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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2006-05-14

Text: Deuteronomy 18:9-14

Every day, millions of people begin the day by turning to the horoscope page of the newspaper or magazine. Although many would take it only as a form of fascinating entertainment, there are also many who take their horoscope very seriously and think that it really predicts their immediate future and that it tells them about their personality. 

People who are captivated by its supposed accuracy may hire the services of an astrologer, who will use their birthdate and other details to churn out astrological charts for them for a fee. In our part of the world, there are feng shui experts who churn out horoscopes based on the Chinese zodiac of 12 twelve animals. Astrology is apparently a very lucrative business here in Singapore. Some use it to search for a good match for marriage, or when moving to a new home or when changing jobs. Others use it to make all their business decisions. The Federation of Astrologers in Singapore is presently conducting a series of talks on 'How to Make Money in the US Stock Market with astrology.' Recently there was a newspaper report that a group of astrologers in Myanmar are now trying to use astrology to predict the weather and natural disasters.

Many people are attracted to astrology and other forms of divination because they seem to work, and because they give them a sense of personal control over their lives; however, not all things that appear to work are necessarily true and right. Many things in the occult and mystical world seem to work. The standard for Christians in adopting any spiritually-based practice is not whether it works but whether God approves of it. We are admonished to 'believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.' (1 John 4:1a).

Dearly beloved, if you have an interest in horoscopes or if you have been dabbling in astrology or any other kind of divination, please understand that they are not of God at all. In fact, the Lord wants you to know that these practices are sinful and they are an abomination to Him! Therefore you ought to stay clear of them. This is what we will see now, as we read our Scripture text: Deuteronomy 18:9-14 (read). Here we observe that when Israel was about to enter the Promised land, God gave them a very strong warning against learning and adopting certain practices of the Canaanites. This included the use of divination, and the 'observing of times.' In Latin, Oberserving of times is translated 'horoscopes' from which we get the term 'horoscope.' However in this context the term, 'observing of times' refers generally to the practice of fortune-telling. 

In those days (1400 BC), fortune-telling was done by observing the flight of birds, or by examining the entrails of a sacrificed animal. About 1000 years later, the Babylonians developed a system of fortune-telling using the movements of the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. They developed instruments to observe the positions of the heavenly bodies and also to measure time and speed accurately. The Babylonians were the world's first astronomers to calculate the length of the year at 365 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes, and 41 seconds. Our 24-hour system of measuring time with 60 minutes per hour and 60 seconds per minute originated from the Babylonians. They also produced the world's first constellation maps and were able to accurately predict where the heavenly bodies would be at any specified time. 

Now this study of the stars itself is not wrong in itself. The psalmist said that 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.' (Psalm 19:1) Astronomy is a legitimate science that Christians should be encouraged to study as it reveals the glorious wonders of God's created universe and makes us exclaim, 'O God, How great Thou art!' It is only when the knowledge of the stars is misused or misapplied that it became sinful.

And unfortunately, that was what the Babylonians did -they applied their superb scientific knowledge in a most sinful way when they turned it into a new sophisticated method of fortune-telling called astrology! Astrology is based on the utterly false belief that events on Earth are represented by the positions and movements of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, and that the patterns of these heavenly bodies at the exact moment of a person's birth and their subsequent movements reflect that person's character and, therefore, destiny. The patterns are interpreted so as to understand, plan, or predict events on Earth. When Babylonian astrology found its way to Greece, it became popular there, and by the 1st century BC Greek astrologers had developed the horoscope of 12 zodiacal signs, 12 houses, 7 planets, and 5 major aspects that is the basis of modern horoscope interpretation. 

Now, just as God expressed His hatred against the Canaanite forms of fortune telling in Deuteronomy 18, He also expressed His utter displeasure against astrology. We see this in Isaiah 47:13-14 where God pronounced fiery judgment on the astrologers of Babylon 'Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.' 

God's view against astrology can also be seen in the 2nd chapter of Daniel, where King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon called the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to reveal to him a strange dream that he had, as well as its meaning (Daniel 2:2). But with all their superb astrological knowledge and skills they were unable to perform what the king required, and were therefore sentenced to death (2:12). In the end, it was God's prophet, Daniel, who saved the day by revealing the dream and its interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar, according to what God had shown to him. The outcome was that the king acknowledged that God alone is able to reveal all secrets and mysteries which are beyond man's knowledge (Daniel 2:47).

Now, there are some who have tried to claim that the Bible supports astrology. One verse that is often cited is Job 38:31 'Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?' (The Pleiades and Orion are constellations that can be seen in the night sky) But the 'sweet influences' mentioned here has nothing to do with influencing events on earth. It is translated from the Hebrew word ma'adannah, which refers to the fact that the Pleiades is a huge chain of about 500 stars, and interestingly, high powered telescopes reveal that they are bound together by a delicate stream of nebulous matter! 

