Monday, September 6, 2010

Lessons In the Life of King Saul: A King Possessed?

THE DEVOLUTION OF SAUL SANK DEEPER until he was as terrible as a beast in bloodlust when he chased David all over Israel. Beast was a proper typology of this king whose inability to hold rein of his impulses drew him mad. Notice the sudden shift of royal murderous temper to that of relent and remorse in 1 Samuel 24:16 to 21, where he even wept. Aloud.

But Saul pursues David a second time. Talk about mood swings! It is clear how his nature of rage and this tormenting spirit had permanently possessed him. David and a warrior creeps down into the king’s camp while they all had fallen into deep slumber and snatches evidences close to where the king lay to later show him and the entire camp how easy it was to slay him. Again: Saul’s heart changes color from red to yellow—"Is that your voice, David my son?" (1 Samuel 26:17) "I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly” (verse 21). Had not his death occurred in a battle against the Philistines shortly after that, Saul might have pursued David a third time.

To us reading this account of Saul’s life, it will be plain for us to conclude that the mental torment of fear and rage had finally deteriorated into insanity. Remember, however, that this type of insanity is associated with, and with all the fingerprints of, demonic oppression. And the ultimate goal of oppression is possession. Almost every Christian who has handled demons in exorcism before know that demonic oppression is the final step that leads to possession. Saul’s type of demon-possession was similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia, in that the spirit visited him at intermittent times. This explains why the king was normal at one moment then homicidal all of a sudden. This would also explain 1 Samuel 18:12 why “Saul was afraid of David.” There was only one reason for Saul’s fear of David, and it was not because he knew the latter would eventually take his throne and be the next king, greater and more beloved. Simply, “because the Lord was with David.”

An evil spirit cannot withstand the Presence of God. In Psalm 68:1, David pointed out in poetic rejoicing: “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered: let them also that hate Him flee before Him” (King James Version). So great is a demon’s fear of His Presence that the very hint of His approach can send it scuttling away. This can be seen in Matthew 15:21–28 where a Canaanite mother was pleading for Jesus to deliver her possessed daughter. Jesus granted the deliverance, even though He found no need to physically come face to face with the victim. Notice in verse 22 how the mother addressed Jesus: “Son of David.”

The people of ancient Israel understood the association of demons (also known as unclean spirits) with certain types of insanity. In the New Testament, the opponents of Jesus accused Him of being “demon-possessed and raving mad” (John 10:20). In the same way, there were physical impairments that were of supernatural origin. In one instance, Jesus dealt with a demon-possessed man “who was blind and mute” (Matthew 12:22). The result of the instantaneous deliverance was also the restoration of the man’s sight and speech. For such a miracle alone, Jesus received a unique kind of amazement from all over Israel during His time because, before Him, there has almost been no known permanent deliverance for a demoniac.

The Old Testament method of exorcism was based on the atoning blood of sacrificial “goats and calves and ashes of a heifer sprinkled on them who are…unclean” to “ceremonially…sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean” (Hebrews 9:13, emphasis mine). With such rituals and methods did the priests and religious leaders in Jesus’ time treat a demoniac. The resulting ceremonial “outward cleanness” was the basis of Jesus’ remark when he described a newly delivered victim’s condition as being “swept clean and put in order” (Luke 11:25): something very inviting to a visiting demon. In Hebrews 10:4, these rituals were never meant to cleanse permanently, being merely “annual reminders of sins” (verse 3). When Jesus came casting demons out, the authority He wielded commanded permanence, drawing people’s amazement far and wide, very quickly (Luke 4:36). Jesus’ method was something simply new: to “give orders to evil spirits and they come out!” In Matthew 9:33 documents how the people remarked, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

Before Jesus, David held the record of having the most unique method of casting out demons: exorcism by harp music. The element of permanent delivery of the victim, however, was not there; and he was required to play once again “whenever the spirit…came upon Saul” (1 Samuel 16:23).

Demon possession in the Old Testament was deemed as a principal sign of the judgment of God in the life of a person. There was virtually no deliverance from it that it was a fact certain for the spirit to return and plague its victim repeatedly. Jesus in the New Testament cited this fact in the gospels, Luke 11:24 and 25—“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’” The very attacks of Satan himself are characteristic of this. In Luke 4:13, after an unsuccessful endeavor to tempt Jesus three times, he fled “until and opportune time.” It is an accepted fact, as further stated by Jesus, that the subsequent re-possession of the demoniac ill “worse than the first” (11:26). Because of this, the victim was cast far from the populously sanctified Israelite cities and towns into lonely regions, like the wilderness, where he could do the least damage and hopefully find death.

This popular view toward demon possession is somewhat suggested in the very syntax of the phrase “an [or, the] evil spirit from the Lord” in 1 Samuel 16:14, 17 and 23. The innate emphasis of this passage is quite the opposite of what it appears to suggest. God did not send the evil spirit; He was not the source of it. Instead, the invasion of this spirit came the instant God withdrew His Holy Spirit from Saul. Notice that verse 14 begins with the clause, “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul.” This departure of the Spirit, thus, opened the opportunity for an evil spirit to attack Saul. Perhaps the best word to use here is “abandoned,” in that Saul was deserted for whatever influence that found its way to him. The phrase “from the Lord” simply hinting on the grammatical mood of speech , can therefore be interpreted: “as if from the Lord.”

There are, however, evidences in the Scriptures that show God deliberately handing over the life of one mortal over to the enemy, such as what was done to Job. Here, Satan was not authorized to take Job’s life, unlike with Saul. In the New Testament, this principle continues to exist in 1 Corinthians 5:5, where the Apostle Paul charged the church members to “hand [the offender] over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”

In the Old Testament, a demon-possessed individual was viewed as a walking deadman awaiting death. His life is viewed as that of the fallen angels’, destined for hell yet continue to walk the earth before the appointed time of their judgment. This kind of life can be seen in the documented case of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5:1?20 and Luke 8:26?38. In Luke’s account, the man “for a long time…had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs” (verse 27) in addition to other “solitary places” where the demon would drive him into (verse 29). Permanence, to settle down in a home and establish a livelihood, is a quality of the living; but not to a demon-possessed who cares nothing for his own existence, as a beast headed for destruction. In the same way, note how Saul was driven two times to scour the Palestinian countryside. In light of a possessing demon’s restless disposition, it may seem that Saul enjoyed the travel alone apart from his desire to see his target slain.

The study ain't done yet. More King Saul to come.

PHOTO CREDITS: Corbis images


  1. Much to learn and beware for our own manner of walk in faith with Christ. This should teach a believer to ascribe to a clear-cut conviction in His power and authority. Much thanks.

  2. We learn so much from the L'RD and uses avenues to reach them all to us. Thank you very much.

  3. Have made this now as a reference site, love the presentation and the photos.