“Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” John 4:21
The book of Exodus has pages and pages of instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the place where God would reside, and the Israelites would come to be with him. It wasn’t just something slapped together. Every detail was carefully planned and executed.
Later in history, the Israelites would build a more permanent dwelling for God — the temple. This would be even more elaborate and detailed.
From looking at the tabernacle and the temple, we can see that having a physical place where people could go to be with God was a huge deal.
To the Jews, the location of the temple was also important. It was in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. The last temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but modern Jews still consider the area of Mount Moriah, the temple mount, to be sacred. At this point, a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, is built on its location. Jews are allowed to visit certain parts of the area, although some traditional Jews will not walk on the temple mount, because they don’t want to unintentially enter the holiest of holies.
But Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, who worshipped God, not in Jerusalem, but at Mount Gerizim. Why the difference in places of worship? When the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BC, some of the Israelites were taken away into captivity, and some stayed behind. Those who stayed intermarried with Gentiles, and produced a new race of people: the Samaritans. Samaritans believe that the true place to worship God is not Jerusalem, but on Mount Garizim, where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac. This has been such a strong point of contention that if a Samaritan converts to Judaism, they can be required to refute Mount Garizim as the center of worship.
So we can see why it was such an epic statement that Jesus said that the time was coming when the center of worship would be neither in Samaria, nor in Jerusalem. Everyone was extremely focused on where they could go to be in God’s presence. And Jesus was saying that they wouldn’t have to go to one place or another any longer.
He was saying that they would have the Spirit, and God would actually reside with them.
That is incredible. If it meant a lot to the Jews and the Samaritans to have a place to physically be with God, how much more can it mean to us today to carry this place around with us?
It can make all the difference in our lives.
I love this passage David Takle wrote in “Forming: A Work of Grace,” “My first step in being connected to God is to believe with all my heart that He really is as close as my next breath, that He permeates the membranes of my body and exists in and between every cell of every part of me.”
It’s so true. We need God’s presence. Realizing that we have it is the first step in connecting with him on a deeper level.
I’ve been having trouble lately with waking up in the middle of the night and feeling very negative. I can’t seem to find even one positive thought. God’s love seems so unreal. After studying out today’s passage, I began to just try to believe that God is with me in these dark times. I found that I could do that, and it helped. Then, I could remember that it makes God’s heart happy to be with me, and that he was genuinely concerned about the struggle I was going through. I prayed that he would show me a way to get back to sleep, and he did.
Being in God’s presence is the foundation of everything we need as a Christian.
This past weekend, I worshipped at the North River Church of Christ in Atlanta and our old friend Travis Hawkins was preaching. He reminded us of how Moses said to God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Ex 33:15
How can we go out or do anything without God? Whatever we’re going through spiritually, the starting place is to believe that he is truly with us.
Today, let’s all make the belief that God is with us our lifeline.
It was vital to the Jews. It was vital to the Samaritans. It is vital to us.