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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

John 4:20, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

This morning, there is an adage that states there are no foolish statements or stupid questions. In all fairness, the Bible refutes that line of thinking by referencing vain and profane babblings (II Timothy 2:16) and foolish and unlearned questions. (II Timothy 2:23) However, our attitude and reaction to these things needs to be tempered with wisdom, prudence, and certainly loving compassion. If we readily find that we are dealing with an unreasonable fool (Proverbs 26:4), then we need to shun his babblings and avoid his questions. But, if we readily discover that we are dealing with an ignorant fool (Proverbs 26:5), then we need to seek to instruct him more perfectly in the way of the Lord. (Acts 18:26) As our perfect example, Christ was posed with many foolish questions and vain babblings, and his answer to these situations varied based on the people He was dealing with. Whenever He is in the presence of the ignorant (as opposed to the unreasonable), His mode of answer is much different than what we might expect. It is this venue that we would like to investigate this morning with the woman at the well.

In speaking with this Samaritan woman, Christ expounds upon a great many subjects, and the structure of the conversation bears a striking resemblance to the conversation in the previous chapter with Nicodemus. While the subjects discussed were not identical, Christ's interaction with both people is quite similar. The woman has changed the subject line of the conversation to speak about public worship, as the previously discussed subject was getting a little too personal for her. Her statement is made with an implied question. Even though she did not ask Christ a direct question, there is an inference made in her statement as to what He thinks about proper worship, specifically where it should be offered.

Now, looking at this from my own viewpoint, I might have been tempted to respond quite shortly, "Geography is not important." However, Christ chooses rather to speak in the affirmative and show in positive language what is really important. He does indeed use some negative language - Verse 21 - to show that one day neither Jerusalem nor that mountain would be a haven of proper worship, but He does not leave her in the dark about how proper worship should be (and at that time was being) executed. As we converse with people today, we may at times have to use some negative language talking about how things are not, but we should always affirm the way things are so that the hearers know what to seek and how to perform. (Titus 3:8) Yet, without so many words, Christ takes her statement and shows a measure of truth within it.

This woman could have picked any number of geographical locations to reference if they were places of proper worship. The Greeks worshipped in Athens at Mars' hill. The Ephesians had a large temple to Diana. Yet, she offers up two locations as choices for correct worship. While not quite on the subject here, always be careful of people offering limited choices. When someone says, "It is either A or B," many times there can be a C, D, or E. Whenever we come to the "crossroads of life," folks will say, "Choose left or right." At a true crossroads, we can turn left or right, but if we are headed in the right direction, we can choose to continue straight, or if we are in a seriously erroneous path, we can back away (turn around).

As Christ drives toward the ultimate thought of this discussion (spirit and truth - Verse 24), He makes a few statements that show that the woman's geographical choices did have some symbolical merit. He tells her that she does not know what she worships, but that the Jews did. (Verse 22) What He is telling her is that she (nor her kinsmen) have the truth of how to worship. The Jews had the knowledge of how to worship, but she was lacking in that regard. Yet, the Samaritans of that region still chose to worship in a mountain. They may have had a noble spirit about what they were doing, but they were ultimately not worshipping properly as they did not have the truth.

Studying various religious practices, many groups prefer elevated places to worship (mountains and hills). While this is not indicative (in all cases) of changed hearts, they are zealous in their efforts. The prophets of Baal in I Kings 18 were very zealous on Mount Carmel. There was some spirit there (albeit the wrong kind - I John 4:1), and their efforts showed great dedication to their religion. Some today worship they know not what and have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2) Yet, they still feel lifted up in their service. They have elevated thoughts and elevated actions that are indicative of seeking to rise above this world in their efforts of service. They loathe things in the world and want to be above them.

On the other hand, the Jews were "in love" with Jerusalem. It contained their temple, the ornaments, the holy place, the priests, etc. Everything they held dear was there, and to them, it was the only geographical place worthy of worshipping. Now, to a point, Jerusalem was the haven of proper worship as the truth was the priesthood was necessary to perform different acts (and so the people had to go up to Jerusalem for feasts, sacrifices, etc.). Jerusalem was the keeper of the truth of proper worship, bound up in the old covenant priesthood. Yet, Christ just as clearly shows that Jerusalem's importance in that regard would soon be gone. As simply as I know how to say it, natural Jerusalem does not hold spiritual significance to me unless there are bands of people inhabiting that city worshipping in spirit and in truth.

Yet, people today still go up to a heavenly Jerusalem that is still the keeper of truth, bound up in the ordinances as they have been delivered and kept. (Galatians 4:26, I Timothy 3:15, I Corinthians 11:2) People today still believe what Christ and His apostles taught then. As such, we are stewards of that great truth as found in the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, none of us know everything there is to know, but His people in His church still have the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 3) Just as the Samaritans had much spirit in their service without the truth of faith and order, so the Jews had the oracles of God but had become rigid and cold in their exercise of it. It might be called duty for duty's sake or perhaps a single-minded focus of legalistic purity.

Now the point for us today is simply this. The woman's statement inadvertently showed that the Jews and the Samaritans (to a degree) had the elements of proper worship. The mountain signified the spirit of rising up, while Jerusalem signified the truth as committed unto the Jews. We have today an oasis in the desert of life that Christ calls His church. (Matthew 16:18) She is referred to as a mountain (Psalm 48, Hebrews 12, Daniel 2, etc), and she is also called Jerusalem. (Isaiah 33:20, Galatians 4:26, etc.) For her to worship properly today, she must be found rising up as a mountain that is above the filth of the world. She must have the gracious, dedicated, and loving spirit of the virtuous woman that is like a light set on a hill. However, she cannot have this loving persona to the neglect of keeping the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, much like natural Jerusalem was to be a beacon of the covenant of God upon Israel. May we be found keeping ourselves unspotted from the world dwelling in the mountain of our God while earnestly cleaving to the truth of God's word in spiritual Jerusalem.

In Hope,

Bro Philip