Sermons and devotional messages

Excerpts from

The Dangers of Divination

by Pastor Bob DeWaay,

Posted July 2006

(Emphasis added throughout)

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)

Recently I was asked to speak at a seminary. Before the meeting I had lunch with a couple of the professors, one of whom had spent many years as a missionary in Taiwan. The former missionary recounted a story that illustrates the reality of the spirit world. Here is the story in his words:

A twelve-year-old boy in Taiwan was having strange experiences. He felt as though someone was often following him but when he turned around, he saw no one. Often in the morning after a fitful sleep he would have bruises and tell his parents that someone had been hitting him in the night as he slept. His parents took him to medical doctors who could find nothing wrong with the boy. Finally, they took him to a blind fortune-teller – one who had a reputation for his effectiveness in perceiving the spirit world.

This fortune-teller told the boy and his parents that the boy was born as a twin and that the other twin had died at birth. This was of course known to the parents, but few other people knew about this as they had kept it a secret. The fortune-teller went on to say that the boy’s problems were caused by the spirit of the deceased twin who was angry about being neglected. His parents had not been faithfully worshiping him and providing for him in the spirit world. Therefore, this spirit was punishing them by harassing their son (his twin). The solution was to set up an altar for the spirit of the deceased twin, worship him with food and incense, and burn spirit money on his behalf. When the family did as they had been instructed, the boy’s strange experiences ceased.1

One might ask, “How can it be that this worked”? The answer is that Satan has good reasons to make it work. The spirits tormenting the child were doing what evil spirits delight to do. The fortune-teller is connected to real spiritual knowledge. The spirits told the fortune-teller of the twin. The spirits gave him the “prescription” and other spirits quit their tormenting because by doing so, they have immersed that whole family in the animistic beliefs of spirit worship. Imagine how solid would be their beliefs and how unlikely would be their turning to Jesus Christ. Divination and spiritism work -- that is what makes the danger so great. Deceptions that do not “work” have a short shelf life.

The Nature and History of Divination

Old Testament scholar Eugene H. Merrill gives a general definition of divination: “The phrase ‘practicers of divination’ refers generally to the whole complex of means of gaining insight from the gods regardless of any particular technique.”2

Here is another definition: “[The] practice of making decisions or foretelling the future by means of reading signs and omens”3

All pagan societies, ancient and modern, practiced divination.... Various techniques were developed to gain this knowledge. There is no logical limit to the varieties of techniques that might work. These techniques persist because they do work to some extent and the spirits are all too willing to provide their deceptive information....

The practice of astrology arose because planets were anomalies in that they took a different course of movement than the stars. People used to examine the liver or entrails of animals to gain information from the gods. This is mentioned in the Bible: “For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver.” (Ezekiel 21:21)....

Not all forms of divination had to do with reading anomalies. Some forms were means of making direct contact with spirits. Necromancy is one of them. “Necromancy, consulting the spirits of the dead (Lev. 19:31; Isa. 8:19; Isa. 19:3), is a way of obtaining foreknowledge from a supernatural source which was illicit among the Jews . . . but licit amongst all other peoples.”6 What divination is always looking for is secret information whether about the past, present or future.

Divination is often linked with sorcery, enchantments, and other practices. For example: “Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him. So the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah” (1Kings 17:17, 18). ...

Why God Forbids Divination

The Bible forbids divination because it involves lusting for secret knowledge that God has not chosen to reveal. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). This desire for forbidden knowledge has it roots in man’s first sin. Here is what the Serpent said: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5). He tempted Eve with a desire to know what God had not chosen to reveal and thus transgress the boundary between Creator and creature. Eve and then Adam succumbed to this temptation (Genesis 3:6). Divination is an ongoing attempt to gain forbidden knowledge.

There are only two legitimate sources of knowledge available to us: 1) the things revealed by God, 2) that which can be learned through general revelation. What is revealed by God is contained in the Bible. General revelation is limited to what can be learned through the physical senses and rational implications of what is seen in the creation.

What is forbidden is secret information, not available through ordinary means of learning and not revealed by God. Divination involves various techniques to gain this spiritual information. For example, in the case of the child who was brought to the fortune-teller, had there been an inquiry and the results of careful investigation found that the child had a twin brother who died, that would be a legitimate source of information. What influence if any that fact had on the child could only be discerned as far as evidence and rational implications could provide. However, the information from the fortune-teller, though “true” at least in the fact of the death of the twin, is still forbidden because it came through divination.

The fortune-teller illustration shows why divination is forbidden. It works because of the operation of evil spirits. Evil spirits are willing to give out some factual information as long as it serves their purpose of telling a bigger lie. People get sucked into the occult because of the accuracy of the secret information they gain.

