I See Dead People
Saul consults a medium for advice. Why is this sort of thing on the rise, and why do all of us struggle with this tendency to seek advice outside of God in one way or another?
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
(START by Showing SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY slide)
Before we get started this morning, I wanted to talk to you about something near and dear to our heart here at Renovation: And that’s our Renovation School of Theology.
Every summer, as our House Groups take a break, our School of Theology gets started.
We believe it’s incredibly important that as Christians that we don’t just have faith, but that we know ABOUT our faith.
And so over the past few years, we’ve created a number of classes to help you learn about your Christian faith, the Bible, and eventually even study some of the deeper doctrines of the faith.
Our hope is over the next ten years to see hundreds of people from our church studying Scripture and learning about their amazing God….growing as Disciples!
And so, we are offering 4 amazing summer classes to help YOU grow!
The classes go in order…so you start at the beginning.
Each of the classes are only 8 or 9 weeks long.
They start in June and are finished before July is over…or the first few days of August
It’s really a short-time commitment, but a HUGE payoff for your Christian walk.
Our first class is called FIRST STEPS
It’s where you can start diving into what the Bible has to say on some of basics of Christianity:
You’ll learn more about Jesus and why he died
More about prayer, listening to God, and more!
It’s a great starting point to diving into the Bible and learning more about who God is.
Many of you here are new in your faith, or just getting started, or just have never studying your faith before…this is for you. You’ll love it!
We do ask that everyone starts in the First Steps class with the only exception being if you’ve taken any sort of theological class in the past…
Our second class is called MINING GOD’S WORD
MGW will help you learn how to actually interpret the Bible and give you tools to study it.
It’s a fantastic class. Our reviews of this chart are off the charts! People absolutely LOVE it!!
In just 8 or 9 weeks, it’ll dramatically change how you read the Bible.
About once every 3 years or so, I teach Mining God’s Word myself…so I would LOVE to have you in my class this summer.
If you’ve had any sort of Bible class before (in school, college, another church)…you can start here
But don’t worry, our other teachers are FANTASTIC as well
Our 3rd and 4th classes are Theology 101 and 201.
It’s in those classes where we dive deep into studying some of major doctrines of Christianity:
The trinity, creation, end times, and we study major theological questions like: Does God just KNOW the future or did God PLAN the future?
These are seminary level classes that we are offering at our church for basically free. Amazing stuff.
We’ll give you more details and tell you how to sign-up in announcements
Our hope is to have close to 100 adults taking classes this summer!
So find a way to get to a class.
It’s just 8 or 9 weeks.
And it’s an incredible investment in your spiritual growth.
If you’ve got kids at home, get a sitter for 8 weeks
Or rotate with your spouse every other summer.
Don’t use kids as an excuse to not grow spiritually.
That doesn’t work out well for you OR THEM in the end.
Take a class, you’ll love it.
(SWITCH TO “I SEE DEAD PEOPLE” SLIDE)
You now, one thing about Renovation Church and our teachings is that there is certainly variety.
Sometimes we do topical series…like one on prayer…or on December Craziness…
And other times we just walk chapter by chapter through a book in the Bible.
And they each have their own advantages
The advantage of going chapter-by-chapter through a book of the Bible is that sometimes you cover topics that you would most likely otherwise never cover.
And today is one of those days: We’re going to talk about talking to dead people.
You usually don’t sit down at the drawing board and say, “I know, how about a message on talking to dead people!”
But indeed that’s where the Bible brings us today.
It may sound funny at first, but the prevalence of people consulting “mediums” as they’re called to consult family or friends who have passed is exponentially on the rise
I can remember when I was in seminary, I’d often be home during lunch, and so I’d turn on our little square TV (that now sits in my basement…and my kids are probably like…what’s that thing?!)
And I can remember flipping through our 12 channels, and often seeing Sylivia Browne on daytime talk shows.
The abyss of TV.
And in the early, and mid 2000’s, all of a sudden you could see her, and others like John Edward and his “Crossing Over” show…’channeling’ dead family members for audience members.
You can turn on local radio, like KDWB, and listen when they have psychic and medium, Gary Spivey on, and he too, purportedly can talk to your deceased love one for you.
