Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Witch of Endor - Part 1

In Scripture there are only two instances where a spirit of someone who had died came back to earth. One was the time when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of transfiguration. But the most intriguing instance is given to us in 1 Samuel 28. The chapter begins by describing the unstable state of King Saul (verses 1-6). Saul’s enemy, David, had allied with the Philistines. The Prophet Samuel had died leaving a spiritual vacuum in Israel. Saul had put all of the mediums and spiritists out of Israel which was one of the few acts of obedience in Saul’s life which he did in his earlier days when he was being influenced by Samuel. The Mosaic Law in Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 commanded that mediums and spiritists be avoided.

But now the army of the Philistines had gathered together to make war with Israel. They had encamped at Shunem which was 20 miles north of the northern most Philistine city. This aggressive advancement showed their intention to press further into Israel territory. The advancing Philistine army caused Saul to greatly fear. It is amazing to follow the relationship between Saul and the Spirit of God. When Saul walked in the Spirit he was a man of courage (1 Samuel 11:6-11). Saul began to lose his courage when the Holy Spirit withdrew from him due to disobedience (1 Samuel 16:14). Now his courage is gone

To make matters even worse, God was no longer answering Saul’s inquiries. Saul was trying every known way to hear from God but God was silent. Saul’s rejection of God through disobedience had led to God’s rejection of Saul as King (1 Samuel 15). This was a direct result of King Saul being given very explicit instructions by God through the Prophet Samuel to defeat the Amalekites, sparing none of them and destroying all they had including their animals (1 Samuel 15:1-3). Instead, Saul allowed the king of the Amalekites to live. He also spared the best of the animals (1 Samuel 15:7-11). When Samuel confronted the king, Saul falsely claimed to have obeyed God fully (1 Samuel 15:13). Samuel announces that because Saul has disobeyed the Lord, God had rejected him as King of Israel (1 Samuel 15:22-23). This prediction had now become reality.

The state of Saul led him to consult a medium (v7-10). Because God was not answering Saul, he asks his servants to find a medium so the he can inquire of her. His servants told him of a medium who lived in Endor (v7). A medium was one who made contact with the dead. The Hebrew word for medium is the idea of mumbling or speaking with a strange, hollow sound as if channeling with a dead spirit speaking through them (see Isaiah 8:19). So Saul disguises himself and goes under cover of darkness to the medium in Endor (v8). Endor was just four miles away from Shunem where the Philistines were encamped.

The medium at Endor is careful making sure that this is not some kind of “sting operation” to catch all mediums that had previously been banished (v9-10). Saul swears to her in the name of the Lord that she would not be punished. How ironic that Saul would swear in the name of the Lord while breaking God’s command in consulting her toi begin with. One thing is for sure, spiritual jargon means nothing without obedience backing it up. Or according to 1 Samuel 15:23, "To obey is better than sacrifice!"

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