fishing boat was sent to help you and you sent it away. A cruise ship was sent to rescue you and you sent it away. What more could God have done?
One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;
One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before us,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way;
But I have noticed that during the
most troublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I
needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious
child. I love you, and I would never,
never leave you during your times of
trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.
With that in mind let’s return to the dilemma of Lazarus. How is it that Lazarus’ name means “the one that God helps” but it seems that actually the rich man got the help? Where was Lazarus’s help? There is much debate about this, just as there is debate about God’s help. Does He really help His own when they prayer or is that just a myth. It is a matter of mind set they say. You will see what you want to see.
The only element I haven’t drawn your attention to related to the introduction to Lazarus is the close of verse 21, “the dogs would come and lick his open sores.”
Now most of us would say that is gross. There are some among us who would say that is good, because you have dogs and you like the affection shown in the dog’s lick. It’s all a matter of perspective.
There are two interpretations of this part.
1. This was a bad thing:
The dogs added to Lazarus’ misery. He was lying there with open wounds and unable to help himself. To add insult to injury, the dogs which devoured the food that he could have, also came and licked his open wounds and infected them more. Here (in the ISV) the Greek word [alla] is translated “In fact even” . . . The KJV uses the word “moreover”. Either way the sense is to heighten the horror of Lazarus’ situation. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Even the dogs came and licked at his wounds. In this scenario, everything is against Lazarus. The dogs side with the rich man and his buddies to bring misery to him.
2. This was a good thing:
It is a remarkable thing that a wild pack of dogs would treat Lazarus kindly. Yes kindly. For a dog to lick is a sign of affection, as I stated above. Even more remarkable for a pack of wild dogs to lick. In the same way that mob behaviour among humans has a tendency toward savagery; the same is true of dogs and wolves. These dogs remarkably show affection toward Lazarus. If this is the level at which this action is to be interpreted then this man’s misery is met only by a pack of dogs. The dogs were his only friends. No human beings would rise to meet his need. The [alla] in this case is in contradistinction to what preceded it. “But dogs came and ministered to him when human beings wouldn’t.”
My hunch is there is another level at which this is meeting his need. Dogs also sense need in people. That fact is well documented by cases of how dogs sense danger, sickness or imminent death and respond to help humans in need. A dog will also lick its own wounds because there is a healing property in the saliva of a dog, an endogenous peptide antibiotic, which is the reason why dogs’ wounds heal when they lick them. The ancient Phoenicians were renowned for using healing clinics where trained dogs were kept to lick people’s wounds for a fee.
Much like the two stories I quoted above, we will often complain of our plight little realizing that God has brought circumstances to bear on our situation to lighten our misery or burden. Only we don’t recognize His hand or presence. Could it be that dogs were sent by God to minister to Lazarus’ wounds when humans shunned him? If that is indeed the case then it adds a further dimension of culpability to the rich man and his friends’ indifference. Only a pack of dogs were the means of ministering any degree of comfort to Lazarus. That is shocking! Even more so when compared with the excess described in the case of the rich man.
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will NEVER forget how you made them feel.Anon
If you judge people you will have no time to love them.Mother Theresa
God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.Anon
Learn to spot or discern the miracles in the little things of life. Miracles are all around you, you just need the eyes to see them.Ian Vail
When we are unwilling to hear God in one area of our life, it may render us unable to hear in other areas.Joyce Meyer
‘Truly I tell you, when you did not do it for one of the least important of these, you did not do it for me.’ JesusMatt 25:45