And he’ll let you know…that yes, your dad did ultimately love you.
And yes, grandpa is sorry he didn’t include you in the will.
I always wonder why you never hear, “I talked to your mom…your mom still doesn’t like you…and she likes everyone.”
So why is this on the rise? (because it’s still rising in popularity!)
You can see it even in popular culture…
From…of course the 6th Sense…”I see Dead People!”
To shows like Ghost Whisperer and Medium, and now Long Island Medium.
Not to mention there are about 87 Ghost Hunter shows on TV.
And maybe a better clarifying question for us is this: Why do so many people turn to this? What’s behind trying to seek out communication or advice with a person who is already dead?
In order to answer that question, we’re going to look at a famous person in the Bible who himself went to a medium to consult a dead person.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait…this is in the Bible?!”
It is! The Bible has everything! You gotta read it.
And we’re going to try and discover what was behind this particular person’s desire to consult a medium…so we can know how to avoid it ourselves.
As we’re continuing in our Monarchy Series on the Book of 1 Samuel, we’ve been watching this constant contrast between the current King, Saul, and the future King, David
We studied chapter 25 here last week, and in House Groups, we took a look at chapter 26 where Saul is once again maniacally chasing David in order to kill him.
Today for the sake of time, I’m going to summarize chapter 27 for you, and we’re going to dive into chapter 28.
If you want to read along in the Bible today…
Chapter 27 is a very short chapter (just 12 verses) that shows us David hiding from Saul among their mutual enemy, the Philistines.
David is pretending that he’s performing raids on his own people, the Israelites, but really he’s raiding his other enemies every day.
Thus, the Philistines falsely believe that David is now on their side, and they ask him to go to war with them against Saul & the Israelites.
The chapter ends with David saying, “uhhh….sure…..”
And we’ll see eventually in chapter 30, that God will get David out of this tough situation.
Meanwhile, as Chapter 28 begins, Saul is now going to find out that Philistine army is indeed amassing for war against his people.
(1 Samuel 28:3-10) – NIV
3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land. 4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.” “There is one in Endor,” they said. 8 So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.” 9 But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.”
Let’s pause here for just a second.
Potentially part of the reason that Saul is so afraid of this amassing army is that rumors are certainly floating around that David and his men may be fighting with the Philistines now (which of course won’t be true), but Saul didn’t know that.
So Saul is terrified…he doesn’t know what to do…The LORD isn’t answering Saul how Saul wants him to answer…(Which is “Right now..and QUICK!”), and so Saul, gets desperate, and sneaks off in the dark of night to go consult a medium.
And the ‘medium”, in what is complete irony, is worried that this is some sort of government sting.
Doesn’t this man…who is coming to her in disguise at night…know that Saul has banned mediums?!
We see people like this all the time…Politicians, leaders, sometimes even pastors…they very passionately denounce a particular sin in public, but then seek out that very same sin in private
All right let’s see who Saul wants to conjure up…
(1 Samuel 28:11-20) – NIV
11 Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” “Bring up Samuel,” he said. 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” 13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?” The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure[a] coming up out of the earth.” 14 “What does he look like?” he asked. “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” “I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.” 16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19 The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.” 20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night.
TALKING TO THE DEAD
So what’s happening here?
Did we really just see an instance of talking to the dead…in the Bible?!?
Yeah, kind of.
Except, there are a couple of clues that this is not business as usual for the “medium of endor” as she’s called.
When she sees Samuel, the text says she screams “at the top of her voice”
This is not normal for her. She’s obviously terrified.
Which should lead us to 1 of 2 conclusions:
A) She’s a faker…and she’s never seen anything like this.
or B) She had maybe been familiar with working with the presence of evil arts, but God himself actually sending someone back was completely foreign to her.
In other words, she wasn’t in control of this situation.
Whatever is happening here, one thing is clear: Even though God chooses to send Samuel back to yell at Saul while Saul is at a medium’s house, it’s still clear that God is not in favor of Saul trying to get advice through a medium.
(Isaiah 8:19) – NIV
19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?
Or look at how the author of 1 Chronicles describes Saul’s own death:
(1 Chronicles 10:13-14) – NIV
13 Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, 14 and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.
