The Samaritan Lady And The Salvation Army Guy

by:  Lonnie Lane

A question come to me in an email:  “Why did Jesus go to the Samaritan woman when she wasn’t even Jewish and He only went to Jewish people?”  Before I go into the answer to that question, I want to state that Yeshua going to the Samaritan woman is a deeply relevant issue for us today and could have bearing on what might just become a distinguishing characteristic for us as followers of Yeshua; more on that later. But first: on to the question, and some history to go with it. Yeshua did say He was only sent by His Father to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and yet He went quite out of His way to be at the well at the exact time the lady from Samaria was going for her water. This certainly was not an accident. Yeshua never had any accidents.

Since He only did what His Father sent Him to do, the Father evidently knew the longing of this woman’s heart to know the true God and He sent Yeshua to her. But surely there were other non-Hebrews with a heart for God in areas that were outside of Judea. But then again was she really a non-Hebrew? The fact is Samaritans claimed they were descendents of the tribes of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and included a number of direct descendents of Aaron, as their priests. They, therefore, had Hebrew blood and it appears that God, since He sent Yeshua to them must have recognized them as part of the flock of Israel.

But Israel considered them as having mixed blood and that was unacceptable to them. The mixture occurred when the Northern tribes were captured by the Assyrians in 721 BC. An Assyrian inscription records that only 27,290 of the Northern tribes were captured and deported by them so it is possible that a sizable population remained in the land that continued to identify themselves still as Israelites. Later the deported Israelites were returned to their own land by the Assyrians with a number of Assyrians coming with them. Evidently there was some intermarrying going on as well which did not sit well with the Judeans. Both the intermarriage and the Samaritan religion which was devoid of the additional Oral Law, which the Pharisees so scrupulously adhered to, made the Samaritans odious (repulsive, detestable) to the Pharisees in particular but the prejudice of all Jews went back much further than that. You can see why Yeshua would have intentionally sent His men away to go buy lunch so He could speak with the Samaritan woman, without their preconceived ideas about Samaritans being made evident by frowns of disfavor toward her, while He was trying to strike up a meaningful conversation with her.   

The relationship between the Hebrews and the Samaritans was an antagonistic one for centuries. A writing in 180 B.C. refers to the Samaritans as “the foolish people who dwell in Shechem.” Well, no respect there. A traditional story tells of 300 priests and 300 rabbis who once gathered in the temple court in Jerusalem to curse the Samaritans with every curse in the law of Moses.  Pretty antagonistic, wouldn’t you say?  I can’t imagine God was behind that! Later, those who rejected Yeshua called Him demon possessed and a Samaritan, sure they were justified in saying so:  “The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48). To them, one was as bad as the other. 

The Samaritans, on the other hand, believed that their religion was, in fact, of the true Torah because they did not include anything of Pharisaical extra-biblical laws, considering that the extra oral laws altered the pure religion given by Moses. It was those same extra-biblical laws that Yeshua was constantly challenging and that He was accused of violating by the Pharisees.  The Samaritans are called Shomronim (Shome-rone-neem) in Hebrew. There is some evidence that the Samaritans did not take their name from where they lived, but rather from the Hebrew term Shamerim, meaning "Keepers” inferring “keepers of the Law." Yeshua, therefore, didn’t have to address the issue of the Samaritans’ strict keeping of commandments that God never intended with them. There were other issues, though, one which the woman brought out immediately.

First more background:  Mount Gerizim, the location of the Samaritan temple, was the original Holy Place of the Israelites from the time that Joshua conquered Canaan and the tribes of Israel settled the land. Moses ordered Joshua, when he brought the twelve tribes into the Promised Land, to place half the tribes on the top of Mt. Gerizim as the Mountain of Blessings, and the other six tribes on Mt. Ebal, the Mount of the Curse. The two mountains were to symbolize for Israel the significance of the commandments and to serve as a warning to those who disobeyed them (See Deuteronomy 11:29; 27:12; Joshua 8:33). It was for this reason that the Samaritans erected their temple on Mt. Gerizim while the Jews (literally, the Judeans) worshipped in their temple in Jerusalem.

