Mike Starkey – Saul and the Witch of Endor
1 Sam 28
Let’s find a very difficult passage dealing with issues like divine guidance, mental illness, spiritualism, failure of leadership and the silence of God in the face of desperate situations. Ah, here’s one.
In the week Mike was praying and asking God, ‘Where are you at work in this nation?’
And then he pulled up outside a house, and the first sign that said ‘Ivy Cottage.’
Then there was another prayer time in the week and he asked the same question, and went to his office and there was a note from a B& B. ‘Ivy House.’
He once asked God in the supermarket, ‘What kind of minister do you want me to be?’ And a bag of salad had written on it, ‘Washed and ready to serve.’
God can of course communicate in all kinds of ways. Primarily scripture but also maybe through dreams, discernment, etc. But there can be times when we long to hear from God, and the heavens are silent.
You still believe is real, but he seems to have gone quiet. We have to be honest about this happening. It happens.
It happened to Saul.
God had gone silent on God, how far will he go for some kind of guidance?
His kingdom is unraveling, but he still wants to be king. The Philistine army are formed up against him.
‘What should I do God?’
Over and over he asks.
The prophet Samuel is dead.
Even the Urrim and Thumim carried by the High Priests aren’t working.
How far will he go to fill the silence of God?
As far as doing something God has forbidden.
He will go as far as going through a door there is no light on the other side of.
He goes to the very place he has banned on a good day (in accordance with Dt 18). Now it’s a bad day, he turns to the occult practices of the pagan nations.
It’s easier to uproot this from the nation than his own heart.
He goes to the Witch and her reply initially is ironic in the extreme, ‘Saul has banned it.’
And Saul swears by the living God, that what the Lord has banned is okay.
But when Samuel appears, she screams. (Another irony)
Then he asks the dead Samuel what he should do. When the only source of his revelation is God.
Did Samuel really come back?
Does this mean spiritualism works?
The clue is in the medium’s reaction – her scream tells us this is not something she has ever experienced before. Either she usually pretends to contact the dead, or that her answers come from another power.
The medium of Endor did not call Samuel up. God brought him up, on this one occasion, as a final sign to Saul to show him how far he’d gone.
You could compare this to the Magi. The root of that word is same as Magic.
But that doesn’t mean Magic is good, just that God will go to any means to speak to people in a way they can understand.
Sometimes we don’t know why God goes quiet on us. Read John of the Cross ‘The Dark Night Of The Soul’ on this.
Mother Teresa’s dark night lasted most of her life. But that didn’t stop her loving God.
We know why God had stopped speaking – because a long time before, Saul had stopped listening. For years.
Then when he wants to listen, it’s too late.
The tragedy of Saul is a great warning to us, not to participate in our own unraveling.
We’ve said there’s a lot of irony in this so far – but there are 2 huge ones we need to notice.
1) Irony of moral values
Why is it that the people who shout loudest about a particular sin end up falling for it. Jonathan Aitken famously about ‘the sword of truth’ then goes to jail for perjury. You could say this is more than ironic, it’s demonic.
Could it be that the reason they are called to campaign is because they know how hard a struggle this is. But we put the struggle outside ourselves in the public square because it’s harder to deal with our own private rooms.
May our God inspired campaigns for values begin in our own hearts.
2) Irony of spirituality.
Why is it something that promises to set you free ends up tying you up and putting you in the boot and taking you where you never wanted to go.
Eg spiritualism, occult, witchcraft etc.
We get our pictures of these from heavy metal albums and TV horror films. But there’s a lot of difference between e.g. Wicca and Satanism.
Magic is defined (by a witch) as ‘a force that can be directed according to occult laws by developing a magical consciousness.’ It’s all about accessing power.
Wicca is a form of paganism (comes from the word for ‘countryside’). There are many neo-pagans who want to connect to nature etc,
Spiritualism is about connecting to and channeling the dead.
And divination = trying to get direction by various means.
These are often practiced by sincere, well intentioned people (many of whom have had very bad experiences of the church).
They are all different – but here’s what they have in common – all about gaining POWER for the user to manipulate for your own benefit. They promise ‘I remain in the driving seat.’
But the group of people statistically most likely to be drawn to wicca = teenage girls with low self esteem.
Promise of power is very attractive.
But there is another side to this. Over the years Mike has been called in by people scared out of their wits because of what they really DIDN’T want happening.
Things moving about in houses, scary noises etc. Nightmarish ‘taking over’ of people in the house etc.
Very often start from same root. A desire to connect to something good.
But the deeper they go, the wider they open the door to where they never wanted to go.
It promises power and control, you end up powerless and scared. That’s why God banned it in Deuteronomy.
Faith in Jesus is the opposite.
You let Jesus in the driving seat and find you were never more free.
Have you had involvement or family involvement in this?
Pull away, before it’s too late. Turn to God.
Beware of any kind of spirituality (even one that seems Christian) that is about accessing divine power by our magic prayer words of naming it and claiming it. The idea that we can harness God for our own ends like that is wrong. It’s a me centred spirituality. Jesus is not a dandruff shampoo to solve our problems and giving us happy peace. We are about God’s purposes. That doesn’t mean he is all about ours. We have to go through highs and lows, clarity from God and silence too. What do we do when we’re in the trough? The challenge for some of us is to look at our true, unspoken motives.
Saul wanted what God could give him more than he wanted God.
By comparison, David (who we know messed up very badly too) was ‘a man after GOD’S own heart.’ That means he wanted God more than what God could give him.
Do we want the experiences God can give us more than we want God?
Are we disciples or consumers?
That’s the David vs Saul difference.
In crisis, David cries out to God in psalms.
Saul goes for a medium.
What about you?