“You worship what you do not know” John 4:22a
by Steven Chan
Man seeks to worship higher or more powerful beings. The problem is that many do not know who or what they ought to worship.
- Paul came across the Athenians and he said to them: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23)
So we see today many worshipping all forms of deities.
- When Jesus met the woman of Samaria, He said to her:
“You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.
a. In contrast with the Samaritans who worshipped without knowing what they worshipped, Jesus said that the Jews knew their worship – in the sense that they knew what God the Father had revealed to them through the prophets as to how He was to be worshipped: “for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” – i.e. that those who worship Him MUST worship in spirit and truth.
b. In reply to the woman’s remark that she expected revelation on “all things” such as how one ought to worship from the anticipated arrival of the Messiah, Jesus declared to her: “I who speak to you am He.” Jesus declared that He was the Messiah. While Moses gave the Law, Jesus came to reveal “grace and truth” (John 1:17; 17:8,17). So, Jesus has come to reveal how we ought to worship God the Father.
c. Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman that “salvation is from the Jews”: It is through the Jews (the descendants of Abraham) that salvation will be revealed.
This is consistent with the promise made to Abraham: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:18) Paul declared this promise to Abraham fulfilled in Christ: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham…Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ” (Gal 3:8-9,16)
God’s plan of redemption first intimated in Gen 3:15 was declared to Abraham in Gen 12:3 and fulfilled in Christ – as explained by the apostle Paul in Gal 3 & 4.
- The tragedy is that although many acknowledge God, they still seek to worship idols! Such were the Samaritans, the occupiers of Samaria after the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom had been taken away into exile in Nineveh:-
“They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. 34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, 35 with whom the Lord had made a covenant and charged them, saying: “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; 36 but the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice.” (2 Kings 17:33-36)
So today, we see many declaring their faith in Jesus Christ but nonetheless still seeking to rely on feng-shui (a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment, closely linked with Taoism) and in various superstitions.
- We need to realize the folly of “being God-fearing and yet seeking blessings or rewards from other powers”. Those who partake of foods offered to idols believe that they would be blessed. That’s one reason for believers in Christ to be careful and not be misunderstood as participating in such rituals in order to obtain blessings from the idols (1 Cor 8 & 10).
- Do we know who we worship? God revealed Himself to us through His inspired Word by His prophets that He is our Creator who loves us all and seeks to bless us but at the same time warning us of the consequences of disrespecting Him (Acts 17:22-31; Rom 11:22; 1 Pet 3:9).
When we know WHO we worship then we MUST worship Him in a manner that is acceptable to Him. We do not have the freedom from God to worship Him anyhow.
Jesus said: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).
Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God (Gen 4:1-7). But God did not accept Cain’s offerings. Instead of changing what he offered or how he offered in worship to God, Cain got upset. God asked Cain: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” God told Cain to re-consider his actions as to whether what/how he had offered to God was “well-pleasing” to God. The primary consideration ought to be what pleases God and not one’s own good intentions. Cain might have good intentions but while that was necessary it was not sufficient. God explained that “by faith, Abel offered a better offering” (Heb 11:4). We know that faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom 10:17). Let’s learn to know God and be guided by His Word (2 Tim 3:15-17).
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