Instead of continuing in prayer and waiting on God, King Saul had sought the advice of a witch. Knowing full well that doing so was against both God’s law, as well as the law of his own making in the land of Israel, Saul’s desperation drove him to darkness rather than dependence on God.
Darkness never delivers, though. Saul wanted help, but all he got was a message from hell. He wanted counsel, but all he got was condemnation. He sought hope and all he received was hard-nosed hostility. These are the results of self-sufficiency, unfaithfulness, and trusting in and turning to that which God has forbidden in times of trouble or need. God help us.
This is where Saul’s ungodly defiance leaves him:
Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.21 And the woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, “Behold, your servant has obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me. 22 Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.”23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, urged him, and he listened to their words. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night. ~1 Samuel 28:20-25
1. Saul was overcome by fear. Where faith emboldens the smallest and most unlikely followers to fight against all odds, fear disables and disqualifies before the battle even begins.
2. Saul was hungry. A man with any and every kind of food at his fingertips wanted none of it. His lack of faith led to lack of food. He couldn’t eat for want of comfort and self-help. How many people today have the entire canon of scripture, a church on every corner, and sermons on every radio station, yet desire nothing of that spiritual food? How many, like Saul, refuse what would make them strong and healthy and exchange it for the pursuit of good self-talk speeches and false comforts?
3. Saul was weak. His choice to deprive himself of those things from which he could’ve drawn strength led to his collapse. How foolish we are when we voluntarily forfeit what God has given for our good.
Finally, after Saul fell down in griping fear, the witch seeks to help him. This chick may be evil, but she ain’t stupid. No one wants the king dead on their doorstep. Her kindness was self-protective, not other-oriented. Nevertheless, we should note that it was kindness, not force, that turned Saul’s “no” into a “yes.”
Saul had some big problems to say the least. His past was chock full of pride, self-sufficiency, disobedience, and dereliction. He had some major repenting to do if there was to be any grace dealt at this point. Even still, God would have listened if Saul had been willing to deal honestly.
Unfortunately, Saul wasn’t interested in repentance. Saul was only interested in Saul. He wanted immunity, favor, freedom, and faithfulness from God apart from obedience and faithfulness to God. He wanted love without sacrifice, authority without accountability, forgiveness without repentance, and victory without battle. All this selfishness left him fearful, hungry, and weak – in a word, spent.
Lord, let us not trade faith for fear or spiritual sermons for self-help speeches. If you’ve given us the tools by which we might gain strength, let us not willfully ignore and deprive ourselves of them. Help us to remember that it is only our kindness, not our forcefulness, that compels the lost to change. Make us willing to accept sacrifice with love, accountability with authority, repentance with forgiveness, and battle with victory. Forgive us for the times when we’ve so often failed. Correct us continuously and keep us from falling from grace. Amen.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~1 John 4:18