World events are certainly unsettling and a great cause for concern.
When you try to get a sense of the emotions of the day – money talks. By that, I mean that the prices of goods and the financial markets are a reflection of uncertainty, stress, and fear about the future.
We have to remind ourselves that God is sovereign, He is in control and working out His plan of redemption. At the same time, we need to seek the Lord in prayer and bring our concerns before Him in faith and hope.
There is a fascinating account given to us in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel, chapter 28. The account has to do with King Saul as he neared the tragic end of his life. Samuel has died already, and David is at this time avoiding King Saul’s jealous and hateful attempt to kill him.
King Saul is anticipating a major battle with the Philistines. Due to the size of the Philistine army, Saul is very afraid. He is fearful. Given the many victories that God has won for Israel, you’d think that King Saul would have confidence in the Lord. But, these are “dark” days for Saul. We already know that King Saul’s days of ruling are numbered. King Saul has been disobedient and the prophet Samuel has already announced that God is taking the kingdom away from King Saul and giving it to David. The hand of God is now upon David not on Saul.
To King Saul’s credit, he does inquire of the Lord. He needs the Lord’s help. Facing this large enemy, King Saul now seeks the Lord. In 1 Samuel 28:6, the text clearly states that the Lord refused to answer Saul. The Lord did not answer Saul through any of the means He often used during those days. Not a word. No answer.
So, King Saul does the unthinkable. The King had previously thrown out of Israel mediums and necromancers. But now he decides that he needs the help of a medium, and he is told that there is one in En-dor. Here is the King of Israel disguising himself and secretly seeking the help of a woman who is a medium. This search shows the King’s desperation. This search was outside of the will of God and shows the depths of spiritual decline in King Saul’s life.
The Scriptures give many interesting details concerning Saul's visit to the home of this medium. The woman definitely sees through the disguise of the king and understands the danger she is in because she knows that this type of ‘spiritism’ was not to be done in Israel. Because of this, she asks Saul to make an oath that she will not be harmed if she helps him in this time of need. The King agrees.
The rest of the chapter is fascinating reading. I encourage you to read the chapter right now. There are many questions concerning the medium’s activity and the bringing up of a spirit that either is or speaks for Samuel. The reaction of Saul and the medium certainly indicate that they thought Samuel was the one speaking to them. (This passage of Scripture is especially of interest to those who live in cultures where mediums and necromancers still function, and where these kinds of strange meetings take place. Such practices may even be a temptation to Christians, when they are still struggling with such spiritism, especially if they don’t think they are receiving direction from the Lord.)
Our focus in this unusual text needs to be on what is communicated during this event. What is communicated confirms what God and Samuel have said already in the past. Also, the statements about the future battle with the Philistines are all true, but no help is provided by God. In other words, truth is communicated, but not help. What Saul learns is not good news. He learns through this encounter that the army of Israel will be defeated and that he and his sons will die. King Saul's past disobedience is mentioned again and the fact that the Kingdom has been torn from him and given to David. There was no "good news" in that woman's house that day. The whole account ends with the woman insisting on providing food for Saul and his associates, and King Saul leaves at night (in more ways than one).
Why am I sharing this account with you right now? Well, this passage was one that I recently read in my own devotional Bible reading. Also, I sensed an application that I want to share. As God’s people in Christ, there are times when we may seek the Lord for guidance in difficult or pressure situations. If we are honest, there may be times when we don’t sense that we have a “direct word” or a “clear sense” of leading from the Lord at a particular moment. So, we may sense the need to seek God’s leading in a specific way.
From this text and the context of 1 Samuel, I think we have a starting place for practical application. If you read the context you will see that David regularly received guidance from the Lord in these chapters, for the Lord was with Him. King Saul was not good at listening to the Lord and obeying the Lord. That led to his decline and we are witnessing this decline in this visit to the medium. The Lord was not communicating with Saul as He was with David. God was with David, He had rejected Saul. Yes, in the end, King Saul does receive the truth about the defeat of Israel and his own demise in this unusual encounter. But, King Saul certainly did not receive any promise of help from the Lord.
I learn from this text that there is no substitute for our daily walk with the Lord. It is important that we are listening to and obeying what the Lord communicates to us daily through His Word and with the illumination of His Holy Spirit. We should not get into the situation of decline in which King Saul found himself. We need a daily recommitment to our surrender in Romans 12:1-2. Through such surrender, and a willingness to have our minds renewed (12:2), we are able to discern the will of God. This does not mean that we don’t need to pray and seek God’s face, but it does mean that the primary aspects of God’s will for our lives will be discerned, especially through God’s Word written for us and to us.
At the same time, this passage is a great example and warning for us not to panic and not to seek spiritual help in unspiritual ways. There can be much speculation related to this account so let me just mention a few important matters.
If we find ourselves fearful and we sense the need for direction from the Lord, the temptation may be to seek counsel in all the wrong places. Instead of seeking help elsewhere, we need to “wait on God” in Biblically directed ways.
So, as we live in this complicated and dangerous world, we need to stay true to the Lord and seek His will in the ways He has made available to us. As we seek how to pray, how to respond, and what to do about the current war and crisis in Ukraine, keep this text and these applications in mind.