On the morning of February 25, 2013, my husband and I were talking about the encounter between Saul and whom he perceived to be the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 28. We recalled a broadcast of In Touch some time ago when Dr. Charles Stanley taught that it was God who spoke through “Samuel” whom the witch had seen coming up from the ground. Some commentators talk about how the woman seemed startled when she saw an old man with a mantle rising from the earth. Some intimate that she was a fraud and got a shock when a spirit actually came up. I wouldn’t speculate on why she was startled or how she found out that it was Saul in a disguise. What shocked me was that Dr. Stanley would preach that God would speak through the very means which He forbade His people from using. In Moses’ time mediums and those who consulted the dead were put to death (Leviticus 20:27).
God warned His people, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards,to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God.” Why then would God who is holy defile Himself by speaking through what Saul perceived as the spirit of Samuel? If God engaged in the very practice which He prohibited, He would be a hypocrite.
Most people believe that when a person dies, they go to heaven if they are righteous and to hell if they are wicked. Does it make sense then that Samuel would be coming up from the earth if he were supposed to be in heaven? And would why would he say to Saul, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (verse 19). Would wicked Saul really be where Samuel, a man of God was? And why is “Samuel” who died and was buried in the city Ramah show up in Endor?
Consider what “Samuel” said to Saul in verses 15-19 and then consider Samuel’s behavior when the Lord rejected Saul as king. 1 Samuel 15:11 and 35 state: “And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” Does this Samuel sound like the one who spoke to Saul in Endor? Even the witch showed Saul more compassion (verses 21-25).
1 Chronicles 10:13-14 say: “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But [he] did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” Saul sought the Lord but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by Urim or the prophets (1 Samuel 28:6).
Saul’s heart was not in the right place. He had been disobedient to God for such a long time that the Lord’s Spirit had left him. And it proved that Saul’s heart was not in the right place because in his desperation, he sought the help of a witch. As one commentator rightly puts it, “He had done so in form ( 1 Sa 28:6 ), but not in the spirit of a humble penitent, nor with the believing confidence of a sincere worshipper. His enquiry was, in fact, a mere mockery, and his total want of all right religious impressions was manifested by his rushing from God to a wretched impostor in the service of the devil [ 1 Sa 28:7 ].”
The manner in which Saul sought the Lord explains why he received no answer. David knew how to approach the God of his fathers. ”The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart–These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). What Saul needed was a broken spirit and a contrite heart and God would have responded to him.
This sad chapter in Saul’s life demonstrates just how important it is to read the Word of God for ourselves instead of simply relying on pastors and ministers. We ought to be like the Bereans who after listening to the apostle Paul’s sermon and readily receiving it, still consulted the Scriptures to make sure that what they were heard was in harmony. Once they were satisfied that it was, they believed.
So many Christians are being led astray by pastors and ministers who believe in what they are teaching but whose teaching are contrary to what is in the Bible. We encourage Christians seek the Word of God and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into God’s truth. Don’t be surprised if the truth that is revealed to you is different from what you have been taught.
It is so easy to misinterpret or misunderstand God’s Word but the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. Jesus used the Scriptures to teach His disciples and show them the way. The disciples encountered a lot of opposition from people who did not believe in the Gospel. They challenged their beliefs and teaching but the disciples stood their ground because they had the Word of God on their side. Jesus used the Word of God to defeat the enemy who was trying to tempt Him. The enemy quoted from scripture but used it in the wrong context. This goes to show you that a person may know the Bible and quote scores of scripture from it but it doesn’t mean that the person knows what he or she is talking about.
In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul wrote, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is important to search the Word diligently, prayerfully and without any preconceived notions. Be open to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Don’t resist the truth because it is different from what you have believed for years. God once encouraged me to embrace the truth. Remember what Jesus said about the truth setting you free.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” – Acts 17:11.