1 Samuel 16:14
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
Saul was rejected from being king, and the Spirit of God taken from him, and at the same time an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him, terrified or seized him suddenly. How startling this is! But, observe, it is not an evil spirit of the Lord. Evil spirits are not of God. Their evil is opposed to His will. He is wholly and unchangeably opposed to evil. No man can say when he is tempted of evil — I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth He any man. But when a man chooses and cleaves to sin, clings to his own way, and persists in rebellion against God, he opens his mind to evil spirits and evil influences of all sorts. Even the natural world radiates influences which to a being like man are not ell good, are sometimes even directly evil. The cunning, deceit, treachery and cruelty of some animals has a malign influence, The influences of nature, bland and stern, present subtle and powerful temptations. Over against the influences for evil, often inextricably intertwined with them, are the influences for good. Men feel that the drift and tendency of things is toward goodness, that the constitution of things favours righteousness. And over all things and every heart the Spirit of God broods, seeking to bring order out of chaos and life out of death. To moral beings belongs the prerogative of resisting and repelling influences, or welcoming and absorbing them. But how was this evil spirit from the Lord? It was permitted by God as a punishment. But this is not all; the terror, pain and strife raised by the evil spirit were meant by God as a force to constrain Saul to turn and cry to God for help. Saul was delivered up to this evil spirit that he alight know that it was an evil and bitter thing to depart from God. Had the rebellious Saul, sick, laden and tortured by evil, cried to God, he would have been heard, and would have become a better man than he ever was, a new man. Though he might not have been a king, he would have been a true child of God, a spiritual king and priest.
I. MEN MUST EITHER HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD, OR AN EVIL SPIRIT. God loves to dwell in the human heart. That is His chosen temple. The sky is vast. Its canopy is thick with worlds. But God does not choose that temple. Man rears lofty piles, and spends labour and art on them, lavishes beauty and splendour which are precious as evidences of love and reverence: but God's chosen temple is not there. His temple is in the lowly heart, in the bosom of the meanest of the sons of men who cries out for the living God. That temple may be stained and defiled, haunted with unclean things; but if there is penitence and faith in God's Son, God will come in and Himself cleanse the house. God abides in the soul, fills it and gladdens it. But if man will not have God, he cannot shut the door of his heart against other visitors. It is the nature of a spirit to come into contact with spirit, as it is the nature of the body to come into contact with matter, and either attract or repel it. Spirit cannot isolate itself from spirit, any more than matter can from matter. But the spirit can decide whether it will ally itself with the good or the evil. Whosoever receives the Infinite Spirit into his soul takes the one way of shutting out evil of every kind. Exclusion of God is not emptiness, it is most positive, active, and decided evil. Men that will not have God are really claiming kindred with evil spirits, and opening their heart to be inhabited by them. Man is like a house situated between two winds. On the one side comes the wind from a dreary, bleak desert, laden with fog and disease, blowing across foul and rotten things. The other side of the house fronts the sunlight and winds that blow from the wide, fresh sea and over gardens, orchards, and blooming fields. Everyone must decide on which side he is going to open. Both doors cannot be shut. You can only get the dismal, fatal door shut by opening wide the door that looks to the sea of eternity and the sunshine of God. The wind blowing in through this open door keeps that door of ruin about.
II. THE STRESS OF INWARD TEMPTATION AND TROUBLE IS OFTEN PECULIARLY FITTED AND EVIDENTLY INTENDED TO DRIVE MEN TO GOD. Of temptations and troubles which have this adaptation in a marked degree may be mentioned first —
1. Melancholy. Saul's was a very conspicuous and overmastering melancholy. Melancholy is essentially the feeling of loneliness, the sense of isolation, of having a great burden of existence to bear. It is the soul's fear and shrinking and chill in the vast solitude of its house. It has driven many souls to God. Such haunted souls can scarcely escape an earnest look at life. They are continually incited to seek a medicine for their malady. They cannot rest in a formal, superficial religion, but must get into the very secret of God. So the melancholy man may become the most joyous of religious men.
2. A feeling of the vanity of existence is another great temptation and trouble. This is not melancholy; for men who have this feeling may be merry enough. To be followed, as many are, by the thought that life is a poor game at best, without substance, not worth the trouble that men take with it — this must take earnestness out of life, and make men mockers. It is a sore disease thus to live on the very surface of things, and feel as if one were only playing a part. Many are infected with the tendency. What does this feeling of emptiness and vanity point to? What is the voice that comes from it but this — Escape to the one substance and reality which alone gives substance and reality to life.
3. The mystery of life weighs on others. The sense of weakness and ignorance in the midst of a vast system of forces; the feeling of chaos that rules in the moral world and human life; the black tragedy of so many lives; the calamities, wars, inconceivable woes of millions; the disappointment, chagrin, disease, crime, and ruin everywhere — these press on some minds at times with immense weight. That is what Wordsworth calls. "the weight and mystery of all this unintelligible world." There are men to whom these questions are inevitable, rushing upon them like beasts of prey, or stretching like thunderclouds between them and the sun. Where is relief from such thoughts to be found? Where but in the belief in infinite goodness and wisdom lying behind all, can any thinking soul find rest?
4. The gloom and desolation of doubt and unbelief constrain and impel men to turn to God. It sometimes happens that men who have long hovered round religion, making it an object of curiosity and speculation and debate, rather than matter of heart and life, fall gradually away from all belief. Even those who have never speculated, but only maintained a careless attitude towards religion, drift in this direction. But here a state of feeling arises which they had not dreamt of. Though they never had any earnestness in religion, yet the kind of belief they had gave them comfort and threw a certain meaning into life. Now they feel lonely without a Father in Heaven. The whole aspect of things has grown bare. They are no longer sure of right. The cord that tied things together has been taken away. Then comes the period of decay when all types lessen and lower down to the original blank. And certainly, if the fortunes of the human race are bound up with the history of the sun, nothing else can he looked for. Since all suns and worlds are like flowers that blossom and then wither, the doom of beings dependent on them cannot be different if there is no God and Father, there is no escape from this conclusion. If there is no eternal home, where He gathers souls beyond the reach of evanescent systems, this is the prospect. There is no other outlook, if we cannot turn to Him and say, "Doubtless thou art our Father: Thy name is from everlasting." See you not how men are being taught by this loneliness and utter desolation what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from God? Do you not see how the feeling of orphanhood, uncertainty, barrenness, coldness, and hopelessness are constraining the heart to cry out for the living God.
5. Fierce temptations to evil drive many souls to God.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.