“Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” (John 4:21 NKJV).
Under the Old Covenant, worship is mostly a physical monotonous religious exercise. It primarily involves “offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Heb. 10:11 NKJV). It is purely an outward or superficial service!
The focus is chiefly on the externals – the animals for the sacrifice, the place of worship, the time of worship, the dress code for worship, or the religious rites.
In those days, the place of worship was very significant. Sacrifices must only be offered to God at the place He chose.
The children of Israel were commanded in Deuteronomy 12:
5 “But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.
6 “There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. (NKJV).
Under the Old Covenant, it is a sin punishable by death for any worshipper to offer his sacrifice to God at any place other than where God had chosen to be worshipped.
God commanded the children of Israel in Leviticus 17:
3 “Whatever man of the house of Israel who kills an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or who kills it outside the camp,
4 “and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an offering to the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people,
5 “to the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and offer them as peace offerings to the LORD. (NKJV).
It is therefore no surprise that the children of Israel exalted and revered the place where they worshipped more than the God they worshipped. The conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans in those days was as a result of debate and disagreement over the right place to worship God.
When the Samaritan woman wrongly perceived that Jesus was a prophet from God, she wanted to know God’s mind concerning the right place to worship and so she promptly asked Jesus, saying, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:19-20 NKJV).
But the Lord responded, saying, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” (John 4:21 NKJV).
While the woman was still pondering in her mind on the Lord’s shocking answer, the Lord further revealed to her, saying, “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. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 NKJV).
Sadly, many believers today, like the Samaritans and the Jews of those times, are still confused about the right place to worship. Many believers are still arguing, debating, or quarrelling over the right or best place to worship God. Many believers today even esteem and revere the place they worship more than the God they seek to worship.
When the Lord Jesus led Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain where He was transfigured before them, and where Moses and Elijah appeared to them discussing with Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matt. 17:4 NKJV).
Apparently, Peter, like the Samaritan woman, also had his mind set on the place to worship rather than the person to worship. Having witnessed the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus and seen His glory as God on this mountain, Peter was fully persuaded that he had found a new perfect place of worship.
Therefore, Peter proposed to Jesus to consecrate the Mount of Transfiguration as their new place of abode and worship. That is consistent with the mindset of worshippers under the Old Covenant. They always raised altars and offered sacrifices to God wherever He manifested His presence and glory to them (Gen. 12:7-8, 26:25, 33:20).
The Lord’s response to Peter’s good proposal must have shocked or perplexed Peter. Not only did the Lord reject Peter’s proposal for the consecration of a new place of worship, which was in perfect harmony with the style of worship under the Old Covenant, the Lord also commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” (Matt. 17:9 NKJV).
Apparently, the Lord didn’t want the people to turn the place to a new place of worship.
While there is nothing wrong in consecrating any place as a place of worship, however, the truth is that under the New Covenant, God is no longer concerned about the place of worship but the heart of the worshipper and the object of his worship.
Like the Samaritan woman, if you also ask the Lord today about the best place to worship Him, the Lord’s response would be, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NKJV).
Unlike the Old Testament saints who sought to worship God only at the places where He manifested His presence and power to them, the New Testament saints are free to worship God anywhere with a pure heart and clean hands, in spirit and truth, according to the revelation of God in the New Testament.
Friend, let no one deceive you into thinking that the place where you worship is better than any other places of worship where God’s people worship God according to the revelation of God in the New Testament.
It is a sheer ignorance to boast about or exalt a place of worship above another. No place of worship is holier or more special to God than others!
Under the New Covenant, the focus is not on the place where you worship but on the person you worship or the object of your worship. God is not seeking for holy and beautiful physical temples to be worshipped, but for true worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and truth, according to the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus pointed out this truth in His clear answer to the Samaritan woman who questioned Him about the right place to worship God in John 4:
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 “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.” (NKJV).
Therefore, don’t fall into the error of loving, esteeming, or revering any physical place, altar, or structure consecrated as a place of worship above the God you seek to worship. Your devotion, passion, and affection must not be set on the place you worship but on “the Person” you worship, the true God.
Beloved, seek not just to worship God in a holy and beautiful place, but to also worship God with a pure heart and clean hands, in spirit and truth, and according to the revelation of God given by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, for that is what matters most to God when it comes to worship.
You are a New Testament saint. So, stop seeking to worship God according to the old written code of worship in the Old Testament, but according to the new revelation of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Focus chiefly on the “Holy Person” you are called to worship and not on “the holy place” where you worship (Rom. 7:6).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for opening my eyes of understanding to the new shift in worship under the New Covenant. Help me Lord to seek to worship You in spirit and truth, and not according to the letters of old, in Jesus’ name. Amen.