It is also claimed by some that the wise men from the east who came to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:2) were Babylonians who had used their astrology to predict the birth of Christ. The truth of the matter is that these wise men did not need astrology to know that the new star heralded the birth of the King of Jews, because the Old Testament Scriptures to which they had access since the time of the Jewish captivity in Babylon already revealed both the sign of the star as well as the time when the Messiah of Israel was to be born (cf. Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 9:6 and Daniel 9:25). The wise men had evidently studied the Old Testament prophecies well. 

Now that we have learned that the Bible speaks unequivocally against astrology and other forms of divination, we will seek to determine the reasons behind this. Why are these practices so offensive to God? The first reason is that:

A. They Diminish the Glory of God

Isaiah 42:8 'I am the LORD: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.' One of the great attributes of God in which He is glorified is His omniscience. He alone knows all things. In contrast to God, all of us have limited knowledge. We know what has happened in the past and we know what is happening right now. But the future remains unknown to us. We do not know what lies ahead. It is all uncertain. How we wish, sometimes, that we could somehow be certain what the future holds in store for us. Then we will be able to take pre-emptive steps for whatever contingencies we may have to face in the future and ensure our good success.

Those who engage in business would always like to know what the market will be like and look out for any reliable forecasts of the economy. Those who are involved in trading and investing would love to know if certain currencies and interest rates will rise or fall. Students going for exams will try their best to spot questions that they hope will appear in their paper so that they can do well. Now, it is this desire to know the unknown future that causes people to go and consult fortune-tellers and mediums, or to consult their horoscopes daily in the newspaper. 

But by doing this, they are actually insulting God; they are diminishing the glory that He deserves from them, since they attribute to these things a prerogative that belongs solely to God alone. The omniscient God is the only One they should consult, and not any of these other alleged sources. In 2 Kings 1, when the ungodly king Ahaziah fell sick and sent messengers to Ekron to inquire of the idol there whether he would recover from his illness or not, God sent His prophet Elijah to intercept those messengers with this word: 'Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?' (2 Kings 1:3) Ahaziah should have enquired of the God of Israel instead of the god of Ekron. Because he failed to do this, God's judgment came upon him and he died shortly after that.

Dearly beloved, let us understand well that it is God's prerogative alone to disclose any knowledge about the future or secrets of the spiritual realm. Let us understand that this prerogative is treacherously usurped by astrology and by all other forms of divination. Therefore we ought to have nothing to do with them -not even for amusement, or just out of plain curiosity. We should not even talk about what zodiac sign we are born under or ask one another, 'What is your sign?' as this only encourages people to believe in astrology (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:9). But there is another good reason why we should have absolutely nothing to do with these things:

B. They Divert Our Trust away from God

In Psalm 56:3-4, we see David trusting God in times of great fear and uncertainty. He says, 'What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.' As much as we would all like to know what will happen to us, God wants us to be content to simply trust Him for whatever happens to us. And though, as I said a while ago, it is God's prerogative alone to disclose all knowledge about the future to us, it is also His prerogative to withhold such knowledge from us when He sees it fit to do so. 

Now, it is not that God does not want us to know about the future. He does. That is why God has revealed to us such great future events in the Bible as the signs of the end times, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the saints, and the judgment of the wicked. These future events which are foretold in the Scriptures are all that is absolutely necessary for us to know at present, in order that we may live as we ought. As for the rest of the details of our unknown future, we must simply be content to know that God knows it, and that He will order all things well for us. For the Christian, the right way to deal with any anxiety or concern about one's future is to pray. Prayer not only enables us to express our trust in God for the future, but it also brings God's help to prepare us to face the future.

But if we refuse to deal with our uncertainties about the future in this prescribed manner, and we choose to seek for knowledge through astrology, then we are trusting in astrology and not in God. The practice of astrology or any other kind of divination shows our lack of faith in God. Astrology is absolutely incompatible with the Christian faith because it becomes a rival object of faith in God. Christians who profess belief in God, but who still dabble in any form of divination imply that they are unable to exercise faith in God. That is a most serious matter, as it may also imply that their profession of faith in God is a false one, and that they are actually unsaved.

Dear friends, if you are in the habit of consulting your horoscope, then you are not living for God but for self. You are seeking to be your own master rather than giving God the rightful place as the Master of your life. At its very core, astrology and divination seek after the control of one's destiny for selfish benefits. It is motivated by self-centeredness and greed, and not by faith, hope, and love. 

You need to turn away from this, and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who has absolute control over all the planets, the sun and moon and all the stars in the Universe. Why do you want to seek after the inferior and unworthy help from your horoscope, when you have the One who is in full control over all the heavenly bodies? The Lord, and no one else is the one whom you should 'fear' and trust.

Dearly beloved, I hope that you can see by now, two good reasons for the strong warning that is given by God against the practice of astrology and all forms of divination. Now we come to the third and most fearful reason of all:

C. They Deliver Souls into Bondage

People who practice any form of divination, such as consulting horoscopes will find themselves caught up with it. It will begin to dominate their thoughts both consciously and subconsciously. Instead of offering peace and happiness, it makes them more insecure and fearful as they develop a phobia for things that are contrary to their horoscopes. In the end, it runs their lives instead.

