How God Desires to Be Worshipped–Revealed at Shechem

Whenever I’ve gone to a historic site or a national memorial I’ve always liked to take my time (usually to the consternation of my family) to read each and every descriptive plaque and gaze at photos or drawings to try to get a sense of what happened there.  That’s the closest I can get without having actually experienced the historic event.  It could be a place of triumph in the founding of the nation or a place of tragedy in a massacre.  I rely on those plaques, photos & available films.  Of course my visiting any historical site wouldn’t have come close to what would be going on inside the mind of someone who was actually there who experienced the event such as a WWII veteran 30 years later returning to the beaches of Normandy or a survivor of the holocaust 30 years later gazing at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp.  To them the shouts, cries and death aren’t just etched in old black & white photos, but would be very real.

The same could be true today in visiting the National 9/11 Museum in New York City.  Yes, I could visit Ground Zero and I remember watching events unfold on TV, but I imagine the events are remembered more vividly for those New Yorkers who ran from the billowing debris as the towers fell, gasping for breath and then mourning the loss of loved ones.  Those lost were real people—not just 1 of 3,000 whose name would later be etched in a wall.

What if there were no national memorials, museums, photographs, films or displays?  Generations later would anyone even think about the beaches of Normandy outside of a recreational context?  What if all the public had was written down in a book about a certain event which happened at that location?  Two thousand years later would anyone even remember?

The same could be said for you and me today when we read about places or events in the Bible without understanding the significance of what was happening at that particular location.  For example, in the gospel of John there was a place where Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well and asked her for a drink of water.  There were no historical markers at this location, so our only reference would be from her that it was a well that Jacob had made and his sons & livestock drank from it (John 4:12).  What Jesus told her at this location were perhaps the most profound proclamations He ever made to anyone.  She and many of her city were given eyes to see and ears to hear who Jesus really was.  She was told how God desires to be worshiped now that the Christ has come.

A Walking Tour of Shechem

Before we get into the message Jesus gave this woman, it would be helpful to understand the spiritual and historical significance of where Christ was.  Jesus didn’t need to read any plaques or look at historical markers to get a feel for where He was.  He remembered the sights, the sounds and the people of this area over the thousands of years (“…before Abraham was, I AM”. John 8:59).

When we read John’s account we see that Jesus and His disciples were going to Galilee, but needed to pass through Samaria.  “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph” (John 4:5).  When you read the corresponding account in Gen. 33:18-20 (NKJV used throughout) it says, “Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city.  And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.  Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel”.  Josh. 24:32 reads, “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.”  This is also confirmed in Stephen’s testimony in Acts 7:16.

Therefore, many scholars believe that this Samaritan city of Sychar, “near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph” (John 4:5) was probably built on or near the old city of Shechem.  If you or I could figuratively have taken a “walking tour” to understand just a little bit of what Jesus already understood, we would have first seen the little marker titled “Jacob’s well”.  Then moving a little further down the path a sign could have read, “Beneath this plot of ground are the bones of Joseph which Joshua brought out of Egypt and buried at this spot.”  Taking the theoretical “walking tour” the guide would have said, “Over here to the right are the remains of the altar Jacob built called ‘El Elohe Israel’ which is translated ‘God, the God of Israel’.  Now there’s a reason why this location was so important to Jacob.  The first Canaanite city Abram (Abraham) went to when he came to Canaan was Shechem (Gen. 12:6) and it was here to our left where once stood the old tree of Moreh where the Lord appeared to Abram and promised ‘To your descendants I will give this land’ (Gen. 12:7).  In this section of land, where the Lord appeared to Abram, he built his first alter to the Lord.”

