THE STRANGE AND THE SPOOKY PART 2

MAGICIANS AND MEDIUMS

 

Tonight we are continuing on with our theme of THE STRANGE AND THE SPOOKY. Toward the end of our lesson, we will take a look at Saul and his encounter with a medium. I am saving it for the end because many view this as one of the most difficult stories in the O.T., but I think it will be easier once we look at what the rest of the Bible has to say about magicians and mediums.

 

It seems to me that the mediums, sorcerers, magicians and the like had their beginning in the Egyptian culture. The first time we see them mentioned in the Bible was when Joseph was in prison and the Pharaoh was having a dream that he wanted to know what it meant.

 

Genesis 41:8 Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.

 

Now as we look at these passages, I want you to notice the pattern.

First, you will notice that there were people practicing these divination arts.

Second, I want you to observe how these people were always limited on what they could do.

Third, I want you to notice that when God was involved with one of His people, they could do what self proclaimed magicians and mediums could not.

 

In our verse, we see that none of these magicians or wise men could interpret the Pharaohís dream and this made the Pharaoh very angry. However, he finds about this man named Joseph who may be able to tell him what his dream means.

 

Genesis 41:15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it."16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace."

 

Notice Joseph didnít say that he had the ability in himself to interpret the Kings dream but that it was only through God that he could do such a thing. Again, we see a stark contrast between Joseph and the magicians because Joseph gives the credit to God for his ability while these others usually give themselves the credit for their supposed ability. Of course, Joesph was able to interpret the dream when these other could not.

 

Our next example comes from the book of Exodus when Moses started performing miracles in the form of plagues so that the Pharaoh would let the children of Israel go. Letís look at their first encounter.

 

Exodus 7:10 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.11 But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.12 For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

 

In this example, the magicians were able to throw their rods down and make them turn into snakes as well. Again, this is a trick that magicians can pull of today by using trickery, but the rod that Aaron threw down wasnít done by mere trickery, it actually happened, and to show that it wasnít just a mere trick, Godís serpent ate the other serpents showing that Godís power was real and greater than any tricks these magicians could come up with.

 

Many of the plagues that Moses brought forth by the power of God were explained away by the magicians and they would showed how a person could do it. However, I personally believe that when they were doing their rendition of what Moses did, they did it on a small scale simply using slight of hand or other man made techniques. We also learn that these magicians could not reproduce all that God was doing in these plagues. They admitted that they could not and even said that God was making these things happen.

 

Exodus 8:18 Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast.19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God."

 

These magicians were limited on what they could do and could not even begin to touch the power of God. Now letís look at a couple of NT examples.

 

Acts 8:9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

 

Here we learn about how Philip was going to Samaria to teach the people about Christ. Now Philip wasnít going around trying to make a name for himself by using miracles, no, he was using the miracles and signs to prove the things he was saying about Jesus were true. This is exactly what the Bible teaches us was the purpose of the miracles.

 

Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.

 

A man named Simon had astonished the people for a long time with his bag of tricks and they thought he was someone great, that is until they saw what real miracles were about through the hands Philip. Even Simon himself, knowing that his tricks were fake was truly amazed at the miracles and signs that Philip had done. Simon gave up his bag of tricks and became a Christian.

 

Our next example comes from one of Paulís adventures as recorded in, Acts 19

 

Acts 19:11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, (see-vuh) a Jewish chief priest, who did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

 

The credit is given to God for working unusually miracles through Paul. It was already amazing enough with the miracles and the signs that were being done, but to see unusually miracles happening must have been something else. In contrast, these 7 sons of Sceva thought they could simply chant or invoke the name of Jesus and would be able to work a sign such as casting a demon out, but they find out quickly that it takes more than invoking the name of Jesus as they are beaten up and stripped of their clothes and have to run fromthat house naked for all to see.

 

We need to keep in mind that the city of Ephesus was full of people who believed in other godís and the art of magic. So, when the people heard this story it caused many in that city turn away from their so called magic, and they had a great book burning day, and the value of what they destroyed would be somewhere around $35,000 dollars today.