I have interviewed people who had participated in séances. In some cases specific information was given about a deceased relative that the necromancer had never known. This information convinces the clients that they are actually contacting their deceased relatives. However, demons have this information and can dispense it to cause people to believe a greater lie. In some cases the lie is that the deceased relative is in a “better place” in spite of the fact that they had never believed the gospel. This perpetrates the lie that all people go to a “better place” and therefore there is no need to repent and believe the gospel. This serves the purpose of the deceiving spirits who make the séance “work.”

What is important to keep in mind about divination is that there is very good reason why people in diverse cultures throughout human history have practiced it: it works! This is what makes it so seductive. To naively claim that it is not real and doesn’t work will never get people to give up divination. What needs to be known is that these methods are forbidden because they do give access to the world of the spirits.... They are deceiving spirits and they have been practicing their deceptions for thousands of years.

Their primary aim is to keep people away from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If they fail to keep people from coming to Christ, their secondary aim is to deceive them into embracing false doctrine, thus distorting their understanding of God’s revealed truth.

Divination is Rebellion

Consider what the prophet Isaiah had to say: “And when they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter," should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:19, 20). The murky world of secret, spiritual knowledge is characterized by unclear “whispering and muttering.” Seeking such secret information is the equivalent of failing to consult God who has revealed His truth objectively in His word. Those who are not satisfied with what God has chosen to reveal go to other spiritual sources. This, as we shall see, is rebellion against God.

What diviners do is forbidden because diviners do not speak for God. Deuteronomy 18 contains a list of forbidden practices:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

What Moses goes on to say shows that these practices were an alternative to listening to God’s chosen spokesmen. “For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:14, 15). ... The “prophet” that God would raise up is Jesus Christ (See Hebrews 1:1, 2; John 5:37-57; and Acts 3:22, 23).

Moses was the one through whom God gave the law. The prophets did not add to the law of God, but exhorted from it and predicted the future. They specifically prophesied of the Messiah, the prophet Moses predicted. According to Hebrews 1:1, 2, Jesus Christ has spoken to us in these last days in full and final revelation. Going beyond what was given in the Old Testament and spoken by Christ and His apostles in the New Testament is rebellion....

In 1 Samuel 15, Saul refused to listen to God. He took spoil when God commanded him not to. This is what the prophet Samuel told Saul: “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king” (1Samuel 15:23).

...Those who willingly and purposely go outside what God has chosen to reveal put themselves under the judgment of reprobation. This means that God allows them to be deceived:

[T]hat is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Like Saul, those deceived by antichrist’s signs are led astray by their own lusts. The diviners and spiritists cater to the desires and lusts of sinners. God sends the deception not directly, because God cannot lie, but indirectly by giving Satan permission to unleash deceiving spirits on his victims.

In the Greek, the passage in Thessalonians says, “that they might believe the lie.” The definite article is important because it points to the lie that Satan told in the Garden, “you shall be like God, knowing . . .” The lie points to forbidden knowledge. In this passage it is in antithetical relationship to “the truth.” In its simplest form, the lie points us to secret knowledge that God has not revealed and the truth points us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who practice divination are departing from the gospel for the sake of learning what God has not chosen to reveal. They end up deluded by the lie!

Divination and False Prophets

...There are three tests of prophets given in Deuteronomy: 1) if they use forbidden methods they are false (Deuteronomy 18:10-12), 2) If they make a prediction that does not come to pass they are false (Deuteronomy 18:22), and 3) If they make a true prediction yet lead the Israelites away from faithfulness to God they are false (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

....Balaam failed two of the tests given in Deuteronomy. He was a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 18 because he used forbidden methods. ... He also failed the test of prophets given in Deuteronomy 13:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

...False prophets are linked with divination in this passage: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14). These prophets were telling the people what they wanted to hear, that the judgment that Jeremiah was predicting would not come to pass (Jeremiah 14:15). They were soon proven false. The point is this: God’s people need to be able to distinguish between prophets and diviners. The criterion for doing so is objective and not subjective. The false prophets were diviners whose source was subjective: “deception of their own minds.”

The True Role of the Prophet

The true prophet in the Old Testament had several important roles. One was to exhort the people to faithfulness to the Law of Moses, which contained the stipulations of the covenant.... Another role was that of predicting the future. The topics of their predictions included the future of Israel and her relationships to the nations, oracles against the nations, and the details of the coming of Messiah, the “Prophet” about whom Moses spoke. Prophets also gave specific prophecies to kings and specific guidance at key times in Israel’s history.