The tour guide would go on to say, “Also, at this very spot you can see a large upright stone.  It was here after the conquest of Canaan was complete, Joshua had chosen this place to gather all the tribes of Israel, their elders and judges” (Josh. 24:1).  The tour guide would go on to explain that, “Joshua chose Shechem, because it was here at the foot of Mt. Gerizim and Mt Ebal there had years earlier been a gathering of what could have been a couple million people.  Mt. Gerizim and Ebal rose 800 to 1,000 feet above Shechem and formed an amphitheater with excellent acoustics.  Years later, if you will recall in Judges 9:7, Jotham was able to call down to the men of Shechem while standing on Mount Gerizim.

Joshua had built an altar on Mount Ebal, and there in the presence of all Israel he read to them the book of the law.  His writing was based on the instructions of Moses (Deut. 11:29; Deut.27-28) to place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and curse on Mount Ebal.  Josh. 8:33-35 says: ‘All Israel, alien as well as citizen, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel.  And afterward he read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law.  There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.’

So in his old age, Joshua gathered the people again to Shechem in the shadow of Mt. Gerizim (the Mount of Blessing).  After reciting their history, Joshua called for their repentance saying, ‘Now therefore fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served…. Serve the Lord!’ (v-14-15).  When all the people agreed, ‘Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem…. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord’ (v25-26).”

Our tour guide would go on to say, “As an aside, when the Samaritan woman at the well told Jesus ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain…’ (John 4:19) she was probably pointing at Mt Gerizim, the ‘Mount of blessing’ that overlooked Shechem.

Joshua also was inspired to choose this spot because he was calling for them to repent—to put away their false gods.  It was here hundreds of years earlier after the massacre of the men of Shechem that ‘Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments….’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem’ (Gen. 35:2, 4).’  Now over here to our left is where the terebinth tree once stood.”

Our tour in and around the old city of Shechem would be a fascinating one because so much of the important events in Israel’s history happened right there.  Shechem was a place of covenant, commitment and repentance.  It was a turning point for the sons of Jacob, a turning point in Israel’s history in Joshua’s day and sadly a turning point in the dividing of Israel with the majority of Israel turning to ungodly kings and pagan gods.  It was here at Shechem that the dividing of Israel into two kingdoms took place.  Shechem (where Joseph’s bones were buried) was part of Ephraim.  The city would become part of Israel under Jeroboam the son of Nebat who caused Israel to sin.  I Kings 12:1-2 says:  “Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king.  When Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt.”  When Rehoboam looked out over the masses of people at Shechem, he saw people ready to be yoked and then whipped with scorpions (v-14).  History shows what happened next was the dividing of Israel (v-16-20).  In v-25 “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and resided there;”

Continuing with the “walking tour” our guide would also point out that Shechem was a city of massacres.  It began when Dinah, Jacob’s daughter was violated by Shechem (he had the same name as the city) who then wanted to marry her.  The brothers tricked Shechem into having all the males in the city circumcised to bring the peoples together.  When the males were very sore after being circumcised, Simeon and Levi slaughtered all of them, then the other brothers joined in plundering the city.  After the massacre they took everything of value– their livestock “and all their wealth.  All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.  Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land.… They will gather themselves together against me and kill me.’ (Gen.34:29-30).”  Simeon & Levi went way beyond any kind of punishment for one man’s act against their sister.  The result of this massacre may have been part of the reason for the anti-Semitism that continues to this day.

What Simeon and Levi did wasn’t justice.  In Gen. 49:5-7 Jacob’s prophecy states: “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.  May I never come into their council; may I not be joined to their company– for in their anger they killed men, and at their whim they hamstrung oxen.  Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel!  I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”  The Levites were to be scattered in various cities throughout Israel and in Joshua’s day the Lord made Shechem a Levitical city for the children of Kohath (included the lineage of Moses and Aaron) and it was also one of the cities of refuge for Israel (Josh. 20:7; 21:21).

