Our readings this week will bring us to the end of the reign of Saul over Israel. What you can imagine would have begun with such optimism – the Israelites at last had a king like the other nations – ended in sadness. We’ll read how Saul, having lost the guidance of Samuel, seeks to conjure up Samuel’s spirit by other means, consulting a medium at Endor (not the same Endor from Return of the Jedi.)
I’ve written about the problem of mediums and the occult in the context of the first commandment here and in response to a trend that junior high students had embraced in 2015. Even in the Old Testament, we read how God’s people could access God in prayer (Hannah’s prayer for Samuel is a good example), we see that they often had to rely on priests and prophets to amplify God’s voice. As Christians we have access to God in prayer and, by virtue of our Baptism, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and, as such, God can speak directly to our hearts. But neither then nor now do we have the ability to dictate when and how God chooses to speak. This is where both Saul and anyone today who seeks to use the occult as a means to get answers or direction go wrong: we don’t need these means to talk to and hear from God. We have direct access to the Holy Spirit, which means that when you look at mediums and ouija boards that you are connecting to spirits that are unholy. There is great danger in this as it’s a world we don’t understand – and it’s one of the realities that J.R.R. Tolkien brings to life in the character of Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. Thought Saruman was incredibly wise, he turned to folly as he consulted a sort of “medium” in the seeing stones called “Palantir” – without knowing whom he was speaking to on the other end. In doing so, he became an agent of the enemy turning against those whom he had called friends and allies.
Saul, having similarly turned to folly, dies at the end of 1 Samuel, setting the stage for the coronation of David in 2 Samuel. We’re going to begin to see the unfolding of the covenant that God makes with David following his anointing as King in 2 Samuel 5. There, David establishes Jerusalem as capital of Israel and to great fanfare, he brings the ark into Jerusalem. When you contrast the end of Saul’s reign over Israel – a time marked by his insecurity – with the way that David brings the ark into Jerusalem: singing, dancing, offering sacrifice, and showing his total trust in God… we can guess that the reign of David will be very different than was that of King Saul.
With all of that in mind, here are the readings for this week: