Monday, January 20, 2014

Sychar Sympathies

I’ve taken to sticking my nose into Scripture during those early morning hours when I’m lying awake. 

Rather than trying to read a large portion I’m using this time to concentrate on a chapter or section. I’ve moved from Jeremiah 52 into the gospel of John.

This morning in Chapter 4 I followed Jesus into Sychar, a city in Samaria.

For the first time ever I walked over and sat down in the dust near Jacob’s Well. It was a  time of intimacy as I did my best to get to know the Samaritan woman. It was easy enough to identify with her in terms of my past transgressions and current struggles with sin - on different issues but none the less real. 

First, it surprised me that Jacob gave his son Joseph a well situated in Samaria. Guess my biblical history is weak. Anyway, it was clear that Sami* was ahead of me. She knew the well was a gift from Jacob and that it had been used by generations of family and herds. She was even aware that Jacob was a man of high standing before God. (v. 12) 

Sami had a lot of other details informing her interactions with the stranger. For one thing she knew about local customs. When Jesus asked her for a drink she pointed out how odd it was for a Jew to even talk to a Samaritan, never mind ask her for a drink. (v. 9) She sounded a lot like me when I get confused. I attempt to find my balance by mentally reviewing familiar facts, habits or routines.

When Jesus spoke about being able to provide her with living water Sami’s common sense appeared. She pointed out the impracticality of Jesus’ suggestion that He could collect water of any kind from a deep well without a jar or bucket. (v. 11) If she was anything like me, Sami was beginning to feel the pressure of a situation she might not be able to handle. I know I often find it helpful to bolster my confidence by stating an obvious fact or two that others seem to be overlooking.

Jesus went on to explain the total thirst-quenching advantage of the water He had to offer. It seems Sami finally began to catch the significance of His words. She ran their meaning through the same common sense filter. Her request for some of His special water had a practical basis. She'd be able to avoid thirst and stop making trips to the well. (vv. 15-16)

Now that Christ had Sami’s attention He opened the crucial subject, her marital status. Perhaps like me she was caught off guard and simply blurted out the truth. Whatever was behind her candid statement Christ drew her out with the truth about her circumstances. (vv. 17-18) I felt a kinship with Sami as she responded out of the logical mindset given to her by the Father.

Sami must have figured out Jesus was right up there above Jacob because she refers to Him as a “prophet”. Then she goes on to lay out an apparent contradiction about the proper place to worship, the mountain or Jerusalem. (vv. 19-20) It’s the kind of question I often come up with as I meditate on Scripture. For example, since God attends every detail, what’s the significance of the particular well where this conversation is taking place, a gift from Jacob to Joseph?

Jesus continues the discussion by pointing out that neither the mountain nor Jerusalem are appropriate sites for worship any longer. He explains that true worship of God must be done in spirit and in truth because God is a spirit. Sami responds by pulling together the fresh evidence she's gained and combining it with her own personal understanding, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  (v. 25) 

Right about then the disciples returned, surprised that Jesus is talking with a woman. 

Sami rushed off to the village, leaving her jar behind. She alerted those she met by sharing what was most significant to her, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (v. 29) For me this scene solidifies my connection with Sami. 

She had gathered a body of knowledge about Jacob, the Jewish God, proper worship, prophets, the coming Messiah, and likely other related topics. She brought all of that information to bear on the conversation she was having with a stranger at the well. She connected the explanations Jesus had about living water, her husbands/non-husband situation, clarification of proper worship, and most likely Christ’s declaration when she mentioned the coming Messiah, “I who speak to you am he.”  (v. 26) 

Her testimony about Christ knowing everything about her convinced “many of the Samaritans” of His divine identity. They pleaded with Jesus to stay with them and His words led “many more” to accept that He was indeed the “Savior of the world” (vv. 39-42) This bountiful result makes me smile and gives me confidence. 

You see, I recognize how God used Sami’s persistent application of the gifts He gave her in logical deduction to draw her into His Truth. That means that He can and probably does do the same for me. It doesn’t look like something other-worldly or a bunch of hocus-pocus. The Father works within me to illuminate my mind and spirit and guide me in His ways. 

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:13

The great I AM began His work when He put my name in the Book of Life before the creation of the world.

The LORD continues His mastery over my days since He created me in my mother’s womb.

The Savior will call me home on my pre-arranged graduation day. Hallelujah!!

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
you eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:13-16

*her name is my invention

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