The next massacre at Shechem took place during the period of the judges at the hands of Abimelech (Judges 9:34-49).  Judges 9:42-45 says: “On the following day the people went out into the fields.  When Abimelech was told, he took his troops and divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the fields.  When he looked and saw the people coming out of the city, he rose against them and killed them.  Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city, and killed the people that were in it; and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.”  When he saw the men of the city coming out in the fields, Abimelech got his political revenge (he had come to power by those in Shechem who later turned against him) and began his slaughter.  In v-49 he then gets those who had fled to the Tower of Shechem and burns alive 1000 men and women.  Again, Shechem is a scene of a terrible massacre.  It wouldn’t be rebuilt for several hundred years until Jeroboam decided to make it his first residence as king.

In summary, Shechem was the place of new beginnings.  This was where God promised Abraham the land of Canaan.  This was where Jacob’s sons buried their idols.  This was where all Israel gathered to hear the words of Moses read by Joshua and years later met again to bury their idols and made a covenant to serve only God.  This is where all Israel gathered, only to divide and go into idolatry under Jeroboam.  Shechem was also the city of massacres at the hands of Simeon & Levi and later on by Abimelech.  In contrast it was also here where those of faith turned to God in repentance.

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

When Jesus came to the Samaritan woman at the well He didn’t need a “walking tour” to understand the momentous events that had taken place in the area in and around Shechem.  During His ministry He could have chosen any place and any person to declare that He was the Messiah, but He chose this place and this Samaritan woman to make His identity known (John 4:26).  His proclamation wasn’t made to a questioning Pharisee at the Temple or to Pontius Pilate or to 5000 Jews on a hillside eating loaves and fishes.  It was only made to this Samaritan woman near Shechem.  He also did it when His disciples were coming.  When she said that she looked for the coming Messiah and “…’He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’ And at this point His disciples came and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’” (v-25-27).

In the city of Shechem with an ancient history of “us vs. them” to the Jews the Samaritans were “them.” “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (v-9).  Even though the Samaritans were mixed remnants of the northern tribes of Israel, they were considered foreigners.  Though they worshiped Yahweh and had the Torah, they did so on Mount Gerizim instead of Jerusalem (they didn’t accept the rest of the Old Testament), and the Jews despised them.  On top of this, she was a woman—even lower in the minds of Jewish men, including His disciples.

Jesus knew that His disciples had a problem.  Their prejudiced mindset toward the Samaritans had to change for partiality is a sin (James 2:9).  “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34) and “there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2:11).  When Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan it was also for His disciples’ ears to understand who their neighbor was to be loved (Luke 10:29-37).  When 10 lepers were healed only one “…returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.  And he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16).  Jesus asked rhetorical questions for His disciples to consider.  “’Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  Were there not found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’” (v-17-18).

A year or so after Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (and many in the Samaritan town of Shechem for 2 days), James and John wanted Jesus to call fire down from heaven and destroy a Samaritan village that had rejected Christ because He was on His way to Jerusalem (going to the wrong mountain).  He had to rebuke the two young disciples for their spirit of destruction (Luke 9:52-54).  God’s way is the way of agape love.  He had come to save men’s lives (v-56) including those Samaritans.

At Jacob’s well (right after the Samaritan woman had gone to the city to inform them that she had found the Messiah) Jesus spoke with His disciples.  In John 4:32-35 after His disciples urged Him to eat, “He said to them ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know’.  Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.  Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.’”

When they lifted up their eyes to the fields what did they see?  They saw many of the Samaritans from the city coming toward them (v-30).  They wouldn’t be people to be slaughtered like Simeon & Levi did, nor as they came walking in the field they wouldn’t be a people to be massacred like Abimelech did (Judges 9:42-45) nor looked upon as people ready to be yoked and then whipped with scorpions like Rehoboam saw them (I Kings 12:14), but rather they were part of the spiritual harvest that Jesus saw when he viewed the people.  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of His own word.  Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’” (John 4:39-42).

