1 Samuel 28:3-25
The text is too long to include here but this is the story of Saul, after Samuel dies, looking for direction when facing the Philistines. Saul did not get an answer from the Lord (God was silent – v. 6). Saul panicked and sought a woman who was a medium, she sought to bring up the dead to give predictions about the future. This was strictly forbidden in the Law (Lev. 19:31). But Saul was terrified and he was not getting any direction from God because He had disobeyed God and God promised to take the kingdom away from him and give it to David; in other words God had become Saul’s adversary (v. 16).
It is amazing there are times like this when God’s people disobey Him and yet still want God to fix their circumstances. Saul did not figure out that God was not a concierge who exists to make life easier. Saul wanted God to make him successful, to win the war, but Saul was not willing to submit to God. He wanted his own freedom and yet expected God to still “be on his side”. When God did not give an answer he started exploring other options and ran straight to a medium – he was seeking answers from the dead on behalf of the living.
We do not operate well in the unknown. We hate not knowing what is coming or what to do. Saul understood how vulnerable he was and so he was seeking some wisdom, some kind of direction in dealing with the Philistines. There is something about not knowing what to do in any given circumstance that can truly rattle us. This goes beyond the temptation to rise to the occasion by being innovative and creative although Saul’s actions could be construed as highly creative as long as you don’t care what the source is that the wisdom comes from.
Saul ended up taking advice from wherever he can get it. He finds a medium, who calls up Samuel. We can be assured that in this circumstance it appears that Samuel did come from the dead. We don’t know how he appears, but the medium describes Samuel as a “divine being,” coming up out of the earth (v. 11-13). The Scriptures call this person Samuel, the medium calls him Samuel and Saul recognizes him as Samuel; we will concede that it was Samuel. Somehow God permits Samuel to appear to Saul. But Samuel is of no help because he reminds Saul that he is no longer in favor with God and he has lost the privilege to rule Israel (v. 15-19). Samuel only reminds Saul of the judgment that God has levied against him and that by the next day both he and his sons will be dead and join Samuel in the grave.
What can we learn? First, the end does not justify the means. Samuel does not help Saul, but only affirms his failure to trust and obey God. Secondly, this is a clear warning that if God is silent there is something wrong and it does not originate with God. Not all of God’s silences mean something sinful is the problem, but it is obvious here that when Saul blatantly disobeys God, he will not be hearing from God. God requires repentance, not for us to just keep pressing forward as if nothing was wrong. Thirdly, proper fellowship with God is indispensable to following God. If we are not in proper relationship with God, it is impossible to carry out the responsibilities from God. Fourthly, once we abandon God we are susceptible to listen to anything that abates our fears. Saul was panicked and it drove him to seek answers, not from the living God, but from one who tries to speak to the dead.
When we are fearful, anxious, or even panicked, that is not the time to run from God, but rather run to Him. Saul wanted God to operate on his terms; he was not willing to submit to God’s terms. From there everything started to fall apart and Saul made some foolish decisions because he became desperate. He was overwhelmed, vulnerable and was not willing to humble himself before the Lord. Christians will do this on occasion – when they think God is not answering, Christians will sometimes seek solutions that actually violate their faith, go against God’s expressed word, and go against their own values…which of course begs the question. The bottom line – keep walking in close fellowship with the Lord, it will save you from much hardship, disappointment, and looking foolish when we start trying to find answers in all the wrong places.
Pastor Brad Little