is a curious expression in the King James Bible describing “wizards that peep.” The author Siegbert Becker decided to make that the title of a book. He wrote “Wizards that Peep,” a book delving into the matters of demons, spiritual forces of darkness, and the practices of the modern-day occult. His book describes some of the things which make the hair stand up on your neck. The spiritual forces of darkness are what attract people today to see horror films or read haunted fantasies. How many recent movies have there been about the undead, spirits, fortune telling, and dark magic? The fascination with spirits of the dead is nothing new, of course. It’s a topic that has always sparked interest. Isaiah wrote warnings about spiritists 2,700 years ago. Books are still being written today about communication with the dead. How should we respond to the constant interest in these things? A look at what Isaiah says about “wizards that peep” can shed some light for us on this topic.
Gloom and darkness hung over the head of nearly everyone in Judah during Isaiah’s time. What could be gloomier and darker than the threat of war? Jerusalem’s neighbor nation to the north, Israel, was ruled by Pekah, a king who was forming an alliance with the king of Aram and the king of Damascus. They had a sinister purpose: to subdue Judah and Jerusalem into a conquered nation. The rumors of the coming attack and the alliance had to be hard on the people of Jerusalem. Nothing makes you more uneasy about the future than the imminent threat of war. Imagine all your neighbors joining forces against you and plotting to kill you and raid your home.
Naturally we would assume that the people of Jerusalem would turn to the Word of the Lord for guidance and hope. Prophets like Isaiah, Micah, and others gave them God’s Word. In addition, they had all the recorded promises of the Lord found on the pages of Scripture.
But this didn’t satisfy them. They wanted more knowledge, more information. They rejected the Word of the Lord and began to turn to other sources. Isaiah says they were being seduced into seeking “wizards that peep.” It is more clearly translated for us today as “mediums and spiritist who whisper and mutter.” The people of Jerusalem were essentially consulting the spirits of their dead ancestors. A medium is someone who channels the spirits of the dead. A spiritist could be someone who allowed evil spirits to possess them. Or they could be someone who sought out the spirits of the dead through various rituals. Isaiah mentions the work of mediums and spiritists as those who sit through the night in the tombs and burial grounds in order to communicate with the dead.
But these “peeping wizards” worked a long time ago in an ancient society. People don’t really believe in all that or do that today, do they? You still see it everywhere today from so-called harmless entertainment to the daily newspaper. People are seeking answers and looking into things of the spiritual realm. Many are fascinated by it and drawn to it. While weekly church attendance lags in many places, daily movie sales surge for the latest movie based on occultism and demonic themes. While sound spiritual advice remains unopened in the daily devotional email, the online horoscopes get passed on and clicked on like they are candy.
Isaiah asks the obvious. “Shouldn’t a people inquire if their God? Why consult the dead-on behalf of the living?” What power and good could the dead ever have for us? They died! Dying doesn’t give you more power! It empties you of any strength and reduces your body to dust. Your spirit is judged by God and cannot interfere with this world.
How could the people fail to turn to God for answers? It didn’t begin with outright dismissal of Scripture. It began as a slow mixture and tolerance for evil. They valued blending in with the people around them more than standing out with the Word of God. It began as they accepted “you are an Israelite in name” as enough for joint worship with those who tolerated evil. It began as “you live in the land” as sufficient a criterion for “let’s work together and worship together.” It soon became acceptable for their sons and daughters to mix with these evil practices. “Everyone is doing it” became each generation’s plea as they took each step away from God. Consulting the spirits became just another option for predicting the future. It began with a harmless, “so what if my daughter reads the horoscopes. It’s just fun.” Each generation became closer and more comfortable with the darkness around them.
They were all too comfortable with evil or too afraid to say what Isaiah had to say: “To the law! And to the Testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” Turn to the word of your God! If anything speaks against it, it is false, of the devil, and leads to darkness and despair. The Word of God is the standard by which all other things must stand. It is the measuring stick by which all teachings must be measured –prophet, teacher, or parent, or friend. Before all else can be trusted the Word of God must be consulted.
This command to rely on the light of God’s Word is so obvious, but so lost on many Christians. When trouble comes, they turn to scientists for answers, even if it is in conflict with God’s will. They turn to non-Christian psychiatrists who advise them to worship self, to fix every issue with a divorce, or an abortion, or bolstered self-esteem. They advise you to break the relationships that ought to be guided by God’s Word and love. They advise people to kill what ought to be regarded as the greatest gift, life! They advise you to use what ought to be treated with highest dignity, the human body, with shameful lusts. They honor self-worship over love of others.
