Gracious Lord, may your changeless love and mercy give me the courage to change what needs changing in my life.
Read 1 SAMUEL 28:3-25
Saul and the Medium at Endor
3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.
4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”
“There is one in Endor,” they said.
8 So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.”
9 But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?”
10 Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.”
11 Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”
“Bring up Samuel,” he said.
12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”
13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”
The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure[a] coming up out of the earth.”
14 “What does he look like?” he asked.
“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.
Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.
15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
“I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”
16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 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. 18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19 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.”
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.
21 When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, “Look, your servant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. 22 Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.”
23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.”
But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch.
24 The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. 25 Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate. That same night they got up and left.
- 1 Samuel 28:13 Or see spirits; or see gods
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.’1
Looking at the Philistine threat, Saul’s response is again fear, not faith (v 5).2 The king wants reassurance, but Samuel is dead and God says nothing through the usual channels of communication (v 6; the Urim and Thummim were lots used to divine God’s will). As before, the king caves in under pressure and turns to forbidden ways to get an answer, even though he himself has eliminated mediums and spiritists earlier (v 3). In other words, his obedience is only skin-deep. He can do the right thing while there is no challenge, but at sight of an obstacle he chooses the easier way. He is like rocky soil: the seed in his life finds no root and when difficulties arise he falls away.3
Although we should refrain from drawing conclusions about the afterlife from the incident in Endor, the biblical writer asserts that the figure who appears is Samuel (vs 12,14,15,16,20), not an illusion or a demon. The issue with necromancy is not that it is ineffectual but that it represents an illegitimate means of communicating with God.4 Samuel’s answer (vs 17–19) confirms what Saul knows already: the kingdom will be taken from him because of his earlier disobedience and given to David. The additional information (he and his sons will die the next day) is no help at all either.
Saul now is engulfed in terror, exacerbated by his fast (v 20). His supposed piety (fasting was a way to prepare for meeting God) had no real substance behind it. When seen together with his earlier and present disobedience, it amounts to nothing more than another attempt to force God’s hand and get a response. Even at this stage, when Saul hears an answer, there is no repentance, only ‘a terrifying expectation of judgment’.5
Lord, lead us to let deep roots down in you and not compromise our obedience when under pressure, when seeking guidance, at work, or in relationships.
Lord, when I call, you answer. Give me a listening ear so I will hear your voice, and follow your guidance.
1 Isa 55:6 2 Cf 1 Sam 17:11 3 Matt 13:20,21 4 Deut 18:9–14; Luke 16:30,31 5 Heb 10:27, NASB
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