The Séance at Endor

I was reading 1 Samuel 28 again.  I paid particular attention to verses 14:11-14.

Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.

And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

Samuel had died and was buried in his hometown, Ramah.  Everyone mourned him.   And Saul had banned all mediums and those who consulted the spirits of the dead from the land of Israel . 

When the Philistine army set up camp at Shunem, and Saul gathered all the army of Israel and camped at Gilboa, Saul panicked when he saw how vast the Philistine army was.  He consulted the Lord but the Lord refused to answer him, either by dreams or by sacred lots or by the prophets.   Desperate, Saul turned to a medium even though God said, “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood [shall be] upon them.”

Saul had banned these people from practicing their witchcraft in the land and yet here he was lifting that ban because he couldn’t get an answer from God.  Why was he seeking God’s counsel?  Was it to find out what God’s will was as other kings like David (1 Samuel 23:2, 4; 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1; 5:19, 23; Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:5).  These kings were interested in knowing what God’s will was in each of these situations.  They were asking Him for His advice not out of fear of the enemy.  And their seeking was done from the heart as we are told to do.  Saul’s was not.  He seldom sought the Lord for anything and now be cause he was afraid, he was running to the Lord like a scared child.

God promised, “And you will seek Me and find [Me], when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Saul did not search for God with all his heart.  It’s like getting in touch with a parent only when you need something.  When we seek God we must do this in sincerity and uprightness.  David knew this for he said, “I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives” (1 Chronicles 29:17, NLT).  David was acknowledging that “everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us” (verse 14).

Saul’s motives were not right and that’s why God didn’t answer him and we see this for ourselves when Saul decides to consult a medium. 

I call it as séance because the witch calls up a dead spirit.  Saul doesn’t see anything.  He relies on the witch to tell him what she sees.  She told him, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  Saul asked the woman what the god looked like and she replied, “He is an old man wrapped in a robe.”  Based on this description, Saul assumed that it was Samuel.  And he fell to the ground before the spirit he couldn’t see.

It doesn’t make sense that Samuel who was dead and buried in Ramah would end up coming up from the ground in Endor.  If the dead go to heaven as many believe, why is Samuel coming up from the earth?  And Paul assured us that when the dead are raised, they, like the living would have new bodies, not corruptible ones (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, they were afraid because they thought He was a spirit.  Jesus said to them, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).  Yet, “Samuel” who seem to be have flesh and bones but was invisible to Saul.  Even spirits can be seen.  Why was the witch the only one who saw it? 

The spirit said to Saul,  “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?  And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.  Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.  Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

What stood out for me were the words, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.”  Saul committed suicide on the battlefield the next day.  How is it possible for someone wicked like Saul to be with Samuel?  Were they going to be in the same place?  This doesn’t make sense if you believe that the wicked dead go to hell and the righteous dead go to heaven.  The dead go to the grave where they sleep until they are resurrected.  Jesus Himself said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29).

Saul was deceived by the very practice he had banned.  The devil had fooled him into thinking that he was talking to the prophet Samuel.  What a sad ending to Saul’s life.  So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14).  Saul did not keep the word of the Lord which stated in clear terms, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:31).

Today, we would do well to heed these words Isaiah 8:19, 20:  “Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark” (NLT).

Always seek God for advice and make sure that your heart is in the right place– that your motives are not selfish.


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