Monday, December 4, 2017

What about Witchcraft and Sorcery?

The ancient Israelites were forbidden involvement in witchcraft and sorcery. In fact, there were a number of other forbidden practices including:
  • Divination
  • Exorcism
  • Fortune-telling 
  • Necromancy
  • Magic
  • Secret arts
  • Spiritism
  • Astrology
  • Wizardry
  • Conjuring
  • Soothsaying
  • Using omens
  • Using amulets
  • Speaking enchantments
  • Speaking charms
  • Consulting mediums
  • Casting spells
What were these practices?

Modern literature and film have developed these concepts in the popular genres of science fiction and horror. The things we read in books and see on screen are generally far removed from what we find in Scripture.

In the Bible diviners, fortune-tellers, sorcerers, etc. were consulted by those who wanted information that they could not obtain through normal means, often knowledge of the future. They were 'advisors' of sorts.

The Hebrew source words behind these terms provide only marginal insight into the various practices. One Hebrew term, translated divination, fortune-telling, or omen, 'may' suggest that the practitioner had a keen gift of observation. However, he expressed his advice so as to suggest a source of other-worldly power.

Another Hebrew term, translated medium, meant, to ask. The practitioners of this art pretended to consult pagan deities, the dead or other-worldly powers.

Other Hebrew terms suggested that insight was obtained by reading the clouds, or by reading the stars. (A king could only wish for a matching set to cover all weather conditions.) Others consulted livers cut out of an animals; still others, arrows thrown on the ground. All of these were akin to today’s palm readers and astrologers.

King Saul consulted a medium in hopes that she could conjure up the deceased high priest Samuel. The king wanted to know whether Israel should go into battle against the Philistines. Because of sin in his life, he was getting no answers from God. (1 Samuel 28)

King Nebuchadnezzar had an assortment of 'advisors.' Yet, none were able to use their arts to tell and interpret his dream of the great statue (Daniel 2). Years later when King Belshazzar witnessed a hand writing a message on the wall, none of his advisors were able to read and interpret the writing (Daniel 5). In both cases the kings were perplexed and desired understanding. True knowledge and understanding came only when God revealed his messages to his servant Daniel.

On yet another occasion King Nebuchadnezzar stood in a literal ‘Y’ in the road desiring to know which branch to take. (One road led to Jerusalem and the king wanted to know if he should lay siege to the city.) He ‘shook the arrows,’ consulted idols, and ‘looked at the liver.’ These were different kinds of divination. (Ezekiel 21)

When God originally forbade Israel from consulting the practitioners of these dark ‘arts,’ we learn the reasoning behind his prohibition:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.     —Deuteronomy 18:15
God wanted His people to depend upon Him for advice. He wanted His people to listen to His revealed word, not ‘made-up’ advice that ultimately came from the minds of men. He still wants people to listen to Him.

In our day there are many voices. If you are actually listening to fortune cookies, the Ouija board, horoscopes, palm readers, tarot cards, anyone who claims to speak with the dead, etc., you are NOT listening to God. The Bible is God’s revealed word. Jesus is God's living message to mankind. God's message is reliable. It is sufficient.

Remember: Wisdom is only as good as its source!