Knowledge From The Dark SideErwin W. Lutzer | May 27, 2012
Selected highlights from this sermon
People try to find an alternative to the Almighty so they don’t have to deal with the issues of sin, humility and submission. And one way they do this is to get involved with some sort of divination. Ouija boards, horoscopes, tarot cards, or channeling the spirit world—these are all occult practices and condemned by God.
In this message, Pastor Lutzer gives us three reasons why people try to tap into the occult, and why such seemingly innocent practices can trap a person into a life of spiritual slavery.
Knowledge from the Dark Side, part of our series entitled The Invisible World. People have always tried to bypass God, to find an alternative to the Almighty, and the reason for that is not hard to grasp because when you deal with God you’ve got all these issues of sin, and humility and submission, and people don’t want that but they’d like to have some benefits that God might not be giving them unless they are willing to submit. And so in ancient Babylon, as today, what you have is the occult. That word occult means hidden. People are seeking for hidden knowledge.
The way in which most people get into the occult is through divination. Divination means that they are trying to find some hidden knowledge usually about themselves that is going to help them along life’s way, and if not, then at least in making decisions that they might have some guidance and maybe even manipulate the things that supposedly are to come to pass. So you have people today who are into divination of one kind or another. You have such things as Ouija boards. You have horoscopes. By the way, people read those. Perhaps some of you do and don’t know that it can be shown that they are entirely based on lies. You aren’t necessarily born under one star, and the formula to work things out is ancient and it is outdated, but people read them anyway in the delusion of their own minds. And you have tarot cards, and all other ways that you are trying to connect and to get knowledge.
But there’s something else that people seek from the occult and that is power. When I was preparing this message this week it dawned on me that I can’t cover all of these issues in one message so I’m going to be preaching another message in this series and it is going to be “Power from the Dark Side” because there’s more in this subject than I can possibly take care of today.
So people do it, number one, because they want knowledge. They do it because, number two, they want power, and number three, they want to connect with something that is greater than they are, and bypass the whole issue of sin and who they are. And that’s why people like Eckhart Tolle are so very famous and popular because it’s another way to get into the occult and to bypass God.
And what does God think of it? As kind of a template I’d like to read a very famous passage from Deuteronomy 18:9-14 where God says this to the people of the day as they are entering into the land: “When you come into the land that your Lord God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you (that is, the pagans of the day). You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” All occult knowledge is forbidden and it carries within itself its own severe judgment. Wow!
Well today we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture that is very unique. It is a passage of Scripture that I could describe actually as being bizarre. You read it and you say, “Did this really happen?” Well, just because it’s bizarre does not mean that it’s not true. I believe with all of my heart that what we’re going to look at today actually happened, but we have to find out why, and as far as we are able, discern what is going on in the passage.
The Bible is our guide and we turn today to 1 Samuel 28. We’re going to be reading this story and I am going to make comments as we go along that are going to interpret. We’re going to learn the lessons, and then we’re going to move on to something else, and as I mentioned, we shall indeed continue this next time.
The story is about King Saul who is really a psychologist’s (what shall we say?) goldmine. He was a man with incredible ability. Many privileges had been given to him. He was taller than everybody else, handsome, strong, used by God, and still a man who refused to surrender everything to the Almighty. He was a very interesting man.
And so 1 Samuel 28 opens and in verse 3 it says, “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.” And he was supposed to do that because God said in the Old Testament that these people should not be allowed to practice. In fact, in Old Testament times before this dispensation, things were dealt with physically. We don’t do these things today for reasons that I cannot get into but witches were actually to be put to death. We don’t know how Saul got them all out of the land, but he said, “No witch is to be in the land,” and apparently they disappeared in accordance with Saul’s instructions. But now things are going badly in battle and Saul inquires of the Lord. He does the right thing. It says in 2 Samuel 28:6, “And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim.” That has to do with the priests and their ability to discern the will of God, or by prophets, which are ways in which Saul had connected with God previously. God was saying, “Saul, I am entirely silent,” thank you very much. He is inquiring of God what he should do but he hears not a word from God. Later on I’m going to show you a passage that says that that’s why Saul died. It’s because he inquired not of the Lord, and you may say the Bible contradicts itself. Here it says he did inquire of the Lord. Yes, he did but what he didn’t do was to humble himself, to simply say, “God, whatever it is that you show me I’m willing to deal with it.” Earlier God had said, “I’m taking the kingdom away from you and I’m giving it to somebody else, namely to David.” What should Saul have done at that point? He should have said, “God, the kingdom is yours. You give it to whomsoever you will. If you want me to step down and no longer be the king, God, I submit to Your authority.” Is that what he did? No, he hung on until his knuckles turned white.
