Halloween falls on a Sunday once every seven years. When it does, I like to take a look at stories in the Bible that have that Halloween feel to them. For example, there are the two men who were demon possessed that lived in the tombs (Mark 5:1-20) and another one is the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Today I want us to take a look at the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28. Here we have this incredible event between King Saul, a medium, and the dead prophet Samuel. Saul needs information, but God has stopped talking to him because of his disobedience and rebellion against God. Instead of repenting and turning to God, Saul decides to seek answers from the dead, which God had strictly forbidden.
What we are going to see today is how people try to bypass God to find out something or to get something they want. Instead of trusting God, they try something apart from God. What we are about to see is someone who bypasses God by not trusting God, by ignoring God’s Word, and by disobeying God and as a result they bypass the blessings of God.
Bypassing trusting God (1 Samuel 28:3-7)
First of all, we bypass God when we bypass trusting God. Saul is in a difficult situation, but instead of relying on the Lord in prayer and trusting Him, Saul bypasses God by seeking a medium.
Verse 3 begins, “Meanwhile, Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him. He was buried in Ramah, his hometown.” Let me set the scene. Who is Samuel and why does Saul feel so desperate that he feels the need to seek out a medium for guidance, rather than God?
- First, the absence of Samuel. Who is “Samuel”? Samuel was a prophet sent by God who also was a judge. He was wise, judged fairly, and delivered messages from God. Saul liked him, trusted him, and listened to him. Eventually, their relationship went sour and they weren’t speaking to one another near the end of Samuel’s life. The bottom line is Saul needed Samuel and his influence on his life, but Samuel is now died.
- Second, the presence of the Philistines. The Philistines were a brutal army. They were vicious killers. Back in 1 Samuel 14 we are told “The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime” (vs. 52, NLT). Now here in 1 Samuel 28:1 we are told “the Philistines mustered their armies for another war with Israel” (NLT). The Philistines were breathing down Saul’s neck and had the advantage. He could since that the end may be coming near. He wanted to know what to do as king. He was feeling pressure from his enemies.
- Third, the silence of God. In verse 6 we are told, “He asked the Lord what he should do, but the Lord refused to answer him” (NLT). Saul had fallen a long way. He once was sensitive to God and listened to God and influenced by those who loved God. Back in chapter 10 Samuel told Saul, “Stay here, for I have received a special message for you from God” (NLT). God was still talking to Saul then. Then “the Spirit of the Lord [came] powerfully upon [Saul]”… and Saul was “changed into a different person” (v.6, NLT). Then in verse 9 we are told “God gave [Saul] a new heart” (NLT). That close fellowship with God and that intimate relationship with Him was no more. Saul had walked away from God and stopped listening to God. So, God stopped talking.
Saul became afraid and desperate. He has come to a crossroad in his life. Because of the pressure from the Philistines, absence of Samuel in his life, and the silence of God, Saul decided to bypass trusting God, bypass the Word of God, and bypass obeying God.
Verse 3 says, “And Saul had banned from the land of Israel all mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead.” Saul knew, that for God’s people, it was not spiritually healthy for them to seek spiritual insight from “mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead.” Saul knew about Deuteronomy 18 which strictly forbids this kind of thing for God’s people. Deuteronomy 18 says, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. 10 For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, 11 or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (vs. 9-12, NLT). Saul decided to draw a line in the sand on this issue. He said, “We are not going to mess with this. God says this is forbidden and we are going to stay away from it as a nation. As a matter of fact, I want all mediums removed from the land.” That was a good thing for him to do as king for the people of Israel.
We are told this about Saul because of what he is about to do. He is about to ignore God’s Word on this subject and disobey his own law that was established on God’s Word.
Verse 4 goes on to say, “The Philistines set up their camp at Shunem, and Saul gathered all the army of Israel and camped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the vast Philistine army, he became frantic with fear.” One translation says, “He became afraid and his heart pounded” (CSB). Fear causes his heart to sink, his nerves are rattled, and he is badly shaken by what he sees. He is full of fear, worry, and dread.
