The Power of Discouragement
1 Samuel 27:1-12
Take your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Samuel. We are going to read all of chapter 28. We are getting close to the end of 1 Samuel, and this story is really the beginning of the end for Saul. It’s a really low point in a very low life. Let’s read it together:
[1Sa 28:1-25 KJV] 1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men. 2 And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever. 3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. 4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. 5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. 6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. 7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, [there is] a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. 8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me [him] up, whom I shall name unto thee. 9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? 10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, [As] the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. 11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. 12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou [art] Saul. 13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. 14 And he said unto her, What form [is] he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he [is] covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it [was] Samuel, and he stooped with [his] face to the ground, and bowed himself. 15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. 16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? 17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, [even] to David: 18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow [shalt] thou and thy sons [be] with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. 20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night. 21 And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me. 22 Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way. 23 But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed. 24 And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted, and killed it, and took flour, and kneaded [it], and did bake unleavened bread thereof: 25 And she brought [it] before Saul, and before his servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that night.
The story here is pretty straightfoward one. The Philistines are launching an invasion of Israel. It looks like its going to be a successful one. They are already in Shunem, which means they are already miles past their own border and making a lot of progress. So Saul is worried.
In every other battle Saul has been in, he’s sought God’s help and direction. Sometimes he didn’t wait - like when he took Samuel’s job and offered a sacrifice. Sometimes he doesn’t obey the direction, like when he didn’t do what God told him to do with the Amalekites. But Saul will not go into battle without seeking God’s help and direction. Saul isn’t living for God, it’s just his superstition.
But there is a problem, Samuel is dead. So Saul can’t go to Samuel (not that they were on speaking terms anyways.) Saul can’t go to the priest, because Saul killed all the priests for helping David. None of the other prophets want to have anything to do with Saul and his prayers are bouncing off of the ceiling. God is not speaking to Saul anymore. God has departed from him because He departed from God.
So what did Saul do? He visits a psychic. A medium. The King James calls her “A woman with a familiar spirit.” Traditionally she has been called “the witch at Endor” but I think that name gives her too much credit.
By the way, I was talking to my parents a few weeks ago and they told me a story I remember from my childhood. We were shopping at a mall in Salem, Massachusetts - which is kind of the capitol of the occult in America. I was probably Noah’s age or younger. I saw a lady with pale white skin and creepy white and black hair. I think she was wearing a black robe.
So, being the little brat I was, I went up to her and said something like “Lady, you look weird.” And she took me by the hand and dragged me to my Mom and told her what I said and introduced herself. Her name was Laurie Cabot, she was the head of the Wicans in America. Probably the most famous witch in America (if you don’t count Nancy Pelosi).
So I insulted a witch, who knows, I may be cursed or something.
Now, let’s get back to the story and be very clear about something: Physics and witches were specifically forbidden by the Old Testament law. They were to be put to death:
Exodus 22:18 says:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
And Leviticus 20:27 says:
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.
One more, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says:
[Deu 18:10-12 KJV] 10 There shall not be found among you [any one] that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, [or] that useth divination, [or] an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For all that do these things [are] an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
So witchcraft, psychics, mediums - all of it was totally forbidden for God’s people.
Saul, to his credit had been working on driving out the psychics. Verse 3 says:
And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.
But now Saul has a problem, God isn’t talking to him. Saul’s mentor Samuel is dead. Saul is about to go into the biggest battle of his life and he is desperate for direction, so Saul hatches this plan to go see a physic.
Now the psychic is actually not far from the battle site. Just a couple of miles. And Saul and his men have to disguise themselves because there is no way this woman will talk to them if they know who she is because of what Saul has been doing to psychics.
So Saul visits this woman and asks her to bring up Samuel. And much to this woman’s surprise, Samuel actually appears.
Which brings me to the heart of my message? What happened here. Was this woman really a witch? Could she really talk to the dead? Can people really talk to deceased people through mediums and psychics?
Let me give you four points:
Psychics are very popular. There are psychic shows on TV. I’ve seen several ads for one called “Long Island medium” but I know there are more. You can find people all over the place who will read tarot cards or read your palm.
A lot of people want reassurance or they want to talk to a dead relative so they go to these people. Are the real?
No, they aren’t. I think this woman in the Bible was a fake. I think when Saul came to her and said “bring me up Samuel” she went through her hocus-pocus, crystal ball routine and was going to con Saul like she probably coned lots of people.
And then when she actually saw Samuel (and Saul could see him too) she flipped out. Why? Because that was unusual, she was lying about what she could and couldn’t see.
Almost all of the people who say they are psychics are charlatans and fakes. They are making their money off of ignorant and gullible people. They are very good at setting a mood and using little pieces of info that they can gather to read people and then tell them what they want to hear.
But they can’t talk to the dead. They might be able to talk to demons, but they can’t talk to the dead. The dead aren’t floating around someplace. The dead are in heaven or hell.
So Psychics are mostly fake. But I want you to understand the second point…
Just because we say “Psychics are fake” doesn’t mean we do it like a modern atheist would. We aren’t saying “the only thing that is real is the material stuff, the stuff we can feel.”
The Bible teaches that there IS a spiritual realm. There is such a thing as demons and demon possession.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
There is spiritual forces at work. There are demons working in this earth. There are hundreds of references in the Bible to demons.
Listen, we are tempted to think this is all a bunch of old fashioned superstition, but if the Bible is true then it is all true, and the Bible speaks about demons and angels all over the place. If we can’t trust what the Bible says about demons then why should we trust what it says about the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ?
There is a spiritual realm and there is powerful forces at work in the spiritual realm. When Satan rebelled in heaven, he took a third of the angels with him and they inhabit this earth and they are at work in this earth.
I’m generally down on conspiracy theories, but there is a real conspiracy, there really is a devil pulling people’s strings and he has a force of angelic demons that are really at work in this world.
So psychics are mostly fake - but spirits are mostly real.
I say mostly because ghosts are not real. The idea that a place is haunted by disembodied souls is not a biblical idea. People are either in heaven or hell when they die.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
So this idea that you can talk to your dead uncle through a seance or a psychic - that’s totally false but that doesn’t mean people aren’t talking to demons. They are real.
Which brings me to my third point…
In the Old Testament, as we’ve already seen, the people of God were to have nothing to do with psychics. In fact, they were to kill them. It was completely forbidden. If they went to see a psychic they were to be cut off from their people.
Listen, God’s opinions on that didn’t change in the New Testament. Ephesians 5:11 says:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:11)
Now, this doesn’t mean we are to hunt them down and kill them. Paul led a slave girl to the Lord in Philippi in Acts 16 and her masters were really mad because she was a popular psychic. Our goal should be to convert these people, not to kill these people.
But we have to understand, in no uncertain terms, that all of this spiritualism stuff that is so popular is completely off limits for us. Here is what that means for us…
If there is any power in all that stuff - it is demonic power. So Christians should flee that stuff. We should “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
Let me give you one more point and I’m done…
There is someone who died we can talk to - Jesus. We can feel His presence and hear his reassuring word. We shouldn’t seek any other word and any other presence.