An Evil Spirit from the Lord
1 Samuel 16:14
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.…

All great painters and poets whose works are of the first order have availed themselves of the force of contrast — that there should be a dark background to set forth some beautiful and radiant object. The Bible excels in its use of this striking method of laying emphasis.

I. THE DAWN OF A FAIR PROMISE. "Samuel cried unto the Lord" for Saul, if haply he might arrest the terrible and imminent consequences of his sin. But he was made aware that prayer would not avail. It seemed as though Saul had already made the fatal choice, and had committed the sin which is unto death, and concerning which we have no encouragement to pray. The summons of the hour was, therefore, not to prayer, but to action. The Spirit of God bade Samuel go to Bethlehem, and among the sons of Jesse discover and anoint the new king.

II. AN OVERCAST AFTERNOON. We have morning with David; afternoon with Saul. Here youth; there manhood, which has passed into prime. Here the promise; and there the overcast meridian of a wrecked life. You will notice that, whereas it is said that the Spirit of God descended upon David, we are told that "The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul." That does not necessarily mean that all the religious life of Saul had become extinct, but that the special faculty and power by which he had been prepared for his kingly work was withdrawn from him. It is abundantly sure that the work which a man does in this world is not wrought only by the force of his genius, the brilliance of his intellect, or by those natural gifts with which God may have endowed him, but by a something beyond and behind all these — a spiritual endowment which is communicated by the Spirit of God for special office, and which is retained so long as the character is maintained. So Saul lost the special enducement of power which had enabled him to subdue his enemies and to order his kingdom. Secondly, we have the mysterious power of opening our nature to the Holy Spirit of God, who is the medium of communicating all the virtue, the energy, and the life of God; filling spirit, soul, and body; quickening the mind, warming the heart, elevating and purifying the whole moral life. We have also the awful alternative power of yielding ourselves to the evil spirits, or demon spirits, of which the spiritual sphere is full. It is affirmed that "an evil spirit from the Lord" troubled Saul. To interpret this aright we must remember that, in the strong, terse Hebrew speech, the Almighty is sometimes said to do what He permits to be done. And surely such is the interpretation here. When, therefore, we read that an evil spirit "from the Lord" troubled Saul, we must believe that, as Saul bad refused the good and gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, and definitely chosen the path of disobedience, there was nothing for it but to leave him to the working of his own evil heart.

III. THE LURID GLEAMS OF AN OVERCAST SKY. In 2 Samuel 21:2, you have this: "The king" — that is, David — "called the Gibeonites — (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Ammorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah)." Saul was smarting under Samuel's words, writhing under the sentence of deposition, and his soul was stirred to neutralise, if possible, the Divine verdict, so as to still keep the favour of God. It was true, and Saul knew it well, that he had failed in one distinct call to obedience; he had kept the choice of the spoil for himself — but why should he not, by excessive zeal in other directions, win back his lost inheritance? Now there were two such commandments which seem to have occurred to him. The one enacted that when the children of Israel entered the Land of Promise they should destroy all the people of the land. The Gibeonites, however, succeeded in securing that they should be excepted, because they had made a covenant with Joshua, and Joshua had sworn to them (Joshua 9). The Gibeonites, therefore, had lived amongst the children of Israel for many centuries, and had become almost an integral part of the nation. But in his false zeal for God Saul seems to have laid ruthless hands upon these peaceable people. Secondly, there was on the statute book a very drastic law against necromancers and witches, and it was commanded that these should be exterminated from the land (Exodus 22:18). Therefore, Saul turned his hand against them. In his heath he still believed in them. In order to show his zeal for God, and to extort the reversal of his sentence, he began to exterminate them. But as his edicts went forth, there was rottenness in his heart. While on the one hand, therefore, there was this outburst of lurid zeal for God, his own heart was becoming more and more enervated and evil. Do not we know this in our own experience? When one has fallen under the condemnation of conscience, the heart has endeavoured to whisper comfort to itself by saying, "I will endeavour to redeem my cause by an extravagance of zeal." We have plunged into some compensating work to neutralise the result of failure. It is zeal, but it, is false, it is zeal, but it is strange fire; it is zeal, but it is self-originated; it is zeal, but it is only for self and not for God; it, is zeal, but it is zeal for the letter, for the tradition, for the external form — it is not the zeal of the man who is eaten up and devoured by a passionate love for the Son of God. and for the souls He has made.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

WEB: Now the Spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him.

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