We see Saul’s initial reaction in verse 6, “He asked the Lord what he should do, but the Lord refused to answer him, either by dreams or by sacred lots or by the prophets.” Saul “asked the Lord what he should do.” That seems good, right? He’s trying to talk to God and get advice from God. What appears to be happening may not be really happening. Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you worship God. Just because you bow your head in prayer does not mean you are praying. Just because you read the Bible does not mean you are listening to God. Because later on in 1 Chronicles 10:13 we read this about Saul and this event, “So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he even consulted a medium instead of asking the Lord for guidance” (NLT). Is it possible that Saul went through the motions of seeking God without really expecting to hear from God? Is it possible he tried to get guidance from God without any real intention of obeying God if it was not what he wanted to hear? If that’s the case, then Saul really didn’t “ask the Lord what he should do.” I don’t think there is a contradiction in these two statements above, instead one gives insight into the other.
From Saul’s perspective, he probably believes he is seeking God’s guidance by asking God what to do. Whether Saul was genuinely seeking God or not we may never know for sure, only God knows the real answer to that. Either way, we are told “the Lord refused to answer him.” When God refuses to speak to someone it is usually a sign of judgment. An example of this is seen in the conversation between Jesus and Herod. In Luke 23 we see a chilling encounter. Herod “asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer” (v.9, NLT). Herod had already killed God’s prophet, John the Baptist, and had refused to hear God’s voice through him. As a result, God had judged Herod and stopped talking to him as seen by Jesus’ silence. There are times when God stops talking to certain individuals.
I believe we get another glimpse of this in Romans 1. The people had turned away from God regardless of how much He spoke to them through His creation. They began to worship things and animals. They began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result Romans 1:24 says, “So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired” (NLT). God withdrew his protection and blessings and let them experience the full consequences of their sin.
God had stopped speaking to Saul. It didn’t matter what method Saul tried to hear from God, God had shut His communication off with Saul. We are told that God did not answer Saul “either by dreams or by sacred lots or by prophets.” These were three very common ways that God talked to the people in Old Testament days.
- Dreams – God used dreams and visions several times in the Bible to communicate with people. In the Old Testament, God used dreams to reveal His plan, to further His plan, and to put His people in places of influence.[i]
- Sacred lots – The “sacred lots” also known as Urim were stored in the priest’s breastplate close to his heart.[ii] On special occasions were used to determine God’s “yes” or “no” answers. These Urim were stones or sticks. One side was painted white and the other side was painted black. One colored represented yes and the other color represented no. They would put them in a box, shake them up, and throw them on the ground. God would tell them whether they should do what they were asking or not or if something were going to happen or not.
- Prophets – A prophet in the Old Testament was someone who was used by God to communicate God’s message to an individual, a group of people, or to the whole world.
Those were some of the ways God communicated with His people. Today, we primarily communicate with God through the Word of God and prayer. But for Saul, God wasn’t talking to him through any of it. God had cut the lines of communication off with Saul because of his previous disobedience.
Since God didn’t answer right away, Saul decided to try something else. Remember, Saul was full of fear because of the Philistines and desperate. He was unwilling to repent and impatient. As a result, he told his advisors in verse 7, “Find a woman who is a medium, so I can go and ask her what to do.” A “medium” is someone who communicates with the dead. Saul gives up on getting an answer from God and instead of trusting God, without an answer, he decided to seek out a “medium” for an answer.
This is what fear does to people. It causes them to do things they know is wrong. They feel trapped and make irrational decisions. Proverbs 29:25, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap…” (NLT). Without knowing it, Saul had become trapped in his own fear and it was leading him to his own death. Instead of truly seeking God, Saul sought out a medium who could contact the dead. Something God had strictly forbidden.
