Friday, February 1, 2013

Saul, Samuel & the Medium of En-Dor

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

1 Samuel 28:1-25 (PLEASE READ…TOO LONG TO INCLUDE HERE)
So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chron. 10:13-14)

This unique text has often been scrutinized for it’s details regarding what it has to say about human nature and the after-life. May I suggest that this is missing the Holy Spirit’s main intent for this text?  Every text of Scripture was inspired, in the first place, to expand our knowledge of God, and that every inch of the Old Testament points to the perfection of the Person and Work of Christ. When we read any passage of the bible, our primary question should be—what does this teach me about God? And then we can make personal application…We tend to be anthropocentric (man-centered) in our approach to this text, while it is meant to viewed theo-centricaly (God-centered).

The text above from 1 Chron. is an inspired interpretation of this event. Hence, it should be the spectacles through which we view it. I’m not saying that discussing the finer points of the passage is inappropriate, but rather let us not miss the forest for the trees. .Put bluntly, how can we even think about using this text to support spiritism (belief in, and communicating with, trapped souls), when we are told that our holy God killed Saul for that very practice? (please see text above)

. Let me put it this way: if the sovereign majesty, glory, and holiness of God were grasped, we would not be having this discussion regarding whether ghosts exist or not. The very notion of trapped spirits is monstrous in light of God’s absolute sovereignty and the glorious perfection of the Person and work of Christ. Our theology affects our anthropology—if we have a deficient view of God’s greatness then we will have a deficient view of human nature, and what happens when we die. The dearth of truly God-centered preaching today is the primary reason the notion of ghosts has blossomed…along with pastors refusing to come to terms with its significance.

This episode with Saul and the medium comes at a crucial juncture in the drama of redemption— (establishment of the monarchy and the Davidic covenant).  The inauguration of each stage was crucial and was often attended by unusual occurrences. Saul was the first king of Israel, and he would be replaced by its greatest king (David), and this is where we find ourselves in this text—THE DAY BEFORE SAUL DIES. In the flow of biblical history, or the drama of redemption, this is a key moment…THAT EXPLAINS WHY WE HAVE THIS UNIQUE AND EXTRAORDINARY APPEARANCE OF A DECEASED PROPHET. As first in a long list of kings, Saul figures prominently for that reason—and for that reason we have God doing something extraordinary…nowhere else in scripture do we have a disembodied soul talking to another human (excluding Jesus with Moses and Elijah)…the oddities during Jesus/apostles day were resurrections from the dead, and not disembodied spirits.…

The specific context of this unique text is Saul’s. terrible fright due to the impending battle with the Philistines. He desperately wanted and needed the Lord’s wisdom and guidance, but the Lord was not answering his prayers (v.15.). Hence, he secretly (and very sinfully) approached a medium to see if she could contact Samuel, who he thought would be able to guide him. It seems that King Saul believed in the end justified the means…It is similar to, “since I am trying to get guidance from a godly deceased prophet, it is okay if I look to a demon inspired medium.” Is that so different from “I can get assurance that there is an afterlife, if only I can speak to my deceased mom.”? Is not our motive for being fascinated with the paranormal—fear of death or curiosity about the future—often quite similar to Saul’s? Please do not misunderstand me—curiosity regarding the supernatural is one thing, but what we do with that curiosity is another thing altogether! It was entirely proper for Saul to feel fear and to desire supernatural insight, but for believers, the end never justifies the means! (Prov. 3:5-6) He knew it was wrong in that he had previously expelled the mediums and necromancers (v. 3)

The woman that Saul found was similar to the mediums that practice today—she was not a witch as we understand it. (‘ob…according to The Theological Wordbook of  the Old Testament means medium) No, in v. 7 Saul told his servants to seek out a medium, and in his initial request in v. 8.—“…divine for me by a spirit….”  This phrase is often overlooked, but it reveals why Saul had earlier banished mediums…they used a spirit (demon) in their attempts to contact the dead. Saul knew that he was trafficking with the demonic in order to contact Samuel. It is said that desperate people do desperate things, but what Saul did wittingly (consciously communicate with demons) was extremely foolish—but don’t we do the same foolish thing unwittingly?.

Doubtless the medium did her usual ritual in order to bring the trance-like state in which she brought up the individual asked for with the help of her collaborating demon. The text is silent regarding any misgivings she might have felt regarding contacting the holy prophet. It is obvious she had been down this road many times, and  I’m confident that her demonic accomplice was always eager to deceive everyone that  it was the soul of a deceased person it was impersonating.