Ten long years Saul refused to give up the kingdom. It was as if it was his and not God’s. By the way, that’s the way David differed. David had his great sins too but David said, “Oh God, do as seems good in your sight.” Saul never said those words.
So he hangs on, and he manipulates. He’s going to keep the kingdom, and now Saul is in a hard place because the Philistines are amassing against him and he’s desperate. And what does he say to his servants? He says, “Find a medium. God isn’t talking.” Verse 7 says, “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 Endor.’” This is known as the law of the grand exception. “I put out all of the mediums in the land. You can’t see any medium, but when I am desperate, I can.” Our politicians often do that. Religious leaders have been known to do that, to say about other people, “You can’t do ABCD,” and then it comes out that they have been doing the very thing that they condemned in the lives of others, and this is Saul now in a moment of desperation.
So now what we read is this: “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.’ (Saul, of course, is disguised.) so she says, ‘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.’”
Can you imagine the duplicity? He uses the name of God to swear in God’s name that no harm will come to her, using God whenever it is convenient but shutting God out whenever he doesn’t want God’s way and God’s will. “So then the woman said, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ He said, ‘Bring up Samuel for me.’”
And now what happens is surreal. I don’t know whether I’ve ever used that word before but it sure fits here. This is very surreal. Listen: “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.’ (She now recognizes him.) 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?’” And now Samuel goes on and predicts the fact (and this is in verse 19) that the Philistines are going to come against Saul and he says, “Tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me (that is to say they will be in the grave).” And then he says, “The Lord will give the army of Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines.” And Saul fell at once full length on the ground terrified, and the prediction is fulfilled.
What do we do with this passage? I never thought I would preach on it but since I am preaching about mediums, I decided since this is in God’s Word we have to look at what’s happening here, and what the lessons are that we should take home with us as a result of reading it.
Some people have looked at this and they have said, “You know, there’s just no way that Samuel could have come up because after all he’s with God. He’s enjoying God’s presence, and now you’re telling me that this woman had the ability to bring up one of God’s choice servants from the dead? Impossible!”
So what they said was, “This is all demonic, that God gave Satan the ability to have this aberration that looked like Samuel, but it wasn’t really Samuel at all,” and that’s one possibility that commentators have suggested. But there is another possibility and that is that it was indeed Samuel, and that’s the one I take for a couple of reasons. First of all, when you read this account you find time and time again that it is Samuel who is speaking to Saul, Saul speaking to Samuel, and you get no hint here that this is just some kind of a demonic aberration. Furthermore the devil would have never predicted what Samuel predicted because the prediction is that you shall die tomorrow, and the devil is never that accurate and that specific in his predictions, and he certainly would not have given Saul a tongue lashing for leaving the living God, so I think that this was an incredible miracle.
One pastor put it this way. He said, “Are you telling me an old hag at Endor can raise up one of God’s choice servants and bring him back from the dead?” And the answer to that question is, of course, “No, all the demons in hell put together could not do that.” I think God intervened and did His own miracle, and He’s saying to Saul, “Saul, because you are a fool (and by the way Saul admitted that) and you are asking for Samuel, Samuel you shall get, but he’s going to give you a message that you certainly don’t want to hear, and it will be one more basis by which I can judge you. If there’s any hope of repentance and submission, this is it. This is the closing call, and after this you die.”
What do you think God thought of Saul doing this? Was this something we can interpret and say, “Well, you know it didn’t turn out too badly?” I mean, look at the fact that this miracle happened.” You know there is a divine commentary on this and it is found actually in the book of 1 Chronicles, chapter 10. Listen to what the Bible says starting in verse 13. “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the Kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.”
What does God think of consulting a medium or a channeler, as they are called today? What you find in the Old Testament is that God is repeatedly saying, and He says this in Leviticus, “If you go to a medium or you go to what we call today a channeler, I will turn my face against you.” Think of the word there in 1 Chronicles 18:16. Samuel is speaking and he is saying to Saul, “Saul, God has become your enemy.” Have you ever heard something so terrible? You get into the occult, you seek hidden knowledge from other sources and God becomes your enemy. What a sad state of affairs!