...it's not about where you worship...

It would appear this conflict of temple locations had troubled the Samaritan woman. She wants to be sure she’s worshipping God in the right place. As she and Yeshua speak she realizes that she has before her more than any ordinary Judean man. So maybe now, since He’s actually talking to her, which most Judeans wouldn’t, she can pose a question that she has been wanting an answer to for maybe years. “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:19, 20). Implicit in her statement is the question: So which is correct? It can’t be both. Yeshua’s answer to her is nothing short of revolutionary! Neither, He’s saying. It’s not about where you worship. A whole new relationship with God is about to be birthed in the Spirit.

But first He tells her: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (:22a). He takes the discussion from worship to salvation. Worship has a goal; it’s to establish a relationship with the Almighty that will bear fruit for salvation in the lives of the worshippers. It isn’t just to pay homage to the God of your forefathers, but to “worship what (Who) you know.” She gives evidence of homage-paying to the God of her forefathers, because she is sure that this well is great, because Jacob himself dug the well. “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” (:12). Plus she is a product of her Samaritan culture which looks back to full Israelite acceptance. But salvation is from/of the Jews, because God established His presence in Jerusalem, from David forward, and at least when persons in Israel were walking with God, they “knew” Him in a way the Samaritans could not. 

Then Yeshua continued with His revolutionary statements:  “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (:23b, 24).  Ok now she realizes she can really get her questions answered, because whatever this Man is saying to her is stirring her anticipation of the coming One.  “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming…. When that One comes, He will declare all things to us” (:25). Here she is, a Samaritan, and therefore unrecognized by God from Israel’s perspective, with a heart that longs for the coming of Messiah. One who would be rejected by the Jewish elite without question, but whom God sees as one of His own. Could God ignore her heart? Would He not answer the desire of her longing to know the truth by sending the Messiah to her when there He was in the flesh on the earth? It is to her that Yeshua makes His first declaration of Who He really is: “Yeshua said to her, “I who speak to you am He” (:26).

Can you imagine this? She’s been an outcast from Israel and from Israel’s God as far as the Judeans are concerned all her life, as her people have been for centuries. And judging from what Yeshua disclosed to her about her life, it’s been a hard one and maybe she has experienced rejection from her own people who want to know why she has such hard luck. Maybe she has a heart for God but all her misfortune of losing one husband after another has caused her to want to know if God is displeased with her. Now, let’s not assume she’s been immoral as the cause of the loss of husbands, or the reason the man who now lives with her is because of loose living. There are many extenuating circumstances that could be the case and Yeshua doesn’t seem to judge her for it; He simply states the reality of her husband status. He came to save her, not to judge her, but unfortunately we often label this poor lady as if we were better than she. But she’s the one God thought enough of to disclose the Messiah to FIRST!

She is remarkably responsive to what He reveals to her and grasps what He’s saying. And at that moment when His disciples reappear, she forgets about the reason she came in the first place: for water! She drops the pot and heads off into the village as the first evangelist to win a whole town to the Lord. Now that you see some of the history of the Samaritans (and there is much more), you can see how awesome it is that this whole village embraced Yeshua as Messiah. While His own home town rejected Him, the Samaritans welcomed Him and as a result grasped the revelation of who He is. “So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (:40-42).

 “This One is indeed the Savior of the world!” they say.  Look who “got it.” The outcast Samaritans! How the Pharisees must have thought ‘no Messiah of God would recognize any Samaritans at all let alone a whole town full.’ But God knew better. He knew her heart and knew she would tell the others. He knew the hearts of the whole town would respond to Him. I marvel at the wisdom and mercy of God that is so far from man’s own prejudices sometimes. And our religious prejudices at that.

As true followers of Yeshua, will we follow Him where He would go...

