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In talking to Christians one often hears them say, “God spoke to me and told me such-and-so.” Others say, “God led me to do this.” Such people generally need no one to convince them that the God of the Bible speaks to people today. However, many people—by their fruits—often bring into disrepute the idea of hearing God’s voice. For this reason many denominations and individual pastors warn their parishioners against trying to hear God’s voice. They say that this could easily lead to deception. They usually mean that if people allow the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth (John 16:13), it is probable that they will come into conflict with Church doctrine.
In a way this warning is valid. Indeed, many people do come into deception as they attempt to hear God’s voice. There are always those who believe God told them to kill their neighbor or commit adultery. Such people are lawless in their heart, and so the word they “hear” is not from the Spirit of Truth. But hearing God’s voice does not cause deception. Deception is brought about by heart idolatry. This is why the Israelites who came out of Egypt soon set up the golden calf. Just because they were justified by the blood of the lamb at Passover did not mean that they had dealt with the problem of heart idolatry. The same is true with Christians today.
Passover deals with our justification by the blood of the Lamb of God; Pentecost deals with our ability and willingness to hear His voice. That voice calls us up the mount into that all-consuming fire. It is a call to die, and most people today, like in Israel’s day, run away from this sure death, wanting to preserve their mortal lives and carnal beings. Hence, we read in Heb. 3:15,
15 While it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
In other words, be not as Israel in the wilderness, who stood afar off and refused to draw near to God in the all-consuming fire to hear His voice and have His law written on their hearts. They preferred to remain fleshly, retaining the idols in their hearts. They preferred their own will, their own understanding, their own ways—which is idolatry.
An idol is formed when we create God in our own image; that is, when we formulate an image of God in our minds according to our own carnal understanding. It is important that we not confuse the word of God from our understanding of the word, lest we end up worshiping an image that we have assumed to be the true God.
One of the underlying purposes of Pentecost is to present God only as a consuming fire, distinct from any image, or personal understanding of God, for Moses said, “ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude [likeness, or image]; only ye heard a voice” (Deut. 4:12). The consuming fire that God lights in us through Pentecost will consume our flesh and begin to transform us into the very image and likeness of God. By this, God means to manifest Himself in us, or express Himself through us. This process is completed by the Feast of Tabernacles, wherein it can be said of the body of Christ as with the Head, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
One of the most notable Scriptures dealing with the idols of the heart is found in the writings of Ezekiel. God revealed the most about this particular problem to this prophet, setting the stage for this revelation in chapter four, where he was called upon to lie on his left side for 390 days and on his right for another 40 days, eating food cooked with (or over) dung. The dung in Ezekiel represents the traditions of men, which the priests were feeding the people after eating the true bread of the word. The priests processed it by the flesh and then gave the people the remains—dung. (See our 20-page booklet, The Laws of Wormwood and Dung.)
In Ezekiel’s day there were those who came to him asking for a prophetic word, but they had already made up their minds and were coming with preconceived opinions. They came to the prophet not to truly seek the word from God, but rather to seek a confirmation of their own beliefs and opinions. They had no intention of following the word from Ezekiel, if that word should contradict what they already believed to be true. The story is found in Ezekiel 14.
1 Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face; should I be enquired of at all by them? 4 Therefore speak unto them and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him according to the multitude of his idols; 5 That I might take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from Me through their idols. 6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
This was, in effect, a Supreme Court ruling from the Court of Heaven. The divine law had not specifically addressed the issue of whether God should answer people who ask Him for a word having preconceived beliefs. In this ruling God says, “I WILL answer him.” However, the word would simply confirm his incorrect beliefs, “that I might take the house of Israel in their own heart.” The result of this is found in the next verses:
7 . . . I the Lord will answer him by Myself; 8 And I will set My face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. 9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel. 10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity; the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.
The traditions of men would say that this is impossible, for “God cannot lie.” But the traditions of men are not the Supreme Court rulings of God. Traditions are only man’s rulings based upon his scholarship and a limited understanding of God. In fact, these traditions of men make void the law of God (Mark 7:13).
