Jeremiah uses the word for worship in verse 2 of chapter seven. “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD.” Chapter seven is a scathing rebuke to the Israelites for their ill-motives in worship. There is a strong sense of outward forms and trust in those forms which leads to their rebuke. The people cannot fathom Yahweh judging them despite their wicked hearts and cry out “the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.” What’s missing from their worship is an inner disposition of the heart that leads to God-honoring actions within the world. He says in vv. 5-7, “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.” It would seem that a turning from their practices and turning to Yahweh in trust is necessary or doom is to come. Jeremiah uses the term three more times in 13:10, 25:6, and 26:2. There is in those passages a contrast between true worship and worshipping in mere, outward forms.
Thompson writes of the word for worship saying, “The verb arises from a metaphor, namely, that of bowing down or prostrating oneself before someone whose high state is thereby acknowledged and to whom allegiance should be offered…This powerful figure is a peculiarly apt one to describe the proper attitude of the man of Israel to Yahweh. When the man of Israel came to worship Yahweh, he acknowledged on the one hand Yahweh’s high status and his complete and sole sovereignty over the worshipper’s life, and at the same time he recognized his own dependent status and the need for personal submission to his sovereign Lord, Yahweh. Worship thus involved him in the willing acknowledgement of Yahweh’s lordship and the glad acceptance of his covenant demand. (275)” It is clear that the Israelites are lacking in reverence and trust in Yahweh. They’re trusting in the temple instead of the one who dwells in the temple.
How does this relate to John 4? There’s obviously a connection with the temple. Jesus offers the woman soul-satisfying life in God and she gets caught between a rock and a hard place when he drops the truth mic on her. What does she do when he brings up here adultery in verse 18? She evades the question with the Samaritan/Jewish debate about where proper worship should take place. “Why, yes, as long as we are talking about my adultery, what is your stance on the issue of where people should worship?” Jesus responds by agreeing with the Jews yet goes beyond the debate saying, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jesus lays aside the locality of temple worship. No longer would the center of worship be confined to a geographical location. True worshippers will worship God in spirit and in truth. As one writer said, “Jesus is inaugurating a new age in which people will not have to travel to a physical temple in one city to worship but will be able to worship God in every place, because the Holy Spirit will dwell in them, and therefore God’s people everywhere will become the new temple where God dwells.” Jesus tabernacle among us (John 1:14) and then fills his people via the Holy Spirit. It is not that there is no temple. It is now that believers are the temples of the Lord. Instead of the nations flooding into Jerusalem a couple of times during the year, the temples are now mobile and we go to the nations extolling the glory and fame of God.
What are the implications for true worship? All true and authentic worship should be christocentric because this universe is christocentric. God has so ordered reality that the glory of God is most manifest in Jesus of Nazareth; not the physical temple in the Jerusalem. God dwelling in the temple in the OT was but a shadow of the coming of Christ who is the image of God. Utilizing temple language, Paul writes in Col. 2:9-10, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” He said earlier in the letter, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” True worship happens when we sing songs, repeat liturgy, take the sacrament, listen and obey sermons, serve our brothers, and be on mission for the glory of God in the face of Jesus. It is a whole heart, mind, spirit/soul, will, and body movement towards God in gratitude in light of who he is and what he has done for us and our salvation. John Piper writes, “The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands, and obedient lives.”