Saul asked His advisers where he might find a medium and they immediately replied, “There is a medium at Endor.” I am surprised at how quickly they knew where a medium was. They knew exactly where to find one. “Endor” is six miles away from Saul’s current position on the battle line. And it is on the other side of the enemy camp. Saul is so desperate to get information; he is willing to cross enemy lines to do so! Anytime you engage in the occult, you are also stepping behind enemy lines. Whether you are consulting mediums, spiritists, fortunetellers, or psychics you are stepping across enemy lines and into enemy territory. You are opening up yourself for an attack. The Bible told Saul to stay away from these types of activities and God’s Word tells us today to do the same.
Bypassing the Word of God (1 Samuel 28:8-10)
Saul bypasses his trust in God and now Saul is about to bypass the Word of God.
Verse 8 says, “So Saul disguised himself by wearing ordinary clothing instead of his royal robes.” This is ironic because God is removing Saul as king and in a desperate attempt to keep his kingdom Saul removes his kingly clothes and puts on “ordinary clothing.” I cannot help but see the ironic symbolism of Saul removing the clothes that identify him as a king and the removal of his kingship by God.
In a practical sense, Saul was trying to hide his identity in order to not be detected by those in enemy territory. He wanted to blend in order to not reveal his true identity as king. His fear, worry, and pride have driven him to this point.
As a follower of Jesus, don’t be tempted to blend into the enemy’s territory. You are a child of God. You belong to the King of kings. You are a soldier of Christ. Spiritually speaking, you don’t wear ordinary clothing you are dressed in Christ. Colossians 3:12 says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (vs. 12-15, NLT). Let these characteristics of Christ be easily seen. Let them identify you with Christ and his kingdom!
Verse 8 goes on to say, “Then he went to the woman’s home at night.” Again, from a practical point, Saul is disguising himself and going at night because he is crossing into enemy territory and doesn’t want to be recognized. That makes sense. It’s a safety issue for him.
But I also see another spiritual issue here. I believe he is also disguising himself and going at night because he knows what he is doing is wrong. When Saul gets to the medium, he doesn’t even identify himself to her. When you are waiting for night to do something that you know is wrong, don’t do it. Job 24 says, “There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths. 14 The murderer rises before it is light, that he may kill the poor and needy, and in the night he is like a thief. 15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he veils his face. 16 In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light. 17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness” (vs. 13-17, ESV). My kids use to ask if they could stay out later than normal. I would replied, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” If you are trying to hide who you are as a Christian and what you are doing with darkness, you are flirting with the kingdom of darkness. Have no part in that.
Verse 8 goes on to say, “Then he went to the woman’s home at night, accompanied by two of his men. ‘I have to talk to a man who has died,’ he said. ‘Will you call up his spirit for me?’” This is sad. Saul has become an illustration of Proverbs 14:12 which says, “There is a way which seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death” (NASB). For whatever reason it seemed right to not trust God anymore and it seemed right to disregard God’s Word, but Saul would soon discover the path he chose “is the way of death.”
Now take a look at verse 9, “Are you trying to get me killed?” the woman demanded. “You know that Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead. Why are you setting a trap for me?” This woman is very aware of the king’s ruling on mediums. She understands that if anyone is caught trying to contact the dead they would be put to death. She does not want to have anything to do with this. Here we have another ironic moment. Saul, who knows better, is encouraging the medium to do something wrong, while the medium is not wanting to do anything wrong. Saul should be leading the way in righteousness instead of leading the way in unrighteousness. At this point the medium has not recognized who Saul is.
Now look at verse 10, “But Saul took an oath in the name of the Lord and promised, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, nothing bad will happen to you for doing this.’” Saul is making it worse. Saul is promising this medium protection “in the name of the Lord” for something the Lord has forbidden. It has the feel of someone trying to sound righteous while doing something unholy. It’s the man who says, “God wants me to leave my wife for you.” It’s the woman who says, “God wants me to steal from them, so I can give to others.” It reminds me of 2 Timothy 3:5 which says there are people who have “the appearance of godliness, but [deny] its power” (ESV). They will spiritualize their actions and make them sound holy. They will use the God card to appear what they are doing is from God.