In pondering all this, I hear the Lord’s question to me, to you: Who are your Samaritans?  Are there people who are off of my radar screen who have hearts for God that I never give a thought to, or at least a generous or kind thought to? To make the questions ours, not just my own, is there anyone who seems to have had one bad break after another that we’d rather stay away from then reach out to? Have we labeled someone as “unclean” or too culturally unlike ourselves to allow God to connect us to them for His purposes?  The question became more real to me this weekend. 

We had a missionary come to speak at church on Sunday night and tell us of how Honduras needs our help. He shows us pictures of what poverty in Honduras looks like. He was touched himself by the photos even though they were his photos; he cried. He is obviously captured by God for these people. A former furniture salesman from our city, who let God get a hold of his heart. He now does crusades, saving thousands. Brings food and clothing in huge quantities to several foreign mission fields and is entirely sold out to God, with a passion he imparted to us, bringing us to a place of surrender to God for whatever God wants, or no longer wants, in our lives. It was one of those times when the presence of God was so thick that you know He’s changing lives.  A day later, I meet Ralph who was standing outside of our local supermarket, not someone I would ordinarily speak with, I suppose. He was ringing the Salvation Army bell while standing by the tripod with the red donation bucket. I made it a practice several years ago that I would always drop some money into the bucket during the Christmas season whenever I saw a Salvation Army bucket, so it amounts to something over the six weeks or so.

Ralph and I somehow strike up a conversation. We talk. We connect. I find out he was born in Honduras of all places, which accounts for his slight Spanish accent. I tell him about the missionary and the photos. Ralph has lived in L.A. and now recently in my city which he tells me has the third largest homeless population in the country after Los Angeles and New York. I’m shocked. Where are they? They’ve been invisible to me. He turns out to be surprisingly knowledgeable about statistics of this kind, and volunteers his time to help the Salvation Army take care of the homeless.

In talking about our origins, when I tell him I’m Jewish (which did fit into the conversation) he lights up, rolls up his sleeve to show me the Star of David tattooed on his arm and tells me his father was Jewish, a holocaust survivor who somehow wound up in Honduras where he married his mother who was from Spain. He is a believer, of course, and while he is not Catholic, he is wearing a crucifix around his neck, rather than just a cross. Somehow it seems appropriate because some of the people he works with are living “on the cross” so to speak, even as believers, homeless, jobless and sometimes meal-less; except what is primarily the church in one way or another providing for them. He had wanted prayer for the bucket and had asked a priest who came by to bless the bucket, but this particular priest said he would not pray over it because Ralph didn’t believe in Mary. (You could transplant that story to a Pharisee and a Samaritan, couldn’t you?) I told him I would pray over the bucket.

So Ralph and I both laid our hands on the red bucket and prayed together, for the Salvation Army and their task with the homeless, for the homeless themselves, for their children of which there are many, for their salvation and for God to meet every need, for those who reach out to them, and for our city. Ralph is a humble man, who loves the Lord, as he told me, because Jesus loves him so much and he just loves him back. He doesn’t see himself as doing much for the Lord, but I said in a moment of inspiration, “Ralph, do not underestimate what God may do with this conversation.” Now as I write, I see that Ralph’s heart for the homeless, for the outcasts in our city, for the Samaritans you could say, will be known around the world to those who read this.  As I left, we hugged like sister and brother. We told each other “I love you” though we had only met fifteen minutes before. It was truly a Jesus moment for sure. 

As true followers of Yeshua, will we follow Him where He would go, even if we in the natural wouldn’t? As the needs grow greater, as it seems to be even in my own city, and the governments are less willing and less able to help, who will help but us, but the followers of Yeshua?  The following words make more of a demand on me than they ever did before:  “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me….” (Matthew 25:44-45). The positive is likewise true, of course.   

As I write these words, all I can say is, Lord, you lead, I will follow. How about you?

 

Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2011. 

 

 

Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

 

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

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