Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth
Part One of Two
By Fred Pruitt
Someone recently asked me to share on the meaning of John 4:23,24. To give it its proper due, we need to take a look at the whole passage regarding that event.
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He.” (John 4:20-26)
(This first part on history can be skipped for those that prefer to move directly into the “meat.” But I have always loved history, both Biblical and human history as well. So I am sharing a few tidbits about the Samaritans and the Temple which might give a little color to the story. Just a bit.)
Those familiar with the Gospel of John will recognize this chapter as the meeting with the “woman at the well.” The setting of the story is that Jesus and His disciples are traveling back to Galilee from their trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. In order to avoid the Samaritans, most Jews traveling between Judea and Galilee took the longer route along the Jordan River. However, the most direct route between Judea and Galilee was through Samaria. It seemed they were pressed to get back to Galilee.
The Samaritans were considered heretics and outcasts to the Jews of those days. They were related to the Jews in that they descended from remnants of the ten lost tribes that mixed with various other peoples who had successively occupied the region since the breakup of the northern kingdom.
All the tribes were initially united under Saul as the first King of Israel, having been anointed by the Prophet Samuel. However, because of Saul’s presumption in the things of the Lord, God told Samuel to tell Saul that the kingdom would be ripped from him and given to another. Then Samuel was led by the Spirit to David, son of Jesse, of Bethlehem-Ephratah, and there Samuel secretly anointed him King. Though David never tried to seize the kingdom from Saul, Saul nevertheless tried to kill David forcing David to flee into the wilderness. This passage from 1 Samuel 22:1,2 describes the result of David’s flight –
“David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”
Eventually Saul was defeated and killed in a battle with the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa. Then David succeeded Saul but for a time the northern tribes refused to recognize David as King and remained loyal to the house of Saul. A civil war ensued, with the northern tribes eventually becoming united again under David, who served a total of forty years as King. At his death Solomon became King. During his reign all the tribes of Israel remained united as the Kingdom of Israel.
When Solomon’s son Rehoboam, became King, his own harsher policies, coupled with his father Solomon’s grievous practices and errors he had allowed from the foreign gods and religions his wives and concubines brought with them, the ten northern tribes rebelled and separated from Judah and Benjamin. They became the Kingdom of Israel and the southern tribes from then on were known as the Kingdom of Judah.
Since they could no longer recognize Jerusalem as capital nor the place where the Temple should be, they built an alternate Temple on Mt. Gerizim, claiming it was the true Mt. Moriah where Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac took place. The Temple mount in Jerusalem makes the same claim. They also established a capital, about 50 km from Jerusalem, called Samaria.
Eventually the Assyrians invaded and conquered the northern kingdom, decimated the land of many of its inhabitants by various means, and brought their own peoples in to colonize it. There were ethnic Israelites in the land who still held to their alternate Israelite faith, (they even had their own alternate Torah and there are still a few practicing Samaritans in Israel today), who eventually mixed with the various peoples that occupied that territory over the next few hundred years. As a result of that, their alternate faith was mixed with foreign deities and to the Jews, became even more impure than it was.
It was King David who had brought the Tabernacle to Jerusalem in order to establish Mount Moriah as the central place to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Obviously, worshiping the idol deities of the surrounding Canaanite peoples was strictly forbidden in Jerusalem as well as in all Israel during the time of David and thereafter. Though over the following centuries they had to deal with the people constantly being drawn away from worship of the Lord God, in order to “chase after other gods,” time and time again.
Solomon, David’s son, built the first Temple in Jerusalem, thus finally fully establishing Jerusalem as the central place to worship for all Israel. What gave the Jerusalem Temple its validity, first was the fact that they brought the Ark of the Covenant and the other items from the Tabernacle – the “tent of meeting” which had been constructed in the desert by Moses hundreds of years earlier – into Solomon’s Temple, placing the Ark and other objects in the Holy of Holies, and the high altar, where animals would be given in sacrifice according to instructions given by God to Moses.
The Ark represented the “Presence of God,” in the innermost room in the Temple. (It also represents the innermost room in our inner temple, our holy of holies inside us, where the Presence eternally dwells in love, mercy, grace and authority – IN US.) Secondly, it was established authoritatively by the words of the Prophet Nathan and other prophets, as “God’s house,” and confirmed by the Spirit of God Who manifested in the sight and hearing of the people by means of the Cloud – the “Shekinah Glory of God.” (This same Cloud led them through the wilderness, too!) All of this can be found in the first few chapters of II Chronicles, but this below is what “cinched it.”
“It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a Cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.” (II Chronicles 5:13).
This event in John 4 occurs a few hundred years after those things took place, but the traditions were still alive and all these things were still remembered among the people, even the fact that the well where Jesus met the woman, was called Jacob’s well. According to the tradition of the people in the area, Jacob had dug that well and many others during the patriarchal times, which was probably at least 1,500 or more years before the time of Jesus.
We might discount old traditional memories like that, but historians and archaeologists have learned that much of legend, fable, and stories from thousands of years ago often have factual beginnings, even if they have been embellished by succeeding generations. So it is quite likely those wells around there were dug by Jacob and his twelve sons.
END PART ONE