Bypassing obedience to God (1 Samuel 28:11-19)
Saul bypasses God by bypassing his trust in God and bypassing the Word of God, and now by bypassing obedience to God. Saul bypasses obedience when he follows through on his evil course and instructs the medium to call up Samuel from the dead. Instead of staying faithful to God and obeying God and trusting God’s sovereignty and wisdom in the matter, Saul chooses disobedience and to do the thing God said don’t do.
Look at verse 11, “Finally, the woman said, ‘Well, whose spirit do you want me to call up?’ ‘Call up Samuel,’ Saul replied.” Let’s pause here for just a moment. Saul is disobeying God by seeking a medium. Saul has brought two men with him and they are participating in Saul’s disobedience. In addition, Saul is now involving this woman to disobey God’s word. Saul has led himself and others into an act of sin.
Your sin can lead others to sin. You do not sin in a vacuum. Your sin always impacts others in some way. It impacts your marriage, it influences your parenting, and it affects your relationships at work or at school. The impact of your sin is not just on you. Jesus said in Matthew 18:7, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (ESV).
In between verses 11 and 12, the medium does her thing. She says some words, lights some candles, and goes through her ritual of calling up the dead.[iii] This brings us to verse 12, When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, “You’ve deceived me! You are Saul!”[iv] That is an interesting response by the medium. Why did she scream?
- First of all, I don’t think she knew it was Samuel at first. Later she will describe who she is seeing without using Samuel’s name. She could have simply said, “It’s Samuel,” but she didn’t.
- It’s possible that she screamed because this had never happened to her before. When she had summoned the dead before, the dead never showed up. She would pretend to see them or hear them and relay a message for them. But this time, someone who had died actually showed up.
- Another thought on this is, whatever she expected to bring up, she certainly did not expect it to be Samuel. Perhaps she was used to communicating with a certain evil spirit who pretended to be the spirit of dead people, but when she sees Samuel actually coming up from the dead, she screams at the top her lungs.
For whatever reason, the medium screams.
Verse 13 goes on to say, “Don’t be afraid!” the king told her. “What do you see?” “I see a god coming up out of the earth,” she said. 14 “What does he look like?” Saul asked. “He is an old man wrapped in a robe,” she replied. Saul realized it was Samuel, and he fell to the ground before him.
- She says in verse 13, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” To understand what she is saying you must keep in mind who is saying it and from where she is saying it. She is a pagan, meaning she worships all kinds of gods. To her, as Samuel began to appear, he looked like one of her gods. She is using her language and understanding in order to describe what she sees. This is why Saul says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but “what does he look like?”
- She says in verse 14, “He is an old man wrapped in a robe.” That sounds like my grandchildren describing me, “He is an old man wrapped in a robe.” But seriously, what is the significance with this? We don’t have time to go into detail on this, but Samuel’s robe is a huge thing to Saul. If you go back to 1 Samuel 15 you discover that Saul tried to stop Samuel from leaving. Saul grabbed Samuel’s rob and tore the hem of the rob then Samuel says to Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else – one who is better than you” (vs. 28, NLT). The mention of the robe took Saul right back to the moment where he was told that his reign was coming to an end. There is something significant about Samuel’s rob that immediately identified the person appearing as Samuel for Saul. This explains Saul’s reaction when verse 14 says, “Saul realized it was Samuel, and he fell to the ground before him.”
The Judgement of God (1 Samuel 28:15-19)
Saul has disobeyed God and his disobedience leads to judgement by God. Saul does not repent and does not turn to God. He doesn’t ask for forgiveness. He is trying to find a way to get what he wants through his own selfish and foolish ways. He is trying to bypass God. This sounds similar to what Satan tried to do with Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan tries three different ways to temp Jesus to bypass the Father’s plan and will, but Jesus remained faithful and obedient. Unlike Jesus, Saul gave into temptation.
In verse 15 we read, “Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked Saul. We will answer that question in a moment.
Look carefully at Saul response, “Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.” Saul’s response is almost word-for-word with verse 6. Back in verse 6 God’s Word tells us that Saul “asked the Lord what he should do, but the Lord refused to answer him, either by dreams or by sacred lots or by the prophets” (NLT). What’s strange is when Saul answers Samuel he leaves out one item, the “sacred lots” or the Urim the priest would use in times of crisis to determine God’s will. This casting of the Urim was specifically something the priest would do.
