You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. John 4:22-23
Do we ever think of God actually looking for something, of him seeking? It’s not a picture we contemplate frequently. The illustration that best conveys it I think is in this verse, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (II Chronicles 16:9) God’s eyes are actively searching, looking at each person all over the world.
And today’s red letter passage says that one thing God is looking for is people who will worship him in spirit and truth. Jesus is saying that all through the ages, God has wanted this, and now the time has come when it can come to fruition in a greater way than ever before.
What does it mean to worship in spirit? On one hand, it means worshipping with the Spirit that is in us. In Ephesians 5:12, we are told to sing and make music to God in our hearts right after we are told to be filled with the Spirit.
On the other hand, it means worshipping with our spirit. What is our spirit? I love this definition that was in one of the commentaries on this passage: “Our spirit is the part of us that was made in the image of God. It is the place where we were made to commune with God.” (Ellicott’s Commentary)
Our spirit is the part of us that longs to be connected with the Creator. It’s the part of us that can’t deny that there’s something greater, the part that longs for meaning. It sees the splendor of nature and looks for the divine.
Worshipping with our spirit is the act of reaching out with all that is in us towards the Lord. And as we do, we connect, and feel that we are finally where we’re supposed to be. It reminds me of the verse in I Peter 2:25, “For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
In a very real way, since the days of Adam and Eve, our spirits have been wandering. But now we can find the lovely comfort of being in our Father’s presence, right where we’ve always belonged.
And then what does it mean to worship in truth? I think we have to look at the beginning of today’s passage, where it says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan woman, and he was reminding her that the Jews had the truth. As they went their own way, the Samaritans had fallen into doctrinal error.
Jesus was saying that God’s eyes are ranging over the earth, looking for those who will reach out wholeheartedly to connect with him, and also act wholeheartedly according to his word.
The woman at the well is thirsty, both physically and spiritually, and Jesus is saying that God is looking for those who are thirsty.
More than that, he’s saying that the only way to truly quench the thirst is to do it God’s way. Going our own way will never satisfy.
Yesterday, my friend Marge and I studied the Bible with a young woman. What was so encouraging about the study was that we had a deep talk together. We talked about our marriages. We were real about our bad attitudes that messed us up. It felt so healing to recognize the inner gunk, and work towards making it better.
How often are we real about what’s going on inside? That’s the way to find depth of our inner thirst.
Then our spirit can reach out for the water that will satisfy. As we connect, our spirits will soar more and more away from the inner gunk of life.
And we will recognize that our own best efforts have messed us up.
We will realize, as never before, that we want to worship in spirit and in truth.
God’s eyes searches because he wants to bring us back to himself, where we belong. He is completely happy to have us with him. We are completely happy to be there.