 

We have looked at 2 examples from the OT and 2 examples from the NT. More examples could be given, but I think you can see from these examples that these magicians were fakes and very limited on what they could actually do. Now, I want you to write down these next verses because they teach that these magicians and the like are indeed just fakes.

 

Zechariah 10:2 For the idols speak delusion; The diviners envision lies, And tell false dreams; They comfort in vain.

 

Jeremiah 14:14 And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.

 

 

Ezekiel 13:6 "They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, 'Thus says the LORD!' But the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.7 "Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, 'The LORD says,' but I have not spoken."8 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you," says the Lord GOD.

 

I believe these verses show that those who are magicians and the like are nothing more than tricksters, people who tell lies about what they see. They do their best to deceive those around them. If any of these people actually performed any real magic, I would have to say that their power could have come from the devil himself. Even his power was limited based on what God allowed him to do such as in the story of Job. For example, he was able to send fire down on his animals, and he made a strong wind blow the house down that his children were in. Also the NT says this,

 

2 Thessalonians 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish

 

We also learn that during the NT time when demon possessionwas allowed to happen that one lady is said to of had the ability to foretell the future as found in Acts 16:16. However, even if and when someone did signs by the power of the devil, it was still a limited power that could not come close to the power of God. Of course, I believe anything supernatural would not have went beyond the first century anyways.

 

Another thing we need to do is compare how Godís people used objects to get an answer from God and how the magicians and others used objects to practice their sorcery.

 

First lets look a few examples of what Gods people used. Our first example comes from Judges chapter 6 where Gideon used a fleece to get an answer from God.

 

Judges 6:36 So Gideon said to God, "If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said --37 "look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said."38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water.39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew."40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.

 

Not only was this done once, it was done twice, and we see a definite answer here done by the power of God controlling the dew.

 

Another example was the use of casting lots.

 

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

 

The casting of lots was sometimes used to decide whether someone was guilty or innocent. This was not some random chance like someone throwing dice, the outcome was clearly controlled by God. This same method was used to determine who the next apostle would be.

 

Acts 1:24 And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen25 "to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

 

Magicians and others used a variety of things to pull off their tricks.

 

Hosea 4:12 My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, And their staff informs them.

 

Ezekiel 21:21 "For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads, to use divination: he shakes the arrows, he consults the images, he looks at the liver.

 

Sometimes they would use a stick or a staff and drop it and whichever side was up would give a person their yes or no answer. Sometimes they would shake an arrow to find the answer or even cut open an animal and look at its liver for a sign. Of course, another thing they supposedly did was talk to the dead. Again, there are more examples I could give, but this is good enough to show that there were some similarities between these two in that objects were used to get answers, but the big difference is that God was in control of those instances that His people used objects to get answers, but magicians and others got their answers by random chance.

 

God makes it clear that magicians, mediums, and the like were to be avoided or killed in the OT time.

 

Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who 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,11 "or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.12 "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.

 

Leviticus 20:27 ' A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.' "

 

Now, letís consider what the Bible has to say about being able to speak to the dead so we can see if it is possible.

 

The first thing we learn is that only God has the power over the soul.

 

Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

Every instance that you read of in the Bible where someone has died and then came back to life was because his soul re-entered his body by the power of God. No human has the power to do this on his own. As:

 

Ecclesiastes 8:8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death.

 

The Bible never mentions the devil having this power. Once we die, our soul goes to a place called Hades. According to the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, it wasnít possible for the rich man or Lazarus to cross the gulf that was between them and we also learn that no one was going to be sent back from the dead.

 

Now think about this, if it was not possible for them to leave that place, what makes us think that someone on this earth could have the ability summon them up from this place or to speak to them? Based on what the Bible teaches us and the example of the rich man and Lazarus, I do not believe that it is possible for mediums to be able to speak to the dead or bring them forth. I do not even believe that the devil himself had the power to do this either. Notice what:

 

Revelation 1:18 "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

 

Not only did Jesus have the keys of Hades and death at this time, I believe that God has always had the keys to Hades and death which means that God is the one in control and not even the devil would have the power take a soul from this area.

 

I have a few more passages that I believe shows that once a person dies, they do not know what is happening on the earth right now. So when people say they think Grandma is looking down on them I do not believe this is true.

 

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.