When Moses and the prophets needed to know a further detail about the law of God, or its true interpretation or application, they went to God’s Supreme Court with no preconceived ideas about what God ought to say. But when religious leaders have their own opinions or ideas, they usually are more interested in establishing what is “right” (in their own eyes, of course) than in admitting that they really do not know the answer and hence must seek the answer from God. For this reason men establish their own traditions—their own views of the law—rather than praying to God out of a heart free from idols.
It is absolutely true that God cannot lie. But God says that if men want to believe a lie, God will give them what they want. He will answer them according to the idol of their heart. If they want to worship the idol in their heart—holding their own views and wanting God to rubber-stamp those views with the stamp of truth—then he will give them the answer that their own idol would give them. Because the Church is so full of the traditions of men, Ezekiel’s revelation may be difficult to understand. But this ruling came from the divine court.
As we said earlier, there was no specific law in Moses’ day that specified what God would do if a man inquired of God with an idol in his heart. Nonetheless, we do see in Moses’ day a precedent already set in Numbers 11 when the people desired flesh to eat, rather than the manna that God had provided for them. Num. 11:12-34,
18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh; for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt; therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. 19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; 20 But even a whole month until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loath-some unto you . . . . 33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague. 34 And he called the name of that place, Kibroth-Hattaavah [“the graves of lust’]; because there they buried the people that lusted.
The word lust is simply DESIRE. The people desired flesh to eat. Their desire to eat flesh was based upon their spiritual desire to go their own way, to form their own opinions, to make their own laws, to define for themselves sin and righteousness. It is what the New Testament calls “the lusts of the flesh.” They did not want the true manna, the true word of God. They were not interested in His law; they came to Moses with this fleshly idol in their hearts, seeking flesh from God.
This is precisely what the elders did in Ezekiel’s day when they came to him with an idol in the heart. They were asking Ezekiel to rubber-stamp their traditions. They were asking for God’s approval of the traditions that they had already agreed among themselves was the truth. They wanted flesh to eat, so God gave them flesh to eat and then judged them for believing it.
Paul tells us in Rom. 7:7,
7 I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known LUST, except the law had said, Thou shalt not COVET.
Paul equates lust with coveting. This tells us that the tenth commandment prohibits us from following the works of the flesh—human desires that are not submitted to God. So when Paul concludes in Romans 7:25 by saying, “with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin,” He was referring specifically to the tenth commandment. Our fleshly desires covet, or lust after, the things of the flesh—including the traditions of men. The mind of the Spirit, on the other hand, serves the law of God and is in agreement with His commands and Supreme Court rulings.
The most pervasive problem that the Christian faces in learning to hear the voice of God is his own carnal lust. We must learn to seek Him with no preconceived traditions, lest God give us our desires and turn us over to our own lusts, and they bury us in the graves of lust. This is meant to be a clear warning to us.
But lest some think we should stop trying altogether to hear His voice, let me say that if we ask God to overthrow the idols of our hearts, He will do so. If we are but willing to give all hidden idols to God for destruction, He will treat us like His true sons and daughters. That is, He will bring us up through discipline (Heb. 12:5-7). It may be a bit traumatic each time He overthrows an idol in our heart, and we may feel somewhat like an abused child at first; but the discipline is well worthwhile in the end, as we mature and come fully into agreement with His will and plan for our lives.
Another sobering precedent that teaches us how God treats those who have idols in their hearts is found in 1 Kings 22. In this story, Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was allied with Ahab, the king of Israel. They decided it was an opportune time to attack Syria and retake some of the Israelite cities that Syria had conquered earlier. This seemed good and right in their eyes, since God obviously would want all Israelites to be free. They did not understand, however, that it was not right to bring those Israelites out of Syrian bondage only to bring them into another bondage under the idolatrous king of Israel. Bondage to Syria was a God-ordained judgment against Israel for their sin and rebellion. 1 Kings 22:5, 6 says,
5 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord today. 6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
The false prophets were those who probably had a genuine prophetic calling, but they had idols in their hearts. They were in submission to men, not to God. They knew better than to prophesy anything contrary to the will of the king. They were therefore the king’s prophets, not prophets of God. Or perhaps they were in submission to the religious leaders of the day, in which case they were “church prophets,” not God’s prophets. Whatever the case, the Scriptures call them false prophets—not necessarily because they prophesied falsely, but because they were false to God and not in submission to Him above all others. Remember that even Balaam, the classic false prophet of Num. 22-24 did not prophesy false things. He was false only because he had idols in his heart—money and power—which took precedence over the will of God.
