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Disobedience Equals Witchcraft
1 Samuel 15:23
Samuel Lesson #056
July 26, 2016
“Our Father, we are thankful that we have You to come to. We are thankful for Your grace in our lives. Father, we are thankful for Your grace toward this nation even though there are many in this nation who just hate You, despise You, and despise the truth of Your Word. Who ignore it and are constantly in rejection and rebellion against You. Father, we pray for those many people, whether they are citizens or in government, that you would restrict and restrain their evil that they would not be successful in their attempts to attack and destroy freedom.
Father, we need men and women of real integrity who will lead us in this nation. Unfortunately, at this time, we do not see too much of that in terms of those who are running for office. Often those who do become corrupted quite quickly when they go to the corrupt culture that characterizes our governing bodies. Father, we pray that changes. We pray that You would raise up men and women who have a desire and the integrity to do the right thing, to be Constitutional, and to defend our freedoms.
Father, we pray for us as believers. That we might do what we can do on our part. That we might carry out communication with our representatives and leaders that we might be informed that we might vote, and that we might be able to engage in profitable conversation with others helping them to understand the truth. But above all we know that the foundation is the Scripture, the foundation is regeneration, the foundation is the work of Christ on the Cross. If that is not the foundation for the solution to the problem, then it is wood, hay, and straw. Father, we pray that You would help us to understand the spiritual solution as well as the immediate political and cultural solutions. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
Last week we came right up to it. We are up to a verse that is very important in 1 Samuel 15:23. This is a foundational verse for a lot of reasons. I think it is one of the most insightful and challenging verses that we see in the Old Testament. It is Samuel’s indictment from God to Saul for his disobedience to Him. The challenge to this is that often we rationalize. We justify. We minimize disobedience to God. But this is a passage that steps on everybody’s toes. It is a passage that hits everybody right between the eyes with the realities of disobedience whether it is small or large, whether it is minor or major. It is very important to understand it.
In this indictment and announcement of punishment and judgment to Saul, Samuel says in 1 Samuel 15:23 in his explanation of why Saul is receiving this harsh judgment, which is the removal of the kingdom from him, Samuel says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
The way this is setup structurally, the focal point is on the last stanza. God “has rejected you from being king.” The first part explains why he is not worthy to be a leader, a leader of God’s people anymore, because has rejected God. This idea of rejecting and being disobedient to God is tied to a much broader category of sin, one that we often do not associate with that. That is “stubbornness,” which is not the best translation of that term. It is an unusual word in the Hebrew, as we will see.
The meaning of the Hebrew word is probably more of a synonym to rebellion than stubbornness is. I would probably translate it insubordination “is as iniquity and idolatry”. Idolatry is not usually something that we associate with insubordination. But as I pointed out several times recently in our study in Matthew, in the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel was taken out of the land, both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom came under the fifth cycle of discipline. God removed them through military conquest, the north in 722 BC and the south in 586 BC.
When Israel returned, when the first remnant came back, first under Zerrubabel, then Ezra and later Nehemiah. There were several returns. There were not a lot of people that came back. After 70 years in Babylon most people had become fairly comfortable. They had rebuilt their lives. Most of them stayed there. You did not have too many that came back from other areas of the diaspora. When they came back it was extremely difficult, extremely hard to rebuild everything.
The Israelites realized that the reason they went through all of this heartache, all of the loss, the death of so many Jews by the hands of the Assyrians and later the Babylonians was because of idolatry, at the core it was idolatry. If idolatry is identified simply as the worship of gods made out of stone and metal and wood, then you can get into a superficial concept of idolatry. What we see here is the beginning emphasis on the fact that idolatry is more than just the worship of some stone, wood, or metal idol, but it is an attitude of the mind related to the rejection of God’s authority and to disobedience.
In the first line of this stanza, which is translated fairly accurately, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,” actually it is not “witchcraft” that you have in your New American Standard Bible. It is closer to divination. That is a more accurate definition. Rebellion is as the sin of divination. At the very beginning of this pronouncement and this explanation Samuel is equating rebellion or disobedience to God and rejection of God’s authority to divination, to the occult, to witchcraft.
That is not something we normally think of, but as you think about this passage a little bit, one of the things that ought to come to mind is the fact that throughout the Old and New Testaments there seems to be almost an inordinate emphasis on submission to authority and on obedience to the proper authorities. When you come to this text out of the culture that has developed in the United States in the last 60 years, starting with the baby boomer generation, when you analyze that culture, it is a culture that has rejected authority. A very popular bumper sticker you will see is “Question Authority.” Question it on principle.
