“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Waiting by the Well, by Randall D. Kittle

In the fourth chapter of John we find the story of Jesus as He meets the Samaritan woman by the well at Sychar. It was customary to draw water twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, for these were the coolest times. This Samaritan woman, however, came to the well at noon—in the very heat of the day — in order to avoid meeting others because of her shameful reputation:
“you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband.” Imagine how she felt as she walked alone down the road toward the well, only to look ahead and see a man, unknown and dusty, sitting by the well in the heat of the day. Divine Providence had brought about those events that, though they seemed strange and accidental, would forever change her life. This was no accidental or chance encounter. Jesus, though weary, was waiting by the well, wanting not so much to be refreshed as to bring refreshment and restoration to this Samaritan woman.

Despised Samaritans
To the culture of His day, it would have been nearly miraculous (if not heretical) for Jesus to even be in Samaria. It was the custom for Jews traveling from Judea to Galilee to detour from the most direct route, cross over the Jordan River, and travel on the other side, in order to avoid having to travel through Samaria. If most Jews would not even walk through Samaria, what would they think of Jesus stopping and talking to a Samaritan woman? Let me state the answer plainly; no respectable Jewish man would have spoken with this Samaritan woman. The Jews hated the Samaritans and considered them their enemies. It should also be noted that a rabbi was not allowed to converse with a woman in public nor instruct her in the law. Moreover, since the Jews held that all Samaritans were “unclean,” a Jew would be ceremonially unclean if he used a drinking vessel handed him by a Samaritan. Rabbi Tanchum put it this way,
“No Israelite would eat of any thing that is a Samaritan’s, for it is as if he should eat swine’s flesh.”

Jesus came to proclaim the good news of the gospel to
“Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” To reach this despised and rejected one with the good news, Jesus had to overcome these barriers: the barrier of cultural stigmas, the barrier of Pharisaical legalism, and the barrier of religious traditions. These barriers stood as mountains of separation between the Jew and the Samaritan. Jesus easily overcame these barriers, for He is the One who has “overcome the world.”

All who saw Jesus sharing with this woman would have responded like the disciples,
“they marveled that He talked with a woman.” To truly understand the depths of this “sermon to the eyes” which Jesus gave us as He shared with the woman at the well, we need to first understand the depth of the separation between the Samaritans and the Jews, and what the Samaritans represented to Israel.

The roots of Samaritanism really started with Jeroboam, the first king of Israel after Israel became the Northern Kingdom. Wanting to wean Israel from the “habit” of worshiping at Jerusalem, Jeroboam installed golden calves in convenient places for the people to worship. Hence the heresy of Samaritanism grew from this root: picking out what is convenient, what we like to worship, and rejecting what we do not like. From its inception Samaritanism was a covenant of convenience.

After the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria, many Jews were deported and foreigners were brought in to settle the land and keep the peace. These newcomers intermarried with the Jews who remained in Samaria. However,
“they did not fear the Lord, and the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them” (2 Kings 17:25). In despair they sent to Assyria for “one of the priests” who would “teach them the rituals of the God of the land” (2 Kings 17:27). After that, the Samaritans worshiped the God of Israel, but they also continued the idolatry of worshiping the pagan gods they had imported from their foreign lands. So the Samaritans were rightly considered by the Jews to be a “mixed race,” contaminated by both foreign blood and false worship.

Today’s Samaria
The Samaritan religion is all but extinct upon the earth in this day. There are two small settlements in Israel, and that is all that remains of these errant people. Or is it? It is with sadness I report to you that the Samaritan religion is alive and well and growing in America. It is not growing
as a church, but in the Church! Just as the Samaritans were really nothing more than a cheap imitation of what the Lord had called Israel to, there is a Samaritan spirit that has captured the heart of many in the Church. Instead of embracing the fullness of what the Church is called to, they embrace a convenient, superficial imitation.

The Samaritans, in name, worshiped the same God as Israel, but they had remnants of the old ancient religions that had been brought with them from foreign lands. They feared the Lord, but also worshiped other gods. Their worship of God was based on the fear of the Lord, not love for the Lord. They had taken their worldly ways, and brought them into Israel. How true this is for many in the Church. Although they may spend most of their hours at the church, their hearts are “of the world, but not in it.” Their emotions, their desires, and their passions rest with the things of the world. They have become spiritually intermarried with the world!

The Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, but rejected the books of the prophets. There are those within the Church who follow after these Samaritan ways. They accept certain parts of the Bible, but reject others. Perhaps they don’t really reject it; they just neglect it! They want the healing — but not the humility. They want the power — but not the purification. They want divine intervention — but without desperate intercession. They pick and choose what they will accept and believe, like they’re eating at a smorgasbord. Beloved, if you are making a recipe and you only add the ingredients that you really like, it’s not going to turn out right. We must have all that God has given — the fullness of all He has revealed!

In John 4:12 the Samaritan woman smugly asks Jesus,
“Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” This voice speaking through her is the very spirit of Samaritanism. Holding on to these tired traditions held this woman back and hindered her ability to see the Lord. Because of her over-fond veneration for these traditions, she unknowingly put a patriarch of the faith above the very Christ of God. Many believers blindly follow the convenient trappings of tradition. We should have a great appreciation for the past, for those who have pioneered the way before us; however, when we know our church doctrine better than the Bible or know the founding fathers of the faith better than we know our heavenly Father, we are being trapped by convenient and familiar traditions.

