Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "Behold, there is a medium at En-dor."
So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." The woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?" But Saul swore to her by the Lord, "As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" He said, "Bring up Samuel for me." When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul." The king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a god coming up out of the earth."
He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.
Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" Saul answered, "I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do." And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines."
Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.
1 Samuel 28:3-20
The life of Saul can be summed up by thinking about diet fads. To lose weight and to stay healthy, all we need is exercise and a healthy diet. We all know it. More walking, fewer bear claws. Instead, we invent ways of trying to side step those methods to make “healthy” easier. My favorite is the vibrating platform. All you need to do (besides pay $350 or 10 easy payments of $35) is stand on a vibrating platform for 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week and the pounds will start falling off. But as the Mayo Clinic put it on their website, “comprehensive research about whole-body vibration is lacking.”
At the coronation of King Saul in 1 Samuel 12:14, Samuel said these words to Saul and to the the people of God: “If you will fear the Lord and serve and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well.” Saul knew full well what God required of him: Listen to God’s Word and obey what He said. It is God who saves, not chariots or horses or human effort. But as we see all throughout Saul’s reign, he did everything except those things. But why?
Listening to and obeying God, just like eating healthy and getting on a treadmill, are more difficult than the alternative methods that we come up with. We want the benefits of listening and obeying without having to do the hard work of listening and obeying. And we know where that method leads.
Saul, in 1 Samuel 28 knew that he was in trouble. God had stopped answering him according to any of the proper methods of communication (v. 6). He found himself surrounded by his enemies for the last time (v 4). Like old times, he sought out a medium (an ancient fortune teller) to bring up the one man in his circle who had listened to God, Samuel, to see what he should do about his situation (vv 8-16). Saul asked Samuel what was going to happen to him. Samuel’s response was, “The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me.” God stopped listening to Saul’s voice because Saul had stop listening to God’s.
God knew that our salvation could not be accomplished by taking the easy route. Sin and death are wicked enemies who are not defeated easily. It would take perfect obedience and a cruel death by execution. Jesus listened and obeyed because he knew we couldn’t. And now, all we have to do is give up our own efforts (and the latest spiritual fad), lean into that finished work of Christ, and call to God who hears us and wants to help us. God’s will for life is simple. Philippians 2:13-14 says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This method, when done in the community of God’s people, builds us up into Christ-likeness. Any other means leaves us flat on our face surrounded by enemies wishing we had just let God do what only God can do: save us and bring us near to Him.