When the dark times come should we turn to the darkness for insight? Or should we turn to the one who created light out of darkness? “Should not a people inquire of their God?”
In the end, those who neglect and despise the Word of God will look up to God, but not for power or praise. They will look up only with pitiful anger, prodding at their God. In the end, such a person does not look to God in faith. Instead, they will look at him in rage and anger. We are truly lost and in the dark when we leave behind the love of God. After cursing God there is nowhere to turn but further into the darkness and distress. And in the end God will say to the bitter sinner, “Have it your way. Enjoy the darkness.” And one will be tossed into deepest despair.
Maybe you might say, “I only turn to the Bible for truth and light.” Do you only and always turn there for the truth? It is not enough simply to avoid the wrong sources of truth. Do you delve into the light? Do you seek to know the future –your future- as God has revealed it for you in his Word? Do you dig into the pages of scripture more than you dig into your favorite magazines or phone apps? Do you let the light of God’s Word shine and more than the light of your tv? Do you daily examine the Scriptures to see if all else you see and hear is true? What is your love and light in life? Here is more than a warning against occult practices. It is also a warning against seeking truth from anything above or in the pace of Scripture. And it is a warning not to reject the light while you have it. Peter urges, “We have the very sure word of prophecy, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” (2 Peter 1:19)
Isaiah writes about distress, darkness, dark gloom, and being thrust to complete darkness. This is the spiritual darkness that overcomes the sinner who tries to overcome or overlook a holy God. The sinner always loses.
Except, things are not altogether lost for us in this dark world. The Word of God might be neglected, but the truth it declares is still true and right. “In the past he humbled Zebulun and Naphtali” these were places in northern Israel along the border. They were humbled as they faced wave after wave of war and invasion. They were a mixed race of people looked down upon by the Jews in Judah. But “you want to know the future? Here is the future”, God says. “In the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
That light appeared in Galilee. It appeared despite the ungodly who had turned aside from the Word of the Lord. That light dawned at the coming of Jesus. Matthew records for us that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus began his teaching and preaching in Galilee. There in Capernaum he made his center of preaching. Jesus came as the light who brought the very Word of God to a people scared and lost. He made that light shine as he exposed the deeds of darkness. He convicted the people of sin and led them to see their guilt. And he led them to see the light as he showed them the mercy and love of God. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins. He came to do far more than silence demons and evil spirits. He made the light chase away all darkness and gloom.
How did this light shine? It shone brightest on the darkest day. Those who rejected the Scriptures also rejected the very one that they spoke about. Just as Isaiah had foretold, those who rejected the light cursed their God. They looked up at their King and their God on the cross. They cursed him and the land was filled with darkness in that dark day.
But the darkness could not overcome the light. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” Jesus rose back to life on the third day. Having completed his work of facing the darkness on our behalf. He removed the curse of sin for us all. He revealed the light of our God. Our Savior rose from death. He shone so bright that all who believe in him will not perish but have the light of life. He is not the God of the dead, but the living. We will join him in the future. We will see a great light: it is Jesus and us with him forever in his kingdom.
Another pastor wrote about 64 years ago, “Darkness that has fallen over such a large part of Christendom today. The dim light of Christ-denying Modernism, idolatrous Catholicism and a confused Protestantism can be called a direct result of the indifference to pure doctrine and the tolerance of all sorts of heretical sects that has been so characteristic of the Church during the past century. There can be no hope for better things till Christians are willing to suffer persecution and want for the sake of the ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints,’ (Jude 3), without changing one jot or tittle of it. Not by building great church organizations to ‘make an impact on the world,’ but by faithfully and diligently using the Word of God in its truth and purity shall we further the cause of God’s kingdom.” (WLQ 1959). His urging, Isaiah’s urging, remains true for all Christians today. “To the Word, to the light of dawn!”
Soon we will also join those who died before us. You can trust in them, or you can trust in the one who guides you and gives you light and hope. You can look to his Word for light.
Where do you turn and how do you want to be remembered? Will it be for the love of darkness or light? I don’t want to be remembered for “He loved the light of his tv” or “he loved the light of his smart phone.” Or “he loved the light of his shiny new car.” I want my children to know that I looked to the light of God’s Word as my joy and comfort in this dark world. I want my friends and family to know that I found a light shining in a dark place, a light by which all darkness is driven back, by which I escape the darkness forever: Jesus. He is Lord of all and brings light to all by his Word.