Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rebellion and Witchcraft

Rebellion and Witchcraft
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

I Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

This verse has always captured my attention and has come to mind in many instances in my walk, which has caused me to reevaluate and question my own motives and actions and in turn has kept me from much heartache and distress.

What did Samuel really mean by this verse? This verse was spoken by the Prophet and Priest Samuel to King Saul which was followed by a Divine judgment against Saul, dethroning him when he failed to follow Divine instructions in regards to Israel’s campaign against the enemy to utterly destroy everything. Instead Saul made what he felt was a justifiable excuse to spare the enemies king and reserve the best of the flock and heard so as to sacrifice to YHWH. Despite Saul’s “good intentions” and his seemingly “justifiable excuse,” bottom line is, he disobeyed and Saul’s actions were deemed by G-d as rebellion, equal to the Torah prohibition against witchcraft.

Samuel shot down Saul’s lame excuse anyway by saying:

I Sam. 15:22 …Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines rebellion as opposition to one in authority or dominance. A usually unsuccessful defiance of or resistance to an established government. Saul, by his disobedience and not following fully YHWH’s instruction against the enemy, rebelled against those instructions which out of the mouth of YHWH is Divine Kingdom Law. Saul, being a king himself surely would not accept a subject compromising his clear cut commands, interpreting them his own way, and not carrying them out to the letter; so why would he expect YHWH to?

The Hebrew word for rebellion in this verse is, “meriy” which come from the root word meaning bitter. So we can gather that at the root of all rebellion is a seed of bitterness. The question is, bitterness against what or whom, and why? Such definition and questions makes every case of rebellion unique and a bit of a detective story or psychologist’s analytical query to come to the answers to the questions posed so as to make sense of the why of it all.

The verbiage of this verse applied to Saul would indicate that Saul was not innocent in his actions, but willingly and knowingly rebelled and went against YHWH’s commands because of a root of bitterness that had festered in his heart and soul. Perhaps due to the fact that a few chapters prior (Chapter 13) Samuel rebuked Saul for performing sacrifices without him which Saul was prohibited by Torah from making and not qualified to make. Perhaps it’s the bitterness that comes from an adult child resenting his parents for disapproving of decisions he has made and feels that he can never please them and resents that it appears that they are attempting to run his life. Perhaps Saul does not fully accept that Samuel is G-d’s mouthpiece and does not necessarily believe that what Samuel says is truly from G-d. When one reads the Scriptural narrative one can get the impression that Saul feels as if, “You do not respect me as king, you think I am incompetent. Who do you think you are trying to tell me what to do? You do not think I can make right decisions on my own. You do not think I am wise. How dare you question my G-d given authority and actions!? I am king and I’ll show you!”

I Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Sin is defined by I John 3:4 in that sin is a breaking and or disobedience to the Torah. And so even though G-d’s commands to Saul given through His mouthpiece, the Prophet and Priest Samuel, is not apart of the 613 Commandments of Torah, since the instructions come from YHWH Himself it is as authoritative as one of the 613 Mitzvot of Torah itself. Samuel is making it clear that Saul did not rebel against him but YHWH!

Witchcraft is the Hebrew word “kesem” which also means divination, all of which are clearly prohibited by Torah (Exd. 22:18, Deut. 18:11).

Merriam-Webster defines divination as the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers or unusual insight; intuitive perception. So in essence Samuel is saying Saul is putting himself in the place of Almighty G-d! He is saying that by Saul’s actions he is claiming to be wiser that G-d and thus by default making himself to be as a god by rejecting YHWH’s instructions and going by his own. And was this not the temptation connected to the sin of Adam and Eve?

Gen. 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Satan was saying, by rejecting G-d’s commands and making decisions for yourself, you are acting as a god. This, because of power and false freedom is a very attractive prospect for many people. As the old saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Stubbornness is “patsar” in Hebrew means to peck at something and carries the connotation of being dull; pressing a point to the point of numbness and staying in a rut till you stagnate. It says in the main verse we are looking at that stubbornness is as iniquity. Iniquity means, “Torahlessness, without law, without Divine instruction.”  Therefore we can conclude that by Saul bitterly and willingly rejecting G-d’s commands he has become conscious-less in disregarding Torah in favor of his own ideas and way of doing things. He is by default staying in his mental rut and dullness that he is wiser than G-d Himself! So I suppose with the sin of bitterness we can also throw in pride and arrogance as well which is the very sin which caused Lucifer (Satan) to fall from and be cast out of heaven. Idolatry is also connected to this stubbornness and is saying that Saul has become his own idol, his own god, for he accepts his verdicts above that of YHWH and his rebellion is a subtle form of self worship.

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Wow! The path of bitterness leads to multiple infractions; one sin leading to another as the falling of dominos! Who would have ever thought that bitterness and resentment could lead to vaunting oneself as god!?

I Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

This verse is easily applicable and gives insight into ones daily life in that obeying ones parents, husband, Rabbi, employer, and government, one is in obedience to G-d :

Col. 3:20   Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Eph 5:22-25 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Messiah is the head of the congregation: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the congregation is subject unto Messiah, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Messiah also loved the congregation, and gave himself for it;

Matt. 23:1-3 Then spake Yeshua to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Eph. 6:5-7 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Messiah; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Messiah, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Rom. 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

One may say but wait, doesn’t it say it is better to obey G-d rather than man (Acts 5:29). Yes, it does, but only in matters where mans instructions goes against that of G-d’s.

If and when we walk in obedience in all aspect of our lives we will experience Divine favor as Yeshua did.

Luke 2:52 And Yeshua increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.