“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter … For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord.” (Deut.18:10-12)
In an earlier post, I discussed what passing children through fire means. Here, I will be discussing divination. The Webster Dictionary defines divination as an art that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge. This occult practice has been popularized and made more appealing in our era. Diviners are now called psychics. Countless adverts feature psychics claiming to have powers to uncover people’s hidden lives and predict their futures – for a price, of course. And don’t tell me they are not getting a huge patronage.
“I miss the days when I was always being asked to find someone’s lost kitten” says Gina, a psychic. “I have more CEOs now than I’d like.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, up to 70% of Hollywood moguls, executives, producers, directors and celebrities who are facing waxing and waning popularity and career insecurities, consult psychics and mediums for advice.
Here in Africa, consulting fetish priests to find a missing object, expose a culprit behind a crime, find a life partner, know a child’s future or discover the enemy behind a specific problem, enjoys a steady boost even among many professing Christians. The line of reasoning often employed to justify such practices is that they are part of “our cultural heritage.” This confusion can easily be cleared up by presenting the truth about divination.
Divination is like a hydra-headed monster. It takes many forms. There is augury – predicting the future by studying omens, portents or forces of nature like wind, storms or fire. Some predict the future from lines in the hand (palmistry). There is also divination by observing the entrails of animals (haruspication), while some study the movement of arrows (belomancy). Another is numerology – the use of numbers to make a prediction.
Divination is also practiced with the use of divining rod, crystal balls and pendulums. Others observe the planetary bodies, pattern of tea leaves and behaviour of creatures (howling of dogs, flight of birds). Some psychics see and hear directly from the spirit realm, some cast lots or observe water (water witching) to obtain their information.
The use of Tarot cards is a very common practice. This is a deck of cards designed 500 years ago in northern Italy. Each card has an occult symbolic picture on it which when picked at random by a client, is decoded by the expert to supposedly predict a future event.
Another form of divination is oracle consultation. In the Yoruba traditional religion for example, the Ifa oracle is often sought for this. When a client consults an Ifa priest, a round, wooden tray (opon Ifa) carved with figures representing a divination deity named Orunmila, is used as a table. The priest sprinkles a powder (Iyepe Ifa) on the tray and draws series of vertical lines in the powder with a deer horn (irofa), and interprets the future according to the patterns of the vertical lines (odu).
Divination is not a new art. Archaeologists have unearthed some tablets from ancient Babylon that purports to interpret all the peculiarities observed in the heavens and on earth, as well as the incidental and accidental occurrences of everyday life. The Bible makes a reference to Nebuchadnezzar divining with arrows and looking into the liver (Ez. 21:21-22). The Bible in fact, calls Babylon the mother of divination (Isa. 3:1-3). Haman also consulted diviners in his plot against the Jews (Esther 3:7-9).
The Lure of Divination
Why does divination attract so many people? First, the desire for knowledge is one of the strongest cravings of the human nature. Man has been able to satisfy this craving from natural sources and natural means to an extent. But when man is not fully satisfied by natural knowledge, he turns to seeking supernatural knowledge and that is where he begins to flirt with divination and other areas of the occult.
There are only two sources of supernatural knowledge – God and Satan. Every form of supernatural knowledge that doesn’t proceed from God, definitely proceeds from Satan. Knowledge from God is legitimate but knowledge sought from Satan is illegitimate.
Second, divination attracts those who have lost their sense of direction and purpose in life. The questions common to man are: Why am I here? Why did this happen to me and where am I going? When a person has not found satisfying answers to these questions – even in the church – he will dabble in philosophies, religions and alternative spirituality and seek answers through divination.
When a person lacks a moral compass or a sense of direction about life, whatever he latches on to is what he dances with. Everyone needs a sense of direction, and many, unfortunately, are seeking it in the wrong places, not knowing where the road leads. This is called spiritual darkness and the only antidote to that is finding answers in God’s Word which is “a light unto [our] path” (Ps. 119:105).
Third, divination traps those who have no relationship with God. This goes beyond a head knowledge of the Bible or having a degree in theology. A relationship with God means having a history with God, experiencing Him and having a secured confidence in how He works in your life.
When a person has a sound relationship with God, He leads him in the way he should go. And God who is “the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning” does not mislead (Jas. 1:17). Unfortunately, many Christians do not cultivate a close relationship with God, so when a calamity hits them, they start looking for “quick” alternative insights into the spirit realm.
The Bible out rightly condemns divination (Lev. 19:26, 31, Jer. 23:32, Is. 3:1-3, 8:19). When a person seeks supernatural knowledge from any other source other than God, he is in fact, acknowledging Satan as a god besides the true God and is breaking the first of the 10 commandments. This is why the sin of divination is like treason; rejecting God’s rule.
What Lies Behind it?
