54. Saul’s Folly

Meditations in 1 Samuel  54. Saul’s folly

1 Sam 28:5-7     When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 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.

Before we come to Saul’s final closing act we have to consider something that happened that had a variety of strange elements to it. It is the going of Saul to the witch of Endor. First of all let’s observe the circumstances that apparently drove Saul to take this foolish action. The Philistines turned up in force but as the Lord is no longer with him Saul is filled with fear. Yes, in his desperation  he does enquire of the Lord but the Lord does not answer. The Lord is waiting for repentance and in its absence He says nothing. Now Saul has this urge to get some encouragement – from somewhere!

The prophet Isaiah was later to address this sort of situation and declared, When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isa 8:19,20) Don’t consult deceiving mediums but instead turn to the Law of God and the testimony that we have of the Lord’s dealings with His people that teaches us all we need to know. Inquire of God! That sums up God’s will in respect of consulting fortune tellers etc.

Saul asks his men for a medium and they send him to Endor. “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.” (28:8) Although disguised he is quite open about his wishes. She is more guarded: “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?” (28:9) That must have been because of the influence of Samuel. But Saul reassures her, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.” (v.10) and then comes the crunch: “Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”  “Bring up Samuel,” he said.” (v.11)

Now when you think about this, what is Saul expecting? A few words of comfort? That Samuel will speak differently to him, that Samuel will be easy going on him, that Samuel will forget God’s instruction to get rid of mediums and so put up with Saul’s further disobedience?  Well here is where it really starts getting freaky; the woman goes in to her act but then it all goes wrong, it really does appear to be Samuel: “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!” (v.12)

The fact that she responds like this means that she wasn’t really expecting this to happen and it scares her. Saul cries to her to be clearer: “The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?” The woman said, “I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.” “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.” (v.13,14) The only other time in the Bible when someone appears to come back from the dead is on the Mount of Transfiguration where Moses & Elijah appear (see Mt 17) – and of course when Jesus rose from the dead – and so this is not something you can expect to happen, and the medium certainly didn’t, but God in His grace (?) allowed Samuel to speak to Saul one more time: “Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 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. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.” (v.16-19)

You can’t get any clearer than that for a rebuke. You’ve lost the kingdom to David and you are going to die tomorrow. That basically is the end of it. You can read yourself the further few details before Saul goes back home. But that’s it.

Today mediums and those in the occult foolishly try to use this passage to support what they do but they always forget that first, behind this passage was the Law of Moses which forbade such things, which Samuel had complied with, and then the actions of this so-called medium indicate that what happened – the reality of it being Samuel – was completely unexpected; this was a unique incident in the Bible. Normally it never happened!

If you are not sure about the verses about mediums, here are some:

  • “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 19:31),
  • “`I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.” (Lev 20:6),
  • “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death.” (Lev 20:27),
  • “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD”  (Deut 18:10-12) It is quite clear. Stay away!
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17. Confidence in God

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.17

Isa 8:16,17 Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.

When one observes the changes taking place in the world, and the signs of instability and insecurity that there are, it means that sometimes the world appears very confusing. Add to this the Christian perspective where we wonder what God is doing, and it becomes even more so. It is often a very unsettling and confusing place, this world in the early part of the twenty-first century. It was no different in Isaiah’s day.

Isaiah saw, with God’s revelation, that Assyria was about to come and invade the nation (8:7,8) but he was warned by the Lord not to think in the same way as the godless people of the land thought: The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” (8:11,12). Conspiracy meant scheming and plotting, whether from inside the nation or outside it. The gossips of the land, possibly the travellers and merchants who travelled the lands, brought news that there was plotting in the north against the south. It’s all right, says the Lord to Isaiah, you don’t need to worry about the plots of men: The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” (8:13).

There is within this almost an implication that what is happening in the north is something instigated by the Lord. They will only do what the Lord wants done. He’s the originator of these things, the One to be feared. Because of this, those who are righteous can take comfort in that, “he will be a sanctuary.” (8:14a). If the Lord brings these nations from the north, He will also look after His righteous ones and be a refuge for them, but that isn’t necessarily so for everyone else: “for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.” (8:14,15) i.e. The Lord will make these unrighteous ones stumble and fall and be broken, snared and captured. What a summary of what will happen!

It is at this point that Isaiah makes his own declaration: “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.” (8:16) i.e. my disciples will hold onto the scrolls that carry both the testimony and the law so that whatever happens to the land, this will be preserved for future generations. The ‘testimony’ refers to what the Lord has done for Israel. It started, as we noted previously, with the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Ex 20:2) and is found in many other places in the early books of the Bible. It is a record of the Lord’s dealings with His people. Most of Exodus, parts of Numbers and much of Deuteronomy, speak of the Lord’s dealings with His people. This is the testimony. The Law is that found in Exodus in small measure, Leviticus in large measure, some in Numbers and a large amount reiterated in Deuteronomy. All of this, says Isaiah we will hold on to and preserve, whatever happens.

