The story of Balaam has always intrigued me. He was an evil man who actually spoke with God. I almost envied him. It seemed that God would listen to Balaam and audibly reply to his prayers. I was impressed, but I was not impressed with his end. I learned to fear God in prayer through the example of Balaam. It seems as though God dealt mercifully with men who prayed to him even though they didn’t belong to the assembly of Israel! For example, Moses’ father-in-law was a priest of Midian (Exodus 3:1), and Melchizedek, if he was not an Old Testament manifestation of the One who became Jesus, is another priest who had close contact with God. Balaam, however, was different from these. Peter spoke of his madness (2Peter 2:16). The Scribes and Pharisees were gripped with madness when they opposed Jesus (Luke 6:7, 11). God says that, if we do not delight in his word and desire to obey him, he will deliver us over to something that produces madness in our behavior (Deuteronomy 28:15, 28). What this madness is has been referred to as demonic possession (John 10:20). People who seem too spiritual are often thought to be mad (Acts 26:24-25). King Solomon said that a bribe causes a wise man to become mad (Ecclesiastes 7:7). This is what drove Balaam to oppose God (Jude 1:11). Paul says that he was driven by madness when he persecuted Christians (Acts 26:11).
Something grips our wills, and it is almost like we have no power to do otherwise. We become filled with a kind of madness and must continue in the thing we do without consideration to the consequences. It is like an addiction. We feel it sometimes when we buy a car or a new home. Once we begin to buy in large amounts, it is difficult to stop. Next, we need new furniture for the new home or a new stereo for the new car etc. It is easier to continue in the matter. We are gripped by a force that is difficult to control. We are driven! Is this demon possession? No, of course not, at least not in the traditional sense of our understanding, but it is a power of the flesh. It is something that we cannot see, hear, taste, smell or touch, but we know when it has gripped our lives. It is spiritual, and if not controlled by the Spirit of God, it becomes spiritual wickedness.
The Witch of Endor
When King Saul found that God would no longer be inquired of by him (1Samuel 28:6), he sent men to find a woman with a familiar spirit (1Samuel 28:7-25). Unfortunately, the Bible does not explain what a familiar spirit is. In the account this spirit seems to have a life of its own, but the word of God doesn’t really come out and say that it does.
Notice that the author of 1Samuel says that Saul came to Endor by night and asked the woman to divine for him using a familiar spirit and bring up Samuel from the dead (vv. 8, 11). No one but the woman saw or heard anything. Saul and his men knew only what this woman said she saw and heard. Scripture records what she said to the men, but it does not confirm her testimony. Nevertheless, she prophesied that Saul would die, and her words proved true.
Her gift led the men away from God, not to him. Her gift exalted herself, but not the Lord. She paraded herself and her testimony before the men, and they were so much in awe that Saul at first refused to eat. Only after she and the men coaxed him did he respond and eat something. Saul believed her, but he had trouble believing and obeying the Lord.
Was this woman possessed by a familiar spirit? All we have is her testimony recorded in the Bible. Saul believed her, but I do not. I am inclined to believe what I perceive the Holy Spirit leading me to believe. That is, she was operating in the corrupt spiritual gifts of Adam. She was a spiritually inclined person, such as I am; but she did not draw near to the God of Israel, but chose to exploit her spirituality in trade. She ran greedily after the reward of unrighteousness (cp. Jude 1:11).
Thus far, I have not found anything written in the Bible that would deny the proposition that so-called evil spirits or demons have no real life of their own. Instead they are spiritual gifts corrupted through the rebellion of Adam. They are powerful and seem to grip the lives of those who try to exploit them. They are like a drug. It may be fun indulging in them at first, but before long they acquire such a strong grip on the lives of those who indulge in them that these folks are no longer in control at all. They have lost control over the gift, and it now controls them—like it did Balaam and the witch of Endor.