I was reading 1 Samuel 16 as part of a study I was doing on spiritual warfare and became perplexed about verses 15, 16 and 23, which speak of an ‘evil spirit from God’ distressing Saul. I was disturbed. This seemed to be contrary to my knowledge of God the Father, who does not seek to harm us but to prosper us, to give us hope and an expected end (Jer. 29:11). I have been taught that the Word of God does not contradict itself when studied as the whole counsel of God. In other words, we must use the Bible to validate itself and not just take one scripture and build a theology around it. With that in mind, I recalled other situations relating to God and evil spirits. The one that came to mind was the occasion when Satan came to God seeking permission to trouble Job. Job was under God’s protection and therefore Satan had no legal authority to bring evil upon Job. Similarly, Saul still held the position of God’s representative on earth, even though He was to be replaced by David, so evil spirits had to come into God’s presence to seek permission to ‘distress’ Saul. The verses in 1 Samuel 16 did not say that God ‘sent’ the evil spirit, they said the evil spirit ‘from’ God. Since scripture does not contradict itself, I interpret this to mean that the evil spirit came to God first then from God’s presence to Saul. Both the Kingdom of God and Satan’s kingdom have an authority structure. Therefore, Satan gives assignments to evil spirits but if it involves anyone who is under God’s protection He must give permission. God has no right to withhold permission if the person has opened areas in their lives that give Satan the legal right to have access to them. This was the case with Saul.
In the case of Job, it was stated that he was upright. Some theologians say that his fear for his children is what caused God to have to give permission to Satan. However, if that were so we would have seen that coming out in the discussion reported between God and Satan. God was confident that if he allowed Satan to test Job he would pass the test. At times, the Lord will allow evil spirits access to come and test us. Even Jesus was ‘led of the Holy Spirit’ into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan for forty days and nights (Mt. 4:1). This was just before He launched into ministry. The tempting was to strengthen Him and not to harm Him. In the same way then, we will go through testing to be strengthened so we can be used of God. Would you just go ahead and use someone to do an important assignment on your behalf without having the confidence that you could place your trust in them? This is borne out in James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-4.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jas. 1:2-4)
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom. 5:3-4)
We always have to remember not to lean unto our own understanding (Prov. 3:5) because God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than ours (Isa. 55:9). We must seek revelation and discernment from the Holy Spirit because spiritual things are foolishness to the natural man, they must be discerned spiritually (1 Cor. 2:14).
We must always remember that even seemingly ‘bad’ things will work for our good once we love the Lord and are walking in accordance with His will.
All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)