************ Sermon on 1 Samuel 28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 24, 2018
1 Samuel 28
"Saul and the Witch of Endor"
This past week I Googled ghost hunts and learned the state of Indiana offers some of the most haunted locations in the United States -- especially the Randolph Asylum in Winchester, Indiana where you can interact with the spirits of the dead. Or, you can spend a night at the Farnsworth Inn in Pennsylvania; at this bed and breakfast, you get to spend time with those that have already died.
Every year a friend of mine goes on these kinds of ghost-hunting trips. She has done this for 30+ years. She told me that not once has she seen a ghost. So she wonders if they are real.
My friend doesn't have to travel to Indiana to find a ghost. A family in our church has told me a couple of times about a ghost in their house.
Children of the 1950s watched the cartoon, "Casper the Friendly Ghost." According to the Bible, there are no friendly ghosts. I've told my friend that ghosts and spirits are real and the Bible warns us to have nothing to do with them.
Let's look at the fascinating passage in front of us to see what the Bible teaches us about spirits and ghosts and witches and mediums.
I King Saul and the Philistines (vs 3-6)
A We begin with King Saul and the Philistines. We are told the Philistines gathered to fight against Israel. Because King Saul and his army were so busy pursuing David, the land was left undefended and the Philistines were able to march into the heart of Israelite territory.
Saul and his army camped opposite the Philistines. And Saul became troubled. It was clear to him the Philistines were more numerous, better armed, and more psychologically ready for battle. If Saul had kept close to the Lord, he would not have been afraid. But because he had provoked God to forsake him, his armies dwindled, his spirit failed, and his heart trembled.
B What was Saul to do? What follows next is one of the saddest verses of the Bible. Listen, again, to what verse 6 tells us about King Saul:
(1 Sam 28:6) He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.Isn't this sad? The Lord refused to answer Saul's inquiry for help. The Spirit of God didn't come to him in a dream. He inquired of the priests but they got no answer from the Urim and Thummim. And no prophet appeared to say, "This is what the Lord says ..." The LORD did not answer him. The LORD was silent.
This gives us a problem. Didn't God say that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:28-32)? Did any ever seek the Lord and not find Him? We see here that anyone who is like Saul cannot expect an answer from God. Saul came to God -- but not in repentance and faith. He came to God because he was in trouble.
"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near," says the prophet (Isa 55:6). Think of what this means. It means there is a time when God will not be found, when it is too late. Saul inquired of the Lord but it was too late.
Can he who hated the prophet Samuel expect to hear an answer from a prophet? Can he who killed the high priest and his family expect to be answered by the Urim and Thummim? Can he who sinned against the Spirit, expect to be answered by dreams? Of course not! God is not deceived. God is not mocked.
C God was silent. So what was Saul to do? Saul couldn't go to Samuel for advice and ask for his prayers because Samuel was dead. Scripture also reminds us Saul could not consult with mediums and spiritists -- as was done by the heathens -- because Saul had expelled them from the land (cf Lev 19:26, 31; 20:6,27). Yet, as we will see, though Saul drove the devil out of his kingdom, he still harbored the devil in his heart.
II Saul Seeks for a Witch (vs 7-11)
A What was Saul to do? The same thing everyone of us is called to do: to humble himself before God, to repent, to seek God with all his heart.
But because Saul got no answer from heaven or earth he decided to knock at the gates of hell instead. To see if any there would listen and give him advice and comfort his soul. "Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her" (1 Sam 28:7). This is so wrong.
First, the command and will of God when it comes to this sort of thing is plain:
(Ex 22:18) Do not allow a sorceress to live.King Saul knew this was the will of God. That's why he expelled them from the land. Yet now he asks to consult with a witch. As I said earlier, though Saul drove the devil out of his kingdom, he still harbored the devil in his heart.
(Lev 19:26) Do not practice divination or sorcery.
(Lev 19:31) Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.
(Lev 20:6) 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 20:27) A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.
(Deut 18:10-11) Let no one be found among you ... who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, (11) or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.
Speaking of this, have you ever noticed the signs along our local freeways? There is a palm reader between here and Fresno and just before Hanford. On the East side of our city you will see a sign for Visalia Psychic and Crystal Healing. I know I have seen a sign for horoscopes in Three Rivers. Blasphemous. This is blasphemous. And no Christian can ever have anything to do with this evil.
The second thing that is wrong: how come Saul has officials who are able to find him what he wants? The job of these officials is to help the King be godly. Their job is to give him wise Christian counsel. Their job is to promote justice and righteousness. Yet, we see them doing the opposite. Woe to the leader whose counselors are like these men! Woe to the leader who chooses the wrong kind of advisors.
Saul is told there is a witch in Endor. So Saul disguised himself, put on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. At night. Reminds me of what the Apostle Paul says about the works of darkness. Evil works are works of darkness and they hate the light. They don't want to be exposed by the light.
B Saul arrives at Endor. "Consult a spirit for me," he said to the witch, "and bring up Samuel."
