<< Samuel 28: Saul and the Witch at Endor >>
“And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. “Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.”- 1 SAM. xxviii, 6, 7.
ONE of the promises most delightful to the Christian is the declaration that there will always be a reply to him when he seeks counsel from his Heavenly Father. “Because he hath set his love upon me,” it is written, “therefore will I deliver him : I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him” (Psa. xci. 14, 15). The Lord is a strong habitation; a Divine Friend, to whom we may continually resort, and obtain answers of wisdom and peace, so long as we are humbly desirous of being guided aright. How sad then is it when willful, obstinate and persistent disobedience has brought about the reverse of this gracious promise, and heaven is closed to us, as in the case of Saul. We call, and there is no answer. “When Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”
The three methods of heavenly communications enumerated are calculated to open to us very interesting considerations; and we will notice them as they are presented to us in the text: dreams,—Urim, —and prophets.
That the Lord conveys instruction sometimes by dreams is not only corroborated by the remarkable dreams recorded in Scripture, but in all ages there have been confirmations which history has not disdained to preserve. When we remember how considerable a portion of our lives we spend in sleep, and how largely many people dream, we may rationally conclude that we are not overlooked by Divine Mercy in these hours of our helplessness; but that intimations for our good are given in the night, as well as in the day. “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, In slumberings upon the bed; then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man” (Job xxxiii. 14-17). The Lord refreshes us and restores our strength during sleep, thus bestowing blessings of incalculable value to both the weary body and the wearied mind, when “He giveth His beloved sleep:” and why not impart instruction? Not that we are to suppose that every wild vagary occurring during dreams is to be taken as a guide, or as a revelation, or as a disclosure of fact. This cannot be truly said indeed of what is spoken and shewn to us when we are awake; much less should we expect it when we are asleep. But when any weighty matter is delivered to a person in a dream, there is usually some peculiar impressiveness, some solemnity which the spirit feels and cannot shake off, which imparts a conviction that Providence has spoken in the dream, The dreams of Joseph and of Pharaoh were of this character. Of such it is said: “Hear now my words : If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num, xii. 6).
Dreams however have uses, and important uses, for all: they intimate clearly how completely the soul can live in its own world, quite independent of the body. The soul can enjoy pleasure, suffer pain, go, return, communicate with others in a state of life and being, while the body is unconscious and at rest. Dream-life, then, is a revelation to everyone of the capability of spirit-life independent of the body and the outward world, and therefore of its certainty : since the Divine Being makes nothing in vain. Dreams shew us, too, that the mental world is as real to the spirit and as full of objects as the material world is to the body. But dreams do more than this. They should be interpreted by correspondence or analogy; and then they inform us of what quality the spirits are who are near us. Pleasant dreams, pure, innocent and lovely objects, are indications that angels are near, and we are inbreathing somewhat of the atmosphere of heaven. Horrid dreams, “making night hideous,” full of fantastic, monstrous things, loathsome and painful, are emblems to warn us that subtle and vile spirits are near, seeking to influence us by “blasts from hell,” stimulating whatever in us leads to impurity, or to rage. Such dreams, it may be said, are occasioned by indigestion, heavy suppers, diseased states of body, and anxieties. Be it so. These are the disorderly conditions in us, into which evil spirits can and do pour their influences. Our bodies are at such times in bad states; the spheres of bad spirits are in accord with these vitiated conditions of body, flow in with their foul phantasies, and fill our minds with terrible pictures, reeking from their own foul dens. .
Dreams, then, are a species of revelation. They warn when they are unpleasant, to turn the soul to the Fountain of Purity, and to look well to our habits both of mind and body; and to one who has been agitated by hideous scenes in the night, it may be said, in the words of the poet Burton:
“Take them home to thyself: and if unto thyself
The answers the same should be,-
Then beware of thyself, and take care of thyself,
Or so much the worse for thee. “
Heavenly dreams are visions which strengthen hope; which charm us with lovely pictures of the distant and the future, by which the sorrowful soul is for a little time bathed in bliss, and lifted above its cares, so that it feels like the prophet who had been gladdened with the view of his country purified and raised to more than its ancient glory. “Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and nlY sleep was sweet unto me” (Jer. xxxi. 26).