There may be some truth to that. That may be a call for independent thinking in some areas, but the idea that came out of the baby boomers was challenge authority because authority is wrong. It was rebelliousness. You see this going back to the rise of the beatnik movement in the 1950s and the hippie movement in the 1960s. The anti-war riots that occurred during the Viet Nam War. Then those same rebellious anti-authority baby boomers began to find jobs in government starting in the mid 1970s. Now they are primary players in government.
People like the Clintons and many, many others on both sides of the aisle. Since the Democrat National Convention is going on this week, and you see all of the shenanigans going on in Philadelphia. I think that it is right that we pick on the Democrats tonight. It is pervasive. It does not matter whether you are a conservative or liberal. It does not matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or a Libertarian. There is this heavy strain of rebellion against authority that has become part of the American culture. For this we are coming under a lot of judgment because of the spiritual dimension of that rebellion.
As I look at this and we think about what is being said here, we need to think about why the Bible makes such an emphasis on submission to authority, on obedience to authority, and why it is so damning, so condemnatory of any kind of rebellion, insolence, insubordination, insurrection, or schism. In fact, of the seventeen works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19–20 three of them relate to rebellion. Contention, dissentions, and heresies all relate to rebellion against authority.
Why does the Bible put such an emphasis on this?
If you have grown up in the era of the neo-feminist movements since the 1960s, whether you are a conservative Christian woman or not, I have found that just the very idea has been so influenced by this culture that when you hear the Bible taught that “wives submit to your husbands” there is something that happens inside that says “Wait a minute. This guy is not all that great to follow. Why should I do that? I am an individual person in my own right. I should do what I want to do. Why should I listen to my husband? Why should I obey him? He has the wrong idea! My idea is better!”
You know what, maybe 60, 70, 80, 90 percent of the time you are right, but being right is not the issue unless it is a moral right. If it has something to do with, “well, I am going to organize it this way and he wants to organize it that way”. “I want to do this thing and he wants to do that thing.” In non-moral areas the Bible says the wives are to submit to the husbands. There is just something that we see in women in our era that balks at that.
This is why we have a lot of women who do not want to get married. They do not want to have some man in their life who is telling them what to do. But it goes much further than that. You see it in the work place. You see it with men having problems either being in authority or submitting to authority. I remember when I was first in college. I went to college on an Army ROTC scholarship. In ROTC, as we were studying leadership, one of the principles that was often brought out was if you want to be in authority you have to learn to follow.
A good leader is a good follower. The principle there is to be a good leader you have to understand authority and be willing to submit to authority even when you disagree with authority. That being able to submit to authority is more fundamental to issues in life than almost anything else, because orientation to authority says a lot about another character quality, a virtue called humility, without which we are arrogant. Arrogance is the path to self-destruction.
These virtues, these character virtues are not taught in school anymore. They are not taught by parents anymore. We do not teach the Classics anymore. Not to mention the Bible. If you go back and you read the Classics, these character qualities are emphasized. We do not teach the Bible anymore. These spiritual virtues are not emphasized anymore. It just snowballs into multiple problems.
What I want to do as we start and we look at this is give you a bludgeon between the ears on what the Bible says about obedience authority. The words “obey” and “obedience,” those two words, not to mention all their synonyms, are used over 131 times in the Bible. Words for “disobey” and “disobedience” are used over 26 times in the Bible. When you add other word like “hear” or “listen,” and as I have pointed out, when God says “Listen to Me” He does not mean to sit in an academic class and take notes and then go home and do what you want to.
Listening means listen and do what I say to do. It implies obedience. Hear and obey is inherent in the biblical concept of listening to God. When you add things like “hearing” or “not hearing” or “not listening.” We can add hundreds of verses that emphasize the importance of obedience, the importance of doing what God says to do, doing what authorities say to do, and the extreme dangers and horrible consequences of not doing that.
What I am going to do is go through about ten points related to obedience. We are going to move through these verses very quickly, because my point is not for you to hear the point and write down the verses. My point is to almost dump like a garbage can of water on top of your head, like you see at the end of a football game, when the coach gets a huge 50-gallon cooler of ice water dumped over his head. Well, I want to dump like that, but with all these Bible verses.
