In another post on discerning of spirits, I talked about what the gift of discerning of spirits actually is and how that is different from and relates to discernment. This post is going to cover discerning of spirits in the Bible focusing on scripture that discusses times that the spiritual world interacts with humans. Since the entire Bible is an account of the interaction between God and man, I’m not going to include accounts of God speaking to man, the appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ, or angels of messengers of God.
The first account of Satan’s interference in God’s creation is recorded in the Bible in Genesis 3:1-4. Satan, disguised as a serpent, suggests that Eve eat from the forbidden tree and when she initially protests, he asks, “Did God really say that?”
Which is the way he primarily works, twisting God’s word and raising doubt. He doesn’t normally come with a direct frontal attack, because anyone who has even a slight relationship with God would reject that. He slides in sideways, suggesting and artfully tries to tear down our faith in the Word and the overwhelming love God has for us.
The encounter is covered by only four short verses, but it suggests a lot.
She and the serpent were having a conversation. There was a rapport and a level of trust. Whether Satan was casting an illusion of the creature Eve normally spoke with or if he had been speaking to her in this guise all along, we don’t know. We also don’t know how long after creation this was.
Regardless, there was enough of a relationship that she took the word of a created being and allowed it to twist and surplant what she had been instructed by the Almighty Creator.
She allowed that relationship to override her judgment. She did not have discernment of the source of his motivation.
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” ~ Genesis 3:1-4 NLT
Cain and His Anger
The next account is regarding Adam and Even’s oldest son, Cain, in Genesis 4. Instead of following God’s instructions on what would be a pleasing sacrifice to Him, he decided to give what he wanted to give and then was angry when his sacrifice wasn’t accepted.
This spirit of rebellion, the attitude of “I’ll decide what’s right rather than obey what God says,” was a hereditary tendency, a familiar spirit, passed down from Adam. That spirit of rebellion, led to a spirit of offence and that to a spirit of anger.
God warned him, “Sin is crouching at your door, waiting to control you.”
Instead of obeying God and submitting to his will, he let his anger lead him into the murder of his brother.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. ~ Genesis 4:2-8
You may be saying, “This has nothing to do with discerning of spirits, it’s just Cain getting mad. It’s not like there are demons popping out everywhere.”
Satan knows the value of the understated hand. He knows he can’t win going head to head with God. He knows if he used open and exposed demonic warfare, we would be paying attention. We would know we needed to cry out to God and that we would be on guard against his attacks.
So instead, he works his way into the familiar. He tries to take the good things God has done and given us and pervert them. He takes the Word of God that brings us life and twists it just enough that we are led off on the wrong track into bondage. He suggests, “What’s wrong with this?” and we follow along rather than asking instead, “What is right with it?”
Or, like with Cain, he suggests reasons that we should take offense. He streams a steady flow of faulty reasons for self-righteousness, which we all too ready swallow.
Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. ~ Romans 6:16 NLT
The Spiritual Battle for the Soul of King Saul
King Saul is kind of a tragic figure in my opinion. The book of 1 Samuel tells his story. He was a reluctant king starting out with a severe inferiority complex. He was annointed by Samuel to be king. He had great victories for God and his people in the beginning.
But because of his inferiority complex, he was ultimately ruled by fear and that fear led to his downfall.
When Samuel informed Saul he would be the first king of Israel, Saul had a hard time believing it. He was from the least important family of the least important tribe. He was pulled from obscurity and appointed to lead the nation out of captivity. That would be intimidating to even a seasoned leader, let alone someone who never expected to lead.
In order to give Saul confidence that God would do what he said he would do, Samuel gave Saul a list of very specific things that would happen. (1 Samuel 10:3-8) As Saul left to go on his way, an awesome thing happened. God gave Saul a new heart (1 Samuel 10:9 NLT) Every detail Samuel had foretold happened. Then the “Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on Saul” and Saul began to prophesy with the prophets he met as a sign and confirmation to others. (1 Samuel 10:10-12)
Saul Call’s Samuel’s Spirit
- Balaam trying to prophesy against Israel
- Judas possessed by Satan
- Demonaic in the Bible
- Son throwing himself into the fire
- Simeon the Magician
- Nebuchadnezzar going crazy
- Jezebel sending a spirit with the message to Elijah
- Daniel and the Prince of Persia
- Book of Job
- Fortuneteller and Peter
- Luke 8:2 Jesus cast out seven demons out of Mary Magdalene
1 Kings 22:21-23 ESV
Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”
Acts 5:16 ESV
The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
Acts 8:7 ESV
For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.
Mark 9:17-27 ESV
And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.
Mark 5:1-20 ESV
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
Matthew 15:22-29 ESV
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Judges 9:23 ESV
And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,