1 Samuel 16:14
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
We see, especially in the history of Saul, the awful progress of the soul, from the gradual changes that take place in him, while in his successive trials evil prevails over the Spirit of grace and opportunities of good. There is also a sort of natural goodness about him that rivets our interest; so that from the very feeling of a common nature we are partly inclined to forget his crimes in his miseries. Scripture always speaks to us in history and life what it enjoins us in word and precept: our Lord says, "Hold fast, that no man take thy crown," and here before our eyes we see the choice and the crown transferred from one to another, and we see the reasons why — and the effect. Let us not put away from us this account of Saul as belonging to another state of things, for whatever it may speak to kings and nations, it is full of a home lesson for the heart of each. For may not each of us in the home of his own heart have an evil spirit that troubleth him? It may be so with many in various degrees who think not of it. The cares which most suffer are from this source. What is envy, covetousness, impatience, the plague of the heart, but this, that a man has in some degree, perhaps in years long past, sinned in this way; and so, not having repented, given place to an evil spirit that troubles and keeps him from God? This may be the case, and yet for awhile he may have much comfort in religion, as Saul had in the harp of David; Church music may in like manner soothe him and raise him up as it were to Heaven; or it may be impressive sermons; or even the study of God's holy Word; so much so that under the influence of these the evil spirit may depart, and he may be refreshed, nay, more, he may find rest in Christ. But this is not enough, unless he press forward earnestly, and give no place to such an inmate in his breast any more. Scripture reveals to us that there is in such cases a spiritual being, a living person, who takes possession of the mind. And I would particularly call attention to the expression of the text, "an evil spirit from the Lord." Now, although this is an awful expression, yet it is also full of instruction and comfort, as everything must be which reminds us that we are in the hands of God; as we noticed in the history of Pharaoh. When we trace in our very disquietudes and sorrows the indications of an evil spirit that troubles us, this teaches us where our health is. That this evil spirit is from God is no proof that we are given up of Him. For, indeed, even David himself when he numbered the people had an evil spirit from God, allowed to bring upon him that temptation and its consequent misery. He can touch no one but as permitted of God; and that permission may be for various reasons: he was allowed to tempt Job for his greater perfection; through the false prophets he deluded Ahab to bring upon him God's judgment; he troubled Saul with gloom and pride on his departing from God; he tempted Judas that he might go to his own place; he prompted David to sin from which he speedily recovered by repentance. In like manner he is allowed to tempt us; and it is indeed sometimes, as in the case of Saul and of David, a judgment upon us for some fault on our part, or some secret unbelief or pride of heart, but we are thus by this expression of the text taught to go to God for help. We cannot be too often urged in every way to do this. When you find in yourself any ill-will, any worldly disappointment or envious sadness, go to Him at once in earnest prayer, entreating Him to remove from you the power and guilt of that sin which has allowed the evil spirit to disquiet you. When you have thus done all in your power, then again the lesson of Saul and David will come in for your guidance, warning you not to take things into your own hands from impatience and distrust of God, but to wait patiently upon Him. He will have the remedy and deliverance to be entirely His own doing. He only wants your faith and confidence in Himself. And His word is "Be still then, and know that I am God."
(Isaac Williams, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.