Sunday, April 16, 2023

King Saul consults with a Medium at Endor

In first Samuel 28 we see that David and his 600 men are hiding out in the land of the Philistines. King Saul has stopped looking for David, because he’s left the country, but now, things are changing.

The Philistines are again gathering for war to invade Israel.

Now the only mention we get of David in 1st Samuel 28 is in the first two verses, it says this: “In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.”

2 David said, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.”

Achish replied, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.””

David has agreed to fight for the Philistines against Israel. But the rest of the chapter, we’re going to follow King Saul, caught up in a great deal of fear, trying to understand what he should do next.

It says in 1st Samuel 28:3-6, “Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.”

King Saul wasn’t just afraid at the sight of this massive enemy army on the horizon, he was terrorized by this, terror filled his heart. So he inquires of the Lord, how would he do that? He asked the prophets, they don’t have anything to tell him. He asks the Lord for a dream, no dream came. He even attempts this practice of Urim. 

Urim is a mystery of the old testament, but it was apparently part of the vest of the high priest, they would wear this multicolored vest with all sorts of different gems and rare stones on it, and along with this elaborate vest, they would have something called urim. It may have been dice that were thrown down, or sticks with different letters or marks on them, no one is sure today. But apparently when a major decision had to be made, like going to war, or taking a census, or something big, this method could be used. But only if God hadn’t made it clear, they would use the urim to discover God’s will. Fascinating, because even in the New Testament, it says the disciples cast lots, threw dice of a sort, to discover which disciple should take the place of Judas who had betrayed Jesus. So decision making in tough cases apparently can be adjudicated through the casting of lots.

In any case, there is no word from God. So, what do they do?

It says in verses 7-8: Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”

“There is one in Endor,” they said.

So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.”

It’s fascinating that Saul looks for a medium in Endor, because Endor is in the area of land allotted to the tribe of Issachar, and Issachar was known as a tribe to be able to foretell prophetically, from God, the future (1 Chronicles 12:32).

But instead of seeking the Lord, because God refuses to answer Saul, he seeks out the other side, demonically influenced witchcraft.

When you look at the topic of receiving a word, or foretelling the future, or being guided on decisions, there are two sides to it.

One, is consulting with demonic powers. People want to play with supernatural forces, it’s fun, it seems mysterious, so they go to a fortune teller, or practice wicca, astrology, witchcraft, receive a tarot card reading, play with a ouiji board, or they attempt a séance.

Many times it’s simply fake. There’s nothing there. But many times, it will actually be accurate because, it’s demonically influenced, influenced by demons.

That is considered a great sin by God, if we access those sort of influences. But many times people will say, well it’s very accurate! That's why they do it. And yes it may be, but you’re receiving information from a demon, which is an offense to the Lord.

The other way, is the way God wants us to take: to seek God through prayer. Or to fast and pray and seek a word from Him. Or to receive a word from a prophet, or through someone’s spiritual gifting, many Christians have the gift of a word of knowledge, or a gift of wisdom, or a gift of discernment, and we can receive wisdom, guidance and good counsel from such fellow believers if we’ll seek them out. We can also find guidance in God’s word. Or God may speak to us in a dream or vision, rarely of course, if we ask Him.

So, there are two sources of spiritual knowledge. The sources are either demonic influences, or Godly influences.

If you’ve ever been involved in any form of witchcraft though, tarot cards, mediums, astrology, zodiac signs, any of it, you should repent of it, and ask God’s forgiveness, because it’s a considered a severe sin.

Do that now, if you need to.

So Saul meets with this medium. He asks for her help. Let’s see how she responds.

Verse 9-11: But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?”

10 Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.”

11 Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”

“Bring up Samuel,” he said.

This is such a strange series of events in the book of 1st Samuel. King Saul going so far off course, going and consulting with a medium. And asking for the medium to call up the spirit of Samuel, who has already died.

It’s very strange stuff. But, here it is.

So the woman starts doing her thing, and she is shocked to actually see the spirit of Samuel.

It says in verses 12-15, “12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”

13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”

The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.”

14 “What does he look like?” he asked.

“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?””

“I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”

There is a great debate in Christian circles here. The big question is, did God use this moment to really bring Samuel up to rebuke Saul, or is this an incident where Saul is consulting with a demon?

Is it really the prophet Samuel, back from the dead, or is it just a trick, a demon pretending to be Samuel?
But one thing is true that I want to highlight for you: Our loved ones who have died are not with us anymore. God is with us. His angels protect us. Jesus Christ lives within us, but, our loved ones are not with us. They don’t talk to us. They can’t be conjured up.

Then again, at the appearance of Samuel’s spirit, the witch is surprised. Maybe she is surprised because she didn’t expect something real to happen. Maybe God used this incident to rebuke Saul a second time. Or, maybe it is just a demon. I tend to think that this is really Samuel back from the dead, but the witch isn’t doing it, God is doing it, to rebuke Saul. But I could be wrong.

But I tend to think that it is really Samuel, because in verse 16 it says, “Samuel said.” If it was a demon, I think scripture would say, “then the demon spoke and said.”

So, verses 16-19 say this: Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19 The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

Once again we see Samuel telling King Saul: You’ve failed in your mission. You are now regarded by God as his enemy. And David has already been given the kingdom. From God's perspective David is already King. Samuel says that it’s all going to happen just as was predicted by the Lord. The philistines would defeat Israel, Saul and his sons would be killed, and the army of Israel would be crushed.

Saul is devastated by this word, he’s exhausted, crushed, and weak from not eating.

It says in verses 20-25: Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night.”

21 When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, “Look, your servant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. 22 Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.”

23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.”

But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch.

24 The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. 25 Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate. That same night they got up and left.”

What does this whole section about Samuel eating with the witch tell us? Sitting down and eating this meal with the witch is interesting, it almost sets up a relationship between them. The witch is trying to gain favor from Saul, so that he doesn’t have her killed for this harsh word he's received. But it kind of helps Saul along toward his inevitable end, his coming death in battle. It gives him strength, but not good strength, strength to go to his end.

He was a calf fattened for the slaughter you might say, he had made his bed, he had walked his path, now his path had reached it’s end, and it’s end was destruction.

It’s a good reminder for us today, in closing, to consider our path, are we paving a path toward eternal life or toward eternal destruction? It’s our choices, our heart, where we make the choices that establish us toward God or toward destruction. Which path are you on? If you’re here today, there is still hope to change your path, and turn to the path of life. But it takes giving yourself over to Jesus Christ, and then doing the footwork of living differently, embracing, prayer, church, reading of the word, applying the word, and living a crucified life. It’s not too much for you. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, yet the way is narrow, and few find it, so do everything you can, to make the path down the narrow pathway. Because the Lord said many will try to walk it and find out that they can’t.

That’s from Luke 13:24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."