When we get through you just sit there and are impressed with how much the Bible says about obeying authority. That this is not just a side doctrine in the Scripture. It is fundamental and runs through everything from Genesis 2, because the big issue in the sin in the Garden was what? Disobedience, a failure to follow God’s authority and to follow Eve’s and Adam’s own authority. We are going to categorize this a bit. There is an emphasis on obedience to God.
1. Obedience to God.
James 4:7 says, “Therefore submit to God.”
Genesis 22:18 says Abraham was blessed because he “obeyed My voice” God said.
Genesis 26:5 God says, “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” God goes on to talk about how that is the reason there was blessing for Abraham.
Exodus 19:5, God says through Moses, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine,” God says.
Deuteronomy 12:28, God says, “Observe and obey all these words which I command you.” Not just some, not just the ones you agree with, but every single one.
Deuteronomy 13:4, “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
There is another idiomatic synonym for being obedient, “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
2. Obedience to parents.
The Israelites are also told to be obedient to parents. In fact, it is so important that in Deuteronomy 21:18–28 if a male child that is an adolescent does not respect his parents’ authority and he is a stubborn and rebellious son (“stubborn” here is not the same Hebrew word as we have in 1 Samuel 15:23. It is a different word, but it is a synonym.)
Deuteronomy 21:18, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him.”
If the parents have not disciplined the child and it is a spoiled-rotten child. It does not say that. It is when they have chastened him. That is part of it. They had disciplined him. They have been good parents and disciplined the child, and he is incorrigible, then what you see in Deuteronomy 21:21, “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death.” God sees as being so serious that it is a capital offense because of the impact that kind of rebelliousness will have on the culture. You surgically remove it.
In the New Testament, Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents.”
1 Timothy 3:4, A deacon or elder is “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all evidence.” Children are to be in submission to their parents.
3. Then there is the issue of slaves to their masters. That has application and implication to employees to employers.
Colossians 3:22, “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyes service,” do not just go through the motions, “as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.”
You are obeying your boss because you fear God. You are obedient to God. Not because your boss is a good boss or a wise boss, not because he knows what he is doing. You obey him when he is ignorant, stupid, idiotic, self-centered, overbearing, and tyrannical. There is no exception in here. That might apply to husbands also.
1 Peter 2:18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.”
Titus 2:9, “Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back.”
4. Then we have passages related to the wife’s obedience to the husband.
Ephesians 5:21–22, “submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husband, as to the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:24, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subjected to their own husbands in everything.”
It is almost like God is saying, wives, look to see how you are obedient to your husband because that is a barometer for you to see how well you are obedient to Christ. We will move on. That may be too convicting.
Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting to the Lord.”
1 Peter 3:1, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”
1 Peter 3:5, “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”
We are all supposed to submit to the authorities over us, whether they are Democrat or Republican, whether they are corrupt or not corrupt, whether they are stupid, whether they are anti-Constitutionalists or pro-Constitutionalists. We still are obedient to the authorities. There is no asterisk here. Some of these are written during the time of Emperor Nero. Some were written when he was a good emperor and some when he was bad.
5. We are to submit to the authorities over us.
Titus 3:1, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.”
Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
We all know that there are distinctions for certain kinds of legitimate disobedience to authority, but that is a different issue.
1 Peter 2:13–14, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to the governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
6. Those who represent evil do not obey God. This is the Pharaoh who is a type of Satan.
Exodus 5:2, “And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.’ ”
Why should I obey Him? He is rebellious against God. Remember, he was a god himself under the Egyptian pantheon.
7. At its core sin is rebellion against God and rejection of God’s authority.
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is at enmity against (or hostile to) God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
That is the orientation of your sin nature, every single one of us. This is talking to Christians. It is not talking to non-Christians. It is reminding the Christians in Romans 8:7 that when they are walking according to the flesh they are just like they were as an unbeliever. The flesh cannot submit to the law of God. It is a life of insubordination. At the very core of our being is that nasty sin nature that is totally oriented to insubordination toward God.
Romans 10:3, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
That is an indictment of Israel, specifically the wilderness generation in the Old Testament.
8. Because of rebellion, Israel could not enter the Promised Land. Moses is reminding them of what happened at Kadesh Barnea
Deuteronomy 9:23, “Likewise, when the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and you did not believe Him nor obey His voice.”
That is the same word we find for rebellion in our passage. Rebellion is an indication of no faith, a lack of faith. When we do not believe God we are in rebellion. We do not obey.
9. The final state of God’s creation is brought to a state of peace and harmony because all are brought into submission to God.
