1 Samuel 28:1-25 - A Study of the Occult
A. Saul's Situation (v.1-6).
Introduction: The term “Occult” is “The belief in and the use of supernatural forces to predict future events or bring about a specific result.” If you searched the Bible for the term occult, you would come up empty-handed. However, numerous references are made in Scripture to the practice of fortune-telling, witchcraft, and astrology. Occult practices were common among the pagan nations of the ancient world. But attempts to contact or control evil spirits were expressly forbidden to the Hebrews, and the prohibition extends to believers today. Among the practices that Deuteronomy 18:10–12 calls “an abomination to the Lord” are:
• child sacrifice (making one’s son or daughter “pass through the fire”);
• soothsaying, a form of divination which may have been similar to tea leaf reading or astrology;
• interpreting omens;
• conjuring spells;
• consulting mediums;
• spiritism; and
• calling up the dead.
In the New Testament, the gospel exposed two sorcerers, Simon (Acts 8:9–25) and Elymas (13:6–8). The New Testament word translated “sorcery” comes from the same Greek word as our English word “pharmacy.” Obviously this has to do with drugs; a more relevant and contemporary application could hardly be found. The passages in (Revelation 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; and 22:15) apply to those who use drugs to bring on trances during which they claim to have supernatural knowledge or power.
1. There was a serious problem (v.1-2).
a) The tragic situation.
(1) The Philistines had invaded Israel (v.1): And in Saul's mind, he not only had to face the Philistines, he had to face David as well. Perhaps Saul even thought that the invasion was an attempt to overthrow his government so that David could rule Israel on behalf of the Philistines.
(2) The Philistine king demanded that David fight (v.2): This posed a very serious dilemma for David, because it meant that he would be fighting against his own people, the very people whom he had been appointed to serve as king by God.
(3) David promised to serve bravely (v.2a): To kill any doubt in King Achish's mind, David promised to serve courageously, assuring the king that he would witness just how bravely he and his men could fight.
(4) David was promoted as the king's bodyguard (v.2b): There is no doubt what King Achish understood the response to mean, for he immediately promoted David and his men to be the king's own personal bodyguard. As will be seen below, the Lord intervened and worked out the events so that David did not have to fight against the Israelites.
But the question arises, would he have fought against his own people?
· He had already jeopardized the Lord's blessing upon his life by deserting the promised land and by living among the unbelieving Philistines for the last year. Was David about to rebel even more against the Lord by fighting against the Lord's people?
· If he refused to stand by the side of King Achish and fight for the Philistines, David would have been risking immediate execution by the king. As a result of leaving the promised land and going to live among the Philistines, David had gotten himself into a predicament that was humanly impossible to escape.
· Only the sovereign power and working of God could deliver him.
!!! 2. There was no spiritual leader available for counsel (v.3)
a) “Samuel had died… Saul had put the medium and spiritists out of the land…” (v.3).
(1) Saul had no one to turn to for spiritual guidance. He didn’t even have a false prophet to turn to, not that he should, but the point is, he had no spiritual guidance.
(2) All the false prophets-spiritists and mediums-had been banned from Israel by Saul. Remember, Saul made an attempt to obey the commandment of the Lord, and he expelled all the spiritists and mediums from the land of Israel.
(a) The term medium refers to necromancers, persons who claim that they can communicate with the dead.
(b) And the term spiritist is a general term referring to any person who claims to have contact with spirits: (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6-7; Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
The Lord said in Exodus 22 "You shall not permit a sorceress to live." (Exodus 22:18, NKJV)
He goes on to say in Leviticus 19 to "Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:31, NKJV)
The Lord gives a warning to "the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, He says that I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 20:6-7, NKJV)
The Lord gives them another warning to take heed to before they come into the promised land… He said "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you." (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, NKJV)
3. There was a terrifying fear (v.4-5)
1) The Philistines invaded and camped at Shunem (v.4a)
2) The Israelites camped at Gilboa (v.4b)
3) The enemy struck terror in Saul (v.5)
4. There was no answer to prayer, no guidance when seeking the LORD: Due to sin, lack of repentance (v.6)
B. Saul's Decision (v.7-8).
1. Saul's order obeyed by his attendants: A spirit medium was found in Endor (v.7)
2. Saul's disguise and quick trip to the medium-under the cover of darkness (v.8a)
3. Saul's request of the spirit medium: For her to consult a spirit for him, the spirit he named (v.8b)
C. Saul's Evil (v.9-19).
1. The spirit medium was deceived even more: Encouraged to think that God's command could be broken, that there was no condemnation for practicing the occult (v.9-10)
Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:9-13
2. Saul (the seeker) was deceived: Thought peace and security could come from the medium instead of from the LORD (v.11-14a)
1) Saul's request for Samuel (v.11)
2) The medium's encounter with Samuel: Shock, surprise, and then she suddenly recognized Saul (v.12)
3) Saul's easing of her fear and asking what she saw (v.13a)
4) The medium's description (v.13b-14a)
a) A spirit coming out of the ground (v.13b)
b) An old man wearing a robe (v.14a)
5) Saul's conviction that she saw Samuel (v.14b)
3. Saul bowed-worshipped, paid homage-to the dead, not to the LORD (v.14c)
4. Saul felt distress, danger, and alienation-that his prayers were not answered (v.15)
1) Samuel's question: Why had he been brought up? (v.15a)
2) Saul's explanation (v.15b)
a) His personal distress (v.15b)
b) The Philistine invasion (v.15b)
c) Unanswered prayer (v.15b)
5. Saul was to suffer the LORD's judgment, be rejected: Predicted by Samuel (v.16-19)
1) The LORD had turned away and become Saul's enemy-just as predicted (v.16-17)
a) Had torn the kingdom out of Saul's hand (v.17a)
b) Had given it to David (v.17b)
2) The reason for the LORD's judgment: A life of disobedience (v.18)
1 Samuel 13, 15; 28:7-8
3) The judgment foretold: The death of Saul and his sons, and the utter defeat of Israel in the coming battle (v.19)
D. Saul's Despair (v.20-25).
1. The effect of hopelessness (v.20)
1) Fear (v.20a)
2) Sapped energy-weakness-no appetite (v.20b)
2. The assistance of the medium and of Saul's men (v.21-25)
1) The medium strongly urged Saul to eat (v.21-22)
a) She stressed that she had obeyed him (v.21)
b) She pleaded with him to listen to her and eat (v.22)
2) Saul refused (v.23a)
3) The medium and Saul's men kept on urging him to eat (v.23b)
a) Saul finally listened (v.23b)
b) Saul got up and sat on the couch (v.23b)
4) The medium prepared a complete meal (v.24-25)
a) Saul and his men ate the meal (v.25a)
b) Saul and his men then got up and left (v.25b)