I must tell you about a very very sad incident. My king Saul died on the Mount of Gilboa. During this presentation I am going to tell you what expired before he did.
And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to me, “You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men.”
I was in great trouble. I had no intention of lifting my hand against my people. But I was not certain as to what course I would pursue, until circumstances should indicate my duty. I answered the king evasively, and said, “Surely you know what your servant can do.”
Achish understood these words as a promise of assistance in the approaching war, and pledged his word to bestow upon me great honour, and give me a high position at the Philistine court.
But although my faith had staggered somewhat at the promises of God, I still remembered that Samuel had anointed him me king of Israel. I recalled the victories that God had given me over my enemies in the past.
I reviewed the great mercy of God in preserving me from the hand of Saul, and I determined not to betray a sacred trust. Even though the king of Israel had sought my his life, I would not join my forces with the enemies of his people.
MY BIOGRAPHER WROTE:
Again war was declared between Israel and the Philistines. “The Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem,” on the northern edge of the plain of Jezreel; while Saul and his forces encamped but a few miles distant, at the foot of Mount Gilboa, on the southern border of the plain.
It was on this plain that Gideon, with three hundred men, had put to flight the hosts of Midian. But the spirit that inspired Israel’s deliverer was widely different from that which now stirred the heart of the king.
Gideon went forth strong in faith in the mighty God of Jacob; but Saul felt himself to be alone and defenceless, because God had forsaken him. As he looked abroad upon the Philistine host, “he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.”
Saul had learned that I and my force were with the Philistines, and he expected that the son of Jesse would take this opportunity to revenge the wrongs he had suffered. The king was in sore distress. It was his own unreasoning passion, spurring him on to destroy the chosen of God, that had involved the nation in so great peril.
While he had been engrossed in pursuing me he had neglected the defence of his kingdom. The Philistines, taking advantage of its unguarded condition, had penetrated the very heart of the country.
Thus while Satan had been urging Saul to employ every energy in hunting, that he might destroy me the same malignant spirit had inspired the Philistines to seize their opportunity to work Saul’s ruin and overthrow the people of God. How often is the same policy still employed by the archenemy!
He moves upon some unconsecrated heart to kindle envy and strife in the church, and then, taking advantage of the divided condition of God’s people, he stirs up his agents to work their ruin.
On the morrow Saul must engage the Philistines in battle. The shadows of impending doom gathered dark about him. He longed for help and guidance. But it was in vain that he sought counsel from God.
“The Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” The Lord never turned away a soul that came to Him in sincerity and humility. Why did he turn Saul away unanswered?
The king had by his own act forfeited the benefits of all the methods of inquiring of God. He had rejected the counsel of Samuel the prophet; he had exiled David, the chosen of God; he had slain the priests of the Lord.
Could he expect to be answered by God when he had cut off the channels of communication that Heaven had ordained? He had sinned away the Spirit of grace, and could he be answered by dreams and revelations from the Lord?
Saul did not turn to God with humility and repentance. It was not pardon for sin and reconciliation with God, that he sought, but deliverance from his foes. By his own stubbornness and rebellion, he had cut himself off from God. There could be no return but by the way of penitence and contrition; but the proud monarch, in his anguish and despair, determined to seek help from another source.
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.”
Saul had a full knowledge of the character of necromancy. It had been expressly forbidden by the Lord, and the sentence of death was pronounced against all who practiced its unholy arts. During the life of Samuel, Saul had commanded that all wizards and those that had familiar spirits should be put to death; but now, in the rashness of desperation, he had recourse to that oracle which he had condemned as an abomination.
It was told the king that a woman who had a familiar spirit was living in concealment at Endor. This woman had entered a covenant with Satan to yield herself to his control, to fulfil his purposes; and in return, the prince of evil wrought wonders for her and revealed secret things to her.
Disguising himself, Saul went forth by night with but two attendants, to seek the retreat of the sorceress. Oh, pitiable sight! the king of Israel led captive by Satan at his will! What path so dark for human feet to tread as that chosen by one who has persisted in having his own way, resisting the holy influences of the Spirit of God!
What bondage so terrible as that of him who is given over to the control of the worst of tyrants—himself! Trust in God and obedience to His will were the only conditions upon which Saul could be king of Israel.