Jehoshaphat was a righteous king who had a heart for God, but in making alliance with king Ahab of Israel, he found it difficult and contradictory to please both Ahab and God. When the false prophets prophesied good things about the coming battle, Jehoshaphat was uneasy about it, discerning that something was not quite right. So he asked to hear a prophet of the Lord. This was why they called Micaiah:
7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him? 8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the Lord; but I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. 9 Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah. 10 And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria [the capital city of the northern house of Israel]. 11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made the horns of iron; and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them. 12 And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper; for the Lord [Yahweh] shall deliver it into the king’s hand. 13 And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth. I pray thee, be like the word of one of them and speak that which is good. 14 And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. 15 So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go and prosper; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
Take note here that Micaiah promised the messenger that he would speak only what the Lord [Yahweh] had spoken. He then proceeded to tell the king exactly what the false prophets had prophesied earlier. Well, Jehoshaphat discerned immediately that something was fishy. In fact, even king Ahab knew something was wrong, because Micaiah had never prophesied in accord with all the other prophets.
16 And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord?
When one is ADJURED to speak the truth, it means that one is required before God to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Hebrew word is shaba, which means an oath. For example, Beer-sheba means “the well of the oath.” Hence, King Ahab was telling Micaiah that he was under oath before God to speak the truth in the divine court. And if I may add a further example of adjuration for your study, this is also what the high priest said to Jesus in Matt. 26:63, forcing Jesus to speak the truth of who He was. The Greek word for “adjure” in this verse is exorkizo, which means “to exact an oath.”
And so, in adjuring Micaiah, King Ahab appealed to God’s Supreme Court.
17 And he [Micaiah] said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a [good] shepherd; and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace.
Wait a minute! Did the people not have two kings: one in Jerusalem, and the other in Samaria? What does this mean, “they have no master”? The people had no proper shepherd or master, one who would rule by the divine law as the expression of God Himself. All they had were kings like the nations who were oppressors ruling by the traditions of men. Ahab himself ruled by the laws of his father, King Omri (Micah 6:16).
18 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? 19 And he [Micaiah] said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left. 20 And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. 21 And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him. 22 And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, “I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And He said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth, and do so. 23 Now therefore, behold the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.
Micaiah’s vision gives us the stark reality of the situation. The prophets of Ahab had a preconceived idea when they came to God to get a word from Him. They desired the prestige, power, and monetary support from king Ahab and knew that to keep it, they had to prophesy good things about this battle. I have no doubt that these prophets really did believe that they had received a word from the Lord. But I also see from Micaiah’s vision that God had answered them according to the idol of their hearts.
They put Micaiah into prison until such time as they could prove him to be wrong. Once they would win the battle against Syria, then Micaiah could be stoned as a false prophet. I find it hard to believe that Jehoshaphat went along with Ahab into battle, but he did (1 Kings 22:29). Jehoshaphat, after all, was the one who wanted to hear from a prophet of the Lord. It is tragic that he was influenced by Ahab to the point where he was convinced that Micaiah was wrong. After all, surely 400 prophets cannot all be wrong!
I often wonder if this 400-to-one ratio might be a prophetic ratio that is still applicable today. How many prophets today have never really dealt with the idols of their heart? How many are church prophets, and how many are the Lord’s prophets? If we were to take a poll, asking them if they are church prophets or the Lord’s prophets, how many would know the difference? Would they know the difference between submitting to their church or submitting to God?
