1 Samuel 28:3-25 "The Portrait Hall": The Finish Line

The finish line of a race often yields an interesting and heavily scrutinized picture of the participants of the race. The final frame of choices in the life of King Saul offered the same kind of picture to us. Saul had one last opportunity to show his heart for God. What he showed was the same self will that brought the former prophecy of the kingdom being ripped from his hands. He finished the “choices race” the way he ran much of it – a self reliant, impetuous and inconsistent man. The end was near and he still couldn’t make peace with God.

Key Principle: Eventually the bill comes due for our continued hardness toward God’s truth.

The Conditions (28:3-5):

  1. Loss: The great influence of a positive spiritual leader was removed and people felt the loss (28:3a).
  2. Memory: There was still the overflow of the positive period of influence, as people benefited from godly choices of that time (28:3b).
  3. External Pressure: Powerful external and potentially devastating new problems were facing the leadership of the nation (28:4).
  4. Self-Doubt: Internally, the leader was plunged into fear and doubt about the future (28:5).

The Decisions (28:6-12):

  1. Cloaked Piety: Having experienced a walk with God some time in the past, the fear-filled leader turned to God as a bail out plan, but God delayed an answer (28:6). Why? Note that God knows our hearts, and knows if we are asking for US or for HIS WILL. Saul’s past showed his heart, and this new test would as well.
  1. Disobedience: When turning to the Lord did not work the way Saul wanted in the time Saul allotted, he turned from the Scriptures to “plan b” – solving the problem in an unbiblical way (28:7; cp. Lev. 20; Dt. 18). Note how helpful it was to have friends that were so comfortable with ungodly helps!
  1. Deception: Saul knew he was doing wrong, and decided it would somehow work out to deceive others and hide his identity, while asking for help from “spiritual sources” (28:8-9). It is impossible to argue innocence when caught with a mask on!
  1. God Talk: Even in the middle of doing the wrong thing the wrong way, Saul casually invoked his “faith talk” as though there was some reality behind his adherence to God and God’s Word! Note how easily he refers to a God he isn’t following at all! (28:10-11).
  1. Contradiction: The woman didn’t know Saul personally, but new his public testimony by the laws of the past. She was unable to understand why the same king that outlawed her craft was now secretly acting inconsistently with the command. When we act differently than we preach, we confuse and dishearten people (28:12).

Getting to the Truth (28:13-19):

  1. Recognition of the Place of Truth: When Saul perceived that Samuel was before him, he felt responsible to show honor to the prophet in order to get direction (28:13-14). Understanding of where truth is found precedes hearing it as truth. Look in the wrong place, and you will not get the needed answer!
  1. Wise Counsel: Samuel (or this one who spoke as Samuel) asked the right questions and directed Saul to the right answer. The first question was “Why call on me?” (15). The second was “Why me if NOT God?” Wise counsel directs us back to facing what God is doing, not using God talk to justify what WE want to do. (28:15-16).
  1. Context: Truth must be understood in the context it is given. Saul needed to be reminded lest he charge God with injustice, that his past choices led to his present troubles (28:17-19).

Response to Hard Truth (28:20-25):

  1. Shock: When the cost of our sin is clear to us, we are surprised, shocked and even broken. All that we had been doing breaks down, and we feel inadequate to keep going (28:20).
  1. Accepting Help: Others around us cannot take away the inner pain of our realization that we have caused our own failure. They can feel for us and offer help, but they cannot make the pain go away (28:21-25)

A Note of Real Hope

The only hope we have in the pain of paying the consequences of our own actions is finding a substitute to pay the penalty for us! The Bible calls Jesus a “satisfying substitute”:

Ro 3:25 God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Heb 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1Jo 2:2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1Jo 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Eventually the bill comes due for our continued hardness toward God’s truth. The good news is YOU don’t have to pay it!