And so we’re told that Saul dabbled with talking to the dead…and yet, the author of 1 Samuel seems to be rather stingy with the details…leaving us with more questions than answers honestly.
And part of the reason is, the author is not about to provide us with a course on “Talking to the Dead 101”
Because there IS a real spiritual danger to it.
In the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible (books Saul & David would have known), Moses condemns using a medium multiple times.
And interestingly enough, Moses never says it doesn’t work.
He just says it’s abomination.
And so you can watch or listen to mediums & psychics on TV or radio today, and lots of times, they’re probably…like a good magician/illusionist…reading people and faking it all the way to the bank.
However, sometimes there may be more going on…
Look at what the Bible says about idol worship
(1 Corinthians 10:20) – NIV
20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.
And if it’s true that demons are involved in idol worship, let’s not be naïve to think they’re not involved with something as serious as talking to the dead.
There have been situations where mediums have made incredible claims (and the person says, “There’s no way they could have known that)
And it’s possible that maybe a demon whispered a truth into the ear of the medium.
And maybe you’re thinking, “Whoa…slow down David, this is a thinking person’s church!”
Yes, but if we believe in a supernatural spiritual good, then we would be remiss to not believe that a supernatural spiritual evil exists as well
And so this needs to be something that we as Christ followers stay far away from.
WHY PEOPLE DO IT
And yet…why do so many do the exact opposite?
Why are more and more people drawn to this sort of thing?
Sometimes you see this false narrative in the media that the world is full of scientific knowledge now and therefore the world is less interested in God…
That’s certainly not statistically true of the world.
You may make a case that the American public is less interested in organized religion, but not less interested in God.
Check out this graph by Gallup:
(SHOW GALLUP GRAPH)
So in 1962, 22% of people said they had ever had a religious or mystical experience.
Faith…was more personal and intellectual than it was supernatural.
And now, as of 2009, despite the fact that way less people go to church, almost half of all Americans have had some sort of mystical type experience!
Nearly 30% of all Americans say they’ve “felt in touch with someone who has died”
20% of Evangelical Christians said they have too
That would be about 60 people in our services today.
10% of evangelical Christians have consulted psychics or fortune tellers (probably about 30 of you if the stats are true)
Here’s the thing: Atheism isn’t growing.
We are intensely spiritual beings because that’s HOW we were created.
And so when life gets hard for people, they want spiritual answers…even if they don’t normally see themselves as spiritual people.
“What’s going to happen to my sick child?”
“Will I marry this person, or will she leave me?”
“Even Nancy Reagan, after Ronald Reagan was shot, famously started regularly consulting an astrologist…asking what the stars said about when Ronald should be out and about.”
Christians aren’t immune from walking down this aisle either.
When we get to the points in our lives where we feel overwhelmed with fear of the future…
Most of us this have this overwhelming sense that we just HAVE to know what’s going to happen.
If we just could KNOW…that would take our fear away, right?!
This is why there are people up there that look up spoilers, right?
This is precisely what’s happening to Saul.
He sees this massive army approaching, and he determines that he just HAS to know what’s going to happen…and what He’s supposed to do to avoid calamity.
And the same temptation is true for a lot of us:
You want to know if your relative is going to make it…
Or if you’re supposed to take this new job and move or not…
You may be thinking… “Okay, I don’t struggle with this topic…and I probably never will”
I would say A) Don’t underestimate your sinful self.
And B) The reality is we all struggle with the same basic principle that leads to this particular sin…whether in its earliest forms or more progressive forms:
And that is this: When we really want to know something, rather than seeking and waiting on God, so many of us just look elsewhere.
We turn to the other big G…Google instead of God.
Or we only get advice from others…instead of God.
Others have begun to progress a little bit further down the line.
More Christians than would probably admit it, have in hard times, googled their horoscope…you know…just to see.
Or when you’re eating Chinese, normally you ignore the free strip of trash they put inside the hardest cookie ever called a “cookie”
But now, when life is really hurting…you read the fortune, and you think, “Huh…maybe this is God”
Or others, in New Age fashion, pretend to get answers from God by doing things like, “If you want me to do this…make my phone ring in the next ten minutes!”