We don’t know what was going on in the minds of His disciples as they lived among the Samaritans for two days, but we do know that after they received the Holy Spirit they grew to see things differently through the spirit of agape love which replaced their previous carnal prejudices.  It would take several years more before the gospel would finally go to Samaria when the brethren were scattered and Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans.  Peter and John went down to Samaria and laid hands on those Philip had baptized to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).  Perhaps this was done to make it easier for many of the converted Jews to accept their new Samaritan brethren.  In any case, Luke also records that Peter and John were “preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans” (v-25).  Though no specific places were named, I would like to think that they returned to Shechem to reap that harvest Jesus had told them about.  Perhaps a converted woman at the well told them about the private conversation she had with Jesus years earlier.  Maybe one of those villages where John preached was the same one he had years earlier wanted Jesus to call fire down from heaven and destroy.  We do know that John’s gospel account was the last one written and it was the only one recording what Jesus told this Samaritan woman from Shechem.  The Spirit of God moved John to record this important event in great detail for our edification.

How God Desires to be Worshipped

It was at this prominent location in Israel’s history that Jesus reveals some profound truths for those given eyes to see and ears to hear.  Jesus knew about all of the momentous events that had occurred at this location, from the promise given to Abraham to the dividing of Israel under Rehoboam, it was no ordinary place.  He and His disciples had just come from Judea.  John 4:6-26 reads, “Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well.  It was about the sixth hour.  A woman of Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’  For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.  Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’  The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.  Where then do You get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?’  Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’  The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’  Jesus 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 well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.’  The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  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’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”

Up to this point worshiping God had been done in two ways– in this mountain or that one.  Jerusalem had been the right one because salvation was from the Jews.  That’s where the Temple was and out of the line of Jesse the Branch would come (Isa. 11:1; see also Rom. 9:4-5).  However, the time was coming when “…he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men, but from God” (Rom. 2:29).  Jesus told the woman at the well, “now is” the time where that line of delineation between prescribing a certain place or manner has been replaced to one of worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth as He seeks.

The Temple, which was in Jerusalem, was just a copy or shadow of the true tabernacle in Heaven (Heb. 9:23-25).  Through Christ, we don’t look to a temple in Jerusalem or to a priest to connect us with God, but now have “… boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…” (Heb. 10:19-22).  We have Christ in us and through the Spirit we have that “fountain of water springing up into eternal life”.

God doesn’t want to be worshiped any way man seeks to worship Him.  He also doesn’t want a form of shadow worshiping with a new special location or house of prayer to learn proper Torah observance from a rabbi or someone called “Pastor Bob.”  This doesn’t mean as Christians He doesn’t want us to come together.  We are still to come together in fellowship to “…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (v-24-25).

The purpose of our fellowship is to stir up love and good works in one another and to exhort one another—including those brethren who are pastors and teachers.  We should never, however, fall into the trap of patterning our assemblies after old Protestant traditions which could be called “churchianity”.  In the Protestant Reformation they got rid of the statues and confessional booths, but kept the pews, the pulpits, the vaulted ceilings, the steeples, the sanctuary (sacred place) and many of the basic functions of the Roman Catholic Church.

Men will still today try to point others to a certain place and almost play the role of a priest or the holy man.  They will use semantics to make the church a building (which it is not), instead of the church being the saints or called out ones (you don’t go to church—you are the church).  Along the same lines people may ask you, “What church do you belong to?”  You don’t belong to a church.  You belong to Christ and are part of His Body, which is not the “corpus” of a corporation or an organization.

Following a non-biblical Catholic and Protestant tradition, men will call the portion of a building where they meet a “sanctuary” (oftentimes with an alter).  Paul never called any place, including Chloe’s house, a “sanctuary” (sacred place).  Our sanctuary is in Heaven where Christ is.   Jesus was telling the woman at the well that it’s not about this location or that one.  It’s about God our Father who doesn’t reside in buildings made by human hands (Acts 7:48).  It’s not about where you go, but who you are and as a new creature in Christ the growing relationship you have with Him.