As we have seen, if they did not preach covenant faithfulness they were false, if they did not accurately predict the future they were false, and if they used forbidden techniques they were false. True prophets were not practicers of divination. They were called by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Their source was not special techniques to plumb “the divine” to gain secret information, but God who sovereignly spoke through them. There was no prophetic, secret technique that could be taught to others. Since it was God’s inspiration that gave them their words, their words were true.

God’s Ordained Means

There was big problem with false use of dreams during Jeremiah’s ministry. For example: “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’” (Jeremiah 23:25). The false prophets tried to gain legitimacy through their dreams, though they were departing from God’s revealed will:

“How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another....The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth." (Jeremiah 23:26-28)

...In summary, if a practice is a forbidden form of divination, it is always sinful and is never a “neutral” method. If a practice is allowed or ordained under certain circumstances, it still must be scrutinized. Even God’s ordained means can be abused....

False Claims of Christian Diviners

Divination is any technique for gaining secret or hidden information that is not ordained in Scripture. Its practice is sinful and forbidden. People who do not want to be restricted from using divination techniques offer two arguments: “methods are neutral,” and “God can use anything.”

From the Scriptures we have shown that the first claim is unbiblical. Methods are not neutral. Let me share an example. Most people would agree that the Ouija board is a form of divination and forbidden for Christians. But what if someone devised an Ouija board that was just like a real one, only was covered with Bible verses. Two people could put their hands on the pointing device and allow whatever forces make the board “work” to point to the appropriate verse. This, they would then take as God guiding them. This may seem absurd, but is a logically valid thing if indeed “methods are neutral.” As a matter of fact, those who use the practice of closing their eyes, allowing their Bible to flop open, and sticking their finger into it to find a verse for guidance are using a similar technique....

The claim that, “God can use anything” is misleading. Though technically true, it is misleading in that there is a distinction to be made between what God has the power to use and what God ordains. There is also the fact that God can use something that is against His moral will and still bring judgment. God actually did use the Witch of En-dor, but it was a very bad thing for Saul. God can use evil for good purposes, but it is a very bad thing for the doers of evil who are thus used. [See Evil]

What is truly important is that we determine from the Scriptures what God’s will is and submit to that....


Divination is forbidden not because it does not work, but because it does. It works to put people in touch with spiritual forces and secret knowledge. ... The evil spirits who dispense this information intend to keep people from coming to God through Messiah. They also seek to deceive Christians into thinking that what has been provided through Christ is insufficient. They are very good at what they do.

Fifteen years ago I was hosting a pastor’s meeting, hoping to appeal to pastors to preach and teach the Bible accurately. A pastor came to the meeting who had recently been to see the Kansas City prophets. I asked him what happened there. His reply was that a prophet had been able to correctly identify his ministry though he had no natural source of this information. I asked how he did so. The answer was that the prophet had the man hold up his hand with his fingers spread. The prophet saw colors emanating from the hand that revealed which of the “five-fold” ministries he had. I said to him, “That is aura reading which is from the occult.” He answered, “God can use anything and besides he was right.”

What was so very wrong about that was that the secret information did nothing other than convince the pastor that Christian aura reading was allowed and that he had met a true prophet. The pastor knew he was a pastor before he went to the prophet, he did not need secret knowledge to show what was known by ordinary means. This is the same sort of procedure that many practitioners of divination use to convince their victims that they have legitimate powers. There are dozens of “Christian” versions of divination being practiced in the church today. The next issue will expose several of them.

What we must do is forsake the lust for secret knowledge and put ourselves under God’s ordained means of grace. God will use His ordained means to give us all the healing and help we are going to get in this life. By submitting to the gospel through faith we are assured of the future resurrection unto eternal life.

To see the entire article with the End Notes, please go to Issue 82:

Copyright © 2006 Twin City Fellowship

Other articles by Bob DeWaay: True and False Unity

Faulty Premises of the Church Growth Movement | Redefining the Church

Recovering Reformation Theology | Discernment in an Age of Deception

The Dangers of "Spiritual Formation" | The Emergence of Imaginary Eschatology

 “Church Health Award” from Rick Warren or Jesus Christ? | Theophostics |

Bob DeWaay is the Pastor of Twin City Fellowship, a non-denominational evangelical Church in Minneapolis, MN:  "We are a body of believers who attempt to live our Christian faith according to Acts 2:42 by devoting ourselves to prayer, fellowship, searching the Scriptures, and the Lord’s Supper. Our mission is to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do this through expository preaching, study of the Scriptures, publications, our website and neighborhood outreaches."

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