The Samaritan Woman & Sychar
In John 4:1-38 Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar (in Old Testament times Sychar was known as Shechem. Today it is the West Bank town of Nablus).
Picture of a Samaritan woman in Nablus taken between 1900-1920.
(Photo Source: Todd Bolen, The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection CD, vol. 8, “Samaritans,” slide 11).
A 1900’s picture of a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
(This picture and the next two are from: Traveling in the Holy Land Through the Stereoscope: A Tour Personally Conducted by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, New York, NY: Underwood & Underwood, 1900. This book is in Logos Bible Software 4).
A 1900′s picture of the steps leading to Jacob’s Well (foreground) and Mt. Gerizim (background).
A 1900′s picture of women holding water jars at Jacob’s Well in Sychar.
In John 4:23-24 (NIV) Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
True worship was the issue Jesus was addressing at this point in His conversation with the Samaritan woman. The Samaritans thought they were worshipping God correctly, but Jesus said they were not. Instead of worshipping God in Jerusalem (like God had said), they had decided they knew better than God and had changed the place of worship from Jerusalem to Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. The Samaritans were deceived. Although they thought they were worshipping God correctly, they weren’t.
Is it possible we are worshipping God incorrectly?
To find out, let’s examine Jesus’ statements more closely. Ron Moe, (Pastor Rick’s older brother), is a linguist with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and as a linguist he researched the word “worship” in this passage. He writes:
“There is a word in Greek, proskuneo, and it is translated in a lot of our English translations with the word ‘worship,’ but it doesn’t really mean that—[at least not the way we usually use the word 'worship'].
“The problem with this word is it describes what you would do when you come into the presence of a king. Well, we don’t have kings, so we are kind of missing this whole concept. What you did in the ancient Middle East would be—you would enter the presence of the king; you would get down on your knees and put your forehead on the ground. That action is proskuneo. What you are doing is, you are actually telling the king that for one thing, you are in his presence, but you are also submitting to his authority. You are saying, ‘You are my king, and I am acknowledging you as my king.’ It is what we would call a ‘protocol word’—the protocol you would have to go through to enter the presence of the king.
“So who would you do this to? In the New Testament you would do it to the king, and you would also do it to God. Why? Well, because God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So when you use that word proskuneo in the New Testament in the relationship of a person to God, what it’s actually meaning is, ‘I am acknowledging God as my King.’
“Jesus said to the woman at the well, ‘What the Father is really looking for is a people who will proskuneo—who will bow to Him—in their spirit and in truth.’ Now this woman had been worshipping. She had been going to the [Samaritan] temple, but she didn’t really mean it. She was actually in rebellion against God’s laws, so what Jesus was saying to her was what the Father was really interested in is people who will acknowledge Him as King and really mean it. So it is not just an outward form, but it is something that is really going on in their heart. That’s what He was saying the Father was really interested in.
“In English I would translate proskuneo with a phrase: ‘to bow in submission.’ In the context, you could shorten that to ‘bow.’ Jesus uses this word proskuneo quite a few times talking with the Samaritan woman, so at least the first time I would have to translate it ‘bow in submission.’” (Ron Moe, Radio interview by Arthur Lightbody, broadcast date December 7, 2008, JAARS—Speeding the Word, website: http://www.jaars.org/multimedia/speedingtheword?page=26, accessed: May 6, 2011).
The Samaritan woman thought she was “worshipping” God, but she wasn’t bowing to Him, acknowledging Him as king, and obeying what He told her to do. One of the things God had told people was to “worship” Him in Jerusalem. It wasn’t right for the Samaritans to change the place of worship to Mt. Gerizim. By doing so, they weren’t bowing to God as their king—the One who had the right to decide where His temple would be located. They had decided for the king where He was to be worshipped. In essence, they had usurped the king by telling the king what to do. It is not for us to determine how we want to worship God, it’s up to God to determine how He wants to be worshipped, and for us to worship Him in exactly that way. After all, He’s God, not us.
Another way the Samaritan woman wasn’t acknowledging God as her king (and obeying him) was in the area of her relationships. In verses 17-18, “Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’” God’s pattern for mankind is one man and one woman for life. Yes, God allows for divorce, (actually He only regulates it so it doesn’t get out of hand and cause more sin), but divorce, remarriage, divorce, remarriage, etc., is not the pattern He wants us to follow. So for this woman to have had six “husbands,” meant she wasn’t obeying God in this area of her life. She said she was “worshipping” God, but she wasn’t bowing to Him as her king and obeying what the king of kings said for her to do.
Do we do the same thing? Of course, because we all sin. We know what God wants us to do, choose not to do it, then go to church and think we are “worshipping” God. Some people have also done what the Samaritans had done—determine for themselves how to worship God. The Mormons have done this by redefining who Jesus is (the Mormon doctrine states he is the brother of Lucifer, a doctrine which is in direct opposition to what the Bible says—see below for documentation*), and then they worship their Jesus who isn’t the real Jesus.
If someone says Pastor Rick Moe was born in Brentwood, California, they are talking about a person who doesn’t exist, because he was born in Tokyo, Japan. Similarly, if someone says Jesus is Lucifer’s brother, they are worshipping a Jesus who doesn’t exist. That’s similar to what the Samaritan’s did in determining a false place of worship and then worshipping there. They might be worshipping, but it’s not the true and living God they are worshipping because He only accepted worship in Jerusalem. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in verse 22, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” In other words, the Samaritans did not have “salvation.” They were lost from God, in part because they were worshipping God in a way He didn’t accept, and they didn’t even know it.
Jesus said in verses 23-24, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers [those who truly bow in submission] will worship the Father in spirit [in their internal being, not in a specific external place like Jerusalem] and truth [in the way God wants to be worshipped and obeying God by following what He has said in the Bible], for they are the kind of worshipers [those who bow to the king] the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Mormon doctrine says Jesus was born and is the spirit-brother of Lucifer:
- “The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of Mankind.” (Milton R. Hunter, Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15).
- “Christ, the Firstborn, was the mightiest of all the spirit children of the Father.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 590).
- “The devil is a spirit son of God who was born in the morning of pre-existence.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 192).
Yet, Mormon scripture contradicts their doctrine and says Jesus is God:
- “And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth—” (Mosiah 7:27).
- “Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes; I am th esame which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.” (Doctrines and Covenants, 38:1-3).
The Bible clearlly teaches Jesus is God, and calls Him “God”:
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:1-2, 14, 18. The “Word” in verse one is a reference to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, as is clear from the context).
- “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20-23).
- “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28).
- “Theirs [the Israelites] are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (Romans 9:5).
- “…while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ….” (Titus 2:13).
- “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.’ But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” (Hebrews 1:6-8).
- “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours….” (2 Peter 1:1).
- “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20).