1 Samuel 16:14-23
16:14Now the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15And Saul’s servants said to him, “See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skilful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better.” 17So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me.” 18One of the young men answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him.” 19So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David who is with the sheep.” 20Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.
Before David takes over as Israel's king, David enters into Saul's court as a warrior and worshiper. These two aspects of David will make him famous not only to Saul's court but to all of Israel. A mighty warrior who slays Goliath and an anointed musician who clears out evil spirits!
A peculiar aspect of Old Testament demonology compared to New Testament demonology is that the OT has (1) fewer descriptions of demonic activity and (2) often the evil spirits are said to come from the LORD or they are found in the court of the LORD (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1:12; 2:6). Why the difference? OT theology lays greater emphasis on God's ultimate control, indicating that even evil spirits are subject to God's dictates and that they are limited in their activities by the boundaries set by God. NT theology has a more fine-grained understanding of the demonic, especially in light of Jesus' ministry and teaching on the demonic. The sovereignty of God is not compromised but the actual function and role of evil spirits, as enemies of God and human beings, are better understood in the NT. [The association of evil spirits/fallen angels with the Court of YHWH is an ancient association. Angels (holy and unholy) are ministering spirits. They serve the purposes of YHWH. This proximity to YHWH is changed -- or there is an allusion to this change -- in Luke 10:18, when Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." With the coming of Christ, the role and influence of evil powers have been forever altered!]
More than the evil spirits harassing Saul, a greater problem has already taken place: the Holy Spirit had departed from Saul. The transition of the Spirit from Saul to David clearly shows that their destinies are going to diverge greatly. No longer will the Spirit of God going to anoint and protect Saul. Saul is now liable to demonic oppression. His disobedience to God will open himself up to despondency, rage, and jealousy. Saul will be a mess.
In the meantime, Saul is desperate for relief. Someone in Saul's company has seen a young man who is anointed ("the LORD is with him"). This young man is David. So David is brought into Saul's presence. David plays the lyre and the evil spirits depart from Saul.
As strange as it may sound, this phenomenon still takes place in our contemporary setting. (If curious, you can ask me later in person.)
The point I want to make is this: moving away from God, as in Saul's case, is more than not being in sync with God. Moving away may bring a host of other problems: psychological torment, emotional instability, relational strain, demonic oppression, confusion, anger, despair, etc. Moving away from the Lord means stepping out from under God's protection and God's loving guidance. There really is no place like home -- our spiritual home in the Love of the Father. Staying put in God's will is the most sensible thing we can do for ourselves.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, thank you for rescuing us from the torment of evil spirits and our bondage to sin. Thank you for a life of freedom and joy that's found in you as we stay close to you. Help us to appreciate this free-joyful-empowered life through the Spirit of God. Release us from lies that tell us that there is more freedom and joy outside the will of God. The best place in all the world is the place of your protection and pleasure. In your name, amen.