Your access to God is also no longer through a priest at a sanctuary for if you are converted the Holy Spirit dwells within you.  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you (I Cor. 6:19).  People can subconsciously want to have a man play the role of a priest and have a holy place to go to so they can be closer to God.  It’s human nature to want to have God in a certain location along with a “holy man” who will link you with God.  This is why the European Cathedrals with their vaulted ceilings were built.  Also, many want to have a symbiotic relationship with a man who will validate their relationship with God.  Some may call him rabbi, master, father, reverend, pastor or Mr. Phil N. DeBlanc.  Many may subconsciously feel that if he likes them (or their fried chicken) then God must like them too.

God, our Father, doesn’t want that kind of relationship and those who are His true servants teaching their brethren wouldn’t steer them in that direction, but rather be examples in agape love to their fellow brethren.  In the Apostle’s day there was leadership with pastors and teachers whose faith was to be imitated and followed as they followed Christ (Heb. 13:7,17).   It was a good office of those wishing to serve Christ as an overseer/teacher and point their brethren by word and example to Him.  In Paul’s case, his desire was not for the brethren to have a dependence on himself, but on Christ alone and that they would obey God much more in his absence.  At a time of persecution and martyrdom, those God gave as overseers for the perfecting of the saints, wanted the brethren to be able to stand on their own with Christ as their guide.   Those today who are pastors and teachers need to avoid the culture of “churchianity” which often plays on the strong human desire for someone to play the role of the “holy man” or priest.  Pagan cultures feed on this human desire for a priest or shaman or holy man (a “go-between”) as a way to control people.  The Catholic Church from its early beginning first had individual bishops over cities and later had priests.  It created a clergy class who had special titles, who spoke Latin and were educated in all things theological so your worship of God was dependent on men.

Today, hundreds of years after the Protestant Reformation, the trappings of that culture still exist in many groups.  The church pastor is the professional you turn to, just like you would to your doctor or lawyer.  Nothing like what we have today existed under the leadership of Paul and the other Apostles.  There was no “house of prayer” or “sanctuary” (which are synonyms for the Temple) to worship God and no one playing a “holy man” or “sky pilot” role.  Ask yourself who was the bishop of Corinth?  Who was the bishop of Thessalonica or Philippi or Colosse or Rome?  We know they had bishops or pastors, but in his letters to the brethren why didn’t Paul point them to our equivalent of a “Pastor Bob”?  They had elders (plural) ordained in every city, but nobody playing a professional clergyman role as is done in most of churchianity today.  Paul told the Galatians, “Brethren, if any man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2).  “You who are spiritual” could have included older men or women or others familiar with the brother who could give spiritual guidance.  In other places Paul told the older women to teach the younger women to be chaste and everyone was to edify one another.  In all their writings the Apostles pointed the brethren to their dependence on Christ.  They didn’t promote a type of spectator Christianity or have elders given a special title “out of respect for the office” or “it’s endearing to call him ‘Pastor’” etc.

One of the reasons why Jesus told His disciples to call no man rabbi was because “you are all brethren” (Matt. 23:8).  Think about this: Every man of God in the Bible from Abel to John (the Apostle) was called the same way one would address his own physical brother.  Someone might have said, “Moses, would you please pass the water jug”.  “Elijah, do you think it will rain tomorrow?”  “Peter, are you packing an extra pair of sandals for your journey?”  We can make all kinds of excuses as to why we want to call an individual something other than what we would call our own physical brother, but it’s part of churchianty’s traditions of men and it fosters a clergy/laity divide that Christ never wanted.

God desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth in a relationship that transcends all religious human trappings.  God is our Father.  He is not in a box, on a mountain or a place where your access to Him is through another human being.  He is not someone we draw near to once a week at the sanctuary or on a holy day in a pilgrimage festival.  Emanuel, God with us, is here.  Every day He sees you, He loves you and He watches over you.  The very hairs on your head are numbered and He provides for you.  He leads you and He teaches you as He instructed any father to do each day “…when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7).   He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth—not in any way you see fit or in a Hebraic shadow form or in the form that makes up much of orthodox Christianity today.