Jesus said of the Samaritans,
“You worship what you do not know” (John 4:22). Their religion was founded primarily on the proper Jewish foundation — they had the Ten Commandments, celebrated the feasts, etc. — but they did not really know God. You can know someone you do not love, but it is very hard to love someone you do not know. God had not selected them to be His people, they had elected Him to be their God — out of fear.

A. W. Tozer tells a story of visiting an old, old church in Mexico. As he walked in, he discovered that the church had no floor at all except for the ground itself. As he looked around at the statues and carvings, he noticed an elderly Mexican woman who entered the building carrying a small shopping bag. Without even noticing that anyone else was present, she walked straight down to the altar area. She knelt in front of a statue of the virgin Mary and looked up into the facial features of that inanimate statue with deep devotion, deep yearning, and deep desire. There was no doubt that she was having a genuine experience of worship — she was not pretending. But her worship was being poured out on a lifeless statue, which was only the work of human hands. Tozer’s conclusion:
“That is the kind of spiritual longing and desire that I would like to see turned to the Lord Himself!” How many in the Church have poured their desire, their devotion, and their longing in worship unto the Lord? Are we worshiping the infinite Triune God of the universe, or are we worshiping our church, our pastor, our ministry, or our worship? We should long to worship Him, yet we must also long to know Him. The Lord wants us to hunger and thirst for Him. Jesus longs for His bride to come and meet with Him.

A Meeting Place
In the culture and customs of the Bible, young men who wished to marry would often go to the wells where young women were accustomed to coming and drawing water. It was a meeting place where young women went hoping to draw more than just water, and where many a bridegroom went to find his bride.

Abraham’s servant was sent to a well to find a wife for his master’s son Isaac. It was while coming to draw water from the well that Rebekah met Abraham’s servant.
“Behold, I stand here by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. … And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder” (Genesis 24:13–16). It was also at a well that Jacob met Rachel. “‘Water the sheep and go feed them.’ But they said, ‘We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.’ Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess” (Genesis 29:7–9). Moses, too, met his wife at a well when the daughters of Jethro came to water their flock. “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water … but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. … and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses” (Exodus 2:16–21). Rebekah, Rachel, and Zipporah, all met with good husbands; Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, as a result of coming to the wells for water.

Waiting By The Well
I believe that once again, Jesus is waiting by the well offering the living water of His presence — a fountain of water that will never run dry. He is wanting to bring refreshment and restoration, but now, like Moses, Isaac, and Jacob, He is waiting for His bride. The Lord gave me a vision that relates to this. In this vision, I saw a man who appeared weary and somewhat dusty, sitting on a stone wall. This stone wall surrounded and protected the opening to a well. Although in the distance you could see nothing but dry sand, all around the well there were plants and trees that were lush and green and full of life. As he sat there in the very heat of the day with the sunlight beating down upon him, he looked up and said, “I am waiting for my promised one to return to the well. In her youth she followed me to this place and found refreshment. But now, she has wandered out into the desert far from this oasis I have provided for her. She will return, for without water there is no life.”

The great and true Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, is now waiting by the well, longing to meet with the one whom He loves. His heart is fond toward her,
“I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2). Nevertheless, Jesus knows that we have wandered out into the desert and left our first love. He waits by the well knowing all else is a desert, so we must return.

I believe the Samaritan woman in the fourth chapter of the book of John is a prophetic picture of much of the Church in this day. In her shame and hardness she came to the well, but Jesus was there, waiting and wanting to give her living water. She came bound by traditions, and Jesus told her that the answer to her tired traditions was the Holy Spirit as a fountain within. As their conversation developed
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet’” (John 4:19). God sends the prophetic to convict and purify our hearts. In the past decade, He has been restoring the prophetic to His Church for this very purpose. As she spent time with Jesus, and opened her life to Him, the Samaritan woman went from shameful and hardened to open, honest, and seeking. We know God is a rewarder of those who honestly and diligently seek after Him. And so, He delights to give great revelation to those who are open and come to Him in humility. “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He” (John 4:25–26). This was the only occasion before his trial on which Jesus specifically said that He was the Messiah. Christ never made Himself known so expressly to any other as He did here to this poor, Samaritan woman. Not to the Pharisees, when they challenged Him to tell them whether He was the Christ. Not even to John Baptist, when he sent his disciple to Jesus to inquire. Jesus put this honor upon one who was poor and despised, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).

Jesus Christ our Bridegroom is waiting by the well, waiting and wanting to give us the living water we so desperately need. We are His bride whom He loves with an unfailing love. He has seen our shame and hardheartedness, and so has been sending His spirit of prophecy that we might repent of our Samaritan ways. If we will cast off our old traditions that entrap us and confess our desire to have it our own, convenient way, He will give us His living water and give us revelation beyond what we would even have asked for. Most importantly He will reveal Himself to us so that we can love Him as a bride should love her Bridegroom.

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