Contrary to what some people say, divination is not “a gift.” Psychics are either charlatans or demonized folks. If these psychics really know the future, why don’t they play some lottery instead? After all, they would know all the right numbers and win every time. Why are they sitting in a place and asking for your money to tell you your future? Many of them actually “fish” for information from their clients to make their predictions.
In the Bible, when Nebuchadnezzar had a dream from God and called the psychics of his day, they tried to “fish” for some information from him to interpret his dream. They couldn’t do it without a little bit of data, so they quickly sealed the possibility: “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter” (Dan 2:10). But God revealed it all to Daniel.
Some divination methods are also dubious. In numerology, for example, its said that the number of one’s name and date of birth can be used to predict the future. The problem is that, different cultures use different calendars. Take the date June 5, 2014 in the Gregorian calendar as an example. In the Chinese calendar, it’s JiSi 8, 4712. In the Hebrew calendar it’s Sivan 5, 5772. In the Muslim calendar it’s Sha’ban 7, 1435.
This means what a numerologist in China would read for you will be different from what will be read in Israel and Kuwait. Languages also have different name spellings. For example, the letters in the name John has a value of 2 while the same name in Spanish, Juan, has a value of 1. How can numerology predict your future?
In addition, demons are behind divination. The Bible speaks of a demon-possessed girl in Philippi who made money for her owners by predicting the future (Acts 16:16). The passage says: “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us…” The Greek words translated as “spirit of divination” are pneuma Puthonos literally means “spirit of Python.” This lady was actually called a “Pythoness.”
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary (1966, p. 1187), a Pythoness was a priestess of Apollo at Delphi, though its broadly used to refer to any woman soothsayer or prophetess. Historically, the oracle of Delphi, Greece, was the most celebrated citadel of prophecy in the pagan world where kings and rulers sought counsel. A large python image was kept at this oracle temple which according to Greek myths was said to guide the temple. Through the image, the pythoness would invoke the python spirit to possess her and speak the oracles.
When Paul cast the demon out of the girl, she totally lost her ability to tell the future. Note: the information she gave was true (“these men are the servants of the most high God”), but it came from a demon. Psychics can actually give accurate predictions, but they are still from demons. Demons have knowledge of what happens on earth or what has happened in the lives of everyone.
I watched a crime investigation case in which a woman was missing and a psychic was consulted. She described the location where the dead body of the victim was and the police traced her descriptions and found it exactly there. Demons have access to other demons and what they plan to do through the lives of specific people so they can tell a person before it happens.
In Satan’s kingdom, they operate a spiritual database and information retrieval system better than the ones on earth. There they have records of all those who have ever sought their help or had any transaction with the kingdom of Satan. They also have in their archives, atrocities and incidents along generational lines. So a demon can “check up the records” concerning a client and then feed the information to a psychic.
Demons also attempt to manipulate the future through their supernatural powers. For example, if a psychic predicts that a woman will suffer a marriage break up, demons will proceed to manipulate and destroy her marriage. She will start thinking the psychic was right and become hooked on seeking messages from demons.
In his book, They Shall Expel Demons, Derek Prince narrated his experience when he was ministering deliverance to a woman who had been an occult medium. During a break, the woman came to him and said “I see you in a car and it crashed against a tree!” Immediately, he rebuked that demon and nullified that prophecy and it never happened. This is how psychics work. Once they make evil pronouncements disguised as predictions, certain demons are released to ensure that they are fulfilled.
In 2010, during the world cup, many people turned to an octopus psychic they named Paul, which accurately predicted the teams that won. Unfortunately, the octopus didn’t foresee its own death. Some weeks before princess Diana of Wales’ death, she was said to have consulted her personal psychic, but he couldn’t foresee her impending death. The truth is, only God knows the future (Dan. 2:28). There is no human or angelic created being that has the power of omniscience to know all things possible or all things future.
Some people also use the python spirit to give false prophecies in church. There are 3 major ways you can differentiate:
1. Divination is used to generate wealth and fame. When you are being asked to pay some money for a “prophecy,” be rest assured it’s not coming from God. This was what the Moabites sought from prophet Balaam with gifts (Num. 22:7). Most diviners claim to have seen tragic world events after it happens in order to gain fame.
2. Diviners use the client’s hidden secrets, negative experiences or past sins to build their own credibility or enslave a person using fear. They make the person depend on rituals or the diviner rather than on Christ (Acts 8:9-10).
3. Divination follows a fixed set of routine and it is often operated whenever or wherever the diviner wants. I consider it unbiblical for people to queue up before a prophet, to give each of them “words from the Lord.” That is charismatic fortune telling.
The Lord may indeed speak to some of them, but what the people are likely to get are words from the soul (or selfish desire) of the prophet or from a demon of divination. God sovereignly reveals things in His own time and for His purpose (Jer. 23:32). Every specific act of divination one has dabbled in needs to be confessed to God and renounced.