• Rev. Mark Tews

Biblical Ghost Story

“The king said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. What do you see?’ The woman said, ‘I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.’” (1 Samuel 28:13).

With Halloween only less than a week ago, it’s fitting to consider a Biblical ghost story from the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of 1 Samuel. In this verse, the admonition to “fear not” is the complete opposite of most of the other Biblical teachings when God tells us to have no fear. In this instance, King Saul is committing a blatant sin against God. Let this devotional be a warning for us to hear and heed His Word carefully.

At this point in the text above, the prophet Samuel had already died and the Philistine army was gathering around the Israelites. King Saul was very scared and was inquiring of the Lord. However, God was not answering Saul through his dreams, nor the prophets. So, Saul surrendered to his own self-will and sins by seeking a medium to conjure the spirit of Samuel for him. (1 Samuel 28:3–12). God’s Word is very clear: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:31). When we are not in communion with the Lord, we starve for spiritual fulfillment and tend to seek it in all the wrong places. Let this Biblical ghost story be a warning to us all. Not only did Saul sin by seeking a medium, but he also errantly advised her to not be afraid at precisely the moment that she should have been very afraid of God’s wrath. Saul even went as far as to arrogantly promise the woman protection so she would continue to sin by participating in a séance.

Saul asked the medium to call up the spirit of Samuel, a true prophet of God of whom the Bible said, “[God] let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. And all of Israel … recognized that Samuel was a prophet of the Lord. [God] revealed Himself to Samuel through His Word." (1 Samuel 3:19-21). As we read this Biblical account, the Hebrew text tells us three things: that the medium in fact saw Samuel (1 Samuel 28:12), that Samuel asked Saul why he had disturbed him (1 Samuel 28:15), and that Samuel's role and message was that of a true prophet of God. The text follows:

“Samuel said, ‘Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? 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. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out His fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 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.’ 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.” (1 Samuel 28:16–20).

It is imperative that we understand that no medium has ever had (or will ever have) the power to disturb a saint outside of the Will of God. We should also take note that the message Saul received was not a pleasant one, but instead was rather disturbing. Samuel told him that the next day, he and his sons would die. And even more so, the army of Israel would be destroyed. There is a scary truth to be found in the whole of Scripture: be careful what you ask for. God might give you just what you ask and it may not be the message you wanted to hear.

King Saul represents the many who find themselves in deep distress because of their unwillingness to obey God's Word. Many people seek other means of finding spiritual direction and satisfaction. In this Biblical account, Saul asked Samuel what he should do. (1 Samuel 28:15). The prophet Samuel ignored Saul's question and answered instead with a warning about the consequence of walking in sin, which is death. Seeking spiritual knowledge outside of God's Will is a grievous sin, worthy of His wrath.

As we seek to walk in a healthy fear of the Lord, there are four lessons for us to learn from this Biblical ghost story: 1) always walk in obedience to the whole counsel of God's Word, 2) know that living according to your own self-will, as Saul did, invokes the chastisements of God, 3) seek God's direction in His prescribed way (prayer and meditation upon His Word), and 4) remember that the consequences of your sins affect not just you, but those around you as well, so be careful.

In God’s Word alone, through His grace alone, by faith alone, all through Christ alone; FEAR NOT! Always trust in the Lord your God alone!