 

Now this passage is not teaching that we will know nothing in the sense that we are is some unaware state because our story of the rich man and Lazarus makes it clear that we are fully conscience after we die. Instead, it is sayingthat when we die, we will no longer have anything to do with what is currently going on in this earth. That is why the last part of verse 6 says that we will never have a share in anything done under the sun. Once we die we cannot receive any more rewards for what we do on the earth because we are dead. So, I believe this passage coupled with the story of the rich man and Lazarus shows that no man or devil could speak with or conjure up those who have passed away.

 

Ok now that we have a good foundation based on what the Bibles teaches as a whole on magicians, mediums and the like, we can now take a look 1 Sam 28, which tells us of Saul and his encounter with a medium.

 

1 Samuel 28:3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.4 Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa.5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.7 Then Saul said to his servants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor."8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Please conduct a seance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you."9 Then the woman said to him, "Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?"10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing."11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me."12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, "Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!"13 And the king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What did you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth."14 So he said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle." And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.15 Now Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" And Saul answered, "I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do."16 Then Samuel said: "Why then do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?17 "And the LORD has done for Himself 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 nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.19 "Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines."20 Then immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night.21 And the woman came to Saul and saw that he was severely troubled, and said to him, "Look, your maidservant has obeyed your voice, and I have put my life in my hands and heeded the words which you spoke to me.22 "Now therefore, please, heed also the voice of your maidservant, and let me set a piece of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way."23 But he refused and said, "I will not eat." So his servants, together with the woman, urged him; and he heeded their voice. Then he arose from the ground and sat on the bed.24 Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she hastened to kill it. And she took flour and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread from it.25 So she brought it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.

 

The reason this text is deemed so difficult is because it too vague because some details are missing. But based upon the background study we just did about magicians and mediums, I do not believe that this lady had the power to really talk to the dead and that she was just a fake. I think our first evidence comes from.

 

12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, "Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!"

 

This medium did indeed see Samuel and our text implies the he told her that it was king Saul that was with her because all of a sudden she knows the indenty of Saul. We also see that she cried out showing to me that she was surprised about what was going on. At first, only the medium seems to be able to see Samuel, but starting in verse 15, it seems that Samuel begins talking directly to Saul and tells him that he is going to die along with his sons tomorrow.

 

The question is, By what power is Samuel speaking to Saul at this time? I believe we have already ruled out the medium having this power, so I want to offer 3 possibilities that I found by commentators and then I will tell you which one I think fits the text best.

 

1. Some seem to think that this whole encounter is nothing but a lie from the medium. In other words she, is just putting on a good acting job and she knew all along that Saul was with her. I donít really like this explanation because there is just too much going on in the text and too much information that the medium would have to know to pull this trick off, not to mention the fact that what Samuel said came to pass about the death of Saul and his sons.

 

2. Some have suggested that the devil simply transformed himself into looking like and sounding like Samuel to mess with Saul even more. While it might (and I stress might) be possible for the devil to transform himself in this way, it is highly unlikely that he would do this and it would really serve no purpose to simply give a message that Saul and his sons would die. So, I reject this this idea as well.

 

3. Now the third explanation is the one that I like the best because it makes the most sense to me. I believe that God allowed Samuel to speak to Saul one last time to show Saul that even if he tries to get an answer from the dead, that it is not going to change the fact that Godís spirit had left him and that his kingdom was going to be taken from him and that he and his sons were going to die the next day. This makes the most sense to me because I know that God has the power to do this because He allowed Moses and Elijah to appear with Jesus in front of Peter, James and John and we have seen God get his point across to people in many strange and spooky ways. So, I believe this is the best explanation of what is happening in our text.

 

In conclusion, you may hear strange stories or see strange things happening around you, but they have a logical answer of why they are happening. We must never underestimate the ability of our brains to deceive us especially if we really want something to be true or we are in an emotional state. Though we have many shows on TV that have made the supernatural popular, they are just that shows. Based on my studies of Godís Word, there is no supernatural activities going on in our time. There are no humans that can do real magic or summon up the dead to speak to them. There are no ghost or demons that are plaguing mankind today. So, let us not be dubbed by the fakers or by our imaginations, but instead, let us put our faith and trust in God.