[From June 26, 2012]
"Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. Saul had expelled the mediums and wizards from the land."
(1 Samuel 28:3)
Christianity has been at odds with those who "consult the dead," perform seances, and seek to tap into any form of spirituality that is not God-centered. "JUST SAY NO!" has been the rallying cry for centuries. How curious, then, to find a passage in the OT that's steeped in the occult.
1 Samuel 28 tells the story of the time King Saul consulted a medium. "Oh yah, but Saul was a whackjob by then. He was spiritually unstable!" True. True. But he had cast out all "mediums and wizards" from Israel ("As it should be!" you're saying to yourself, right? Right.). But the prophet Samuel had died. And try as he might, Saul couldn't hear a word from the LORD - no matter what he tried.
So Saul went "outside the box" in his desperation. Sure, God wasn't speaking to him because he'd abandoned the Lord. But that didn't stop Saul from trying. He tracked down a medium-in-hiding (who was very reluctant to practice her "craft," for fear of government reprisal!) and convinced her that she wouldn't be punished for "services rendered."
Now, if we were writing this story, here's where we'd insert some kind of "gotcha" scene. Saul, that God-forsaken king, would get caught in his pathetic attempt to coerce a word from the LORD, and would be soundly scolded for even thinking about the occult as a means of communication with God.
That kind of happened. But not really. Saul got busted, all right! His undercover deception was exposed. But the medium still did her part! She brought back a spirit from the grave. Not just any spirit, though... SHE BROUGHT BACK THE PROPHET SAMUEL HIMSELF! Samuel's message to Saul was less than encouraging. Samuel told him that he and his sons would be joining him in the afterlife tomorrow (gulp!). But it makes me wonder... what are we to make of this story?
As Christians, we believe that Jesus has conquered death. By his resurrection, life eternal is possible. We have nothing to fear. We're told to avoid the occult at all costs. And rightly so. We don't want to expose ourselves to any evil influences that we don't have to. And yet, this story seems to be saying that God is God - even over the occult! God can use an "evil" method to bring a divine message. Should we seek out unconventional forms of communication? Probably not. But let us remember that God can speak to us in MANY different ways and through many different people. Let us keep our hearts focused on Him!