Saul is terrified. The Philistine army is breathing down his neck. God won’t answer his frantic get-me-out-of-trouble prayers. He turns to the prophet Samuel. There’s only one problem – Samuel’s been dead for quite some time.
Saul’s solution? A seance conducted by a witch. The apparition comes up and says this:
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”~1 Samuel 28:15-19
Saul tells the ghost his greatest fears as well as God’s seeming abandonment. He asks the ghost what he ought to do. Let me just repeat that so we can really hear it. He asks the ghost what he ought to do.
Now, I’m not expert on witches and wizards, but it doesn’t take a tarot card to tell me that when you’re more interested in Casper’s advice than you are in seeking the One to whom Casper must answer, you’re sitting yourself down into a deep, dark cauldron. It’s likely you’re the one who’s goose is about to be cooked. Only those who refuse to know the Living God find it necessary to consult the dead.
Samuel’s ghost tells Saul as much saying, ““Why then do you ask me…” In other words, if Saul thought God really was giving him the silent treatment, what would make him think a dead man was going to break that spell? If he really trusted God, wouldn’t he have realized that there was a reason for the silence and continued in prayer and fasting until wisdom came? Apparently not when you’ve got witches and wizards to turn to in times of trouble or need.
Samuel goes on to tell Saul that God is his enemy, has given his kingdom and position to David, and remind him of his past disobedience to God. He adds an, “Oh, by the way, you’re going to lose your the battle and you’re going to die tomorrow along with your sons.”
There is some disagreement about whether this ghost is truly Samuel or if it is merely a deception used by the Devil to drive Saul to despair. Either way, there is absolutely no comfort given to this desperate man. I tend to think this Samuel look-a-like was an evil spirit, not Samuel himself. Everything he said was true, but these truths were spoken in order to discourage, dishearten, and cause despair in the hearer. So, while prophets may often speak hard truths, they always do so with the intent to bolster a call to repentance. No such call is found in this discourse. Acts 16:16-18 comes to mind.
What Saul had hoped would give him peace and relief in his time of trial led to his ultimate destruction. Because he refused to repent, obey, and diligently seek God when he could have, it led him to seek the Devil when he felt he couldn’t.
Beware what you seek in place of God. You may think your disguise is decent, but the Devil is the master of masquerade. He can use even the truth to harbor a heap of hopelessness in our hearts.
And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? ~Isaiah 8:19