Jesus told the woman at the well about a “fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13).  If the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you, then you have that fountain of living water and can say as Paul did, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).   We belong to Christ and hear His voice.  Through Him we can worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

There are times when we as Christians, because of a pandemic or a natural disaster or even a personal tragedy in our lives, are temporarily unable to assemble together.  Through no fault of our own we may sometime need to “shelter in place.”  We can still worship our Father in spirit and in truth.  It’s what Paul did when on perilous journeys by sea and because of his imprisonment in Rome, he was unable to visit the churches.  We know from the letters he wrote that he spent a lot of time in prayer and was close to God.  He occasionally had brethren and fellow workers visit him there in prison, but much of his time was spent alone with God.  He also very much looked forward to once again being with the brethren in Corinth, Thessalonica and other cities, just like whenever we are temporarily unable to physically join in fellowship, we too can look forward to being together again.  In the meantime, Paul drew close to God, probably much the same way on the Sabbath as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and even a Christian farmer living 50 miles outside of Ephesus did.

For me personally, there have been many years where my primary source of a “Sabbath service” has been with my wife and a friend reading our Bibles or since 2017, after my wife and that friend died, I found myself tuning into services online.  Even online we can worship the Father in spirit and in truth, although it is best, when available to be with other believers.   I also later started attending with an independent group that, because of distance, only met on the third Sabbath of each month and I often attended with a local Church of God, International (CGI) group.  I frequently traveled to Southern California where my aging mother lived and I attended services there with brethren in various groups on the Sabbath and Holy Days.  In 2021 I fell in love with and married my wonderful wife, Kerry, a widow who is a long time member of the United Church of God (UCG) so I’m attending there more frequently, but will still occasionally meet with other groups.

Ever since early 1995, when I realized my ministry to God’s people was best served as an independent minister outside of corporate boundaries, I’ve visited many congregations, occasionally giving sermons as a guest speaker, and I’ve been concentrating more on writing articles such as are seen on this website.  Over the years wherever I go, in all of the independent churches of God and in the various corporate churches of God, I found brethren who love God.  We can all worship our Father in spirit and in truth wherever we are.  It’s not limited to only one particular group.  Any boundaries that exist between brethren in the various congregations which keep them apart are only artificial ones.  Sadly, many brethren only see one another at weddings and funerals.  My purpose in writing these articles and in my fellowship in all of the churches of God is to point brethren to Jesus Christ, to love one another and get back to the faith once delivered to the saints.  Worshipping God in spirit and in truth isn’t dependent on where you fellowship, but on who you are (oil in your lamp).

Ever since I was called as a young teenager in 1962, I’ve seen many pastors come and go, but as locations and various groups have come & gone, besides the enduring friendships I’ve developed with many brethren, one thing remains constant–the relationship I have with my Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.  I know that no matter what comes my way, nothing can separate me from their love for me and the same is true for all of us who believe in Him.

What Jesus told the woman at the well about worshiping the Father, wherever we are, in spirit and in truth is relevant for all of us who are Christians at all times.  It’s a timeless message that was given from Shechem.

There have been many other messages over the millennia given from Shechem about repentance and believing God’s promises.  By having Christ in you, by His Spirit, we’ve been sanctified and we are unleavened (I Cor. 5:7).  We eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (v-8).  Thousands of years ago Joshua addressed the nation of Israel at Shechem and he called on physical Israel to repent and “serve Him in sincerity and truth” (Josh. 24:14).  Such is the call for us to do the same.  This has always been the end result that God desires.  “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).  They say that “home is where the heart is.”  Our true home is up above and every day in Christ Jesus as we sojourn in this human flesh we can worship our Father in spirit and in truth.  This is the desire of our God who truly loves us.

Written by Lee Lisman