A Christian friend of mine testified how out of curiosity he began to read the horoscope page of the newspaper. Soon after that he became so bound by astrology that he could not let a day begin without first consulting his horoscope. Soon his life was ruled by what he read in the horoscope and he believed it. Thankfully, the Lord convicted him about this, and with God's help he was able to put it away and since then he has been warning people against coming under the bondage of astrology. 

Because of this bondage, it is not surprising that the Devil would want to take full advantage of it! To keep people reading their horoscopes, he will offer nice incentives: He will make it seem to produce the desired results, so that they will believe that it really works. The reason why astrology often seems to work and the predictions that are made by the astrologer seem to come true, is that Satan is fully behind it. 

I read about the case of a minister who paid an expensive fee to an astrologer to have a horoscope cast for himself, with the purpose of trying to prove it wrong and that astrology is nothing but ignorance and superstition. So he waited confidently. But he was astonished to find the predictions coming true, even to the smallest details! As the years went by he was uneasy because the horoscope was always correct, and he could not find a rational explanation for this. Finally he concluded that he had sinned against God by carrying out this experiment. He immediately repented and renounced all connections with astrology. To his surprise he found that the horoscope was no longer correct from that moment onward!

Do you know that many people have been lured into the world of the occult through reading their horoscopes? Astrology has been one of Satan's strategic recruitment centres, to draw people into witchcraft and devil-worship. It gives them the illusion of being in control of their lives, and of having special knowledge that gives them special power to fulfill all their desires! 

Now that you know all this, please be sure to stay clear of astrology and horoscope reading. The Scriptures command us in Ephesians 4:27 not to 'give place unto the Devil.' We are also told in 2 Corinthians 2:11 not to be 'ignorant of his devices.' Once you allow some sinful habit or persistent disobedience into your life, you can be sure that the Devil will use it to the fullest to make you fall spiritually. Astrology is only one of his many devices. He has many others. 

Some children start getting into the occult world by playing with an ouija board. This is a board with letters and numbers on it and a pointer by which answers to questions are spelt out when all players put a finger on it. It is not just a game for amusement. It is actually spiritism in disguise!

Please have nothing to do with feng shui, as it is another device used by the Devil. Recently I came across a well-researched dissertation for a doctor of ministry degree written by on the subject of feng shui. Listen to the writer's conclusion on it: 'Feng shui, for whatever original scientific or aesthetic reasons in which it might have been birthed, has come down with many religious and occult trappings. When Christians dabble in feng shui, they may unconsciously be dabbling in the occult, in sorcery, divination and astrology, all of which are prohibited in the Bible. Feng shui practice could, therefore, allow the entrance of demonic influences and activities. Feng shui could also slowly strangle a Christian's vitality and gradually make one increasingly compromised.' (Yeow Beng Mah, Critical Contextualisation of Chinese Folk Belief and Practices: Feng Shui as a Case Study, Asbury Theological Seminary: 2004)

I don't think that most of us here overtly practice feng shui. However, some of us may have unconsciously bought into the feng shui mentality of going after auspicious numbers and dates, (e.g. for car number plates and house addresses) thinking that this may bring some blessing to our home or business. Dear friends, choosing certain numbers just because they are regarded as auspicious is utterly displeasing to God, and we should not do it at all. Remember this: All blessings come only from God, not from any special arrangement of numbers.

The New Age movement is another gateway into the occult. At one church camp I met a young Christian man who was an avid reader of New Age books. In fact he brought one of these books along to the camp and showed it to me to ask my opinion of them. I had a long talk with him to convince him that all these New Age concepts are a clever deceptive ploy of Satan, using the same enticing bait to victimise people - the claim that 'ye shall be as gods' (Genesis 3:5). I advised him not to go any further into New Age books or thinking, but to spend time in God's Word. I thank God that he took my advice, and stopped.

And one of the most subtle ways of introducing the world of the occult to young minds is through the popular Harry Potter series of books and movies. The Evangelical Times, a Christian newspaper in the UK reported that about 100-200 teenagers a month enquire about witch covens, with a desire to join them! Satan has succeeded in commercializing the occult world by making it so appealing and attractive to young minds.

If any of you here are already 'under the spell' of any of these things - astrology or feng shui, tarot cards, palmistry, Harry Potter mania, witchcraft, or New Age ideas - God's will is for you is to renounce all these things before Him right now. According to Acts 19, when the people of Ephesus were converted under Paul's ministry, they brought all their occult books and equipment to be burned up. And you must do that as well, or else you can never successfully resist the Devil. 

Dearly beloved, I am saying all these things not to make us fearful of the Devil or paranoid about whether there is some occultic element in the things we do, but only to plead for us all to be obedient to God's commands not to be involved in things or practices which He has expressedly forbidden in the Scriptures: Things that will diminish His glory, that will divert our trust away from Him, and that will deliver us into bondage and give place unto the Devil. May the Lord help us to obey His Word.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25