Halloween is behind us now. Some, more than others, like a good scare now and again. There is a report that is out this week that says 1 in 4 Americans believe they live in a haunted house. Do you?
I remember as a teenager on a dare, my friend and I went to see "The Exorcist" at a drive-in theater. Not the most sane idea I ever had. That night, I expected my bed to shake or some unseen evil force lurking in the shadows waiting for the right moment to possess me.
While we have fun being scared by movies or reading tales from Edgar Allen Poe, the Bible has something to say about mediums (necromancers, ones who evoke the dead), sorcerers and witchcraft, but not in a way in which you might think. Leviticus 19:31: "'Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God." And in Revelation 21:8.
There is one case in the Bible where a medium actually conjured up a dead spirit. Before you get too excited, there was a specific reason why God allowed this to occur. In fact, contrary to popular movies and TV series that show mediums in a positive light, this séance resulted not in comfort but in terror, not hope but desperation and defeat.
This case is found in 1 Samuel 28, and the place was in a Canaanite village called Endor. Endor was one of the Canaanite villages that the Israelites were unable to drive out in their pursuit to conquer the land. Seems their inability to drive these folks out came back to haunt Saul.
Saul was Israel's first king, but his wanton disobedience led to the prophet Samuel confirming that God had rejected him as king. God would select David instead. Now we find that Samuel has died. The Philistines are gathering together for a confrontation with Israel. Verses 5-6 say, "When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets."
So now Saul stands alone, frightened and desperate. Folks, desperation and stepping out from under God's umbrella of protection has serious consequences. This kind of loneliness and desperation was the result of sin, and unrepentant sin opens ourselves to satanic forces. Take your walk with God seriously.
Saul then decides to seek out a medium of Endor (verse 7). He wanted answers, even if it meant from a source other than God.
It's not like Saul didn't know the consequences of his actions. Verse 3 tells us that in preparation for Samuel's funeral, "Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land."
In undercover fashion, Saul meets this medium. She recognizes that he was an Israelite and that all mediums and spiritists were to be put to death. Yet, desperate measures were now necessary, and he promises that no harm would befall her. Amazingly, the spirit of Samuel comes forward. Saul explains his dire situation and the fact that God won't speak to him. Listen to the response from Samuel.
In verses 17-19, Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors -- to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines."
These were not the words Saul was hoping to hear. In fact, in verse 20, "Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel's words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night." In the end, as noted in 1 Samuel 23, Saul ended his own life. From a king chosen by God to a desperate lonely man separated from God.
Looking in all the wrong places for answers that only God gives through scripture is a deadly decision. Obedience is always the best way. Saul searched for answers in the occult. He found no help, no comfort, no peace, only the certainty that his sin had separated him from God.
The scriptures give this woman no name, only that she was a medium. God used this occasion to demonstrate the terrible result of disobedience, to warn us that Satan operates in nameless ways presenting himself sometimes as an angel of light, appealing, promising to reveal what God has hidden from you. And, finally, to demonstrate that truth is found in Him and Him alone.