Saul had now, we are informed, no revelation from the Lord in dreams, He inquired, and there was no response. Yet surely this was reply enough. He was of those who say and do not. He had sinned, and sinned until the door was shut. The closure of the inner door of the soul ought to have led him to repentance. But instead of taking that simple straightforward course, he is ready to try every thing but that. Astonishing infatuation! And yet how common it is! How many persons there are who have a strange facility of hardening and blinding themselves against -the plainest teachings of experience. Their whole lives are repetitions of the same blunders. They learn nothing, and they forget nothing. In their early youth they are headstrong, silly and vain. They scorn all the cautions of the wise, and the teachings of the Word of God. They come to grief, and in loss of fortune, health or prospects, or all together, they get their first great lesson as to the iniquity of their conduct, and a great call to repent. There are a few sighs, it may be, a few prayers, and a few promises; but the danger passes away, they begin afresh, and with a fatal fatuity they are found forgetful of their chastisement, speeding again downhill to another fall and then another, notwithstanding the repeated warnings they have received, Their whole career is a long chain of blunders and misery, and they die unchanged. The self-love of such men is really self-hate, and takes them round the same dull circle of blunder and pain, until the sad scene is closed, in a sadder catastrophe. And yet how simple is the way of heaven! We have done wrong; let us do right. We have suffered; let us repent. We have been foolish; let us be wise. The goodness of God leads us to repentance. Our Saviour lends His divine hand; and He is Omnipotent to aid. ‘I’he angels will rejoice over us. Every good awaits us. Let us arise, and go to our Father. Oh how easy this is, when we are sincere, faithful to God, and faithful to ourselves! With it all is well. Without it, without an honest change of heart and life, the Divine Voice will become fainter and fainter to us. We may continue worship ; but our worship will be a heartless mockery when there is no worship in our lives. We may pray and enquire of the Lord. The Lord answers the heart, not the mouth. There will at length be a final, fatal close; and no reply either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.
The reply by Urim, or by lights, was the gleam that came upon the high priest’s breast, when he went into the Holy of Holies with the breastplate of precious stones placed upon his heart, and prayed for divine direction. The breastplate of precious stones represented the inner truths and virtues of religion. When we have full faith in these, and love them, they are like a golden breastplate sustaining precious stones, and borne upon the heart. Let a genuine soul present itself before the Lord with its petitions for strength, for counsel and for cheer; and divine lights will brighten up the troubled spirit, and shadows and sorrows will pass away. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (Psa, xcvii. 11). In the Lord’s light we shall see light. It may have seemed to us that life has become a desert; but when the glory of the Lord has shone round about us, the weary shades pass off, and in the bright lights of the inner Urim shining about our hearts, our wilderness will become like Eden, and our desert like the garden of the Lord (Isa. li. 3). But to such as Saul; to those who cling to the old man with his lusts, when, with a sense of dark foreboding of coming ruin, there is a shrinking from the gloomy future, but even yet no real repentance, a dread of pain, but not a dread of sin, though there may be a loud prayer; there is no reply by Urim ; no heavenly lights pour their blessed radiance into the soul. All is voiceless; the soul is a dark vault, where nothing answers but the echo of one’s own voice, the heavy sound of one’s own foot.
There is no reply by prophets. The Word of God, which is a company of prophets, has no reply of comfort for the soul that will not repent. There is every hopeful promise for the penitent. All is forgiven to those who feel they have nothing to pay. “Lord, save me, or I perish,” from a sincere soul, has always the response: “Come unto me!”
But the Sauls of the world are still not made wise. They still blunder on, and sink from bad to worse. Finding no help from heaven, Saul sought for aid and information from those familiar spirits, as they were called, who, though they had quitted the body, yet hankered after earth and the things of the earth, and were the source among the corrupt nations of Canaan of the foulest abominations ; which was, indeed, the reason why the Israelites had to overthrow and extirpate them.
That we are associated spiritually with angels and spirits, is a truth declared alike by the Word of God and by universal experience in all ages. This communion is the work of Divine Providence, and renders us blessed help In the ministry of angels and good spirits. He giveth His angels charge concerning us, to keep us in all our ways (Psa, xci. 11). Besides guardian angels, who are to watch over us, and perceive all our emotions and tendencies, that they may continually protect us, and ever elevate our motives and ends to the Lord and His kingdom, we are associated with spirits good and evil, good with the good, evil with the evil: these spirits being such as are in each case nearest to the spiritual states of those with whom they are associated. Men could not live and breathe in the world in a vacuum; nor could the spirits of men think and act mentally in utter separation from the spheres of other spiritual beings like themselves. Hence thoughts from good spirits flow into the minds of good men, and thoughts from evil spirits flow into the minds of evil men. Hence the crowds of sympathies and sensations which press upon us on all sides and stimulate us, and often, as we say, strike us in unexpected directions, Sometimes a bright idea will enter the mind like a new star, and open the way to brilliant disclosures of real magnificence ; sometimes fiendish suggestions will press into an evil mind with an intensity of villainy shocking even to one who has been long familiar with sin. So long as these influences come only as influences, they may be attractive and seductive, but they do not take away a man’s liberty. He can accept or he can repel them, Only with his own consent, and by the instrumentality of his own lust, can a bad man be made the slave of devils worse than himself
The Lord keeps men free, by preserving them from open intercourse with spirits. For this merciful and imperative reason it is that, although we are constantly in communion with spirits, from the necessity of our being, yet they do not know with whom they are allied and associated, and we do not know them. The Lord preserves, varies, and changes these connections, and adjusts them by ways of wisdom and mercy known in all their fulness only to Himself. It is true the Infinite Goodness of our Heavenly Father has occasionally permitted angels to be seen, and intimations and revelations to be given to men from the inner world; to preserve among men the knowledge that they were born for heaven, and to keep fresh and green within them the invaluable impression : “‘There is another and a better world: death is but the dark lattice that shrouds from the good the glories of eternal day.” When the Lord does this, it is well, He selects the persons, and guards the circumstances, so that no harm can come.
