Ancient and Modern Sorcery

Saul Disobeys God and is Rejected

God prohibited divination and He has not changed His position
on the subject; the fact that God will not spare anyone or
people for idolatry. He alone could guide his people; there is
no need to use witches, mediums, diviners, soothsayers. Saul,
after God’s Spirit left him, in desperation, contrary to God’s
command to have no dealings with those who consorted with
evil spirits, visited the witch of Endor to learn of future events.

In the following passages we will examine the scripture’s
account of Saul’s visit to the woman of Endor, which has been
a source of perplexity to many students of the Bible. There are
some who take the position that Samuel was actually present
at the interview with Saul, but the Bible itself furnishes
sufficient ground for a contrary conclusion. If, as claimed by
some, Samuel was in heaven, he must have been summoned
thence, either by the power of God or by that of Satan. None
can believe for a moment that Satan had power to call the holy
prophet of God from heaven to honor the incantations of an
abandoned woman. Nor can we conclude that God summoned
him to the witch’s cave; for the Lord had already refused to
communicate with Saul, by dreams, by Urim or by prophets,
(the Urim and Thummim were holy instruments used as lots in
determining the will of God, Ex. 28:30), (1 Samuel 28:6;).
These would appear to have been God’s own appointed
mediums of communication, and He did no pass them by to
deliver the message through the agent of Satan. Saul chose
to obtain  response to his inquiry through these mediums in
disobedience to the commandment of God, and God did not
prevent these mediums of communication that Saul initiated
through an agent of Satan.

The message itself is sufficient evidence of its origin. Its object
was not to lead Saul to repentance, but to urge him on to ruin;
and this is not the work of God, but of Satan. Furthermore, the
act of Saul in consulting a sorceress is cited in Scripture as
one reason why he was rejected by God and abandoned to
destruction: “Saul died for his transgression which he
committed against The Lord, even against the word of The
Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one
that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; and inquired not of
The Lord: therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto
David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14). Here it is
distinctly stated that Saul inquired of the familiar spirit, not of
The Lord. He did not communicate with Samuel, the prophet of
God; but through the sorceress he held intercourse with
Satan. Satan could not present the real Samuel, but he did
present a counterfeit, that served his purpose of deception.

The deification of the dead has held a prominent place in
nearly every system of heathenism, as has also the supposed
communion with the dead. The gods were believed to
communicate their will to men, and also, when consulted, to
give them counsel. Of this character were the famous oracles
of Greece and Rome.

The belief in communion with the dead is still held, even in
professed Christian lands. Under the name of spiritualism the
practice of communicating with the beings claiming to be the
spirits of the departed has become widespread. It is calculated
to take hold of the sympathies of those who have laid their
loved ones in the grave. Spiritual beings sometimes appear to
persons in the form of their deceased friends, and relate
incidents connected with their lives and perform acts which
they performed while living. In this way they lead men to
believe that their dead friends are angels, hovering over them
and communicating with them. Those who thus assume to be
the spirits of the departed are regarded with certain idolatry,
and with many their word has greater weight than the word of
God.

There are many, however, who regard spiritualism as mere
imposture. The manifestations by which it supports its claims
to a supernatural character are attributed to fraud on the part
of the medium. But while it is true that the results of trickery
have often been palmed off as genuine manifestations, there
have also been marked evidence of supernatural power. And
many who reject spiritualism as the result of human skill or
cunning will, when confronted with manifestations which they
cannot account for upon this ground, be led to acknowledge
its claims.

Modern spiritualism and the forms of ancient witchcraft and
idol worship—all having communion with the dead as their vital
principle—are founded upon first lie by which Satan beguiled
Eve in Eden: “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that
in the day ye eat thereof, . . . . you shall be as gods.” (Genesis
3: 4, 5). Alike based upon falsehood and perpetuating the
same, they are alike from the father of lies.

The Hebrews were expressly forbidden to engage in any
manner in pretended communion with the dead. God closed
this door effectually when He said: “The dead know not
anything that is done under the sun.” (Eccl 9:5, 6). “His breath
goeth forth, he returneth to the earth; in that very day his
thoughts perish.” (Psalm 146:4).  And The Lord declared to
Israel: “The soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits,
and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set My
face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his
people.” Leviticus 20:6.

The “familiar spirits” were not the spirits of the dead, but evil
angels, the messengers of Satan. Ancient idolatry, which, as
we have seen, comprises both worship of the dead and
pretended communion with them, is declared by the Bible to
have been demon worship. The apostle Paul, in warning his
brethren against participating, in any manner, in the idolatry of
their heathen neighbors, says, “The things which the Gentiles
sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God, and I would
not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” 1 Corinthians
10:20.  The psalmist, speaking of Israel, says that “they
sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,” and in
the next verse he explains that they sacrificed them “unto the
idols of Canaan.” (Psalm 106:37, 38). In their supposed
worship of dead men they were in reality worshiping demons.

