I’m revisiting a favorite passage of mine from the Old Testament this Sunday evening at church. Our senior adults will be acting out the story of the Witch of Endor from 1 Samuel 28. I'm kind of thinking out loud here about this passage. If you haven’t read this story you need to. It leaves you scratching your head and questioning why it’s in the Bible. Kind of an odd-ball story. I’ve posted some thoughts on this before.
Today, I’m looking at what lessons can be learned from this story. What can we, who are Christ-followers, learn from such a story? Is there anything to learn?
As I have been thinking of this story I have come up with some application. A brief background to the story is that king Saul is about to fight against the Philistines. Saul is terrified (v.5). Samuel the prophet, his long time advisor and friend has died. Samuel also knew God personally and communed with Him. Because of this he could discern God’s voice in certain situations. Because Saul relied on Samuel’s encounters with God and did not have the personal relationship with God that Samuel had, he could not hear God’s voice speaking as to what the Israelites should do about the coming battle with the Philistines. So, Saul tries the usual and appropriate ways of communicating with God. He hoped to hear from God via dreams, casting lots, and/or prophets. However, none of these methods worked. God’s voice was not heard and Saul became desperate.
Ever find yourself in a desperate situation? If you have you know how strong the temptation is to go out and do something drastic and irrational. This is the situation Saul is in. He desperately wants to hear from God, yet he doesn’t have the kind of relationship that would allow a person to hear from God. He hasn’t kept in step with God. He hasn’t obeyed God (look at Saul’s actions in 1 Samuel 15). So, in this dark hour Saul turns to a practice that is forbidden in Israel; communication with the dead. Saul is trying to force the voice of God in his situation. Have you ever tried to do that? You just want so bad to hear God’s voice in a situation that you do something crazy to try and get Him to speak. Saul found out through the ghost of Samuel that his disobedience to God and His commands had fractured their relationship. This disobedience had caused the voice of God to disappear from Saul’s life. This is just further evidence of the fact that there was no relationship between God and Saul.
The most important lesson to learn from this story is the connection between obedience and relationship. Can you have one without the other? Good relationships require obedience even if you don’t feel like it. But maybe there is a deeper truth here. Let me illustrate it this way. As a parent, I have rules and laws that I expect my children to obey. Could I expect obedience from them if I wasn’t available to be in a relationship with them? Should I expect obedience from them if I’m not a presence in their lives? Good and healthy relationships are dependant upon obedience. However, you can switch this around and say that obedience is dependant upon a good and healthy relationship. With my kids I’m expecting them to obey me because of the relationship I have with them. God the Father does the same with us. He expects us to obey Him because of the relationship He has with us through His Son Jesus (John 15:10, 14). Obedience is to flow from the relationship.
So, more important than, “How are you doing at obeying God?” is the question, “How are you doing in your relationship with God?”
It looks as if King Saul needed someone to ask him such a question.