“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets” (1 Samuel 28:5-6).
Regarding the background of the above passage, the Philistines had gathered together for a great battle against the Israelites. They had encamped at Shunem, while Saul and the Israelites encamped at Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4). Saul’s faithful servant David had fled to the Philistines and was pretending to have turned against his own people Israel (1 Samuel 27:1-12). Saul was no longer pursuing David’s life as he had been doing for quite some time (1 Samuel 27:4). However, Saul now had a greater problem on his hands than worrying about David’s getting the kingdom from him: Saul and Israel were facing a huge Philistine army. He was afraid and his heart trembled (1 Samuel 28:5).
King Saul wanted answers as these matters weighed heavily upon his heart: What was Israel to do? What was he as the king of Israel to do? Would God deliver Israel and himself from their enemies? If they would be delivered from the Philistines, how would God accomplish this victory for them?
Although Saul wanted answers to these questions, as the opening verses above indicate, God was not giving Saul any answers (1 Samuel 28:6). Why? The answer is Saul’s continued rebellion against God. God had told Saul He had rejected him from being King of Israel (1 Samuel 15:26). He told Saul He was going to tear the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15:28). Now it was time for the fulfillment of this prophecy of Saul’s kingdom being torn away from him.
However, Saul had refused to accept God’s judgment about the kingdom being taken away from him. He had spent a long time trying to kill David the man who God had chosen to succeed him as king (1 Samuel 16:7, 13). Now that God was no longer answering him, Saul continues his rebellion against God by turning to a spiritualist, a woman who was “a medium at En Dor”, to seek answers to his questions about his future (1 Samuel 28:7). She will conduct a séance and, to her surprise, conjure up Samuel who had previously died (1 Samuel 28:14). Samuel will tell Saul that he will die in battle along with his sons and the kingdom will be given over to David (1 Samuel 28:15-19).
In applying this passage to our lives, Saul is an example of how God refuses to hear the prayers of those who continue in their evil ways and refuse to repent. I wonder if David had Saul in mind when by inspiration he wrote, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:15-16). God will not listen to those who persist in rebellion against Him!
On the other hand, what a blessing it is that God takes the time and gives His attention to the prayers of His people who seek Him with their whole heart. He eyes are upon them! His ears are open to their cry! Even though God is controlling the universe and ruling in the kingdoms of men, when I call upon Him in prayer, He is not a distracted listener. His eyes are not upon all these other things. His attention is focused upon me and what my heart has to say to Him! It is comforting to have the assurance that the Ruler of the universe listens to my cry to Him. Today, I rejoice that as I strive to be righteous before God that God attentively listens to me and answers my prayers!
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” (Psalm 66:18-20)