First Catechism Questions: FCQ. 103 – Can you keep the Ten Commandments perfectly? No – since the fall of Adam, the only one who has been able to do this is Jesus. FCQ. 104 – Of what use are the Ten Commandments to you? They teach me what is pleasing to God, and how much I need a savior.
Shorter Catechism Questions: SCQ. 91 – How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation? The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that does administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.
Sometimes when faced with desperation, we will try almost anything to find relief.When the pain, the confusion, the hurt is seemingly unbearable, we may be tempted to turn for relief to things that we would never have dared even to consider at other times.Mary Todd Lincoln had never been involved with the occult or spiritism, but when her beloved son Willie died she got desperate.She battled severe depression and despair for a while till she found comfort in a medium, Nettie Colburn, who supposedly channeled Willie.After that, séances became a common after at the White House.Mrs. Lincoln's attempt to find comfort were misguided, born out of desperation.
This is where Saul is now.He wants guidance.He doesn't know what to do.All the means that he had used to hear from God in the past are either not available or not working.So, he did what he thought was the next best thing: to hold a séance in order to hear from Samuel.
I.Why Is This Story Here? 15
A.28:3-25 is an interruption in the narrative.
1.In 28:1-2, David is faced with the prospect of having to fight against his Israelite brethren.
2.The solution to that problem doesn't come up till chpt. 29.
B.God inserts chpt. 28 here to put things into perspective – David's situation is bad, but Saul can't hear from the Lord anymore.
"Believer, put your trials in context.You may be exhausted from work.In fact, your employer may be giving you a raw deal, dealing unjustly and underhandedly with you.You have lost your health, or family troubles are now cropping up.The text says there is something far worse.Do you realize what a solace it is in the face of all your losses, all your pressures, all your disappointments, and all your failures to have access to the throne of grace and the smiling face of God in prayer?Do you realize that all that you have suffered is not nearly so tragic as someone moaning, 'God has turned away from me'?"Dale Ralph Davis
A.Samuel is dead, 3a.
1.The now is not saying that Samuel died at that moment in time.
2.He had died back in chpt. 25.
3.But he is now dead, that is, he is no longer available to Saul, at least not in ordinary ways.
a.This is really what is concerning Saul.
b.Samuel used to be his go-to guy for all matters of guidance, though Saul rarely listened to him.
c.And now he is not available anymore.
B.There were no mediums available, 3b.
1.This is a weird, out of the blue, statement by itself.
2.But when read in context, we see the writer setting up what comes next in the chpt.
3.Saul is a study in contradictions, or even, a study in humanity.
a.In obedience to the Word of God, he outlawed spiritism in Israel.
Dt. 18:9-14 – When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.There shall not be found among you anyonewho makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.
b.Now he regrets his obedience.
C.The Philistines have gathered en masse for an epic battle for all the marbles, 4-6
1.This battle will result in Saul's death.
2.Saul was afraid and would really like to hear from the Lord, 6.
a.None of the usual methods were working for him.
b.A word on the Urim.
1)This was some sort of way to receive guidance from the Lord in response to yes or no question.
2)It was part of the high-priest vestment.
3)It currently was with David's group since Abiathar escaped the slaughter at Nob, chpt. 22.
c.Saul had systematically eliminated every means through which the Lord spoke and now he wonders why he is not hearing from the Lord.
III.The Séance, 7-19.
A.First notice how, Saul had surrounded himself with yes-men, 7.
1.When he said, "Get me a medium," nobody said, "Let's think about this for a moment."
2.Instead, their response was, "We know exactly where we can find one."
B.Saul disguises himself for two reasons, 8a.
1.He had to go either through or very near the Philistine camp in order to get to En Dor.
2.He knew that what he was doing wasn't right, so he didn't want to be seen.
C.To add insult to injury, Saul swears by the Lord that it is ok to disobey him, 8b-10.
1.It is a wicked thing to use the Lord's name to encourage people to disobey his Word.
2.A person who does that is under God's curse.
Is. 5:20 – Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
D.After she is convinced that it is safe to proceed, the medium performs a séance that turns out to be more than she bargained for, 11-14.
1.What a surprise when she sees Samuel!
a.She may have been surprised because it actually worked, or because she realized that the man before her was Saul who had killed a bunch of her colleagues.
b.Either way she was frightened.
2.It was really Samuel who showed up.
a.God chose this means to communicate with Saul.
b.This is extraordinary, that is, it is not how things normally work.
c.Dead people don't come back to talk with the living.
3.Séance, spiritism, mediums are always bad and wicked.
a.We don't get involved with spiritism because it is dangerous, demonic, and forbidden, not because it is fake.
b.Satan uses these occult practice to deceive people and establish a stronghold in their lives.
c.Notice that even in our passage, even though Saul hears from the dead, it is a curse, not a blessing.
4.Notice that Saul recognizes who he is by the cloak Samuel was wearing – the same cloak Saul had torn the last time the two of them had met and Samuel had delivered the same message to Saul.
E.The crux of the matter: Samuel's message, 15-19.
1.Even though the encounter with the medium dominates the chpt., it is actually the consequence of the actual problem: the absence of the Word of God.
Is. 8:19-20 – And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should theyseek the dead on behalf of the living?To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because thereis no light in them.
2.Look at Saul's sad state, 15 – "God has departed from me."
3.Samuel says that the Lord is doing exactly what he said he was going to do as a result of Saul's actions.
1 Sam. 15:18-19, 22-23 – Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.'Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord? … Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.
4.God's Word always comes to pass.
"If you despise God's word he will take it from you.If you persistently refuse to obey God's speech you will endure God's silence."Dale Ralph Davis
"Saul has turned away from God too many times, and now God has judged him by giving him what he wants."Tim Chester
5.We look at this situation with Saul and we think we would never be involved in something so bad as this – to that thought Tim Chester says:
"Christians are not immune from ignoring and replacing God.We may not consult a medium. But often we want come extra message.The Bible is not enough for us."
F.This whole incident reminds me of Amos 8 where God brings a famine of God's Word because the people of God refuse to listen to his Word.
Amos 8:11-14 – "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord God, "That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it."In that day the fair virgins and strong young men shall faint from thirst.Those who swear by the sin of Samaria, who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan!'And, 'As the way of Beersheba lives!'They shall fall and never rise again."
G.When God's people stop listen to God's Word, God stops speaking through it.
IV.What about the Believer Who Feels Like God Has Abandoned Him Like He Abandoned Saul?
A.Sometimes believers feel like they are in Saul's shoes, that they have been abandoned by God, that they are now reprobate.
B.How do they differentiate? How do they know that God hasn't abandoned them?
1.The believer continues to pursue God when they are terrified of his absence.
Ps. 13:1 – How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?How long will You hide Your face from me?
2.The believer complaints to Godabout his absence, not necromancers, because they have nowhere else to do.
3.The believer keeps clinging to God – even Ps. 88 shows that.
Saul had counted on Samuel in the past.Saul even loved Samuel.So, in his desperation, he tried to hear from him.Ultimately we don't look for loved ones to come from the dead because we already have the loved One who came back from the dead on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
First Catechism Questions: FCQ. 101 – What is the tenth commandment? "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
FCQ. 102 – What does the tenth commandment teach you? To be content with whatever God chooses to give me.
Shorter Catechism Questions: SCQ. 90 – How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.