Bible Study : H. E. Alexander, 1950_05_02 translated from French
Summary: The whole story brings out our Lord’s warning: “Do you not say that there are still four months until the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and behold the fields which are already ripefor harvest” (John 4:35). Everything is absolutely flawless in the service of the Lord Jesus and in this simple and beautiful New Testament scene. The power of life that is in the Son triggers something perfect! The conversation with the woman of Samaria, the words addressed to the disciples, the contact with the men of Sychar, everything bears the divine mark.
Revival at Sychar
Bible Study : H. E. Alexander, 1950_05_02 translated from French
The revival at Sychar contrasts with that at Nineveh, and the whole account brings out our Lord’s warning: “Do you not say that there are still four months until the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and behold the fields which are already ripe for harvest” (John 4:35 ). Everything is absolutely flawless in the service of the Lord Jesus and in this simple and beautiful New Testament scene. The power of life that is in the Son triggers something perfect! The conversation with the woman of Samaria, the words addressed to the disciples, the contact with the men of Sychar, everything bears the divine mark.
The Lord chose this event to give one of the most important teachings of the Gospels about missionary work. In the society of that time, women had no place, let alone a woman of this type. Nevertheless, the Lord saw in her the immense harvest that was to follow on the day of Pentecost. He already saw you in that soul, he saw the multitude of pagans who were to enter the Church. Four thoughts emerge from this wonderful story:
Wake up time
Obstacles to waking up
The sources of awakening
The Manifestation of Revival
We know that the hour of revival draws near and the harvest is ripe when there is distress and anguish, when age-old supports crumble and people no longer know where to turn and to whom to surrender. Then the suffering and the difficulties intensify so much that the human heart allows itself to be touched by the grace of God or is hardened definitively.
What does the word harvest mean in the Bible? It is used as a picture of times of judgment (cf. Revelation 14:15-16 ), except in Matthew and John where the Lord gives it a sense of grace.
Thus, as he was aware of Nicodemus’ ignorance about the new birth – this deeply respected doctor of theology was not a hypocrite – he knew in advance what weighed on the heart of the Samaritan woman. In chapter 5 we find a man sick for thirty-eight years who waited for the movement of water to be cured. What a picture of the man under the law, conditioned by others, by circumstances, weak and always paralyzed! In chapter 6 we see a hungry multitude that the disciples wanted to send away to buy food. But Jesus does not do that. He knows the needs of the crowd and has the power to satisfy them in their entirety. In chapter 7, it is the feast in Jerusalem. The holy city is invaded by religious people who fulfill their duties sincerely and faithfully. But that does not bring them closer to the Savior, on the contrary, since they work to earn their salvation. We see a world weary of its religion and yearning for the following year, hoping for better. In this context, Jesus manifests himself as the one who refreshes and removes burdens (cf. John 7:37-39 ).
But let us go further, because the Gospel of John is filled with the same message until chapter 12. In chapter 8 appears a sad case; sad not because of the adulterous woman, but because of the men who accuse her. Jesus does not say a word to them and only writes their sins on the ground, because he does not engage in dialogue with the hypocrites. You know the rest: touched in their conscience, these men leave one after the other, and Jesus finds himself alone with the woman to grant her his grace, because he came to save and not to judge. In these different cases, the harvest was ripe, the hour of awakening had come. And for all these Jesus says the hour is coming (cf. 4:21). Let us not repeat like the disciples that there are still four months; let us not risk finding ourselves with those who say: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8: 20 ).
Obstacles to waking up
“The Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John” (John 4:1 ). Filled with wisdom, he who discerns the intentions of all men, including those of the Pharisees and the disciples, leaves Judea for Galilee. Let’s dwell on this fact.
Thus envy is already born among the Pharisees! Elsewhere in the Gospels we find rivalries between the disciples of the same Master and between the parents of the disciples. Is there a climate of competition between our Works, between Christians in their work for questions of numbers, place, prestige? These conflicts engender mistrust and animosities and block any revival movement. Remember what the Master said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35 ). Do you know that this spirit of division can prevent the awakening in Nicodemus, hinder the deliverance of the Samaritan woman, oblige the man who has been sick for thirty-eight years to begin again a thirty-ninth year of infirmity, rule out the possibility of feed the crowd, keep the rivers of living water from flowing?
But that’s not all, we read in John 4:27 : “Thereupon his disciples came, and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman. However, no one says: What do you ask? or: What are you talking about with her? “The Lord touches the heart of the Samaritan woman in a totally divine way and reveals the root of the evil in her life with gentleness and firmness; as for the disciples, they arrive with their knowledge, their experiences, their habits and their morals…Amazed to see the Savior of the world speaking with this woman, they show harshness and selfishness towards men and God . Too often we keep to ourselves the blessings with which we have been enriched, and we judge with ignorance and prejudice those whom the love of the Lord wishes to win. What would you say if you learned of the conversion of a person whom you consider unworthy and defiled? When revival comes, God does amazing things that humble man and lay bare his pride.
Another obstacle to awakening is the misunderstanding of the disciples: “Meanwhile the disciples urged him to eat, saying: Rabbi, eat. But he said to them: I have food to eat which you do not know. So the disciples said to one another, Has anyone brought him something to eat? Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work” (4:31-34). They do not understand the meaning of the language of Jesus and do not understand the work of God.
Do you know that food which is to do the will of Him who sent us? It is the divine food that enables us to survive in the midst of difficulties and to triumph in the midst of opposition.