Now I want to talk to you in a more contemporary way about going to mediums and calling up the dead, the channelers. There used to be a show on television (I don’t know if it still is) where they had people come in whose loved one died, and then this channeler would connect with spirits eventually, and the person would say, “Yeah, I believe that is my uncle. You know that’s just like him,” and then they’d go on to somebody else. What’s happening there? What is happening there is this. These channelers have what we call a familiar spirit who is familiar with the person who was alive and therefore it is a demonic spirit impersonating the dead. Let me give you a good example.
Back in 1966 the son of Bishop Pike, who was an Episcopalian bishop, committed suicide. As a result of that there was a poltergeist in their home. Pike would come home and the curtains were pulled exactly in the way his son wanted them. His boy’s books would always be rearranged in accordance with the way in which the boy liked them. The clothes were being moved in the closet, etc. and Pike said to himself, “I think my son wants to connect with me,” so – you know the story – Pike went to a medium.
I would never buy the book but years ago because of some research I was doing I went into a library and I read Pike’s book entitled The Other Side, and there he documents his experience. And you’ve heard me tell before how when he was connecting with the boy he said to him things like, “Do you ever hear about Jesus on the other side?” That’s a good question, but the boy said, “No, Dad, we don’t hear much about Jesus on the other side.”
From my heart to yours today, if you die and you are in a place where you don’t hear a lot about Jesus, you are in deep eternal trouble. But Pike was deceived. Oh it’s true the medium knew things about the boy that only some supernatural agency could know. There are mediums (channelers) that do connect with the spirit world, and they connect with spirits who knew those people and people are totally and completely deceived.
Yesterday I happened to just open my Bible. I was going to read Isaiah 28 and I was reading some verses where it says that there are people who take refuge behind lies. Wow! What’s going on in these things? What is Satan’s great desire? And some of the books that we read today about people even going to heaven, some may be legitimate and some may be illegitimate, but what is the devil’s agenda? It’s very clear. He wants this generation to believe that it’s possible to die without faith in Jesus Christ and have a very happy experience after death. There’s no judgment. You can enjoy the other side without believing in Jesus. Pike was a liberal bishop who denied the virgin birth. He denied the Trinity, and he denied the fact that Jesus died for sinners. He denied it all, but after that he wasn’t afraid of death because he had connected with the other side.
Now I think it’s very important that we recognize that God’s opinion about this is not neutral at all. It leads to disillusionment and huge, huge deception, as does all occult knowledge.
Now I want us to turn to another passage. This is a New Testament passage, and then after we’ve turned to the New Testament passage in Acts 16, I’m going to give you five very important statements. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts.
I didn’t put a marker in my Bible, but as I recall the book of Acts should be here, and lo, here it is. (laughter)
All right – Acts 16:16! Paul is in Philippi. It says, “As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’” STOP!
Sometimes fortune-tellers can tell the truth, especially if they are under pressure from God.
“And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers and they beat them up.” Why? It was because the hope of their gain was gone. Another parenthesis. Isn’t this absolutely terrible about human nature? Here is a slave girl who is finally delivered from an evil oppressive dark unclean spirit and instead of rejoicing, all that they could think of was that they were losing money. It’s just like people today in the sex trade. They can sell a girl or a boy into slavery and to them nothing matters except that they might get some money. Is there any reason to believe that the human nature that we hear so much about is good? Well, we can do good things, but just think of the evil and the deception of the human heart.
Let me make a couple of other comments before we give this very important summary, and that is this. Notice that the Apostle Paul had authority over this spirit, and do you think that this slave girl invited this fortune-telling spirit into her life? I don’t think so. You know, just like there is physical slavery that nobody asked for, there’s also spiritual slavery that people are caught in, and if you ask why that happens, there are certain entry points, and that’s why I am preaching a second message on this topic because I realize today I may be stirring up more rabbits than I am able to shoot, so I hope to shoot some of those next time. But please keep in mind that this poor slave girl was physically in slavery and spiritually in slavery, and the Apostle Paul by the word of Jesus set her free. And her owners, her handlers, her pimp (maybe you can put it that way) were unhappy.
As I mentioned, this sermon developed a little differently than I had intended, but now what I’d like to do is to give you five very important statements that you can think about as we try to nail things down regarding the occult and the terrifying searching for knowledge apart from God.
