Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our father worshiped in this mountain; yet, you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Believe me, woman; the hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father. You people do not know what you are worshiping; we know what we worship because salvation belongs to the Jews. But an hour is coming, and is here already, when real worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such worshipers of Him.’ ”
When Abraham, Isaac and Jacob worshiped God on the high places, God was there, and He blessed them for their faith. Later, in the Law that God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses, the Almighty forbade His people to worship in those same high places, telling them that He would choose instead “one place” for them to worship Him. When that one place was chosen, it became sin to offer sacrifices to God on the high places any longer. David is the man who revealed to Israel that God had chosen Jerusalem as that one place. Yes, God had moved from the high places to the city of Jerusalem, and every righteous soul among God’s people moved with Him. Had Abraham lived after God chose Jerusalem, he would not have worshiped God in the high places; he would have taken his sacrifices and offerings to the place God had chosen.
One day, thirsty from his journey, Jesus met a certain woman at a well. She was a woman steeped in the doctrine of the Samaritans. The Samaritans believed, among other things, that God had never chosen Jerusalem as the one place for Him to be worshiped. They believe that David lied when he said that God had done so. They claimed that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshiped God acceptably (which was true) and that those who worship God should follow their example in worship (which was false). Part of the reason that the elders among the Jews hated the Samaritans was that they refused to follow them in the right way of worship.
This is the theological debate into which the woman from Samaria hoped to draw Jesus. She had no idea who she was talking to.
Jesus responded by telling the woman that the time was at hand for another move by God. For over a thousand years, He had demanded that His people worship Him in Jerusalem, through the symbolic ceremonies of the Law, but now He was abandoning that way of worship just as He had previously abandoned the high places where Abraham worshiped. Now, said Jesus, God was about to move out of symbols and ceremonies and into the realm of the Spirit.
Now, if it became sin for Israel to worship in the manner of Abraham when God moved His presence to Jerusalem, isn’t it reasonable to say that when God moved out of symbols and ceremonies and into the realm of the Spirit, then it became sin to continue to worship in symbols and ceremonies? Yes, when God moves, it is sin not to move with Him.
Abraham, “the friend of God” and “the father of those who believe”, planted a grove near his altar in Beer-sheba (Gen. 21:33-34). When God moved from the high places, He commanded the Israelites not to do that (Dt. 16:21). The false prophets of Israel deceived many with the doctrine of the Samaritan woman, and one of their most often used phrases was “The manner of Beer-sheba lives!” (Amos 8:14). In other words, the way Abraham worshiped God in Beer-sheba was being kept alive by them and their followers. God was no longer in it, but they did not know it. Their religious zeal impressed ignorant men, but it was misguided. It both saddened and angered the very God they claimed to be serving.
David, “a man after God’s own heart”, always honored the Lord’s Sabbaths and the holy days of the Law, and when his fellow Israelites failed to do so, he went before the Lord and cried, “Rivers of waters run down my eyes because they keep not your Law!” (Ps. 119:136). However, after God moved out of the ceremonial forms of the Law, Paul condemned those among the saints who still were trying to serve God, as righteous King David did, by observing holy days and Sabbaths. Such were the believers in Galatia. He wrote to them, with tears, “O foolish Galatians! . . . having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh [ceremonial worship]?” Paul explained to the Colossians that God gave to Israel holy days, new moons, and Sabbaths as “shadows of things to come” but that the substance is found in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:16-17).
Paul’s message of God’s move out of ceremonies has been forgotten by God’s own people now, just as the vast majority of God’s people in ancient Israel continued to worship in the high places long after the Law was given. Modern religious doctrine is as perverse and blind as was the Samaritan doctrine of the woman at the well. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that those who worship the Father MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth, and no longer worship Him either in Jerusalem [symbolic forms], nor in the high places [as the patriarchs once did]. But who among God’s children today is doing as Jesus said must be done? In other words, who among His own children is worshiping the Father acceptably today? And yet, it MUST be done. God MUST be worshiped “in spirit and in truth”. Where do we find this being done? Who is showing us how to worship God and His Christ other than in ceremonies?
I have often thought, and said aloud, that the greatest rewards in God’s kingdom are possibly still “up for grabs”. This much I know: the man who finally breaks through the white-washed walls of ceremonial religious traditions and teaches God’s precious people how to worship their Father in spirit and in truth will be among the very most blessed servants of God in eternity.