Here we have another twist in the story. If you go back to 1 Samuel 22:11 you discover that King Saul had all the priests of the Lord at Nob killed. Saul had 85 priests killed and all those who lived in Nob (men, women, children, infants, cattle, donkeys, and sheep) killed for giving David priestly advice. Is it possible the reason Saul did not mention the “sacred lots” (Urim) is because no priest would help him in this matter due to God’s rejection of him and his slaughter of nearly 100 priests and their families at Nob? Or is it possible Saul didn’t mention them because of his guilty conscience for what he had done to the priest and their families?
I cannot help but think of Proverbs 22:8, “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end” (NLT). What Saul did to those priests was birthed out of fear of losing his authority and he murdered an entire village of innocent men, women, and children to protect himself. His reign of terror is about to come to an end.
Back to Samuel’s question in verse 15, “Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Saul’s answer is him basically saying, “I’m desperate. I’m feeling threatened by the Philistines and I’m not ready for them. I tried to hear from the Lord but He wouldn’t talk to me through dreams or the prophets. I’m running out of time and options. You are my last resort. What am I to do and what will happen?”
Then in verse 16 Samuel begins to deliver his answer and God’s message by asking a rhetorical question, “Why ask me, since the Lord has left you and has become your enemy?” Here we encounter an aspect of God that we are uncomfortable with, His wrath and judgement. Without a doubt, God is a loving God who is full of mercy and grace. He is a patient God and faithful God. He gives each person and people groups multiple times to repent and turn to Him. He sends them messengers to point them to the truth. But there comes a time when God withdraws His presence and blessings and becomes an enemy. One sign of this is when God no longer talks to you.
Before I move on, I must say that we all start out as enemies of God. Look closely at the following statements by Paul. In Colossians 1:21-22, “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (NLT). By God’s grace we are reconciled to God. We are no longer His enemies, but His friend. Romans 5:10-11 echoes this when it says, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (NLT). When you place your faith in Christ, you become a friend of God. He listens to you. He talks to you. He guides you and leads you. He changes you. You become a new person in Christ. If you believe you are like Saul today and you are hearing and sensing God drawing you to himself, I encourage you to turn to Christ and place your faith in Him for salvation and forgiveness. If God is still talking to you, there is still hope. Don’t ignore God’s voice.
Samuel goes on to say in verse 17, “The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. 18 The Lord has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. 19 What’s more, the Lord will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The Lord will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.”[v]
That’s an ominous thing to hear from a dead man: “tomorrow, you and your sons will be here with me.”
So what do we have so far? We have Saul, along with two other men, who contacted a medium. Saul disguised himself and went at night to see this medium. They met, talked, and she went through her ritual of communicating with the dead. All of this has sin, selfishness, disobedience, lack of faith, and ungodliness written all other it. Samuel shows up and delivers a message from God. The question I have is; can God use the sinfulness and selfishness of people to accomplish His purpose? Absolutely, and when God does He is able to remain sinless. For example, the cross of Jesus – people were rejecting Jesus, disbelieving Jesus, leaving Jesus, ignoring Jesus, mocking Jesus, abusing Jesus, falsely accusing Jesus and God’s purpose was still in charge through all the sins against Him. A sovereign God, even in the midst of mankind’s stupidity, darkness, and chaos, will still accomplish His purposes.[vi]
Bypassing the blessings of God (1 Samuel 28:20-25)
Samuel pronounces God’s judgement on Saul and look at Saul’s reaction in verse 20, “Saul fell full length on the ground, paralyzed with fright because of Samuel’s words.” Samuel’s words were a mighty blow to the soul of Saul. When Saul heard “Samuel’s words” he didn’t gradually fall to the ground. He “fell full length on the ground.” It’s like watching a boxer deliver a knockout blow and the other boxer falls like a tree to the mat.