Had he complied with these conditions throughout his reign, his kingdom would have been secure; God would have been his guide, the Omnipotent his shield. God had borne long with Saul; and although his rebellion and obstinacy had well-nigh silenced the divine voice in the soul, there was still opportunity for repentance.
What a considered loving forgiving God we serve!
But when in his peril he turned from God to obtain light from a confederate of Satan, he had cut the last tie that bound him to his Maker; he had placed himself fully under the control of that demoniac power which for years had been exercised upon him, and which had brought him to the verge of destruction.
Under the cover of darkness Saul and his attendants made their way across the plain, and, safely passing the Philistine host, they crossed the mountain ridge, to the lonely home of the sorceress of Endor. Here the woman with a familiar spirit had hidden herself away that she might secretly continue her profane incantations.
Disguised as he was, Saul’s lofty stature and kingly port declared that he was no common soldier. The woman suspected that her visitor was Saul, and his rich gifts strengthened her suspicions. To his request,
“Please conduct a sÍance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”
1Sa 28:9 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?”
1Sa 28:10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”
1Sa 28:11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 1Sa 28:12 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!”
1Sa 28:13 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.”
1Sa 28:14 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.
It was not God’s holy prophet that came forth at the spell of a sorcerer’s incantation. Samuel was not present in that haunt of evil spirits. That supernatural appearance was produced solely by the power of Satan. He could as easily assume the form of Samuel as he could assume that of an angel of light, when he tempted Christ in the wilderness.
The woman’s first words under the spell of her incantation had been addressed to the king, “Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.” Thus the first act of the evil spirit which personated the prophet was to communicate secretly with this wicked woman, to warn her of the deception that had been practiced upon her.
The message to Saul from the pretended prophet was, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called you, that you may make known unto me what I shall do.”
When Samuel was living, Saul had despised his counsel and had resented his reproofs. But now, in the hour of his distress and calamity, he felt that the prophet’s guidance was his only hope, and in order to communicate with Heaven’s ambassador he vainly had recourse to the messenger of hell!
Saul had placed himself fully in the power of Satan; and now he whose only delight is in causing misery and destruction, made the most of his advantage, to work the ruin of the unhappy king. In answer to Saul’s agonized entreaty came the terrible message, professedly from the lips of Samuel:
1Sa 28:15 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.”
1Sa 28:16 Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?
1Sa 28:17 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 neighbour, David.
1Sa 28:18 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.
1Sa 28:19 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.”
All through his course of rebellion Saul had been flattered and deceived by Satan. It is the tempter’s work to belittle sin, to make the path of transgression easy and inviting, to blind the mind to the warnings and threatenings of the Lord.
Satan, by his bewitching power, had led Saul to justify himself in defiance of Samuel’s reproofs and warning. But now, in his extremity, he turned upon him, presenting the enormity of his sin and the hopelessness of pardon, that he might goad him to desperation. Nothing could have been better chosen to destroy his courage and confuse his judgment, or to drive him to despair and self-destruction.
Saul was faint with weariness and fasting; he was terrified and conscience-stricken. As the fearful prediction fell upon his ear, his form swayed like an oak before the tempest, and he fell prostrate to the earth.
The sorceress was filled with alarm. The king of Israel lay before her like one dead. Should he perish in her retreat, what would be the consequences to herself? She besought him to arise and partake of food, urging that since she had imperilled her life in granting his desire, he should yield to her request for the preservation of his own.
His servants joining their entreaties, Saul yielded at last, and the woman set before him the fatted calf and unleavened bread hastily prepared. What a scene!—In the wild cave of the sorceress, which but a little before had echoed with the words of doom—in the presence of Satan’s messenger—he who had been anointed of God as king over Israel sat down to eat, in preparation for the day’s deadly strife.
Before the break of day, he returned with his attendants to the camp of Israel to make ready for the conflict. By consulting that spirit of darkness Saul had destroyed himself. Oppressed by the horror of despair, it would be impossible for him to inspire his army with courage. Separated from the Source of strength, he could not lead the minds of Israel to look to God as their helper. Thus the prediction of evil would work its own accomplishment.
Saul’s last battle and David’s military campaigns at Ziklag