In our culture a Samaritan is known as a person that helps another in times of needs. If someone stops at an accident and renders aid he is labeled as a “Good Samaritan”. But in biblical times a Samaritan was not someone to envy. The Jews regarded the Samaritan with disdain. During the time of Jesus, Samaria was one of three Roman provinces. It was situated between the province of Galilee and Judea. The most direct route between the two was through Samaria. But true orthodox Jews shunned the people of Samaria (John 4:9) and would take a longer eastward trek across the Jordan River to detour around the entire area.
Their disdain for Samaria was not unfounded. The origins of this long bitter hatred between the two groups of people is embedded with idol worship. During the Assyrian occupation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, foreign colonists infiltrated and intermarried with the remaining Israelites. This resulted in a perverted worship of the One True God as the customs of the foreigners became grafted into the rituals of Israel.
24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.”2 Kings 17:24-26
In response to the unbelief of these new inhabitants of Samaria, God sent as judgment, lions to attack and kill them. As is the case with judgment from God, grace is extended, and it serves as a warning to urge men to repent. The people recognized that these lion attacks on their friends and neighbors were directly from God, so they sought remedy by seeking out what God required of them. After listening to the pleas of his people, the king of Assyria sent for one of the Levite Priest to come and instruct them in the ways of the Lord. I can only imagine what an opportunity this priest was given. He had been appointed the official government evangelist with all authority given.
28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.2 Kings 17:28
And so you would expect that as lions attacked they listen to the messenger of God given to them and repented of their ways and became devoted followers of God. But that was not the case. Scripture tells us that “every nation continued to make gods of its own” (2 Kings 17:29). What we have here is a superficial response to God in order to buy lion insurance. They had incorporated enough of God to gain some temporal satisfaction.
We see this today in what I call the Modern Samaritan. By in large people claim to be Christian but there is no real change in their lives. They have grafted in enough of Jesus to bring a sense of peace, fooling them that they have purchased fire insurance. This relieves them of the fear of an eternal punishment in hell or even the lions of this world. But a careful examination can see that their old gods still remain in their prominent spots. This is the American Church today. We have replaced the call for full submission and obedience to God with feel good sermons and optional commitment.