But here’s what I want you to know: The only way you will turn to God when life gets hard, is if you’ve already developed a habit of turning to God when life isn’t hard
Why is Saul doing this? Consulting a medium?!
How has it gotten to this?!
Well, for the past number of years…probably decades…Saul has been slowly pulling away from God in his daily life.
And so when He needs to talk to God…when He needs to hear from Him most, Saul doesn’t know how to hear from God anymore.
HOW TO AVOID IT: DAILY RELIANCE
So how do you avoid this slip?
It really comes down to your relationship with God.
Your DAILY relationship.
The only way you will turn to God when life gets hard, is if you’ve already developed a habit of turning to God when life isn’t hard
Say you work at a company with 2,000 employees, and your company has a powerful and famous CEO.
But let’s say you are about to lose your house because you’re behind on payments.
You KNOW that for this famous CEO to bail you out would be like you throwing pennies at someone.
But if you’ve never met him or talked to him…it might be difficult to even have a conversation with the guy.
You could try and manipulate the system:
Try and get a “middle man” (or a medium if you will ) to arrange a conversation for the two of you.
You could manipulate the CEO by starting a Facebook campaign and get 1,000 signatures for that CEO to meet with you
That’s what the New Age Movement is by the way…you, the human, try to manipulate the divine forces with your own devices.
But Christianity is different…it’s about a relationship.
So if you had…developed a deep relationship with that CEO over the past year or so…it might seem really easy to ask him for that favor…and he might even give it to you.
Hearing from God when you really need to in hard times is about first learning to hear from God consistently when times are good.
It’s like…always having in the back of your mind… “I should probably learn how to swim someday…but you never learn.”
And then when someone accidentally knocks you off your cruise ship (ruining your vacation), as you’re falling into the ocean, you’re thinking, “Yep, should have learned how to swim”
So much of your daily Christian walk…is practice…it’s preparation…for the tests that will sure come.
It’s swimming lessons!
But if you don’t develop a habit of turning to God in the easy times…you’ll get to those hard times and think:
“Now what do I do?!”
“And God, why aren’t you answering me?!”
AND…you might…even be tempted…to find clarity about what to do…through another avenue.
So here’s what I would say to you: If you want to make sure that you still turn to your God for direction when life gets really hard, get to know Him…develop your relationship with Him now.
Well, how do you do that?
Start with getting in the habit of seeking God’s wisdom…on everything.
Ask Him for help, even when you feel like you don’t need it.
I’m trying to teach this to my kids right now.
The other day, Liviana lost her stuffed animal at home, and so I said, “Let’s just pray about it”
“God help us find Violet the talking Dog that really looks like a Bear”
And I’m thinking, “Okay, seriously God, you better answer this one.”
And sure enough, a minute later, we found it.
I’m trying to model…daily reliance (and daily RELATIONSHIP) in everything.
That God is someone that you talk to (about everything…even the little things)…all the time
Even in the mundane or easy…or boring seasons of life.
SO that when the hard times come, relying on God for guidance is a habit…not a first time experience.
“That’s it’s the most natural thing in the world for you to turn to your best friend…and ask Him what to do.
So I want you to start thinking about this question: What do I need to pray about, that I haven’t…until now…thought I even needed to pray about.
Maybe it’s for something small at work.
But…it would make a difference if God guided you on this.
Maybe your young kids have got into a bad habit or a rut…
Well, ask God for help. Ask Him to guide you on how to help them not be stuck in timeout all day.
Because by the time they’re a teenager, you’re going to want the discipline of seeking God’s guidance to be a habit, not a first time experience.
This is really what the whole narrative of 1 samuel is all about.
1 Samuel is the story of Saul’s slowly, eroding relationship with God versus David’s growing relationship with God.
Saul’s decision to go see a medium didn’t happen in a day.
It happened…over years and years of letting his relationship with God grow stagnant
And then, when tragedy hit…Saul didn’t know what to do anymore.
So leave here today…and start small.
Start thinking through the small areas that you can begin to turn to God again.
Small areas that give you an opportunity to talk to Him…to grow your relationship…and ask Him to move…
Do that now, in the easy times, and when the hard times come, you’ll be ready to call on the God…that you know well!
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.