Witches become popular this time of year. Pointed hats and broomsticks are caricatures that are familiar to most of us. One example is found in the Wizard of Oz. The wicked witch of the west, complete with black attire, pointed hat, green skin and a broomstick, had a crystal ball where she could see the future. It is a fictional story and we all know what happened to her in the end!
The reality is that although they are not necessarily witches that look like that, there are many spiritualists that claim to be able to see the future. Palm readers, mediums and the like claim to be able to tell us what we don’t know, answering some question or giving us direction. It may seem harmless but there can be a darker side to the practice if we are not careful about how we view their practices.
There is a story in the bible that talks about a particular witch, minus the costume and broom of course, that gives us some important insight here. Israel’s leader at the time, Saul, thought he could see into the future by seeking the council from the Witch of Endor (I Samuel 28:1-24). Saul has lost the prophet of God, Samuel, and in a very short time, seeks the help of a medium, something that was forbidden by the law of the Pentateuch. This story doesn’t end so well either.
Why would he do this? He had “expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land” (v. 3) previously, so why go back on his own order? The short answer is he panicked. He was out manned and out armied by the Philistines and he was terrified. Saul had a history of being obedient to God and then turning away from God. So instead of trusting God’s word to him, he took matters into his own hands, contacted the witch to enquire from a spirit what he should do. Unfortunately, the spirit brought news that he did not want to hear (vv. 16-18).
Saul is given a mission from God. He was chosen by God to be Israel’s leader. Yet Saul continued to disobey God’s direction. Not only was he disobedient, but he failed to see his own error; he was unrepentant. His mission failed.
Like Saul, we may get into situations that are terrifying to us. We are tempted to listen to other voices to help us discern the truth or our next step. The story of Saul and the Witch of Endor reminds us that disobedience and unrepentance are devastating to our everyday mission and the missio Dei.
Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer make an excellent point here. “God’s most powerful instrument for ministry on the earth is His repentant people. The satanic lie: secret sin in your life and in the church will not hinder the mission of God. God’s solution: Live a gospel-centered, repentance filled life.” (Spiritual Warfare and Missions, 2010)
The world watches how we as Christians react to our circumstances. Our everyday mission is grounded in faith in Christ, repentance and obedience to his word. We may or may not encounter witches, mediums and spiritists of our time, but our focus remains on pointing people to the Holy Spirit, the living Christ within us.