King Ahab was killed in the battle with Syria, in spite of his attempt to disguise himself. In fact, according to Josephus, Ahab convinced Jehoshaphat to put on his (Ahab’s) clothing, because the Syrian king had given orders to kill no one but Ahab. It appears that Ahab betrayed Jehoshaphat in this way, because the ruse almost worked. But when the Syrians were about to close in on Jehoshaphat, they discovered it was not Ahab, so they left off pursuing him (1 Kings 22:33). It was quite by “chance” that “a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of his harness” (1 Kings 22:34). Ahab died at sundown.
Josephus also tells us who killed king Ahab. In Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, xv, 5 it says,
“and when they sought to kill Ahab alone, but could not find him, there was a young nobleman belonging to king Benhadad, whose name was Naaman; he drew his bow against the enemy, and wounded the king through his breastplate, in his lungs.”
King Ahab was killed, and Syria won the battle, thus allowing them to keep their captive Israelites. Among these captives was a young girl of Israel who was a bondservant to Naaman’s wife. A few years later, Naaman developed leprosy, and the little captive girl was very distressed over it. In 2 Kings 5:3 she said,
3 . . . Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
So Naaman, the Syrian captain who had killed Ahab, came to Israel to the prophet Elisha to be healed of leprosy. Naaman was obviously a kind man for his little captive to be so concerned for his health. God in His mercy then taught him a lesson in humility as well, first in that he had to do the bidding of a little girl, and secondly, that he had to fulfill the law of the cleansing of lepers found in Lev. 14:1-7 at the Jordan river.
Naaman did not realize it, but he had begun to learn to hear the voice of God. He heard God’s voice through a little Israelite girl who had faith in God and was concerned for her master. Like the prophet Elijah, Naaman had begun to learn that the voice of God was not to be found in the whirlwind or in the great fire, but in a still (silent, inaudible), small voice that most people would dismiss as nothing. It was a quiet voice, the sound of a breeze, as the Septuagint (Greek) translation says. That voice is like the sound of a breeze, because you do not see it, but you know it by its effects.
Many today are waiting to hear God’s voice in the big lightning strikes or in the great conflagrations of judgment. They think that because God is all-powerful, surely He would speak with a mighty voice of thunder. Sometimes He does, but these are unique manifestations that come in unique circumstances. For the most part, God speaks to average people with an inner voice that makes no outward sound at all. Often it is a mere knowing. Other times we hear it from the most unusual sources, perhaps from nonchristians—even from those who hate us.
God is not looking to get people’s attention by coming down as fire upon a mountain. He does not do the obvious things except in very rare instances. Why? Because such momentous and outstanding manifestations do not necessarily produce faith in people. The fire on Mount Sinai in the days of Moses did not produce any faith in the Israelites. It only made them fearful. Faith is primarily produced in people who learn to hear the voice of quietness, the silent voice that comes from within our spirit where God dwells.
This is the lesson of Naaman, and it is the beginning of our own cleansing from the leprosy that we all inherited from Adam—mortality. Only by following the leading of the Spirit of God within our own spirit will we be led to the Promised Land.
In our 56-page book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost, we explained how King Saul was a Pentecostal. 1 Sam. 12:17 says he was crowned king on the day of wheat harvest, or Pentecost, and he reigned 40 years. Saul was therefore an Old Testament type and shadow of the Church under the anointing of Pentecost during the 40 Jubilees from 33 to 1993 A.D. We are now in a post-Pentecostal era and are in the transition into the era of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The history of the Church during this past 40 Jubilees was foreshadowed by the history of King Saul. In fact, we cannot truly understand Church history unless we see it in the light of Saul’s life and his relationship with David (the Overcomer). Saul was the best in the land and the most qualified to be king (1 Sam. 9:2). But he was only the manifestation of the heart of the people. The people had demanded a king like all the other nations (1 Sam. 8:5); and so God gave them what they wanted, even as He had given Israel flesh in the wilderness when they demanded it. The people did not understand that often God judges us by giving us what we want. This includes giving us a fleshly word of prophecy that we also may demand.
