When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.
- 1 Samuel 11:6-8
Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”
One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”
Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
- 1 Samuel 16:14-23
A learned person that I have learned a lot from once explained that the Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. The difference is that at Pentecost, the Spirit indwelled the believers, and guided them for the rest of their lives. In the Old Testament, according to this Biblical scholar, the Spirit indwelled people for certain tasks that the Lord wished to carry out. Samson praying that God will restore his power for one last victory over the Philistines in Judges 16. One except might be King David, who had the Spirit upon him.
But King Saul is a good example of what this gentleman was referring to. In 1 Samuel 11, the Spirit comes upon him, and Saul rallies the people of Israel to attack the Philistines. He does so in a very unusual way, killing oxen and sending the pieces to the various tribes, but his technique has been copied by criminals ever since; we call it extortion. Yet, it is the method that the Spirit led Saul to use. Threaten people if they did not comply.
Yet, did the Spirit remain with Saul? No. Saul was impetuous. He did not wait unto the Lord. Samuel was not there when Saul wanted him to be there, so Saul took over and sacrificed to the Lord. Samuel arrives and tells Saul the kingdom will be taken from him because he did not do what was right. Then this story of the Spirit leaving Saul and replaced by an evil spirit is in the following chapter.
Indeed, Jesus was right when He said that a person who had been rid of an evil spirit, when they return, assuming the “house” is still empty, not filled with God, they will bring seven more evil spirits with them. In this case, Saul had God’s Spirit, but once it left, an evil spirit filled the void.
Do you ever feel that way? When God comes into us, He comes to stay, but sometimes we do something wrong, and we feel guilty. If we wallow in our sing guilt, we will be ineffective in God’s service. We must confess and rebuke the guilt, for God has forgiven us. We must also not revisit that sin; we need to repent.
But the key is that if Jesus is in your heart, He is there to stay. On Pentecost, the whole system changed.
A feeling of God leaving us is a reminder that we have wandered away from the warmth of His love. We need to focus on Jesus. The constant cycle of sin, guilt, confession, then rinse and repeat can get us down. Repentance is a turning away, a break of that rinse / repeat part of the cycle.
Can you hear the Holy Spirit whispering to you right now? Maybe there is too much noise in the background. But if you have made an honest surrender to Jesus, all in, He will never leave you. But the Holy Spirit does His best work, when we are truly seeking Him, leaving Jesus in charge.
After 1 Samuel 16, the disintegration of King Saul is a sad story. He thought himself a big shot and ignored God, and God left Him. God promises to never leave us, but we must remain humble before Him.
And when you feel low, get on your knees, confess your sins, and return your focus to Jesus and God’s will in your life.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.