First of all, remember that Satan’s knowledge of the future is limited. That’s why I don’t think that it was a demonic aberration that spoke to Saul. It’s because it was so accurate that the next day, according to Samuel’s prediction, Saul died. Satan knows the future much better than you and I do because he knows what is being planned, but he has no idea whether or not it’s going to be executed. He knows that Lee Harvey Oswald is planning to shoot the president of the United States back in November of 1963, but what he doesn’t know is whether or not it’s going to happen. The gun might jam. Oswald might get caught going to the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas with a rifle. So he knows more than we know but his knowledge is limited.
Because of some study that I did some time ago I studied Nostradamus. I smile when our television folks give an entire hour to his predictions. It is humorous. They should say, “Laugh here. Laugh here.” (laughter) How many of those predictions could you have made before the event happened. None! After the event happened they said, “Oh, do you know, now when we look at it more carefully he was predicting the assassination of President Kennedy, or he was predicting this.” Oh, oh, why didn’t you tell us that 200 years ago? Why didn’t you make those predictions at that time? Why don’t you make predictions now as to what Nostradamus is going to say fifty years from now? Please find them. Nobody can. I always say it is so much easier to predict the future after it has happened. (laughter) It really is.
There are all kinds of people who predicted the assassination of President Kennedy after it took place. It’s a little more difficult before it does.
One year I did this. I would never do I again, but on New Year’s Day I bought some of those magazines with predictions for the New Year. Just read them on December 31st a year later, and you’ll find most of them are incredibly wrong. Now some people like the fortune-tellers and like the séance folks and the channelers may be plugged into the devil. Perhaps some aren’t. They may be fakers, but the point is that they cannot predict the future with accuracy. Only God knows all things both actual and possible. Only God knows the future infallibly, and that’s why He can make the predictions that are so clear and so definite. Look at the predictions regarding the return of Jesus. In the book of Revelation you even have exactly what the Antichrist is going to believe, and what is going to happen in the world. You have geography when Jesus returns back to earth. Zechariah chapter 14 says His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east. Think of the specificity of God’s predictions because God is right all the time because He knows the future infallibly. Satan doesn’t.
Secondly, to seek knowledge from the spirit world invites the judgment of God. There’s a passage in Isaiah 28 where God says, “You know what? I’m going to send you trouble that your charmers and astrologers cannot charm away.” Wow!
The next time we see King Saul in the narrative there in 1 Samuel, he is falling on his sword, attempting to commit suicide. He can’t quite polish it off and an Amalekite, according to the next accounts runs by and finishes him off. What a deluded soul! He dies by suicide because he refused to yield to God. He will try every single way somehow to manipulate, to control, and to hang on. Do you know how Saul wrote his own epithet? I don’t know if I’ve ever done this, but someday I’m going to preach a message on writing your own epithet what should be on your tombstone.
In earlier chapters King Saul said this to David because of an incident we can’t go into here but you can read it on your own. He said, “I have played the fool.” Who is buried here? This is King Saul. Notice his epithet. “I’ve played the fool.”
Judas – his epithet? It would have been, “It would have been good for him if he had never been born” – the words of Jesus. Paul – his epithet? “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Wow! Saul says, “I’ve played the fool,” and if you are involved in any kind of occult activity, whether it is Ouija boards, whether it is horoscopes, or whether it is tarot cards and dozens of other ways to get into the occult, you are following King Saul.
There’s a third lesson and that is Jesus delegates His authority to His people. Here you have the Apostle Paul speaking to that demonic spirit without the slave girl’s cooperation. He didn’t even say, “Now you have to cooperate with me before this demon leaves.” If you know anything about demon possession you know that the participant needs to cooperate, but at the same time there are people, and Paul certainly was one, who so walked with God and had so much authority, he could put up with it only for a few days. He said to the spirit, “Come out of her,” and the spirit came out that very hour.
The Bible says that Jesus has authority over all principalities and all powers, and every name that has been named both in this world and the world to come. Jesus Christ has won this incredible victory and He shares that authority with us.
