Devotional Thoughts for Today
2 Kings 17: 27-33 (NIV)
27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the Lord.
29 Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. 30 The people from Babylon made Sukkoth Benoth, those from Kuthah made Nergal, and those from Hamath made Ashima; 31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.
In our passage this morning, we are introduced to a subtle form of idolatry known as religious syncretism. Simply put, this involves the combining of Christian worship with the practice of idolatry. This is actually a common issue among many believers from different cultures who would consider themselves to be Christians but still hold onto their ties to practices such as ancestral worship, fortune telling, and astrological readings.
However, this sin of religious syncretism is not tied just to those who have a hard time shedding the influence of false religions; it happens anytime we struggle with idolatry. Today we see this syncretistic worship of God in many different Christian movements such as those who believe in the prosperity gospel. Within this movement, the general theological premise is that God wants all of his people to experience abundant financial wealth and perfect health. It’s clear to see how the idol of money and comfort has been blended together with Christianity to give this deceptive view of faith. Many of these churches are growing and flourishing because this is what people want to hear. We naturally want to hear that God wants us to be rich and live in comfort but this is clearly a dangerous deception clothed in religion syncretism.
In the broadest definition, idolatry is simply anything you worship, even if you love it less than God. Many times when people commit adultery, it’s not because they have stopped loving their spouses; it’s because they’ve learned to love someone else. But when confronted with the decision to leave their wives or husbands for their mistresses, they won’t leave them. This was the case with Israel. They knew who their God was and they would never openly reject him but their sin was that they allowed the philosophies and religious practices of the world around them to corrupt the true worship of God. Just as an affair corrupts the sanctity of marriage, our love for the world corrupts our love for God and taints our worship of Him.
Lord, give me an undivided heart and a desire to keep my worship pure. Help me to see the areas where I have allowed the world to influence the way I think about my faith and to discern what is true versus what is false. May my life be a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice in your sight.
Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 24
Lunch Break Study
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Questions to Consider:
- What was wrong with the Samaritan woman’s view of worship?
- What kind of worshippers is God seeking?
- How do we become the type of worshippers that God desires?
- The Samaritan women viewed the worship of God as being fixed to a certain location— in this case a certain mountain. This was undoubtedly something that had crept into her understanding of God from the worship of idols in the Samaritan culture.
- The Father seeks worshippers who worship in spirit and truth. This represents a worship that is authentic and from the heart but also based on the truth of who God is. This is worship that is pure in the eyes of God.
- The only way to worship the Father in spirit and truth is to center our worship on the person of Christ, his life, death, and resurrection and to be led by the Holy Spirit. This worship can take place only in and through him: he is the true temple and he is the resurrection and the life. The passion and exaltation of Jesus constitute the turning point upon which the gift of the Holy Spirit depends.
The Samaritan woman was stuck on where the proper place of worship should be. For the Jews and Samaritans, this was no small matter. The locus of worship was everything to them because the acceptability of their sacrifices was thought to be dependent on where it was given. I think it’s easy to misread the answer that Jesus gives to this debate because we assume that He would say that you can worship anywhere and everywhere. It’s absolutely true that we can worship in our cars, in our office cubicles, in the shower, but this isn’t what Jesus is saying—otherwise he would have told the woman, “An hour is coming when you will worship the Father both on this mountain and in Jerusalem,” but He doesn’t say that. What he does say is that you will worship neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Jesus is essentially changing the locus of worship. Jesus is pointing the woman to the fact that acceptable worship isn’t focused on this mountain or the other mountain, but the new focus of worship would be on a small, insignificant hill, where His cross would be raised. Have you worshipped at the foot of the cross lately? Is Christ, the center of all your worship?