"Bring up Samuel." Isn't this strange? While Samuel was living at Ramah, not far from Gibeah of Saul, we never read of Saul consulting the prophet. But now that Samuel is dead, Saul wants to consult with him. Many that despise and persecute God's prophets when they are living wish to have them again when they are gone. Think of how the rich man wanted dead Lazarus to come to him and to his brothers (cf Luke 16:24-27).
"Bring up Samuel." Remember, Samuel is dead. So, this request assumes something. This request rightly assumes death is not the end. This request rightly assumes souls or spirits exist after death. Saul knows that Samuel is still alive -- in some way and in some form.
The witch of Endor objects to this request because of what Saul has done to the mediums and spiritists in the land. But notice what she doesn't mention: she doesn't mention the Word of God. She fears man more than God. She fears Saul's punishment more than the terrors of God's wrath.
As for Saul, it was his duty as King to punish the witch of Endor but instead he promises with an oath that she will not be punished. Who is Saul to make this promise? Can he guarantee that God -- Who hates witchcraft -- will leave the witch alone? Saul promised more than was his ability and authority to deliver.
III From the Devil (vs 12-19)
A "Bring up Samuel." The very next words are, "When the woman saw Samuel ..." We aren't told what she did or what she said. We aren't told what spells or charms or incantations she used. But, then, God does not want us to know the depths of Satan. He does not want us to know the mysteries of iniquity. He wants us to remain simple concerning evil (cf Rom 16:19).
I say this so you realize how depraved and wicked and evil this all is. Because this is from the Devil. God does not want us knowing about mediums and sorcery. God wants to keep us in the dark about this. God wants us to keep away from this.
B From the Devil. That's where the spirit comes from. Some here might find this to be confusing. After all, it appears that it is Samuel talking with Saul -- the real Samuel.
But let's pay attention to what really happens. The witch sees Samuel. He looked like Samuel. He was dressed like Samuel. But he wasn't Samuel. God permitted Satan to give the shape and appearance of Samuel to an evil spirit.
The woman said, "I see a spirit coming up out of the ground." Samuel said, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up." What direction is this spirit moving? UP. UP. Not down. But the souls of God's people go up to heaven at the moment of death so it only makes sense that if they were called back to earth then we would see their soul coming down. Yet this spirit is moving up. Up from hell!
Saul is given a lie. Saul wants to believe a lie. So Satan gives him a lie to believe. Don't think this strange. After all, Satan is able to disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).
Do you see the irony here. Saul disguises himself but Satan sees right through the disguise. Satan disguises himself and Saul is blind to what is going on. No wonder Paul urges us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil's schemes (Eph 6:11).
C What follows is an entire conversation between Saul and the counterfeit Samuel. We listen to the conversation. It sure sounds like Samuel. The evil spirit knows things only Samuel can know. The evil spirit knows the kingdom will be taken from Saul and given to David. The evil spirit knows about Saul's failure to carry out God's judgment against the Amalekites. The evil spirit knows Saul and his sons will die in battle. This has to be Samuel, doesn't it?! No. Don't forget, when the Spirit of God left Saul an evil spirit took over (1 Sam 16:14). This evil spirit saw and heard everything in Saul's sad descent. This evil spirit saw and heard and realized that God had forsaken Saul. So it took advantage of the situation.
Listen to the conversation between Saul and the evil spirit masquerading as Samuel. There is not a word of comfort. There is not a single call to repentance. Nothing is said about how to be reconciled with God. Do you think that the Samuel we know, the Samuel of the Scriptures, Samuel the prophet, would talk this way? Of course not. He was always quick to point out sin: whether it was the sins of Eli and his sons or the sin of Saul for failing to kill the Amalekites. The real Samuel also made sacrifice for sin -- which we also don't see or hear in this conversation. But Saul is blind to the truth.
Discern the spirits says John. "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 Jn 4:1). Test the spirits. Don't believe a word of the evil spirits. Don't even dabble with ghosts and horoscopes and palm reading and crystals and mediums and Ouija boards (do people even play with these any more?).
D The Devil has a scheme, of course. He wants to drive Saul to despair. He paints God as Saul's enemy rather than as his friend. The Philistines are against you. David is against you. Even God is against you. So you have no reason for hope. Forget about mercy. You can't have peace with God. In the light of what happens, we come to realize the Devil wants to drive Saul to commit the sin of suicide.
Dear friends, don't listen to the evil spirits. Don't give them the time of day. Don't give them an opportunity to make you doubt or question the love of God and the ways of God. Don't allow them to make your faith and trust wander and waver.
We know Satan is tricky and deceiving. So we are warned to keep watch and to be alert because our enemy the Devil is always waiting to attack and to lead astray -- as he did with Saul.
We also look at this story in the light of the cross and the grave of Christ. We know the powers of darkness are great and evil and mean us only harm. But we also know the one who is in us who believe is greater than the one who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). So we don't despair like Saul did. Instead, we say and sing with Martin Luther:
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
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