Thursday, October 25, 2012

P1 - Biblically evaluating mediums, witchcraft and ghosts

1 Samuel 28:7-8  7Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” 8Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.”

It is alleged that since King Saul of Israel went to a witch, and the witch allegedly called up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel, then the pagan worldview of witchcraft / paranormalism must be legitimate.  Is this the case?  What can we observe about this text concerning the subject of mediums, witchcraft and ghosts?  It will be contended in today's blog that the understanding of the supernatural advocated by Mediums and witchcraft is inaccurate and dangerous for anyone, especially Christians, to dabble in or consider.  Below are some thoughts on this worldview from 1 Samuel 28.

1. Mediums and witchcraft flourishes in times of fear
As you go down through the passage, we read these words in 1 Samuel 28:9-10 "But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” 10Saul vowed to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”

King Saul had earlier issued a decree in 1 Samuel 28:3 that forbade the practice of witchcraft and the removal of those who did.  Since Samuel was dead, King Saul in supposed honor of the prophet made it law.  However the sworn enemies of Israel, the Philistines, came to threaten war against Israel.  When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, the Bible states in 1 Samuel 28:5 "he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly".  Being that Saul was spiritually not in fellowship with the Lord, he was incapable of receiving direction from the Lord - hence prompting him to consult a witch at Endor.  In an ironic twist, fear drove Saul to consult this Medium - the very type of person he had but days before banished from Israel.

2. Mediums and Witchcraft feed off of error
Upon meeting with her, Saul requested in 1 Samuel 28:5 for this witch to conjure up the spirit of Samuel.  Saul was operating out of fear, not faith.  Saul should had known better - since the scripture earlier condemns the practice and worldview of witchcraft among God's people. (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-12)  Nonetheless he ignores God's Law and the witch soon discovers that the one inquiring her in disguise is none other than King Saul himself!  At first she hesitates, ironically having more of a conscience than the King!  However she does as Saul requests, and conjures up a spirit. 

Clearly this episode is occuring at a time where much fear was prevailing in the land and where the concern for biblical fidelity was at a low-point.  Our day and age is clearly marked by much fear and little or no understanding of scripture.  Passages such as 1 Timothy 4:1 state - "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."

3. Mediums and witchcraft fall prey to spiritual deception
So did this witch at endor see Samuel?  1 Samuel 28:11-14 records the episode - "11Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” 13The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” 14He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.

Now the text in verse 12 indicates that the woman saw what appeared to be Samuel.  However her response to Saul is one of surprise, since she realizes it is Saul in disguise.  Furthermore, verses 13-14 tells us what she is really seeing: a "divine being" coming up out of the earth.  The word translated "divine being" is used in this instance to describe "gods" or demonic beings in the Old Testament. (Deuteronomy 32:16-17)  When the text tells us in verse 14 that Saul "knew it was Samuel", we then understand that the scripture is giving us the view of these events from an already deceived Saul's vantage point. 

Matthew Henry, the great Bible Commentator notes: "But, if people will be deceived, it is just with God to say, "Let them be deceived." That the devil, by the divine permission, should be able to personate Samuel is not strange, since he can transform himself into an angel of light! nor is it strange that he should be permitted to do it upon this occasion, that Saul might be driven to despair, by enquiring of the devil, since he would not, in a right manner, enquire of the Lord, by which he might have had comfort."

More tomorrow.

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