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Study 6: God and Evil
God and Evil | The Devil and Satan | Demons | Digressions (Witchcraft, What Happened In Eden?, Lucifer, The Temptation of Jesus, "War in Heaven") | Questions
Digression 17: Witchcraft
This digression is written largely to cater for the needs of those in Africa and other parts of the world where witchcraft is a common feature of daily life. It is recognized by all true Bible students that recourse to witches, African doctors and the like is incompatible with holding the truth. However, I do appreciate that witch doctors being cheaper and often more accessible than medical doctors, combined with their apparent success, makes them attractive. We need to look at this problem in a logical, Biblical way. This is the only way you will find the strength to resist the temptation to use these people.
The Claims Of Witchcraft
Firstly, the claims these witches make of success need to be analysed. We can be sure that a lot of exaggeration goes into the claims made for their success. Their cures are never done in the open, for all to see. If indeed they were successful then presumably they would be working in hospitals, and would be found world-wide. The exact condition of those they claim to heal is also never known - how much they really improve is not clear.
Those of you facing this temptation need to ask yourselves whether you have definite proof of their power - e.g. have you seen (not just heard about) a man with his arm sawn off in a saw mill go to a witch and return with a new arm working perfectly? This is the kind of evidence we need before we can give them any credibility at all. Deut.13:1-3 is even more powerful: Israel were taught that if a witch did a sign or wonder which appeared to be a miracle, they were still not to believe that person unless they spoke true doctrine according to God's word. It is clear that witch doctors do not believe the truth as revealed in the Bible - therefore we should not be tempted to credit them as having real power, seeing that all power is from God (Rom.13:1; 1 Cor.8:4-6).
Secondly, the type of complaints they deal with is significant. It is now recognized that we use only about 1% of our brain power. The rest seems to be beyond our power to consciously harness (doubtless we will do so in the Kingdom). Without our realizing it, our minds can have an almost physical effect upon our bodies. Thus psychologists (those who study the mind) have been known to cure people of blood diseases by getting them to intensely imagine their blood being properly constituted and working normally. Doctors admit that occasionally such cures take place which are not dependent on orthodox medicine. Similarly, having a lot of stress in our mind can result in stomach ulcers and head pains. Relaxing the mind or exercising it in a certain way can cause these to go away. But if, for example, our arm is cut off in a saw mill, no amount of mental exercise can make it come back again. It is only ailments which are controlled by our minds which the witches seem able to affect. Because we do not fully understand how our minds work, this appears to be due to some physical power these witches have. But this is not so; it is through their influence on people's minds that they bring this effect about.
The Source Of Power
However, all power is of God. Both good things and bad things such as sickness are brought by Him - not witches. This is a very common theme in Scripture: Is.45:5-7; Micah 1:12; Amos 3:6; Exodus 4:11; Deut.32:39; Job 5:18. All of these will repay careful reading. It follows that it is to Him that we should turn in prayer if we are ill, doing all that is humanly possible through the use of conventional medicine to rectify the problem. If we turn to witch doctors, we are turning to people who claim that they have control over 'powers of darkness' which enables them to make us better. But we know that those powers which they believe in do not exist. God is the source of power. To turn to witches is to believe that God is not all powerful, that it is not God who is bringing our sickness but other powers with whom the witches claim to have influence.
To think like that is very displeasing with God, because He knows that He has brought the sickness, and He is all powerful. Israel chose to believe in God but also believed there were other powers acting in their lives, which they had to deal with by worshipping idols made to those powers. This so angered God that He cast them off from being His people (Deut.32:16-24). To God, unless we have complete faith in Him, we are not really believing in Him at all. To claim a belief in the true God of Israel but to also accept the existence of other powers separate from God, and to let a witch doctor try to influence those powers to leave us alone, is to act precisely as Israel did in the past. The long, sad history of Israel's idolatry is "written for our learning". We should have no fellowship at all with those who believe in these powers.