Then comes his own personal testimony or declaration: “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.” (8:17). In other words, the Lord may be hiding Himself from this people so they know little of Him (because of their godlessness and unrighteousness), but I will seek to remain faithful to Him and will simply wait for Him to work out His purposes with this people. I’m going to trust Him. All that I know of Him means I am able to rest in His love and His righteousness, knowing that He will do right.

Do you see what we have here? Isaiah is an insider. He understands what the Lord is doing because he has heard the Lord. He understands the confusing things that appear to be happening between the nations and realises that it is really the Lord at work. Moreover, what he knows of the Lord gives him confidence to be able to just trust in the Lord, to trust that it will all work out for good in the long run.

He goes on: “Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (8:18) i.e. I and my family point to the Lord and reveal His purposes for the nation today. We are part of the Lord’s great communication process. We stand out and speak to the nation of the Lord’s purposes; we are part of His plan to communicate to this people to seek to draw them back to Himself.

Look, he goes on, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (8:19). This people consult the occult. Whatever are they doing? They are the people of God; they should be consulting God. That is just a sign of their stupidity! Look, he continues, get back to your origins as the people of God, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (8:20). Get back to the records of God’s dealing with us in earlier generations; get back to His design rules for us, measure everything according to this and (implied) if it doesn’t measure up, or if it contradicts the records, throw it out! If you don’t do this, he explains, you’ll end up in a mess (8:21,22).

You see what is at the heart of the lessons here: we have the records of God’s dealing with mankind in His word, the Bible. Read it, study it and understand what it’s about. There is no need to live in chaos and confusion, in pain and hurt, worry and anxiety. The Lord has made it plain. All we have to do is read it, and absorb it and we’ll realise that it is true and we can follow it. God HAS given us all we need already, because He loves us. Just pay attention to it, and come to Him and receive His blessing. That’s the lesson here!

Walk of Rebellion – 2

WALKING WITH GOD. No.22

1 Sam 28:8 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.”

The story of Saul and David is a story of contrasts. Saul is a man head and shoulders taller than most (1 Sam 10:23), a man who ‘looked’ the part. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). Saul was a ‘head’ man, David was a ‘heart’ man. When it came to difficulties David sought the Lord (1 Sam 23:10-12). When Saul got into difficulties he reasoned what should be done and ended up taking the role of a priest (1 Sam 13:9-13) and was rebuked for it, only referred to the Lord as a second thought (1 Sam 14:36), makes a bad judgement (1 Sam 14:44,45), and was only partially obedient against the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:9-19). No wonder he was rejected by God.

We are now some time on and Samuel has passed away and Saul is left without any counsellor. Once again the Philistines gather to come against Israel (v.4) and Saul is afraid. He enquires of the Lord but the Lord is silent, because He has rejected Saul and Saul has not the sense to stand down. More than that he has not the sense to call for a time of national repentance which he should lead and seek God’s mercy. That would have been the right course of action. Instead Saul thinks, what other way is there of getting guidance? I have no counsellor, God is silent, what about the spiritists? Ah, under Samuel I got rid of them from the land – yet there is one at Endor I’m told.

Now the Law of Moses expressly stated, “Do not practice divination or sorcery” (Lev 19:26) and “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” (Deut 18:10,11). Occult means ‘hidden powers’ and all of these sorts of things were hidden powers that excluded God and were thus clearly forbidden by God. There is no question in Scripture that spiritism or spiritualism (whichever you prefer to call it) is forbidden by God, but here we find Saul contemplating this very thing.

Now we don’t need to go into the detail of what followed; we are more concerned with Saul’s walk of rebellion against the will of God as decreed in the word of God. Later on king Manasseh’s activities were described: “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.” (2 Chron 33:6) His occult activity provoked God to anger. God IS angry with occult activity because such activity is a) demonic, b) deceptive and not truthful, and c) denying God. It was in the ensuing battle with the Philistines that Saul died. The record in Chronicles reads: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD ; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (1 Chron 10:13,14) What a statement of condemnation and this episode of going to a medium is seen as a key factor in his death which was the judgement of God on him.

The warning is therefore very clear to us today. Whatever the reason, we may never consult mediums. It is a walk of outright rebellion and rejection of God. If God is silent, seek Him more. Isaiah was later to ask, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?(Isa 8:19) The Biblical message is quite clear. For the people of God who need guidance God, and NOT mediums, is to be their source.

It is an interesting point of note, that those who have consulted mediums find it more difficult to come to God. Why? Because they have been tainted by the demonic unseen powers and darkness makes it harder for them to receive the light. If you have consulted mediums in the past, seek God’s face in sincere repentance and ask Him to cut you off from any lingering influence that activity may have left in you. This is one of those times when John’s words are particularly important, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). We need purifying from such occult darkness. If you have never been down that path, don’t ever be tempted to go down the path of rebellion. Stay clear, stay clean.