Daily Devotional – Empty Places of Worship

John 4:5-6

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 

There is a bit of a poetic nature to the verses we’ll look at today.  The verses may seem short and merely introductory to the passage of the woman on the well, but actually add much more depth to the scenario.  The complete picture of Jesus’ time in Samaria, in the town of Sychar, is caught in John 4:1-43.  There are many physical elements mentioned in this passage, from the well to water, food and harvest, land and significant Jewish characters mentioned from Genesis who had ties to this very area.  Jesus would look upon many people coming out to Him (and the disciples) in v. 35 and declare that “the fields are white unto harvest,” comparing the people to grain that was prepared for gathering: a reaping of spiritual life was taking place here, which may be the connection to John 4:4’s “needing to pass through Samaria.”

Near the time of Jacob’s passing (Gen. 48-50), he blessed his twelve sons.  It is recorded that Jacob gave his son Joseph a plot of ground in Genesis 48:22:  Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.” Joshua 24:32 tells us further that “The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.” The town of Sychar was built only a mile away from the ancient town of Shechem.  D.A. Carson, in his commentary on John, says, “Joseph’s tomb lies but a few hundred yards north-west of Jacob’s well.” (Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary, p. 217: Leicester, Apollos Press 1991) 

In other words, Joseph’s body was buried but a few hundred yards from the well that Jesus went to drink from.  John 8:57-58 says, “Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, who was the father of Joseph.  All of the land that Jesus walked on in his days on the earth was a land that He had already worked in as part of the Trinity. He definitely remembered Joseph and his pitfalls, promotions and prominent role in Egypt.  He existed then; He oversaw the whole story; He, as God, brought it to pass.  The nation of Israel would be spared by the positioning of Joseph, and this would absolutely effect the future of the Jews.  One day, long down the halls of time from Joseph’s days, there would be a town built of a mixed people called Samaritans, and where Joseph would be laid to rest the Redeemer would walk not far away.

Part of the picture that is being established in this passage is that this land, which had spiritual significance tied to Jacob and Joseph (if not others), had now essentially become like a beautiful mansion run down, boarded up and the property was full of weeds.  What was once a gift given in faith by Jacob to his son Joseph, this land, was now the home of what we will soon see to be a people of mixed heritage and false worship.  It’s not that the Samaritans were less human by any means, but the rich past of this land had been practically desecrated.  2 Kings 17:26-41 saw a foreign, pagan king give away land that had been seized and then repopulated with a variety of people from different locations and belief systems.  It was no accident that a priest of God was sent there by the king of Assyria, as the fear of the Lord was taught amid many false teachings.  The people of Samaria that Jesus would encounter were people who still were affected by this background.

Os Guinness quote: The story of Christian reformation, revival ...

Our nation itself has seen times of great spiritual interest as well as times of spiritual decline.  There are many church buildings in America and Europe that now sit dormant, or reconfigured, where perhaps at one time God did some great things.  Where a person may sleep today, or a business is run, there may at one time been a sinner kneeling and crying out to God in prayer for forgiveness.  Where people heard the word preached, there are certainly places today only marked by dust and the sound of an occasional cricket.

The revival needed today is not to fix up those buildings but to see God moving in the hearts of people once again.  The revival needed is not to see all churches full of people, but rather those churches committed to the inerrant Scriptures, proclaiming the gospel, with people full of God.  It’s not to simply see moralistic messages preached, but the gospel message in its purity proclaimed unashamedly and without apology, no matter how our culture may balk in offense at that message.  Revival, though, is not manufactured; it’s not something that we decide to create.  It’s entirely dependent upon God working, and if that’s the case, then we have to depend upon Him as we follow Him.

The Lord has a way of using times of difficulty to draw people to Himself; we just never know what He might do.  I would encourage you to pray that God does some amazing things in the hearts and lives of many people through these unique times; He probably already has.  Pray that people would cry out for eternal hope and that they would find exactly that in the gospel.

Prayer:

Lord, we glorify You for the provisions You supply and the help You give to us each day.  Thank You for the truths of Your word and the lessons it has for us.  Help us to lean not on our own understanding, but to trust You with all of our hearts.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.