Saul craves direction. He lost the hand of God, he killed the priests of Nob, and Samuel is dead. He has no one to turn to in his time of distress. He seeks Samuel’s spirit in a last ditch effort to hear from God.
In our reading today we get a quick glimpse of David’s doings. He is being called into battle beside the Philistines against Israel. He can’t say no and keep up his ruse with Achish. He has to go where he is sent. Achish thinks he is completely loyal to him and makes him his bodyguard for LIFE. We will pick up this thread in our next reading so I want to hold this part of the story until next time.
The story we are going to focus in on is that of Saul. He NEEDS help and he seeks it everywhere. He knows God is the only one who can give him the answers he seeks but He is not on speaking terms with Saul. Saul’s desperation drives him into the hands of a medium. Prior to this time, Saul had driven all such practitioners from the land in effort to cleanse it from their sin. Therefore, he KNOWS what he is asking is a sin, yet he asks anyway. Let’s join our story and see where the Holy Spirit takes us today.
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It has been over a year since Saul last laid eyes on David. He stopped searching for him when he learned David had gone to the land of the Philistines. Now those same Philistines have come to wage war against Israel. He suspected David was among their number. He also knew that the Lord fought for David.
The Philistines have encamped at Shunem. They are as flees covering the sand. Saul gathered all from Israel who could hold a weapon and they have encamped at Gilboa. Saul’s heart trembles when he sees the army of the Philistines.
Saul is desperate to know what will come of this encounter. Will the Lord stand behind Israel? Will the Lord stand with David and give the Philistines victory? Saul calls for his prophets.
“Seek the Lord for me. I must know if He fights for Israel against the Philistines.”
The prophets close their eyes and wait. “He is not answering my king.”
“Bring the Urim and Thumin. Entreat the Lord with them.”
The prophets are reluctant to use these as they are used by the priests but there are no priests left after Saul destroyed them in Nob. Saul will entertain NO excuses. The prophets must try. “What is your question my king?”
“Shall I go up against the Philistines?”
The prophets almost laugh at this question as they are across the valley from one another at this moment. This would have been better asked before summoning all Israel to war. Also, if they don’t stand against the Philistines they will be trampled when they march in unimpeded. The prophet will pose Saul’s question as asked. “Shall my king go up against the Philistines?” He puts his hand in the bag to retrieve a stone. He removes his hand and the stone falls to the ground and rolls away without anyone being able to see which stone it was.
Saul is furious! “You dropped it deliberately!”
“No sire it was pulled from my hand. I could look to see which stone remains, if you wish.”
“No. If the Lord had designed to answer thusly He would have made it plain.”
Saul thinks for a few moments. He has another idea to try. “Have any of you received a dream from the Lord?”
“No my king. If we had we would have said so. Have you had a dream that requires interpretation?”
“No. I have had no dreams for many months. Even my dreams desert me.”
There remains only one last option. Saul is loath to consider it but his desperation drives him towards this end. “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her” (verse 7b).
His servant steps forward and offers a location. “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor” (verse 7c).
Saul cannot go openly to this woman. She would refuse to help him. She would likely believe he came to punish or possibly kill her as he has done to others of her trade in the past.
Saul and two of his men travel to En-dor. Here he dons a disguise. He removes his royal robes, his band upon his arm, and his crown. He puts on a beggar’s robe that covers his head and obscures his face. He rubs dirt upon his hands and feet to add credence to his status as a beggar. He exchanges his exquisite sandals for a tattered pair. Finally, he stoops his shoulders to hide his height as they approach the woman’s home.
Saul raps upon her gate. She appears quickly and Saul speaks his request. “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you” (verse 8b).
The woman is cautious. This man is a stranger to her. She looks at him with suspicion and answers him carefully. “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” (verse 9).
“As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing” (verse 10) assures Saul.
“Whom shall I bring up for you?” (verse 11a).
“Bring up Samuel for me” (verse 11b).
