Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Distressing Spirit from God

Saul had been made king of Israel. After only a couple of years, he disobeyed God's prophet and took matters into his own impatient hands. God declared that the kingdom would be taken from him, and Samuel the prophet anointed David who would be the next king. At the end of 1 Samuel 16, immediately after we hear that the Spirit of the Lord came upon David when he was anointed to be the next king, we hear that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord came upon Saul. Lest we miss the point, it is said three times that this distressing spirit is from God.

What do we do with that when we consider depression and mental illness? Not only do we not say that depression may come from God, but we usually argue that it comes not from God but from Satan or the fact that there is trouble in the world.

But here, in Saul's case, the depression clearly came from God. Why?

To soothe Saul, his servants suggested a musician. They found David. And what did David do? He played the harp and sang psalms to Saul. At the start, before his impenitence grew greater, Saul loved David. He received comfort from the word of God that proceeded from David's lips and in his music. Saul had sinned. In His infinite love, God sent him the distressing spirit so that he would have a need to listen to one who could bring him the comfort of the gospel.

God does send distressing spirits. But He does not send them to punish. He does not send them to be cruel. He sends them so that we will have motivation to hear his word, so that we will be drawn to Him in face of our distress, so that we will find our joy and comfort in Christ alone and through faith in Him be saved.

And that's what happened initially for Saul; David's message of gospel brought comfort to the king and kept him in the faith for a while. And then there was that little incident with Goliath, and Saul became jealous of David. And then the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul again. God wanted Saul to need the sweet words which had previously comforted him. But when David played hymns and psalms for Saul, the king threw a spear at him and banished him from the court to the battlefield. After Saul got rid of the psalm-singer, it was pretty much all downhill from there, his sinful nature taking the upper hand.

This really ought to teach us something about depression and the medicine of God's Word.

1 comment:

  1. nathan fischer10/04/2009 11:39 AM

    Yooouuu should reeeead "On Being a Theologian of the Cross" by Forde. Y'know... with all that free time you have. :-)