Almost six hundred years before the coming of Christ, the Kingdom of Judah was at an end. Most of what was left of its kings and people were now in exile in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. The good land they left behind, hereafter known to the world as Judea, was left to lie fallow to make up for the seventy years of Sabbath rest required by God’s law that had been ignored by its farmers. This was just one example of the people’s total rejection of the covenant that the Lord had made with Israel.
Like Israel’s Northern Kingdom before it, the Southern Kingdom of Judah had chosen to throw off the protection of God and ended up paying the price for it. Neighboring empires greedily absorbed the rich bounty that had been given divinely gifted to the Lord’s people.
Speaking through the prophet Ezekiel to the exiles, God confirmed that this judgment had come from Him, but more importantly that His heart was not closed to them for good. When the time was right, He would send them back to the land to rebuild the Temple. And later, He would install a new covenant with them under a Messiah who would rule and reign with goodness forever. Ezekiel wrote:
60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember with shame all the evil you have done. I will make your sisters, Samaria and Sodom, to be your daughters, even though they are not part of our covenant. 62 And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. 63 You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” Ezekiel 16:60-63 (NLT)
Ezekiel’s reference to Samaria as a fallen sister was actually a promise to restore the divided nation. The land of Samaria was a remnant from the Northern Kingdom of Israel, south of the land of Galilee. Though not a part of Judah in whose line the Messiah would come, Jesus made clear that Samaria was still an important part of Israel. Beginning with a woman He met at a well under a mid-day sun, Jesus called all Samaritans to repent and to join His eternal kingdom. His invitation of grace and mercy was to be extended to Judea, Samaria, and to all the world, and remains so for each one of us today.
Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman as He stopped to rest at a well dug by the patriarch Jacob, a grandson of Abraham.
7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!” John 4:7-14,25-26 (NLT)
Man might have rejected and forgotten the Samaritans, but God had not. Jesus reinforced His blessing of this people group in His parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10. In it, a Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he was attacked by bandits who took everything he had, even his clothes, then beat him and left him for dead on the road. Two religious leaders who walked by saw the wounded man but crossed over to the other side of the road to avoid him. A third man came along, a Samaritan, who was not expected to stop to assist to this helpless Jewish victim. But in fact, the Samaritan was the only person to stop and take pity on him. He carefully dressed the man’s wounds, then used his own donkey to transport him to an inn. Here, he put the man up at his own expense and promised to return to pay for any additional expenses that might be required for the man’s recovery. Jesus praised the Samaritan for his compassion, and encouraged His audience, including the religious leaders, to go out and do likewise.
Like the Samaritans, many of us have experienced the bitterness of rejection by others. Sometimes we have brought this on ourselves through our own poor choices or addictions, but often it is simply the result of sinful attitudes by those around us. Until the return of Christ, we will live in an imperfect world, not yet conformed to the loving acceptance of God. Yet He asks us to love and help others in need, as we are able.
Just as Jesus reached out to a rejected woman by the well in Samaria, He is reaching out to each one of us today. And He asks us to do the same for others.
Lord, thank You for reaching out to me though I have done nothing deserving of Your grace, mercy, and forgiveness. I surrender to Your will for me -help to walk in Your goodness and light, and to reflect these to the others who are around me, imperfect as we all are. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.