The woman closed her eyes and began her ritual. “I call to the spirit of Samuel. Make your presence known.” The spirit of Samuel began to move up from the ground. Upon seeing him the woman screamed. Saul’s disguise fell away before her eyes. She knew him! And he terrified her! “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” (verse 12b).
Saul attempted to calm her. “Do not be afraid.” He pleaded for information. “What do you see?” (verse 13a).
The woman answered; “I see a god coming up out of the earth” (verse 13b).
“What is his appearance?” (verse 14a).
“An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe” (verse 14b).
Saul knew immediately it was Samuel. He bowed with his face to the ground in homage and waited.
Samuel recognized Saul and addressed him directly. “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” (verse 15a).
“Saul answered, ‘I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I summoned you to tell me what I shall do” (verse 15b).
Samuel is angry. “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to this day. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines’” (verses16-19).
Overcome with fear, Saul falls flat out on the ground. These are NOT the words he desired to hear Samuel speak. What little strength Saul had departs his body. He was running on hope. With it snatched away he is unable to rise.
The woman came over to Saul where he lay. The look on his face clearly spoke of his terror. Moved with compassion she offered him what she was able. “Behold, your servant obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me. Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way” (verses 21-22).
“Leave me. I will not eat.”
His companions join her in urging Saul to eat. “You haven’t eaten all day and all night sire. You need your strength.”
“Yes sire, please eat” she adds.
Saul is touched by their concern for him. With difficulty he pushed himself up from the ground. A man on each side assisted him to the woman’s bed where he sat while she prepared him a meal.
No simple meal would do for the king. The fatted calf in her home she had been saving met its end. She quickly killed it and separated a portion of it to cook for Saul. As it was cooking she took flour and kneaded it into dough. She baked it as unleavened bread. When both were ready she placed them before Saul and his servants. They all ate and then rose and disappeared in the night.
Only after they left did the fear she experienced at seeing Samuel leave her. She would not soon forget the fear she saw on Saul’s face after he communed with Samuel. Samuel must have said something great to Saul but she would likely never learn of if as he refused to speak. She also knew the king could still order her killed but that fear she was accustomed to living with.
(to be continued)
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Saul’s desperation drove him to do something he detested. He had chased all the practitioners of the dark arts from Israel. I wonder how many of them left through death at the hands of his soldiers. Saul KNEW what he was doing was sin but he expected to hear from God this way anyway. And he did. He heard that he was going to die within 24 hours; him and his sons. He also learned that Israel would suffer defeat in this battle. That was a heavy burden to carry back to camp. It is a wonder that he didn’t fold up camp and go home. “What’s the use? I’m dead anyway.” But we will see later that he goes down swinging. Will God credit this to his good? He can use everything he can get in that column. It won’t buy his way into God’s presence though.
I’m curious. Did Saul repent? Will we see him in Heaven? Even Moses sinned and God withdrew something from him. Was God’s withdrawal from Saul for all eternity? Was God silent because He didn’t want to speak to Saul, or was He sparing him from knowing the truth?
Father God, Saul did EVERYTHING he could think of to hear from You. Yet You refused to answer him. Why? Was it because he was covered in sin? You couldn’t reach through sin before Jesus completed His work. Those in sin were separated from You. In Saul’s desperation he found a way to get his answer. You could have stopped Samuel from answering the medium’s call. Did you allow it because You wanted Saul to know he was heard?
You reach out and call out and cry out to Your children. You probably would love to pick us each up and shake some sense into them; into me. But You let me make my own mistakes. You let me decide when to ‘get up’. You never stop calling, even when my sin is standing in the way. Were You calling to Saul too but he couldn’t hear because of sin? I would like to believe so.
Help me clean my ‘conduit’ on a regular basis. I want to come running to You EVERY time I sin so it won’t build up a wall between us. Keep my heart sensitive Holy Spirit. Keep me in tune with my Lord.