Modern spiritualism and mysticism, resting upon the same
foundation, is but a revival in a new form of the witchcraft and
demon worship that God condemned and prohibited of God. It
is foretold in the Scriptures, which declare that “in the latter
times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing
spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul, in his
second letter to the Thessalonians, points to the special
working of Satan in spiritualism as an event to take place
immediately before the second advent of Christ. Speaking of
Christ’s second coming, he declares that it is “after the
working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
(2 Thess. 2:9).  And Peter, describing the  dangers to which
the church was to be exposed in the last days, says that as
there were false prophets who led Israel into sin, so there will
be false teachers, “who privily shall bring in damnable
heresies, even denying The Lord that bought them. . . .  And
many shall follow their pernicious ways.”
(2 Peter 2:1, 2). Here the apostle has pointed out one of the
marked characteristics of spiritualist teachers. They refuse to
acknowledge Christ as the Son of God. Concerning such
teachers the beloved John declares; “Who is a liar but he that
denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth
that the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the
same hath not the Father.” (1 John 2:22, 23). Spiritualism, by
denying Christ, denies both the Father and the Son, and the
Bible pronounces it the manifestation of antichrist.

By the prediction of Saul’s doom, given through the woman of
Endor, Satan planned to ensnare the people of Israel. He
hoped that they would be inspired with confidence in the
sorceress, and would be led to consult her. Thus they would
turn from God as their counselor and would place themselves
under the guidance of Satan. The lure by which spiritualism
attracts the multitude is its pretended power to draw aside the
veil from the future and reveal to men what God has hidden.
God has in His word opened before us the great events of the
future—all that it is essential for us to know—and He has given
us a safe guide for our feet amid all its perils; but it is Satan’s
purpose to destroy men’s confidence in God, to make them
dissatisfied with their condition in life, and to lead them to seek
a knowledge of what God has wisely veiled from them, and to
despise what He has revealed in His Holy Word.

There are many who become restless when they cannot know
the definite outcome of affairs. They cannot endure
uncertainty, and in their impatience they refuse to wait to see
the salvation of God. Apprehended evils drive them nearly
distracted. They give way to their rebellious feelings, and run
hither and thither in passionate grief, seeking intelligence
concerning that which has not been revealed. If they would but
trust in God, and watch unto prayer, they would find divine
consolation.  Their spirit would be calmed by communion with
God. The weary and the heavy-laden . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .
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would find rest unto their souls if they would only go to Jesus;
but when they neglect the means that has been ordained for
their comfort, and resort to other sources, hoping to learn
what has been withheld; they commit the error of Saul, and
thereby gain only knowledge of evil.

God is not pleased with this course, and has expressed it in
the most explicit terms. This impatient haste to tear away the
veil from the future reveals a lack of faith in God and leaves
soul open to the suggestions of the master deceiver. Satan
leads men to consult those that have familiar spirits; and by
revealing hidden things of the past, he inspires confidence in
his power to foretell things to come. By experience gained
through the long ages he can reason from cause to effect
and often forecast, with a degree of accuracy, some of the
future events of man’s life. Thus he is enabled to deceive
poor, misguided souls and bring them under his power and
lead them captive at his will.

God has given us the warning by His prophet: “When they
shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits,
and unto wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a
people seek unto their God?  for the living to the dead? To
the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to
this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:19,
20).

Shall those who have a holy God, infinite in wisdom and
power, go unto wizards, whose knowledge comes from
intimacy with the enemy of our Lord? God Himself is the light
of His people; He bids them to fix their eyes by faith upon the
glories that are veiled from human sight. The Sun of
Righteousness sends its bright beams into their hearts; they
have light from the throne of heaven, and they have no
desire to turn away from the source of light to the
messengers of Satan.

The demon’s message to Saul, although it was a
denunciation of sin and a prophecy of retribution, was not
meant to reform him, but to goad him to despair and ruin.
Oftener, however, it serves the temper’s purpose best to lure
men to destruction by flattery. The teaching of the demon
gods in ancient times fostered the vilest license. The divine
precepts condemning sin and enforcing righteousness were
set aside; truth was lightly regarded, and impurity was not
only permitted but enjoined. Spiritualism declares that there
is no death, no sin, no judgment, no retribution; that there
“men are unfallen demigods; that desire is the highest law;
and that man is accountable only to himself. The barriers that
God has erected to guard truth, purity, and reverence are
broken down, and many are thus emboldened in sin. Does
not such teachings suggest an origin similar to that of demon
worship?

