John 4:15-30 God sees not the offering or form of worship but the essence of a man’s heart
John 4:15-30 God sees not the offering or form of worship but the essence of a man’s heart
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband ’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.
Jesus ministered to the woman by divine knowledge which brought to light a series of failed relationships in her life. With this, she humbled herself and came to acknowledge Jesus as a man sent from God. Indeed, Jesus knows all things, He sees our darkest secrets, and the skeletons in our closets. Yet He does not despise us. For those who humble themselves in repentance, He sanctifies and crowns with glory and honour. Jesus ushered in for the church a fuller understanding concerning worship: Because God is spirit, He sees not the offering or the form of worship, but the essence of the worshiper’s heart.
Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.
The woman’s response shows that she is ready to receive living water. However, she mistook this living water which Jesus promised to give as capable of quenching her bodily thirst forever. Nevertheless, Jesus proceeded to minister to her brokenness which needed restoration. By divine knowledge, Jesus brought to light a series of failed relationships in her life. By this she came to acknowledge Jesus as a man sent by God (Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.)
Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Following, the woman shifted her focus to place and form of worship as she wanted to know what Jesus thought. Although the Samaritans and the Jews came from the same lineage, they were deeply divided by tribal and political rivalry. The Jews claimed that Jerusalem was the only legitimate place of worship. But the Samaritans claimed otherwise. In response, Jesus said, “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Jesus pointed out that true worship does not concern place or the form, but the heart of the worshiper. God accepts the worship of those who walk in the truth, and by the Spirit’s leading. In other words, the essence of worship comprises the worshiper’s virtues which God loves.
I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.
The woman, being convinced of Jesus’s divinity and having understood what true worship is was ready to encounter Christ. At this point, Jesus revealed His identity without ambiguity: “I who speak to you am He.” When the disciples returned from buying food, the woman went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done.” The woman had noticed that Jesus was different from the teachers of Jerusalem and Samaria. She believed Jesus is truly the Christ for He spoke with supernatural authority, wisdom and grace. The woman’s zeal and unashamed testimony of her past showed that she had truly entered into eternal life.
Only when men become weak, then can they be made strong.
Jesus knows all things, He sees our darkest secrets, and the skeletons in our closets. Yet He does not despise us. For those who humble themselves in repentance, He sanctifies and crowns with glory and honour. Jesus said,
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12
When Jesus exposed the woman’s shameful past, she did not try to cover it up but acknowledged what Jesus said is true: “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” She willingly humbled herself and acknowledged her weakness. It is by her weakness that she received divine grace to become strong and dignified. Her testimony to the city is indeed the proof of divine strength and freedom.
Many refuse to acknowledge their weaknesses and failures for fear of being rejected and trampled upon. To them it is rather unbecoming to acknowledge one’s weakness and helplessness. Hence, they perpetually put up a strong front only to pass up on divine grace and freedom. Indeed, only when we become weak as dead men, then can we be made alive with divine power. God’s grace cannot fill men who are already strong but only those who acknowledge their weakness. The apostle Paul, at a time when he implored God to take away Satan’s attacks of worldly persecutions was instead given the secret to divine strength; which is to be at peace with one’s state of helplessness while fully dependent on God to deliver. Paul said,
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Divine grace flows unreservedly for one who is ever ready to acknowledge his struggles (I will rather boast about my weaknesses). The reluctance to recognise our weaknesses are signs of pride and misplaced trust in human abilities. This misplaced trust is the seed of sin that robs men of glory and eternal life.
God sees not the offering or form of worship but the essence of a man’s heart
Every worshiper brings a gift and offers it up to God. The Old Covenant believers were compelled to offer up a sacrifice that is perfect and unblemished. Because God is spirit, He sees not the offering or the form of worship no matter how perfect it may be, but the essence of the worshiper’s heart. That said, worshipers give of their best as a fitting sacrifice due God. Therefore, what matters in worship is not the gift or form but the virtues of worshiper’s heart.
The fact is, many live in sin and yet continue to offer gifts while expecting God to bless. They offer tithes and sacrifices to God but with no regard to His commandments. The bible calls this idolatry. An idolatrous person entices God with his gifts in order to fulfil his selfish desires. Note that God has branded His own people as idolaters but not the gentiles. An idolater is one who worships God in a spirit of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (see Colossians 3:5). But God accepts one who worships in the Spirit of truth.
God loves the aroma that rises from hearts filled with truth and love. But He loathes the stench of hypocrisy that rises from the spirits of selfishness, lust and worldliness. Amos said to the people,
“I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
“Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Amos 5:21-22
That said, God is not looking out for superficial obedience to the law (sacrifice and burnt offering), but He cherishes a broken and contrite heart. King David sang,
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:16-17
Are you averse to being seen as weak? Because you are conditioned to think that winners must always be strong. James said,
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
When we acknowledge ourselves as weak men and women, imperfect and in need of help, we begin to receive grace from God.
Do you supposed by your knowledge of Jesus Christ and your weekly attendance in church, God is pleased with you? If God is displeased with the Jewish leaders and warned them of the destruction to come, God is likewise warning His church today. Indeed, God will judge every person according to his works. Paul said,
God will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. Romans 2:6-8
Therefore, repent of your lust, greed and worldliness so that you may be healed and restored.
Dear Lord, let my worship to found pleasing to you. As I read your word, reveal to me my weaknesses so that I may be transformed into your likeness. Help me be gracious and loving in the things I say and do and take away my tendency to judge others by their appearance. As I worship you in sincerity and truth, restore to me the joy of your salvation. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.