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“The Tormenting Spirit”

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In Fleming Rutledge's new book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, she acknowledges the difficulty that modern people have with the concept of God's wrath. Nevertheless, she writes, "there can be no turning away from this prominent biblical theme." But forget the Bible for a moment: don't we have wrath, too? Rutledge writes:
A slogan of our times is "Where's the outrage?" It has been applied to everything from Big Pharma's market manipulation to CEOs' astronomical wealth to police officers' stonewalling. "Where the outrage?" inquire many commentators, wondering why congressmen, officials, and ordinary voters seem so indifferent. Why has the gap between rich and poor become so huge? Why are so many mentally ill people slipping through the cracks? Why does gun violence continue to be a hallmark of American culture? Why are there so many innocent people on death row? Why are our prisons filled with such a preponderance of black and Hispanic men? Where's the outrage? The public is outraged all over cyberspace about all kinds of things that annoy us personally—the NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome—but outrages in the heart of God go unnoticed and unaddressed.
“If we are resistant to the idea of the wrath of God, we might pause to reflect the next time we are outraged about something—about our property values being threatened, or our children's educational opportunities being limited, or our tax breaks being eliminated. All of us are capable of anger about something. God's anger, however, is pure. It does not have the maintenance of privilege as its object, but goes out on behalf of those who have no privileges. The wrath of God is not an emotion that flares up from time to time, as though God had temper tantrums; it is a way of describing his absolute enmity against all wrong and his come to set matters right.”
Many of us today struggle with the idea of a God who is wrathful. We don’t like the idea of it. It does not make sense that a loving God could be that way. He’s not being positive. But even though it does not make sense to us, it does not mean that it is not true. I wonder if our concept of God has really been shaped by the scriptures or has it been shaped by our culture? I believe this is why we struggle with it. We are way too influenced by our culture. (Quick aside) Today the church is not in danger of annihilation, but assimilation.
In his book Soul Searching, Christian Smith summarized perceptions about God that are prevalent in the church and in contemporary culture. He coined it, moralistic, therapeutic, deism.
Moral implies that God wants us to be nice. He rewards the good and withholds from the naughty.
Therapeutic means that God just wants us to be happy.
Deism means that God is distant and not involved in our daily lives. God may get involved occasionally, but on the whole, God functions like an idea not a personal being actively present in our world.
According to Smith, this is the version of God that's prevalent in our culture and in our churches. Often without realizing it, every culture quietly molds and shapes our views of God. But we can't grow in our relationship with God when we insist on relating to God as we think he should be. It's the same way in our human relationships: if I demand that you just meet my needs and conform to my assumptions about you, you will probably feel cheapened and manipulated.
That's why our surrender to God-as-he-is, as revealed in the Bible, is so important. Otherwise, we will have a god of our own imaginations - which is an idol.
But the God of the Bible does display wrath when angered. Does He not? Yes. It is clear that He intensely hates all sin and wickedness and no... this is not just the God of the OT. Ever heard that one before?
John 3:36 NLT
And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
Ahhhh, but did we ever think of what it would be like if God was not just and angry with sin? What would the world be like? What would we be like? The reality is… we need God to be just and we need His wrath. The question is not whether God is Just or Wrathful… it is… is it possible for us to be saved from the Wrath and Judgement of God? This is what we will find out today.
Last time we witnessed the agony of Samuel in deep depression. So much so that the Lord needed to snap him out of it by His wonderful words of promise. Then we saw unfold the anointing of David to be king. But before it happened, we were all taught a lesson of our wrongful need to judge by appearance. But now…what of Saul?
The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon him and tormented him. NASB says “terrorized him.” His servants urged him to let them find someone who is skilled at the lyre (kinda like a harp and played like a guitar) and when you are tormented, he can play for you and make you feel better. Saul said fine. One of the servants said a son of Jesse can play the lyre, he is skilled, he is a man of war, a brave warrior, good in speech, good presence and the Lord is with him. Jesse then sent David to Saul along with a young goat, a donkey with bread, and some wine. Saul eventually loved David and made him his armor bearer (one who carries the masters shield, armor and weapons). Saul asked Jesse if David could remain in Saul’s service for he is happy with him. When the terrorizing spirit came upon Saul, David would play the lyre(harp that’s played like a guitar) and the spirit would flee.
