Monday, May 20, 2013

Saul and the Witch of Endor

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, May 20, 2013:  I Samuel 26:1-28:25

And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.  Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”  And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”  So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”  I Samuel 28:6-8 (NKJV)

King Saul made a tragic mistake.  He consulted a witch.  He is one of the saddest figures in the pages of the Bible.  He began with great promise, but compromise and disobedience plagued his days.  Samuel had spoken to him years earlier that his "rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft" (I Sam. 15:23).  In fact, his bad choices led him directly into a satanic trap.

It has been estimated that today there are over 200,000 practicing witches in America.  In addition, there are literally millions who dabble is some form of the occult.  Their activities vary from paranormal psychic "research" to spiritism to black or white magic.  For perhaps 50 years, interest in seances, ghosts, and contacting the dead has steadily sky-rocketed.  All one has to do is check your TV listing to find an abundance of reality shows and dramatic series that deal directly with occultic topics and practices.  It is extremely important for us to ask what the Bible says about these things.

And, the Bible has much to say about this subject.  Nearly all passages on this subject speak directly to PRACTICES.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 is perhaps the most complete list addressing the subject. 

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 (NKJV)

The instruction is clear:  STAY AWAY FROM THESE THINGS!  They are called "an abomination."
The list includes:
1.  witchcraft
2.  soothsaying
3.  interpreting of omens
4.  sorcery
5.  conjuring spells
6.  mediums
7.  spiritists
8.  contacting the dead
9.  divination

Numerous other passages of Scripture echo and expand the basic message of Deuteronomy 18.  These areas of paranormal activity seem so fascinating and enlightening, but they are a trap.  It is extremely serious.

We do not have the space in this short blog to fully develop WHY these things are so dangerous.  I will only summarize by saying that, as Christians we believe in a spiritual realm that exists alongside of the physical world we see, feel, smell, and taste.  That spiritual realm is where God exists.  But also, it is where evil operates.  Just as there is a holy God who loves us, there is also a devil that hates us.  Just as there are angels, there are also demons.  Improper dabbling in this realm is forbidden because of the spiritual danger of having fellowship with the enemy of our souls.

There is only one account in the entire Bible that tells the story of an actual seance taking place.  It is the story of King Saul and the witch of Endor.  Some have actually used this story to show that seances are sanctioned by the Bible.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Let's look a little closer.

The Set-Up for a Seance

Saul had lost his last remaining contact with God.  Samuel the prophet had continually rebuked Saul, but at least Saul could beseech the great old man to pray for him.  Samuel had died.  Because of the Philistine threat, Saul became desparate.  He felt he had nowhere else to turn, so he asked for a medium.  Previously, Saul had banned all spiritualistic activity from Israel.  He had done so on the basis of obedience to the clear instruction of Scripture.  But, once again, under pressure he cracked and compromised.

A Discussion with the Devil

Saul disguised himself so that the witch would not recognize him.  Doubtless Saul knew that his actions were wrong.  In addition, he feared that the if the witch knew his identity she would refuse to conduct the seance because it was outlawed activity.

Saul asks her to "call up Samuel."  The next events are somewhat amazing.  The witch cries out is apparent alarm when, sure enough, a spirit starts rising out of the earth.  Immediately, the witch knows that she has been tricked.  It seems that the spirit somehow informs the witch that this visitor is in fact King Saul. 

A discussion ensues in which King Saul speaks to this spirit through the witch.  It is important to note that King Saul never sees the spirit and at no time does the spirit identify itself.  The only way the identity of the spirit is ascertained is by it clothing.  Of course, the witch had sought to "bring up Samuel", so it follows that the spirit would in fact be Samuel. 

The crucial question of this story is the true identity of this spirit.  Can we in fact speak to those who are dead?  Do they wait around to give us needed advice and help should we ask for it?  The Bible is explicit in its answer: NO.  Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."  Upon death, we pass into our eternal detiny.  There is no back and forth.  "To be absent from the boyd is to be present with the Lord" (II Co. 5:8).  In a very important story that Jesus Himself told, a man died and sought to return to his family to warn them of the reality of hell and heaven.  Jesus said that such contact could not take place, but instead those on earth were to consult Scripture for their direction (the entire story is found in Luke 16:19-31).  Contact from the dead to the living is nowhere allowed in the Bible.

So who or what was this spirit that the witch of Endor conjured up?  I believe that it is clear.  The writer of I Samuel repeatedly refer to the spirit as Samuel.  But does that make it really Samuel?  I believe not.  Jesus would late forbid such activity.  Moses had already forbidden it.  So, what could possibly be the answer?  This spirit was not the spirit of Samuel.  Even though physical imagery is not authoritative, we should note that the spirit is described as "rising out of the earth" rather than "appearing from the heavens."  This is a demonic impersonator. 

Saul is not having a discussion with Samuel.  He is having a discussion with a demon.  The "Samuel impersonator" speaks nothing but doom and death over Saul.  His last words to Saul are "and tomorrow you will be here with me" (I Sam. 28:19).

Suicidal Activity

The next day, Saul and his sons die.  But, the death of Saul is more than a military defeat.  He is not killed in the line of duty.  Saul is wounded and knows that his fate is near.  Because of his fatal wound, Saul prefers death to capture by the Philistines.  He commands his armor-bearer to kill him -- the armor-bearer refuses.  So, Saul takes his own life -- he falls on his own sword.

Saul's suicidal activity did not begin on the battlefield.  It began in the decisions he made over the years.  The last major decision that sealed his fate was the visit to a seance.  In the imagery of a fisherman, Satan had set the hook and was reeling in a big one. 

Many sectors of our culture is in a similar dance with the devil.  In that context, we all need to hear the words of the Apostle Paul,  "Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."  Run to God!  Flee from evil!  Our God is alive!  He is all we need!

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