Bible Readings for September 4th
In 1 Samuel 28, we find one of the most vivid scenes from all the Bible. Saul, at the end of his rope, visits a medium to get advice on how to salvage his kingdom. Specifically, he asks the medium to call up Samuel from the dead in hopes that the prophet can give him some piece of useful knowledge from beyond the grave.
One of the main questions surrounding this passage is whether we are actually seeing Samuel or whether this is a demon impersonating Samuel. Everything in this passage suggests that this is indeed Samuel, especially in the fact that Samuel reiterates what he has already spoken to Saul and in the fact that he correctly prophesies that Saul would die with his sons the following day.
There is no doubt that this is an extraordinary circumstance to bring up Samuel from the dead to prophesy to Saul, but we should note that this experience doesn’t really do Saul any good. Saul’s problem is that he wants the kind of knowledge he can wield like a weapon—some insight that will allow him to navigate his life and come out on the other side with success, wealth, fame, and glory.
But that isn’t why God gives us his word. God gives us his word to teach us that he alone is God and that we have no hope outside of him. Saul, however, has had a habit of disobeying the word of Yahweh from early in his reign as king, especially at two critical points: first by offering a sacrifice rather than waiting for Samuel (1 Sam. 13) and second by failing to devote all of the Amalekites to destruction as God had commanded (1 Sam. 15).
Even now, Saul doesn’t repent and seek God’s forgiveness, because he doesn’t really care what God is saying through Samuel. Part of the function of this story is to demonstrate the perfect justice of God in tearing the kingdom away from Saul, because we see that Saul does not have any desire to repent from his sins, to seek God’s forgiveness, or to keep God’s commandments, even when God brings back a prophet from the dead.
Here is the question that faces us from this passage: Do we actually want to hear what God has to say? If so, we will devote ourselves to studying his word, because that is what he has spoken to us. Our desire to hear some additional word from the Lord isn’t a sign of our devotion—it’s a sign of the hardness of our hearts, showing that we are willing to do anything to benefit ourselves apart from listening to God’s word.
So, let us keep striving to love God’s word, and let us repent from any time that we, like Saul, seek out knowledge for our own personal benefit and not for God’s glory in Jesus Christ.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.