We start with Adam and Eve in the Garden. We see what happens when they rebel against God. The whole creation is affected. Everything is corrupt and in rebellion against God. There is a trajectory in God’s plan that comes to resolution only when the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, comes back to earth to establish His Kingdom. Then all things will be put in submission to Him.
Is that not interesting?
The endgame is pictured in terms of restoration of authority to God. This is one reason why you see in the Book of Revelation that as God pours out His judgments on mankind, again and again and again, there is this chorus in Heaven, that when God does this and He punishes rebellious mankind, the choruses in Heaven break out in praise to God because He is finally bringing full punishment upon those who are in rebellion against Him.
1 Corinthians 15:27, “He has put all things under His feet.”
The goal is to bring all things into submission under the authority of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:28, “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
The ultimate resolution of everything, including the angelic conflict, means that everything is brought into submission.
Hebrews 2:8, “You have put all things in subjection under His feet.”
That is the God-man in hypostatic union.
1 Peter 3:22, “Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
These have all been put under His authority.
Philippians 2:10–11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
That indicates that Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority to the glory of God. It is all about authority.
10. As Peter concludes his first epistle he re-emphasizes the importance of submission.
1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
Yes, all of you. Peter starts off with the young ones, submit to the older ones. Then he says all of you, everybody, old, young, male, female, everyone of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility. That is what it means to submit. That is what we see in Philippians 2:8, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” That is what humility is. So all of you clothe yourselves “with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
As a review here, all of this relates to what we studied as the Divine Institutions, which give us the laws of Divine Establishment. That which is applied to every person believer or unbeliever.
To review them quickly:
1st divine institution–Personal responsibility: He is responsible to God to do what God says to do. God is the authority.
The 1st divine institution is established when God tells Adam that he is not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is personal responsibility, personal accountability.
2nd divine institution–Marriage: The husband is the authority. The woman is the helper, the עֵזֶר ‛ēzer.
That is not a term that demeans the women, but elevates her and compares her to the servant role that God places Himself in to serve and help mankind.
3rd divine institution–Family: The parents are the authority.
4th divine institution–Human government: Established in Genesis 9 by the covenant with Noah. The governing authorities.
This is whether the governing authorities are patriarchal, whether it is tribal, whether it is clan, whether it is city, state, or a nation. Whatever those governing authorities are, that is the authority under human government.
Then, in Genesis 11, two chapters later, there is the 5th divine institution.
5th divine institution–Nationalism: God is the authority. He sets the boundaries, Acts 17:26.
Some people think there are only four divine institutions, but you cannot merge these because they are separated by a couple of hundred years in the Old Testament. You had a period of time in history when you had human government, but you did not have nations. Nations come along with the judgment on the Tower of Babel. This is nationalism, which is a pejorative in our culture because of the idiocy of paganism and the idiocy of progressivism and liberalism.
I keep wanting to tell people like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and all of these other people, who want to have all these open borders nonsense, “well, if you believe in open borders, then first of all give us all access to everything on your servers. Give us access to everything in your houses. Teardown that wall around your house. Get rid of your security system.”
Why do you not take the first 50 refugees to come to live in your house or houses?
Then you will come to understand why you have to have borders. It is for security and for protection. It is not because you are arrogant and you are nasty and you are mean to everybody else in the world. In nationalism we return to the first point, God is the authority.
Why do I say that?
Because according to Acts 17:26 God is the one who set the boundaries of the nations. God is the one who establishes the nations so that they are accountable to Him.
11. And humility is the chief virtue because it is submission to the proper authorities.
Numbers 12:3, “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”
That does not mean he is a walkover or a doormat or any of those negative images. He kept three million Israelites alive in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years. He organized them and led them. That is not an easy task. I would not want to lead a hundred people for forty years through that kind of difficulty. He led these two and a half to three million Israelites through the wilderness. This is also true of Jesus who humbled Himself.
Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
That is the backdrop. It is that Samuel is not saying this just because God suddenly got mad at Saul or because Samuel is mad at Saul and he is just jumping to extremes here. It has to be fit with the overall view of the reality that is expressed in the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
- It is not difficult to submit to authority if you like the person who is in charge.
- It is not difficult to submit to authority if they are telling you to do what you want to do.
- It is not difficult if there are no consequences for disobedience.
- It is not difficult if they are giving you nice rewards at the end.
Where submission comes into play is when the person in authority:
- Is not nice.