1 Samuel 16:21-23
1 Samuel 16:21–23 NLT
So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.” And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.
Giving the Evil Spirit
Taking the Holy Spirit
The Music of the Gospel
The first thing we will look at is the first tragedy of the judgement of God… the giving of an evil spirit. The second thing we will look at is the second tragedy of the judgement of God…the taking of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we will look at the only thing that can bring us comfort… the music of the Gospel.
Though we, in sin, can and are indifferent to and unaware of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is Christ who will cause us to be free of the tormenting spirit of sin with the beautiful music of the gospel.
I. Giving the Evil Spirit
- The worst thing that could happen to us is not the wrath of the devil, but the wrath of God.
A. The first thing we need to see at the beginning of this passage… Do we realize what has happened to Saul here? The first thing is that the Holy Spirit departed. The second thing is that a tormenting spirit has come upon him. This is judgment and understanding this will help us understand the puzzling piece of this passage.
B. Let’s deal with the tormenting or in some of your translations “evil” spirit first. Now we must understand that the evil spirit is maybe not a demon. Background is not all that convincing, but in light of God suggesting to the Devil to test Job, it might be enough to support this understanding. But I think it is better understood that it is a angelic spirit that brings “evil” or evil in the sense of “trouble, torment or something bad” to Saul.
C. God sending an angel to administer the trouble. Hmmm really? Now it’s not like this is a rarity in scripture, so we should not be surprised. Right? Check this out.
Judges 9:
Judges 9:22–24 NLT
After Abimelech had ruled over Israel for three years, God sent a spirit that stirred up trouble between Abimelech and the leading citizens of Shechem, and they revolted. God was punishing Abimelech for murdering Gideon’s seventy sons, and the citizens of Shechem for supporting him in this treachery of murdering his brothers.
1 Kings 22:19–23 NLT
Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the Lord says! I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who can entice Ahab to go into battle against Ramoth-gilead so he can be killed?’ “There were many suggestions, and finally a spirit approached the Lord and said, ‘I can do it!’ “ ‘How will you do this?’ the Lord asked. “And the spirit replied, ‘I will go out and inspire all of Ahab’s prophets to speak lies.’ “ ‘You will succeed,’ said the Lord. ‘Go ahead and do it.’ “So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all your prophets. For the Lord has pronounced your doom.”
1 Kings 22:
F. The Angel of death did what to the firstborn of the Egyptians? Do you know what all of these events have in common. Judgment. Do we understand that? Judgment. The angels carried out the righteous judgment of God and it was Good. The Judgements that God brings are not horrible wicked things… the angels are doing it. Devil does not judge. The worse thing that could happen to us is not the wrath of the devil, but the wrath of God. We are giving too much power to the Devil and we are robbing ourselves of the true beauty of God’s Holiness, Righteousness, and Awesome Power.
Matthew 10:28 NIV
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
This is not talking about the Devil. This is not Satan. It is our God.
G. Now the reason why this was happening to Saul was that he was being judged. He rejected God, he did not trust God, he was not concerned about repentance for his disobedience, he was not concerned that he disobeyed God, but concerned of his position as king. He did not want to obey, he wanted to rule. He rejected God and now God is judging him. A Holy and Righteous God cannot let sin and rebellion which is like witchcraft go unpunished. He must judge wickedness. Look… it was so bad that only music could sooth him. Music helps us. It influences us. The power of music. You know how that goes… Happy. Don’t worry be happy. Angry. Rap music. Sad. I’m all out of love so lost without you. Ornery. Said I loved you but I lied. In Love. Hello is it me your looking for. We love music don’t we.
H. But seriously… It was tormenting Saul. Freed with music. We have here severe judgment. Judgment Family. The reason for the tormenting spirit was Judgment. It was something that came from the hand of the Lord. We see clearly in the scriptures that our Lord Judges.
I. Today, sometimes we see and read stuff like this and think that God is unfair or that God is unjust. We say this is not right. He should not be like this. He is not a good God. Why would he do something like this? He is gonna judge eternally some really good people. How could He? This is the opposite of good.
