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Does God Really Send Evil Spirits?

Posted on August 10, 2011
Does God Really Send Evil Spirits?

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Q. In 1 Samuel 16:14, the Bible talks about an evil spirit that came from the Lord. What does that mean?


A. Notice first that because Saul was no longer listening to the Lord (1 Samuel 15:26), God directed the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king in place of Saul. The Bible says that when Samuel poured the horn of holy oil on the young shepherd, “the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13). Then in verse 14 it says that the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, “and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”

Set aside the phrase “from the Lord” for a second and focus instead on the part of the verse that says, “The spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.” That would be the Holy Spirit, right? The Holy Spirit came upon David and left Saul. When God’s Spirit goes out of a person, the devil’s spirit goes in. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 that “He that is not with me is against me.” Nobody is neutral. Everyone has varying degrees of either God’s Spirit or the spirit of the enemy. To the same extent that we empty ourselves of self, God can fill us with His Spirit.

When the Bible says that “a spirit from the Lord” troubled Saul, it doesn’t mean that God said, “I’ve got a devil I’m going to give to you.” As evidence, look at the story of Job. When the devil came to the Lord and wanted to plague Job, he couldn’t do anything until after God had withdrawn His protection from him. After God withdrew his protection from Job, He said, “He is in thine hand; but save his life,” (Job 2:6). The next verse in the New King James Version goes on to say, “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lor d, and struck Job with painful boils.”

When the Bible says that an evil spirit came from the Lord, it means that God withdrew His protection from Saul after Saul rejected Him. When God withdrew His protection from Saul, these devils were allowed to bring a depression upon him. The Bible says that “God … will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV).

This really means that although God will allow you to be tempted, He’s not doing the tempting. James 1:13 (NKJV) says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” God allows temptation to come in order to strengthen our characters, but He doesn’t send it.

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