- Does not have your best interest at heart.
- Does not care about you.
- Is asking you to do things that are unpleasant, difficult, and the last thing you want to do.
- You do them anyway.
- You do them with a smile on your face.
- You do them better than anybody else.
I will tell you a story. About almost 20 years ago now I went to Dallas Seminary. I had a conversation with Dr. Walvoord. He was probably in his 80s at the time, retired. I went by to see him. I had some questions for him. I went in and we sat down. He is asking me a lot of questions about what are you doing now? What is your ministry like? What is going on?
I told him that I was working for a friend of his in Houston, Texas at Berachah Church. I said, “I am working for Bob Thieme now.” He said, “Really!” He said, “You know Bob and I use to be very, very close.” I said, “I know that.” He said, “You know, Bob’s wife Betty was the best secretary I ever had in my whole career. She was the best secretary I ever had.” He said, “You know, Bob was one of my elders.”
This was at what was then Northwest Presbyterian Church. Later it became Northwest Bible Church in Fort Worth. For a time, Bob Thieme was stationed there at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. He was an elder in that church.
Dr. Walvoord said, “One thing that I always respected about Bob Thieme was I could ask him to do anything, even if I knew he hated it and did not want to do it and did not like doing it, but I always gave it to him because he would do it ten times better than anybody else.”
You see that is authority orientation. That is humility. It is when somebody asks you to do something that you do not want to do. You might even disagree with the way they want you to do it. You still say, “Yes, Sir. I will do it that way.” You do it better than anybody else. That lays the groundwork for the passage. Let me read it again.
1 Samuel 15:23, Samuel says, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”
He does not have the verb in there. It is ellipsized. When you leave the verb out, it emphasizes the comparison. “Rebellion, the sin of witchcraft.” That is the point that he is making. It is not that it is wrong to add “is as.” It makes it more understandable, but it is more emphatic in the Hebrew. “Rebellion, the sin of divination” actually in the Hebrew.
We have the first word to look at for rebellion, which is the noun מְרִי merî that means what it is translated to mean. It means rebellion. It means to go against a legitimate authority that has been established over you. It is a word that is used numerous times in the Old Testament, especially to describe the activities of Israel when they were in the wilderness. You have a number of different things that we can say about this word.
- It is used about 45 times in the Old Testament.
- Most frequently it is used in the historical psalms. Those are the psalms that refer back to events in Israel’s past. Ten times it is used in the Psalms.
- Eight times it is used in Deuteronomy. In the uses in Deuteronomy it usually refers back to the actions of the wilderness generation. It generally has that idea of rebellion or going against an authority, but sometimes when it is used in the Hebrew hiph‛îl stem, which is the causative stem, it means to provoke someone. That is the basic meanings.
- With all but five exceptions of the word it refers to rebellion against God. Of the 45 times that it is used in the New Testament 40 times it refers to rebellion against God.
- In the other examples it refers, for example, in Deuteronomy 21 to the rebellious actions of a child against parents or a rebellious son. It is used to refer to a wicked man in Proverbs 17:11. The wicked man thinks of nothing but rebellion. Why would that be? Because he is controlled by his sin nature. His sin nature is always oriented toward rebellion.
When you examine the passages that are used:
- The sin of rebellion may be a sin of the tongue. It may be expressed through complaining, gripping, murmuring, or bringing slander or gossip against someone in authority. When it is related to God it can be represented as a verbal assault on the character of God where you are challenging or defying God’s command.
- It can not only refer to a sin of the tongue, but also to a sinful act or an overt act where they are expressing actions that are expressly forbidden by God in the Mosaic Law.
It is also used a number of times, for example, in the Pentateuch in Numbers 17:10, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Bring Aaron’s rod back before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels.’ ”
There it is describing those who rejected the authority of Aaron and Moses. There was a rebellion among the Levites against the high priesthood of Aaron. In order to give them an empirical test to prove that Aaron was God’s choice they took the tribal leaders’ staves of dead wood and placed the tent of the covenant.
The next morning when they got up Aaron’s rod was brought back to life. That is why it is referred to as “Aaron’s rod that budded.” It produced green shoots. God took dead wood and made it alive. That was Aaron’s and everybody else’s rod was still dead. That proved that God had anointed and appointed Aaron to be the high priest.
Moses is warning the people. This is his last statement and last challenge to the people in Deuteronomy 31:27, “For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck.”