J. Let me hit you with some knowledge… He would be unfair, unjust, not right, not cool, and the opposite of good evil God if He did not judge us. Did you get that? Let these passages of scripture open our eyes to the reality of it all. Do we not believe that our God is holy? Would you all say that I was a good father if I let my children do all kinds of naughty things and let them get away with it? Would you say a police officer was good if he stood there and watched people rob your house? This affects all of us. And I mean all of us… the scriptures say No one is righteous no not one. Right? But some of us don’t care.
K. Then why would we not see that the trouble that comes from God is not unjust, but righteous? Injustice of God would be Him not judging. It is not consistent with His holiness. For us today… instead of judging whether or not an action by God is acceptable to us or not, we should be aware that we do in fact deserve anything that God would do to us. All of us. The real problem is not the trouble of judgment…why God would show us mercy? We deserve judgment, we do not deserve mercy. Hoping you see this. Help understand scripture.
L. We should not wonder why or how He judges, but be thankful that He does not wipe us all out for our continued rebellion and unfaithfulness. Christians included.
II. Taking the Holy Spirit
- There is nothing more significant to Christianity than the Holy Spirit.
A. But, here is the real tragedy of it all. If we thought that the terrorizing spirit was enough, something worse happened here. The Holy Spirit was taken from him. We should realize that this is the most tragic of all tragedies … ever. We should realize that to have the Holy Spirit taken from us would be the disaster above all disasters.
B. So we must conclude from this passage of scripture, a foundation is set for this truth…there is no greater blessing that we could be given than the Holy Spirit. There is nothing more significant to Christianity than the Holy Spirit.
John 3:5
John 3:5 NLT
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.
No entry into blessing without the Spirit. No salvation without the Spirit.
Luke 11:13 NLT
So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Matthew 7:11 NLT
So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
C. If we have everything we could ever have, none of it will ever compare to the Holy Spirit. Therefore if all we have is the Spirit, then we have everything truly.
C. If we have everything we could ever have, none of it will ever compare to the Holy Spirit. Therefore if all we have is the Spirit, then we have everything truly.
Romans 14:17 NLT
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
D. How important is the Holy Spirit? Do you realize that it is better that Christ go away so that the Spirit comes?
John 16:7 NLT
But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.
E. Better for Christ to go away? We see the seriousness of grieving the Spirit. We see the seriousness of blaspheming the Spirit. We see the modal of repentance of David after his sin.
Psalm 51:10–11 NLT
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
F. Do we realize the importance and blessing of the Holy Spirit? He illuminates truth, He applies to us the benefits of the Cross, He applies to us salvation, He increases our faith and motivates repentance, He kills sin in us, conforms us into the image of Christ, empowers us to do the work of Christ, to worship Christ, and to see the work that began in us to completion. More than we could ever ask for or imagine.
K. Spurgeon – It is the chief office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ. He does many things, but this is what he aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ.
III. The Music of the Gospel
-It is the greatest story ever heard
A. May God forgive us for our rebellion and unfaithfulness to the work of the Holy Sprit. Our sinning that grieves the Holy Spirit. The way we live family. What we do.
Ephesians 4:30 NLT
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
C. And let us not forget that it is Christ who like David brings to us comfort and set us free from the tormenting spirit that we had before we were saved. The torment of hardship and torment of guilt and condemnation; living life with no peace in our heart.
D. Like David (we always compare David to Christ) he brought to us a soothing balm of peace, with music, like David did for Saul. Christ did it for us. The song is called the Gospel. The beautiful music of life more abundantly. The terrorizing must flee.
E. The terror from God? Yes. To illuminate our sin so that we come to Christ for life. We needed to feel the fires of hell to cry out to the Lord to be freed. The Gospel!
F. Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures… The saying is trust worthy… Christ came to seek and save…
G. Let us pray and repent in true sorrow, knowing the promise of God shows us that we are His and He will never leave us nor forsake us. For His people the Spirit of God will not leave us. Only because of the lyre song of the Gospel… freeing us from condemnation and opening our eyes by the power of the Spirit.
H. If you are hearing this for the first time...
H. Family… The scriptures declare…through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.
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