Doing the will of God will lead us to take a direction other than that of our will or that of others. The cross will always be the cross: a beam that crosses another, one that looks up and down and the other left and right; they intersect and collide in the middle! If we want to follow the Lord of the harvest, the Savior of the world, we will be crucified with him, we will no longer do our will. We will cease our clever arrangements, we will follow his thoughts and not ours. This food is fully satisfying.
The sources of revival
We believe in dew and dawn. These two miracles have been happening daily since the world exists, and they are done without any noise. You have never heard the dawn. If you go out early on a summer morning, listen up. Even if you have the most fine tuned hearing, you do not perceive any sound, you do not hear anything. The best blessings are those seen, not just those heard! In verse 6 it speaks of Jacob’s well; it is there that Jesus, tired of the journey, rested. This is also where he found the Samaritan woman and where all the conversation took place.
What is this well of Jacob in Sychar? I have three simple and straightforward things to say:
a) This is the place Jacob came to after his struggle at Peniel, after God had defeated him by dislocating his hip and changing his name to Israel (Genesis 32:24-32 ).
b) It is the place where Jacob arrived after reconciliation with his brother Esau (Genesis 33:18 ).
c) This is the place where Joseph rests, awaiting the resurrection, after his bones had been brought back from Egypt (Joshua 24:32 ).
a) There is no revival without repentance (cf. Hosea 12:5 ). There may be Christians among you readers who struggle with God and do not know it. The circumstances are against you; you are fighting and you do not know that you are fighting against God. Your family is against you; you are resisting, and you do not know that it is God who is fighting against you. Your strengths, as you call them, are your weaknesses to God. He wants to dislocate your hip, change your life, bend your will. Stop saying no, give in to the Savior, he wants to give you a new name like he did for Jacob.
b) There is no revival without reconciliation. That of Jacob with Esau is an image of all that remains in suspense in the relations between brothers in Christ. Jacob went all out. We read in Genesis 33 that after putting his children in mind with their mothers, “he himself passed before them; and he bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he was near to his brother” (v. 3). Then the latter, touched by his humiliation, ran to meet him and kissed him. They both even cried. And Jacob could say: “I have looked at your face as one looks at the face of God” (v. 10). Where are we with this story? Let God work in our hearts before presenting our offering to Him (cf. Matthew 5:24 ).
c) There is no revival without resurrection. In the Gospel of John, it is an encounter with the Lord himself. The inspired record purposely mentions the absence of the disciples at Sychar. As was often the case, Jesus was alone with this woman, later alone with the crowd.
The springs of awakening flow in a face to face with. the Lord. We can be blessed collectively, but the personal encounter between God and us is even more important. It is because Jesus and this woman were apart that Jesus was able to accomplish his work in her.
This individual encounter with Jesus leads to the acceptance of his Word. The Lord awakened this woman’s spiritual thirst by telling her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again” (John 4:13 ). However sacred the memory of Sychar, however blessed the historical facts, it is not the past that satisfies and suffices: “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty, and the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life. The woman said to him, “Lord, give me this water” (vv. 14-15).
Our heart is like Jacob’s well. He is impenetrable, but the Lord has the ability to look into the most secret corners. In yours as in mine, there are depths that we sometimes ignore. The revelation is unpleasant but essential. We will then be able to say: “Lord, give me this water, so that I will no longer thirst, and come here no more to draw” (v. 15). When this prayer rises from a heart thus exercised, the word of Psalm 81:11 answers: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth, and I will fill it.”
The Samaritan woman believed Jesus’ promise; so the Lord goes further by laying bare his moral life with this imperative: “Go…call your husband, and come hither” (John 4:16 ). Unmasked, the woman takes refuge in the past, traditions and the law: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem” (v. 20). This woman acknowledges her sin and proves it with the following statement: “Come and see a man who has told me all that I have done; would it not be the Christ?” (v. 29).
The Samaritan woman put her trust in Jesus. She accepted his judgment and she gave up her pitcher. Her job may have been to draw water from the well, but her discovery is so great that she parted with her jug to go and bear witness to Jesus to the people of the city. We all have a pitcher to leave behind. It can represent many things; however the strength that is in Jesus Christ enables us to leave them.
The Manifestation of Revival
Reading the chapter shows us that the whole city was touched by the grace of God. All the people came out. Let’s see a little in detail.
“The woman left her pitcher and went into the city” (v. 28). What does going to his city mean to you and me? It is witnessing in our family, our environment, our Church, our Work, in obedience and fervor after having put our affairs in order. Are we ready to bring reproach in the world and also in the Church?
“They went out of the city and came to him” (v. 30). Grace has removed the barriers, the truth has broken the chains of prejudice so that the inhabitants come to Jesus in broad daylight and in the eyes of all.
Several Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of this formal declaration of the woman: He told me everything that I did” (v. 39). We are asked a question: When we are in heaven as part of the redeemed community, how many will be there because of us? The answer depends on our commitment to the Lord and our declaration of faith in our city.
The story ends on a note of general blessing: “He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of his word; and they said to the woman: It is no longer because of what you have said that we believe; for we have heard it ourselves, and we know that he is truly the Savior of the world” (vv. 40-42). You better understand the title of our study; all the signs of a visitation from above are there:
– he stayed there two days: he is present in person;
– they believed because of his Word; it engendered faith;
– we have heard it ourselves: no intermediary between the Lord and us;
– we know that he is truly the Savior of the world: the dazzling revelation of his glory and his grace have banished doubts.
The Lord Jesus received in this city a welcome that he did not find later in Galilee, despite many miracles and evident signs. No extraordinary facts are mentioned to Sychar. His presence and his word were enough to wake up an entire city in perdition.