How would you like that? Somebody you admire, somebody who has led you, and just before he dies he looks at you and says I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. Well, you have not been real impressive. That is how he characterizes the Israelites. They are still God’s chosen people. That shows the grace of God. They are rebellious and stiff-necked.
Moses says, “If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, then how much more after my death?”
I (Moses) kept you under control to some degree, but after I leave, you will really be rebellious. I have had some experiences with that. In my first church I (Dr. Dean) had a congregation that was kept in check by a man who had been the pastor there. He has been gone for ten years. He came back and married a lady in the church and was in the church. He taught a Sunday School class. Half the church, all the older people in the church, was in that Sunday School class.
I did not realize it, but he kept a lid on their rebellion. They wanted somebody like Robert Schuler or Norman Vincent Peale to be their pastor. They did not want somebody who taught the Bible. But this man died of a heart attack about a week after Hurricane Alicia hit. When he did within six months the church exploded in rebellion because there was not a governor. There was not somebody there to hold in check their rebelliousness. That is what Moses is saying, as soon as I am gone it is really going to be bad.
We looked at Deuteronomy 21:18, “If a man has a stubborn rebellious son …”
This is a different word for “stubborn” than we have in our passage. It is the word סָרַר sārar, which is also a synonym. It means to be rebellious or to be stubborn. We also have the verb form or the noun in our passage. The verb form is מָרָה mārāh. Other cross references: Deuteronomy 21:20; Jeremiah 5:23; Psalm 78:8.
That helps us understand what rebellion is. Rebellion is subverting a legitimate authority over you, being disobedient by saying I am not going to do what you told me to do. I want to do something else. I have a better idea. You may not be the boss, but you are going to make yourself the boss.
There is an implied comparison in 1 Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft …”
Witchcraft is probably not a good translation for this word. The Hebrew word is קֶסֶם qesem. It is translated as divination, which is the best translation. In the King James Bible it is sometimes translated as witchcraft, sometimes as sorcery. But divination is a broad word. There are different kinds of words used for divination. This is a tool for trying to discover the future apart from God. This is prohibited by God.
The Law says in Deuteronomy 18:10, “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire …”
That is one of the most horrid examples of the kind of religion and idolatry that was practiced among the Canaanite tribes that inhabited the land. It is represented as worshipping the god Molech or the god Chemosh, also Baal. There is evidence of this with the worship of the god Baal. This idol would be built. There is a furnace, a big barbeque pit. The arms of the god would come out over that barbeque pit. These parents would take a living child, an infant, and place that child in the arms of Molech. It would burn alive.
The place where they did this was in the Valley of Hinnom just to the south of the Old City of David. That is what is meant by making your son or your daughter pass through the fire. This was somehow designed to placate the god, to remove his wrath or his judgment. This did not happen just a little bit. This happened a lot, especially during the later years of Judah. This is one of the things that both Isaiah and Jeremiah roundly condemn the Israelites for.
2 Kings 17:17, “Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him.”
This is what is going on during the time of Ahab in the north, during the times of some of the more evil kings in the south, especially Manasseh in the south—although he turned back to God toward the end of his life.
In Jeremiah 14:14, “Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.’ ”
This is one of the greatest forms of idolatry. It is that we generate our own ideas of the sweet and gentle Jesus. Then we go worship Him. That is idolatry. We generate our own idea of what God must be like and then we go worship that. We do not take the time to learn the biblical text and understand who God is, as He has revealed Himself and worship Him. Divination is associated with a false vision. This can be generated through many different means, but it is not true. It is not based upon the Word of God.
In Ezekiel 13:6 God says, “They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The LORD declares,’ when the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word.”
What we have today is a vast array of televangelists, not every one of them, but many of them. Those who are in the Word of Faith movement. Those who are in a lot of the charismatic movement. Those who are involved in a lot of these “name it and claim it” and dominionists’ movements. Their theology is pure heresy. It is a form of idolatry and demonism because it would be classified here as lying divination because the Lord has not sent them. When they say the Lord has sent them and that the Lord has revealed these things to them when the Lord has not revealed to them.
Even though they may on occasion get the gospel right. They may talk about all kinds of ministries and different things, because the Lord has not sent them, they are the devil’s disciples, just like the false prophets were at the time of Judah, the time of Isaiah, the time of Jeremiah, and the time of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 13:23, “therefore, you women will no longer see false visions or practice divination …”
Once I bring judgment that is going to end what you are doing.