Next we should remember that we must turn to God in submission. I think that’s number four. There is a passage of Scripture in the book of James that says, “Dearly beloved, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” So there are plenty of people who are resisting the devil. The devil isn’t fleeing, and by the way, just because he flees doesn’t mean that he won’t be back. You can see that from the life of Jesus. But they are saying, “I’m submitting to God. Do something, God. May the devil flee.” Listen, if there is sin in your life; if for example you hate your parents because you were abused or whatever and you’ve never laid down that anger and that lack of forgiveness, if that bitterness is in your soul, you can resist the devil and he’ll probably not flee. “Dearly beloved, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Don’t ever quote that last part without quoting the first. Are you submitting yourself to God? That’s the question that we need to answer.
Number five, Jesus who delivers us is the Jesus who saves us. I’m speaking now to those of you who have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior. You’ve never believed on Him to salvation. Today is your day of opportunity.
Saul bypassed all of these opportunities. As you may know, as a pastor, and it just happens to be a quirk of mine, I have spent an awful lot of time interested in human nature. How could a man with so many opportunities make so many disastrous choices, ignoring all the warnings along the way? How could that happen? But it happens every day, and I could be speaking to somebody right now to whom it is happening. Even with everything that you know, you’ve never come to believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, the one who disarmed all principalities and all powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. You have never received Christ as your Savior.
And you and I know (I’m not a poet but this is coming out right now) there’s a little bit of Saul in us all, isn’t there? (laughter) It’s the best I can do on the spot. What a lesson, that Jesus who delivers us is the Jesus who saves us. I have an awesome illustration of this but I’m not going to give it. I’m going to save it for the next message.
Martin Luther was a man in whom I have more than simply passing interest, not because I am a Lutheran. I disagree with Luther on some points, but I admire his courage and boldness. Can you imagine that he dies at the age of 64, and if you were to take all of the volumes of Luther, there are probably about 55 of them. I mean there are commentaries on every book of the Bible. He translated the New Testament in about 10 weeks, and it took the rest of his life to translate the Old Testament. He wrote on all kinds of subjects. I don’t know how he did it. He had no computer, no stenographer! The only thing that I can think of is that he didn’t have a television set. That’s all! (laughter) How could any man do this?
But Luther uncovered the doctrine of justification by faith and struggled with depression. Those of you that struggle with depression know that Luther struggled with it too and had some ideas about depression. He always thought that he was battling the devil, and he very probably was, especially when he was in the Wartburg Castle. And he was thinking, and he could never sleep. That’s where he did a lot of work, but he always thought to himself, “Can you be the only one that is right? Throughout the centuries has the Church been wrong?” And so he’s battling the devil.
By the way, since I’m not going to talk about him for a long time I’ll throw in this story. Maybe one of the reasons that Luther had such a struggle regarding the devil is because he was named Martin, and he was named Martin because he happened to have been born on St. Martin’s Day. And there was a legend – just a legend – that one day an aberration appeared to Martin and the aberration appeared to be like Jesus, but Martin, knowing that the devil sometimes takes the shape of Jesus, was going to glance at his hands to see whether or not he had nail prints. And Martin looked at the aberration and then looked at his hands, and as he looked the aberration disappeared, and Martin never knew whether he was visited by Jesus, or the devil. Maybe that’s why Luther sometimes struggled by the whole business of evil.
There holed up in the Wartburg Castle, and later on also in another castle (the great Coburg Castle) he wrote the mighty hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” It’s really the hymn of the Reformation. And today I zero in especially on the stanza “Though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”
I say to you today, “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.” And that word has six letters – CHRIST. Praise be unto God! (applause)
And today we sing with utter confidence that Jesus is the victor. You may be involved in the occult. Some of you may not know. What about palm reading and all? Of course it is occultic. What you need to do is to ask God to show you exactly how you are involved and where the entry point was. You need to renounce that, and that’s going to be part of the next message. You need to renounce that with all that you are and all that you have. God is not neutral about this. It is an abomination to the Lord.
Meanwhile “His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.” When we sing that song we should sing it so loudly that the tiles in the ceiling begin to tremble. (applause)
Join me as we pray.
Father, I pray today for those who do not know you as Savior. I pray that you might draw them to the only one who is able to give us truth and deliver us from huge deceptions. I pray for those, Father, who are struggling with Satan. Help them to know, Lord Jesus, that through Your precious blood, the victory has been won, and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. We thank you today that one word fells him, that Jesus disarmed him. There’s no contest. The game is over, and Satan has lost. Oh deliver Your people today. Set them free we ask, and as we glorify You and Your strength, we pray, grant us Your power and grace and wisdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.