The Lord presented before Israel the results of holding
communion with the evil spirits, in the abominations of the
Canaanites: they were without natural affection, idolaters,
adulterers, murderers, and abominable by every corrupt
thought and revolting practice. Men do not know their own
hearts; for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9). But God understands
the tendencies of the depraved nature of man. Then, as now,
Satan was watching to bring about conditions favorable to
rebellion, that the people of Israel might make themselves as
abhorrent to God as were the Canaanites. The adversary of
souls is ever on the alert to open channels for the
unrestrained flow of evil in us; for he desires that we may be
ruined, and be condemned before God.

Satan was determined to keep his hold on the land of
Canaan, and when it was made the habitation of the children
of Israel, and the law of God was made the law of the land,
he hated Israel with a cruel and malignant hatred and plotted
their destruction. Through the agency of evil spirits strange
gods were introduced; and because of transgression, the
chosen people were finally scattered from the Land of
Promise. This history Satan is striving to repeat in our day.
God is leading His people out from the abomination of the
world, that they may keep His law; and because of this, the
rage of “the accuser of our brethren” knows no bounds. “The
devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he
knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:10,
12). The antitypical land of promise is just before us, and
Satan is determined to destroy the people of God and cut
them off from their inheritance. The admonition, “Watch ye
and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38), was
never more needed than now.

The word of The Lord to ancient Israel is addressed also to
His people in this age: “Regard not them that have familiar
spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them;” for
all that do these things are an abomination unto The Lord.”
(Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:12).

Conclusions /The Lesson

When Saul was called to the throne, he had a humble
opinion of his own capabilities, and was willing to be
instructed. He was deficient in knowledge and experience
and had serious defects of character. But The Lord granted
him the Holy Spirit as a guide and helper, and placed him in a
position where he could develop the qualities requisite for a
ruler of Israel. Had he remained humble, seeking constantly
to be guided by divine wisdom, he would have been enabled
to discharge the duties of his high position with success and
honor. Under the influence of divine grace every good quality
would have been gaining strength, while evil tendencies
would have lost their power. This is the work which The Lord
proposes to do for all who consecrate themselves to Him.
There are many whom He has called to positions in His work
because they have a humble and teachable spirit. In His
providence He places them where they may learn of Him He
will reveal to them their defects of character, and to all who
seek His will He will give strength to correct their errors.

But Saul presumed upon his exaltation, and dishonored God
by unbelief and disobedience.  Though when first called to
the throne he was humble and self-distrustful, success made
him self-confident. The very first victory of his reign had
kindled that pride of heart which was his greatest danger.
The valor and military skill displayed in the deliverance of
Jabesh-gilead had roused the enthusiasm of the whole
nation. The people honored their king, forgetting that he was
but the agent by whom God had wrought; and though at first
Saul ascribed the glory to God, he afterward took honor to
himself. He lost sight of his dependence upon God, and in his
heart departed from The Lord. Thus the way was prepared
for his sin of presumption and sacrilege at Gilgal. The same
blind self-confidence led him to reject Samuel’s reproof. Saul
acknowledged Samuel to be a prophet sent from God; hence
he should have accepted the reproof, though he could not
himself see that he had sinned. Had he been willing to see
and confess his error, this bitter experience would have
proved a safeguard for the future.

If the Lord had then separated Himself entirely from Saul, He
would not have again spoken to him through His prophet,
entrusting him with a definite work to perform, that he might
correct the errors of the past. When one who professes to be
a child of God becomes careless in doing His will, thereby
influencing others to be irreverent and unmindful of The Lord’
s injunctions, it is still possible for his failures to be turned
into victories if he will accept reproof with true contrition of
soul and return to God in humility and faith. The humiliation
of defeat often proves a blessing by showing us our inability
to do the will of God without His aid.

This incident was the final step in Saul’s downfall. Divine
judgment was pronounced and Saul was rejected by God, for
he had rejected the word of The Lord (1 Samuel 15:10-23).
Samuel enunciated a vital truth: obedience is better than
sacrifice. It is always possible for a disobedient person to
offer sacrifice. But when obedience rules the heart sacrifices
will also be made. Samuel likens disobedience and
stubbornness to idolatry and divination. Nothing so offends
and provokes God more than setting up our wills in
competition with His.

When Saul turned away from the reproof sent him by God’s
Holy Spirit, and persisted in his stubborn self-justification, he
rejected the only means by which God could work to save
him from himself. He had willfully separated himself from God.
He could not receive divine help or guidance until he should
return to God by confession of his sin.

Scripture reading: 1 Samuel chapter 28.
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