However, the whole occult practice was cut short when the real Samuel makes a grand entrance, which terrified the medium   She screamed in fear when it became apparent the God Himself had taken over and brought in the spirit of Samuel.. She rallied long enough to answer Saul’s inquiry as to who it was….Samuel. Any way you slice it, this was a unique and extraordinary occurrence which our Lord caused for His purposes at this crucial juncture of redemptive history. Saul was about to be killed by the Lord, and David anointed king—the Davidic covenant and many of his psalms looked forward to the coming of king David’s greater Son.—the Lord Jesus. Because of the sovereign in-breaking of God on the proceedings, can you see that the first question that should occupy our minds is NOT who is this masked man, but rather what kind of God cold do this? Theology precedes anthropology.

V.16 dispels any doubt as to who this mystery man really is: the inspired narrator says it was Samuel. The following verses either state explicitly or imply that this was Samuel: 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20…Moreover, since it is obvious that the disembodied soul was delivering a true message of judgment from the Lord, and refers to himself as the prophet, then that really settles the issue.

Here is the rub though—the hallmark of a ghost is that they are trapped souls due to traumatic or premature death—right? But Samuel’s soul was anything but trapped! He complained that Saul had disrupted his tranquility.(v.15).That one detail immediately disqualifies this text as evidence of the existence of ghosts. In addition, it is obvious that Samuel’s soul was not resting in what we think of as the paranormal realm or second heaven. Whatever else it may mean, coming up from the ground indicates that Samuel was not existing in any realm we have access to via EVP’s. To use this as an example of an earthbound spirit is to do violence to the text, and is a grievous example of scripture twisting.. .

At a crucial point in the flow of the unfolding drama of redemption, our sovereign God completely nullified the medium’s wicked attempt at necromancy, and instead raised up His deceased holy servant to bring His message of judgment upon Saul. That disembodied souls exist after death is a biblical notion, What is un-biblical is the notion that souls of deceased humans can get trapped here. This text does not support that idea at all—quite the opposite. This where we must drop idle curiosity and remember to look at this text from a God-saturated perspective...       

Sadly, the bible reveals that Saul, and his sons, died in battle the next day. We are not left to our own interpretation of this turn of events. In 1 Chronicles 10:13-14—(above) we are given an inspired theological and theo-centric interpretation of Saul’s death. God the Holy Spirit tells us that He put Saul to death for two reasons: not obeying His command to utterly slaughter the Amalekites, and for attempting to speak to the dead.(v.13) Please note that in  Lev. 20:4-6 we are told that the Lord detests attempts to speak to the dead (necromancy or spiritism) so passionately, that is was punishable by death. However, He goes even further: if the covenant community fails to kill those caught speaking to the dead, then He Himself would hunt them down and kill them. .As  I said in another newsletter, I know of no other list of sins in which God makes this threat—and the text in 1 Chron. tells us that God killed Saul for seeking out the medium of En-dor. Is that not both sobering and instructive?   

 The New Testament does not change God’s character, nor does God begin to love or accept what He hated with such a singular passion in the Old Testament. Because we are not a theocracy, spiritism is no longer a crime, but it is still a heinous sin. How can we avoid that conclusion if we have an ounce of respect for the authority of holy writ? What is spelled out so clearly in Deut 18 and Lev. 20, is ILLUSTRATED in this episode and in Saul’s subsequent death in battle.

Recently I was on Dave Schrader’s popular radio show Darkness Radio, and he agreed that every investigator he knew was experiencing paranormal activity, and/or many were sick and dying—or already dead. Our Lord killed Saul for attempting to speak to the dead. What a dreadful madness or demonic delusion has blinded our dear friends. From the depths of my heart, I beg you to stop, and to persuade others to stop. .Can God hurt people today? You bet your neck He can…and is. We must repent..or perish...

Breaking God’s commands and seeking guidance from the prince of this world brought Saul under God’s curse. However, it was Saul’s death that transitioned the monarchy to David, and ultimately to Christ the King. Because we all disobey God’s commands everyday, and look in all the wrong places for guidance, Jesus took all of this upon Himself—He became a curse for us. Jesus experienced every temptation that Saul did, and yet was without sin….His blood can wash away all occultic sin. Hallelujah, what a Savior!!

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