In the eighteenth year of Saul’s reign, when David was just a boy of about eight, God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and anoint one of his sons to be the next king. There the prophet found David and anointed him. 1 Sam. 16:13-16,
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. 16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man who is a cunning player on an harp; and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.
Here is found the first mention of the evil spirit from God coming upon Saul. This was not merely the opinion of Saul’s servants. Verse 14 makes it clear that this really was true. More than that, one would think that if Saul recognized this was an evil spirit from God, surely he would pray for its removal. Surely he would repent. Surely he would want to know why this had come upon him. But Saul’s priority was not to know the will of God; his priority was to rule Israel, corral as many servants as he could, and take of their wealth as taxes (tithes), even as God had said at the beginning (8:11-18).
This is the Denominational Spirit even today. It is a poor substitute for the Holy Spirit. Yet in all of this, God was merely giving Saul the flesh that he desired. The problem was that Saul could not distinguish the Holy Spirit from “the evil spirit from God.” Both were from God, but they were based upon different foundations. The Holy Spirit’s job is to lead us into all Truth; the job of the evil spirit from God is to give us the flesh that we desire. Or, to put it in Ezekiel’s terms, the evil spirit will give the people and the prophets the word that suits the idol of their heart. As Micaiah would say, it was a “lying spirit” sent by God as a judgment against the people that would cause them to fall.
It is no coincidence that in the story of King Saul, the evil spirit from God is mentioned just seven times (1 Sam. 16:14, 15, 16, 23 [twice]; 18:10; 19:9). I believe this has reference to the seven Churches of Revelation, which are prophetic of the seven Church ages within the era of Pentecost. In each of the Seven Churches and the Seven Church Ages, the Church has had to contend with this evil spirit from God. This evil spirit created a demand for music to keep Saul from going totally insane. Is it just a coincidence that the Church today has perfected music, and that God has sent into its midst many great artists? David loved music; but Saul needed it. Is this what is happening again?
The evil spirit from God caused Saul to take up a javelin and throw it at David. The Holy Spirit does not act so, but the evil spirit from God does. One can almost hear Saul justifying his actions on the grounds that David was trying to overthrow him in direct defiance of Samuel who had anointed Saul to be king. The more David tried to be a good servant, the more Saul became fearful and jealous of him. So it is today. Nothing has changed.
In 1 Sam. 18:10 we find the most astounding and profoundly prophetic statement in the entire story—and perhaps in the entire Bible.
10 And it came to pass on the morrow that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house . . .
Here we find Saul prophesying under the power of this evil spirit from God. Under this influence, he cast a javelin at David. It is doubtful if Saul could ever discern the difference between the Holy Spirit and the evil spirit from God. In the Church of the twentieth century and perhaps for the past 2000 years, many spiritual gifts have been manifested. But perhaps the most crucial one has been lacking—the discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10).
The Church today does not have a critical shortage of miracles, or of tongues, or of the word of knowledge or wisdom. All of these can be found if one searches. But the Church has seldom been able to discern whether the spirit that comes upon them is really the Holy Spirit, or a spirit that the flesh has desired. For this reason, the Holy Spirit has not yet led us into all truth, as Jesus prophesied in John 16:13. The denominational spirit thinks and claims to have all truth, but in reality, it is an evil spirit masquerading as the Holy Spirit, and the people do not know the difference.
The difference will be seen only as we yield to God and seek to come into full agreement with Him, rather than seek our own carnal desires. The tenth and final commandment is the key to being led by the Holy Spirit into all truth. God saved it for last on His list of commandments. Thou shalt not covet is a call to put away the desires and lusts of the flesh, which prevent us from hearing the voice of God as we should.