“Samuel’s words” were the words of God because Samuel was a prophet of God. Sometimes God’s Word can hit us like a hammer. In Jeremiah 23:29 God says, “Does not my word burn like fire? Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?” (NLT). Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (vs. 12-13, NLT). God’s words through Samuel hit Saul directly in the middle of his soul!
Then in verse 20 we read, “He was also faint with hunger, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. 21 When the woman saw how distraught he was, she said, ‘Sir, I obeyed your command at the risk of my life. 22 Now do what I say, and let me give you a little something to eat so you can regain your strength for the trip back.’”
When you study the life of Saul you discover a man who began with much potential. Many thought he would be a great ruler. But one decision after another, one disobedience after another, and one compromise after another Saul found himself hungry, thirsty, weak, and far away from God. I wonder what Saul would say to Romans 6:21, “What did you gain from doing the things that you are now ashamed of? The result of those things is death!” (GNT). There is no benefit or blessings that come from sin, as King Saul found out the hard way.
Finally, in verse 23, “But Saul refused to eat anything. Then his advisers joined the woman in urging him to eat, so he finally yielded and got up from the ground and sat on the couch. 24 The woman had been fattening a calf, so she hurried out and killed it. She took some flour, kneaded it into dough and baked unleavened bread. 25 She brought the meal to Saul and his advisers, and they ate it. Then they went out into the night.”
As far as we know, this is King Saul’s last meal. The woman prepared a meal fit for a king, for a man who wasn’t fit to be the king. Saul has one last supper with his men before he goes out and dies for his own sins.[vii] Jesus had one last supper with his men before he went out and died for our sins.
When you bypass God, you bypass God’s blessing. And when you bypass Jesus, the Son of God, you bypass God’s salvation.
As we wrap this up I want to read to you Romans 15:4 which says, “Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (NLT). The story of Saul is tragic. He had so much, but he also lost so much. This story is for teaching you something. It should give you hope even in the midst of conviction. It should encourage you to seek God, encourage you to follow God and not bypass Him. Most people start out with a long life in front of them and as you live your life stay faithful to God, trust Him and “wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
[i] Abraham (Genesis 15:1), Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-7), Jacob (Genesis 28:10-17), Joseph (Gen. 37:1-11), Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker (Gen. 40), Pharaoh (Gen. 41), Samuel (1 Sam. 3), Solomon (1 Kings 3:5), etc.
[ii] In Samuel 22:6ff we are told that Saul had all the priests of the Lord at Nob killed. Saul had 85 priests killed and all those who lived in Nob (men, women, children, infants, cattle, donkeys, and sheep) killed.
[iii] Isaiah 8:19 gives some insight into the practices of the mediums of his time when he refers to them “whispering” and “muttering.” The medium of Endor probably used this whispering and muttering to communicate with the dead.
[iv] How did she know that it was “Saul” requesting Samuel? We don’t know. Maybe she simply was putting two and two together. Maybe something she saw in Samuel as he appeared connected the dots for her. We are uncertain.
[v] A lot of people struggle with this passage and wonder why God would use something wrong to accomplish something good. Some people say this couldn’t be Samuel because God wouldn’t use something that he prohibits. But the passage seems to say this really is Samuel, and so God is doing something unusual. God certainly doesn’t do anything wrong here. God didn’t call Samuel up from the dead. But if God wants to use Samuel in this way to bring a word to Saul, he can so that. If God wants to bring Moses and Elijah with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration, God can do that. God in his sovereignty allows Samuel to speak from the dead in order to speak a word of judgment on Saul.
[vi] One other thought, we must resist the temptation to fill in the blanks regarding this event. Remember, the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things. We are not given an explanation of how it was that Samuel appeared. And the reason we have no explanation is because we are not supposed to have the explanation. What God’s Word gives us about necromancy and mediums and other occult practices is that it is absolutely forbidden. The Bible is clear about this. The Bible actually tells us nothing about how these things happened.
[vii] 1 Chronicles 10:13, “So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he even consulted a medium 14 instead of asking the Lord for guidance” (NLT).