Following the conquest by the nation of Assyria, most of the people of Israel were deported to Assyria. In their place, Assyria imported captives from other countries to live in Samaria, the main province of Israel at that time. Read: 2 Ki. 17:24-41
In our text, the religion of those who were imported is described at length. There are several characteristics of their religion we would do well to take note of. With this passage fresh in our minds, how might the Samaritans' worship compare with our service to God today? In some cases, the comparisons may be a little too close for comfort!
I. A RELIGION OF "FEAR"
A. THIS IS EVIDENT BY THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS...
1. "So they feared the Lord..." v32
2. "They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods..." v33
3. "So these nations feared the Lord, yet served their carved images..." v41
4. But that they had the wrong kind of fear is implied in verse 34 "...they do not fear the Lord..."
5. Is this a contradiction? Not at all, remember that...
B. THERE IS A PROPER FEAR OF THE LORD...
1. As taught by Jesus and His apostles.
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28)
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34-35)
2. As taught by Solomon in the Old Testament:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)
“Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.” (Eccl 8:12-13)
3. This "fear of the Lord"...
a. Is the kind of awesome reverence towards God that motivates us to turn away from evil and serve God faithfully at all times.
b. Is NOT the kind that never thinks of God when things are going well, and then trembles at the prospect of facing God.
C. SO THE SAMARITANS HAD THE WRONG KIND OF "FEAR"...
1. They would have never thought of God, had it not been for the lions. vs 25-26
2. When they did think of Him, it was only to tremble before Him.
3. This is like so many people today.
a. Who think of God only...
1) When they are ill, forgetting Him when they are well
2) During their calamities, but not during their joys
3) When faced with problems, but not when enjoying prosperity
b. Like some sailors...
1) Who in a storm pray fervently to God for deliverance, making promises.
2) But then get drunk or engage in immorality as soon as they get to land.
4. If we turn to God only when things go wrong, our religion is no different than the Samaritans'!
5. But with the proper kind of fear (awesome reverence), we will draw close to God through obedience; and when we do so, we will find Him to be so gracious and loving that we will serve Him out of love and not just a fear of judgment. cf. 1 Jn 4:16-18
II. A RELIGION OF "FORM"
A. THEIR HEARTS WERE NOT IN THEIR SERVICE TO THE LORD...
1. As evident by the fact they continued to serve their "carved images". v 33-34
2. What service they rendered to the Lord possessed "form", but not "substance"
B. SUCH WORSHIP IS OFTEN COMMON TODAY...
1. Where there is "form", but not substance"
2. Now, there is a need for "form" in religion...
a. Possessing both a physical and spiritual nature, man needs physical ways to express his spiritual devotion.
b. So God has provided physical expressions even in New Testament worship, even though it is much more spiritual than that found in the Old Testament.
c. The Lord's Supper, singing, prayer, giving, etc., they all have "form"
3. But to go through the "form" without the "substance" (a right spirit and attitude) is "hypocritical". cf Mt 15:7-8
4. As Christians are guilty of such worship if we...
a. Sing "Trust and Obey", but do neither.
b. Sing "Rescue the Perishing", but are not willing to go or do.
c. Sing "Amazing Grace" with bored expressions on our faces.
5. Worship that is both "form" and "substance" will follow the example of David when he said...
a. “...I will praise thee with my whole heart .... cf Ps 138:1
b. “Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” (Psa 146:1-2)
c. “Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.” (Psa 147:1)
C. Is our religion one of simply going through the "form"?
1. Simply going through the motions or playing out a part?
2. If that is all we have, then our religion is no more pleasing to God than that of the Samaritans!
III. A RELIGION OF "COMPROMISE"
A. IN THE CASE OF THE SAMARITANS...
1. They had God and they had "gods"; they liked the latter best. cf v41a
2. They gave God lip service, but they gave the "gods" their true service
B. SUCH CAN HAPPEN TO CHRISTIANS TODAY...
1. When they seek to serve God, while also try to serve the world.
2. But this is impossible according to Jesus.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat 6:24)
3. When people try to serve both, the world always wins...
a. It shows up in how their jobs, their recreation, etc., takes precedence over their service to God.
b. It shows up in how they seek to rationalize their conduct.
C. BUT GOD CANNOT TOLERATE "COMPROMISE"....
1. He requires total commitment to Him, no matter the price.
a. As taught in the Old Testament:
“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deu 6:5)
“Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” (Deu 6:14-15)
b. As taught by Jesus Himself:
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
2. To compromise with the world is to commit "spiritual adultery"! - Ja 4:4
3. Thus we need to heed Jesus' admonition: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." - Mt 6:33
I believe it is easy to see the error of the Samaritans' religion. They had a religion of "fear, form, and compromise" But unless we are careful, our religion can easily become like theirs!
If with honest introspection we must confess that our religion is closer to the Samaritans' than it should be.
· Let Elijah challenge us to give up "a religion of compromise"
“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” (1 Ki 18:21)
· Let Paul challenge us to give up “a religion of form”
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom 12:1-2) 
· Let John challenge us to give up "a religion of fear" - cf. 1 Jn 4:18-19
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)
Have we accepted the Savior's tender invitation, which is received today by faith?
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28)