“… and I will deliver My people out of your hand. Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”
This idea of divination is not some sort of action that is rather anemic. It is not something that is sanitized. It is not some parlor game like an Ouija (Wee-Gee) board. The Ouija board is a form of divination. It is not innocuous like reading the horoscope column in your newspaper or talking about the zodiac and which sign you are and all this activity. All of those are entry points, access points to various forms of demonism. It is all grounded in disobedience to God. What God has prohibited we are not allowed to do. When we violate any command that is equivalent to divination or witchcraft.
Then there is this parallel with stubbornness. Rebellion is parallel to the word that is translated stubbornness. Witchcraft or divination is equated through synonymous parallelism with iniquity, which means sin and idolatry, the תְּרָפִים terēphîm. We will look at those words when we get into that second strophe.
What can we say about divination?
Divination is ultimately the attempt to use various secret or occult powers to determine the future. It is the idea that man is trying to figure out the future so he can plan for it apart from God. It is an intrusion into matters which God has hidden from us. It is interesting, in the Greek the word for divination is the word PUTHON, which we would transliterate into English as the word python.
The word python is related to the priestess who was called the oracle, someone who gives forth revelation from the gods. She is called the pythonist. In going to her she would sit in a closed area within the temple there at Delphi. There were these vapors that came up out of the ground. It does not happen anymore, but it was some kind of intoxicating or hallucinogenic smoke. She would breath that in and have these visions. She would speak in ecstatic utterance.
It has a lot of implication for the tongues crowd improperly interpreting those passages in Scripture. What the problem was that they were confusing God’s miraculous gift of speaking an unknown, unlearned language with an ecstatic utterance of the occult, the demonic, the false religions, and that sort of thing.
Divination also involved a lot of things where you interpreted signs or various omens and used various objects, talismans, rabbits feet, things like that in order to predict the future. Forms of divination include: clairvoyance, trying to tell the future, trying to get some vision of the future, which is often practiced in these charismatic groups.
I spent some years investigating this when I was working on my PhD because I was investigating a lot of these fringe movements that were becoming mainstream in the charismatic movement. I went out and interviewed a lady in southern California who had been saved out of an occult background.
At the time she was Hal Lindsey’s sister-in-law. She had come out of a lot of this occult background. Being familiar with occult practices and going to charismatic churches she was saying they were doing the same thing. They were just trying to camouflage it with the name of Jesus of the Bible. But she said that they are practicing the same thing, doing the same techniques.
You have clairvoyance, palm reading, astrology, reading the liver of a dead animal (which is called hepatoscopy), reading the signs of cast arrows. They would take the arrows in the quiver and throw them up in the air and when they landed on the ground they would read them and forecast the future from that. That is called bibliomancy. You also have necromancy where you are consulting the dead. You are trying to have a séance. The person leading the séance is getting in touch with the dead.
A lot of this stuff has been proven to be false through lots of different investigatory techniques. I have even heard recently of someone who is reading tattoos. They do not even have a technical name for that. The sad thing is that he was someone on whose ordination committee I once functioned. Now he is so far off the charts that you would not even know he even knew what the Bible was at some point. It is really sad. He advertises it on the web (Internet). For a certain amount of money he will tell your fortune by reading your tattoos.
Divination was specifically prohibited by the Law.
Leviticus 19:26, “You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying.”
Leviticus 19:31, “Give no regard to mediums …”
That is another word for a witch. It is somebody who is getting in contact with the dead.
“… and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.”
Leviticus 20:27 “A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death.”
This is another capital offense. Why? Because you are getting in touch with the demonic. Ultimately you are becoming Satan’s disciple. Those are some of the basic words.
Another thing we have seen develop in this country, especially over the last 150 years, is the rise of spiritism. Spiritism goes back to before the American War between the States when two teenage daughters of a Methodist minister began to develop a way to get in touch with the dead. They got involved with necromancy trying to communicate with the spirits.
Spiritism became very popular leading up to the War Between the States. Abraham Lincoln’s wife was involved in spiritism. She had séances in the White House. She is not the last president’s wife to have done that. But eventually a lot of these people like the Fox sisters admitted to the fact that it was all just a hoax.
But for example, in 1863 during the War Between the States, the National Spiritualist Association of the United States had a membership of 126,000 and by 1945, at the end of WWII it had a membership of 228,000. Now you probably have all kinds of paranormal organizations. Listen to some channels on talk radio about 11 p.m. at night. You would be amazed at how many crazy nut jobs there are in this country calling in and talking about their encounters with ET and all of these other things.