If we really make the effort and sacrifice to separate from these things, then we have the glorious assurance that we really are the children of God Himself. A natural parent instinctively cares for his child when it is sick. Is it really that difficult to rally our faith to believe that our Heavenly Father will do so even more?
It is a fact that witches only have influence over those who believe in them. In a similar way, someone who has lost a loved one may go to a medium or witch and ask to see the dead person. The medium will tell them to close their eyes and imagine the face of the person very clearly. The client may fix his mind on a photograph of the person which they can clearly remember. The medium can then read the client's mind, and with a little exaggeration speak about the person in realistic terms, so that the client is persuaded that the medium has seen the dead person alive. Note that no solid proof is ever given that the person is alive. But if the client refuses to believe or obey the medium, then there is no result at all.
The 'witches' who normally told Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar their dreams would not have had their positions of responsibility unless they were reasonably successful. Doubtless they used this mind-reading technique a lot. However, when God was involved in the life of the person they were dealing with, as He intervened in the lives of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, then they lost this power. Similarly Balak trusted Balaam's powers of cursing people - he offered him huge financial rewards for his services, saying that he knew from past experience "that he whom thou cursest is cursed" (Num.22:6). But Balaam, who was in some ways the equivalent of a witch doctor, found that his normal ability had left him when he was dealing with the people of Israel. Clearly, such people have no power at all when they are dealing with people who are associated with the true God, no matter what fame they may have gained for success when dealing with other people.
Witchcraft In The Bible
The practical meaning of this is that if we are tempted to go to a witch doctor, then we have to have total faith in him. There is no point in using witches if we are just hoping for the best; and they themselves will probably make the same point. To put total faith in such people and in the existence of the powers they claim to control, means that we have a total lack of faith in the all-powerfulness of the true God. If we really believe the records of Pharaoh, Balak and Nebuchadnezzar mentioned above, then we will not be able to come to a witch with faith that they will have any effect upon us. The examples considered show that witches do not have power over God's people - which we know we are, by reason of our calling and baptism.
Witchcraft is clearly labelled by Paul as a "work of the flesh", in the same category as "heresy" (false doctrine), adultery and pornography (Gal.5:19-21). He comments: "I tell you, as I have also told you in time past (i.e. this was a highly emphasized part of Paul's teaching), that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God". The equivalent of this under the Law of Moses was the command that all witches, those who used "divination" (another name for witchcraft) and those who made their children pass through the fire were to be killed immediately (Deut.18:10,11; Ex.22:18). Those who put their children through fire were not the actual witches - the witches and leading idolaters taught that to secure protection against the forces of evil, the children of those who wanted protection had to be made to pass through fire. So we see that both witches and those who used them were to be killed; and under the new covenant the punishment for doing the same thing is exclusion from the Kingdom of God.
To use witchcraft as a means of personal betterment is something which God would not want us to do. In every decision we are faced with in our life in Christ, we have to seriously ask 'Does God really want me to do this? Would I do this with Jesus standing next to me?' In view of God's clear condemnation of witchcraft I think the answer must be obvious - no, God does not want us to use it. Witchcraft is defined by Samuel as being related to "rebellion" (the Hebrew implies 'provocation') against the Word of God (1 Sam.15:23). To provoke the Almighty, as Israel did by their belief in idols and witchcraft (Deut.32:16-19), is surely unthinkable. God makes the point that He had commanded Israel to drive out the Canaanites because of their belief in witchcraft which was so abhorrent to Him; yet instead, they joined in the practice of it (Deut.18:9-14). So for the new Israel of baptized believers, we must not do the things of this surrounding evil world, or else we will not be able to eternally inherit our promised land of the Kingdom. To reason that it is only the witch that is using it, not us, is irrelevant. If we hope that the effects of the witchcraft will be felt on us, then we are effectively using it.
May God bless us all as we walk through these closing days of the dark, Gentile world towards His Kingdom of light and truth and glory.