As we mentioned briefly in Chapter One, the Church gradually removed the right for ordinary men to hear God for themselves, making it a law that men had to obtain the word of God through the priesthood and the pope. This is one of the first lessons we learn in the biblical narrative about the reign of King Saul. In 1 Sam. 14 Israel fought a battle against the Philistines. In the story Jonathan represents the aspiring Overcomer in the Age of Pentecost. Jonathan and his armor bearer defeated the Philistines in battle, and the Israelites had to come running in order to do anything at all. Then verse 24 says about the battle,
24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day; for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. 27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath; wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened. 28 . . . and the people were faint. 29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land; see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found? For had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?
Jonathan tasted of the land flowing with milk and honey, and his eyes were enlightened. He was greatly strengthened by it and was able to overcome more flesh (“the Philistines”) than any other. The rest of the people were faint with hunger. In the same manner also, the Church under the anointing of Pentecost laid a curse upon all those who would obtain their spiritual food directly from God without first checking it out with the priest or pastor. All divine revelation had to receive the stamp of approval from the Church leadership who administered the traditions of men, rather than the law of God, before it could be considered as Truth.
This created a famine of hearing the word of God, and thus came to pass the prophecy of Amos, who prophesied in Amos 8:11,
11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. 13 In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.
The famine for the word was brought about by Saul’s curse—the ban on eating food until the day (Pentecostal Age) had ended. This caused such a tremendous hunger that it caused the people to eat unclean food when they were allowed to eat at all. 1 Sam. 14:32 says,
32 And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people did eat them with the blood. 33 Then they told Saul saying, Behold, the people sin against the Lord in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed; roll a great stone unto me this day.
Because of the famine of hearing the words of God, many Christians today travel long distances to attend meetings and hear the words of reputed prophets. This merely evidences the tremendous hunger among Christians and nonchristians alike. The problem is that in their ignorance of the Word, they do not know how to discern clean from unclean food. Too often they will accept any word given from the pulpit without knowing how to discern it properly. The food laws in Lev. 11 are the keys to knowing how to discern whether or not the food dispensed from the pulpit is clean or unclean. (For a complete study on this subject, listen to our 90-minute audio tape called How to Discern Clean Spiritual Food.)
Saul took no responsibility for his actions here. He simply blamed the people for sinning against God, caring nothing that he had caused them to sin by his traditions. Saul then decided to continue to battle the Philistines the next day—but this time he allowed the people to eat food during the battle. So he built an altar to God and got a revelation to do battle the next day. Saul was learning how to ask God for things, but he neglected to deal first with the idol in his heart. I suppose it was therefore quite easy for him to obtain such a revelation from God.
But then a priest stepped forward and said, “Let us draw near hither unto God” (1 Sam. 14:36). Saul agreed. “And Saul asked counsel of God” (14:37). But this time he received no answer from God. Saul then became frustrated when God refused to speak with him, but he still had no clue that the fault lay in his own heart.
38 And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people; and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day. 39 For as the Lord liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.
Now they drew lots by the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate of the priest, as was their custom, to see who was responsible. The lot fell upon Jonathan.
43 Then said Saul to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and lo, I must die. 44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also; for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.
Fortunately for him, however, the people would not allow Saul to execute his son. Even so, we see manifested in this story the heart of the Church in the pentecostal era, for the Church too has refused to hear the voice of God and has instead sought power and wealth as the idol of its heart. The Church in general has followed its own traditions—the doctrinal positions established by its greatest doctors of theology—rather than following the law and the Supreme Court rulings of God Almighty.
Worse yet, the Church leadership, more often than not, has taken away the word of God from the people, placing a curse on all who would hear the voice of God for themselves. In past centuries they would actually torture and kill people for “heresy.” This was all done in the name of the god of Unity in the Church. They even justified burning women and children at the stake on the grounds that these people were soon going to burn in hell for ever anyway—so they were only administering the judgments of God. In all this they have fulfilled the prophecies in the story of King Saul.
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. We read in 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 we find 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.