Divination was extremely popular in the ancient world as a way to determine a course of action.
In Ezekiel 21:21 Ezekiel tells about the king of Babylon, probably Nebuchadnezzar, “who stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of two roads, to use divination: he shakes the arrows (belomancy), he consults the images (that is teraphim, the word for idolatry that we have in the second strophe of 1 Samuel 15:23), he looks at the liver (hepatomancy).” The king is using all of these things to try to figure out what he should do.
The question is why is rebellion compared to divination?
To understand this, we need to understand something about the angelic conflict.
That is before man was created and before Adam fell you have the original sin in the universe, which is the sin of Lucifer. I want to go to Isaiah 14:12–14.
Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are the two passages that deal with the fall of Satan. It has become popular among theologians today to say that neither of these passages really talks about the fall of Satan. They say that they are historical. They were fulfilled in the Old Testament. That is not true.
If you read through Isaiah 13–14 it is a judgment that is going to be pronounced upon the king of Babylon, but it is not the previous or past king of Babylon. It is the future king of Babylon, that empire that is against God. That is part of the Antichrist kingdom that is represented in the Book of Revelation, the mystery, the great harlot, Babylon the great in Revelation 17.
What we actually see here is not a historical but a prophetic reference to the future fall of the king of Babylon, who is a type of the Antichrist. Ultimately I think this relates to the power behind the Antichrist in the Tribulation. It is looking forward to that time.
In Isaiah 14:3 it says, “It shall come to pass in the day the LORD …” That day is the future time at the end of the Tribulation. “The LORD gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve …” This is rest from all the horrors of the Tribulation.
Isaiah 14:4 “… that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: ‘How the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased!’ ”
Babylon has been destroyed.
Isaiah 14:5, “The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked (the king of Babylon), the scepter of the rulers.”
Isaiah 14:10, “They all shall speak and say to you …”
Now that that king has been destroyed he will be ridiculed. There will be a taunt even among those who followed him.
- They will say, well what did you do?
- What happened to your power?
- Why could you not do what you claimed to do?
These other kings that have been destroyed in the Tribulation will say: “Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us?”
Isaiah 14:11, “Your pomp is brought down to Sheol (the grave), and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you.”
This is a graphic picture of the fact that the king of Babylon is destroyed and dead. Then we have our key passage.
Isaiah 14:12, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning [hêlēl bēn shāḥār]!”
That is not an accurate translation at all. In the Hebrew it is hêlēl bēn shāḥār. It means the bright one, the shining one of the morning.
“How you were cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!”
The one who weakens the nations is the leader of Babylon, but he is empowered by somebody else. That is ultimately the person to whom this is addressed, who is the one we call Lucifer or Satan. There are five things he said.
Isaiah 14:15, “… ‘I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will also sit on the mount of the congregation (which is a depiction of rulership over the angels) on the farthest sides of the north.’ ”
That is the mountain in the north that was in Syria that was allegedly the home of the Syrian gods and goddesses.
Isaiah 14:14, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
It is an assertion of Lucifer’s authority over the authority of God.
What is the original sin in the universe?
It is rebellion against the authority of God. That is why rebellion and submission to authority are at the heart of human history and the angelic conflict. Because whenever we violate or are disobedient to a legitimate authority over us we are following in Satan’s footsteps. We are making ourselves out to be God and the ultimate authority. We are committing the original sin just like Satan. That was the sin that the Pharisees were rebellious against God.
What did Jesus say?
“You are of your father the devil.” (John 8:44). You are living just like your father. Your lifestyle is imitating that. That is the bottom line when we look at this.
Why is this important? Why does he say that rebellion is as the sin of divination?
- It is that rebellion that is at the heart of the angelic conflict.
- It is at the heart of the destruction of the harmony among the angels when Satan led a third of them in rebellion against God.
- It is what is at the heart of what happened in the Garden when Adam disobeyed God.
The only solution is to take God’s solution, which is trusting in Christ at the Cross. The One who demonstrated what true humility and obedience was. Ultimately it is resolved when He establishes His Kingdom and all authority is brought to submission under Him.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to go through this lesson and to be reminded of the importance of submission to authority in humility and to be reminded that in the days to come, in many different ways, we will be challenged on how we respond to the authorities in our life. Father, we pray that we might be mindful of this lesson and come to understand what it means to submit to authority in genuine humility and not in reacting in arrogance. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”