If man, however, unbidden, from curiosity alone, and careless of the consequences, seek open intercourse with spirits, it is fraught with peril; he is doing a forbidden thing. The only spirits who will aid him in this are evil spirits, and good cannot come of it. Hence it is forbidden both in the Old Testament and in the New, and in the case of Saul before us, we have an illustration of the sad consequences of seeking to commune with FAMILIAR SPIRITS. Saul knew he was entering on forbidden ground. He was aware of the Divine Laws against it. He had himself been most severe in the execution of those laws (ver. 9).. Yet he was so blinded as to do a plain and wellknown evil, in the vain hope that good might come to him.
When a person has, from curiosity, or from the desire to become famous, sought by yearning, entreaty and perseverance, to become a medium for open intercourse with spirits, until it has been obtained, the spirit or spirits become consciously familiar with his thoughts, purposes, aims and circumstances, and are therefore called familiar spirits. These familiar spirits become conscious of his mental tendencies, his weakest points of character, and play upon his lusts and passions, leading ultimately to abominations of which he himself would never have dreamed. Hence the divine laws are so imperative against them. “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them : I am the Lord your God” (Lev. xix. 3 I). ” And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people” (Lev. xx. 6). “There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, a sorcerer, an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a CONSULTER WITH FAMILIAR SPIRITS, or a wizard, or ONE WHO ENQUIRES OF THE DEAD. For all these things are an abomination unto the Lord : and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee” (Deut. xviii. 10-12). Saul despised these clear divine warnings. He had shut the Word of the Lord and the influences of heaven from himself: and now, instead of humbling himself at that late period and repenting even then, he sought by forbidden arts to obtain from below the succour he had wilfully disabled himself from receiving from the only true source, the fountain of salvation.
The woman was quite as conscious of the guilty work in which she was engaged as the king himself ; but being pressed she proceeded. And soon an old man came up, covered with a mantle, and apparently having the figure of Samuel : for Saul recognised him, and bowed himself before him (ver. 14).
Endor, the place where this woman lived, was a village in Manasseh. The name is in Hebrew THE EYE OF THE GENERATION, and she is the symbol of a superstitious religion, a perversion of truth, to suit an adulterous generation. Such a state of religion introduces to spirits, but they are evil spirits; and to a prophet, but a false prophet. The woman said: “I see gods ascending from the earth.” It would have been better rendered “god,” as the word used In the original (Elohim), though plural, usually only means one person, and evidently does so here: for Saul said, “What form is he of?” And she said “An old man cometh up.” That it was not Samuel is evident, for he came up as if out of the earth. In the spiritual world, which is seen when the sight of the spirit is opened, there appears an earth as in this world. Above is the heaven of angels; below is the world of infernals. This spirit came up, yet he professed to be Samuel, It was in fact an evil spirit who assumed the form and spoke in the character of Samuel, It is one of the chief arts of evil spirits to personate and to deceive. “Beloved,” said St. John, “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John iv, 1). ” Satan himself,” said another apostle, “is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. xi. 14). Hence we may discern with perfect clearness the reason for the absolute prohibition of all seeking for intercourse with spirits, or, as it has been strongly, but not too strongly called, spirit-hunting. “‘When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter : should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the Law and to the Testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because their is no light in them ;” Of, as in the Hebrew, “because there is for them no morning” (Isa. viii. 19, 20).
Saul, however, still seeking to avoid the one honest remedy —repentance, and finding no help from heaven on any other terms, clutched around for unlawful aid, and was introduced to a false and terrible Samuel, a prophet only of despair and death. Just so has it ever been with a carnal unrepentant world. When men, by persisting in evil, have closed heaven against themselves, and can get no answers to their appeals for aid and comfort, they turn to superstition; which, like this weird woman of Endor, is in league with the powers of darkness. For the brightness of joy there then comes the gloom of despair, a settled melancholy, a fearful looking forward to judgment and sorrow.
Had they but the genuine wisdom to cease to do evil and learn to do well, to turn away from their transgressions and lead a new life, heaven would be opened to them, They would see the Lord’s church, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, ready to welcome them, There would be no need to have recourse to witches, wizards, or familiar spirits of any kind; but light, comfort, consolation and blessing would stream in. There would be answers from the Lord by dreams, by Urim and by prophets. There would not be a false Samuel to denounce against them the dark horrors of despair, but the true Samuel, the Holy Word, with its finger ever pointing upwards to the glorious land, the home of the blessed, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY from The The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)