So God is supposed to be all good, right? But what about these verses – God sends “evil spirits” to rile people up, to make bad things happen. Maybe there is something more to all of this. All Bible quotes are RSV.
There were a lot of judges in Israel before they had kings. Somebody had to make decisions. But then it seems that every now and then God stirred things up. Control was taken out of their hands.
22 Abim′elech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abim′elech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abim′elech; 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubba′al might come and their blood be laid upon Abim′elech their brother, who slew them, and upon the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to slay his brothers. 25 And the men of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountain tops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abim′elech.
Then God made Samson want a woman who was a Philistine just because God wanted to stir up a fight between the Philistines and Israel. God knew there would be a fight at the wedding.
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up, and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your kinsmen, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me; for she pleases me well.” 4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD; for he was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Then God sends an “evil spirit” to King Saul, which stirs up problems between him and David, who God has chosen in his place to be king.
1 Samuel 16:14
14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.
Here’s another example of God sending an “evil spirit” upon Saul.
1 Samuel 18:10-11
10 And on the morrow an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul cast the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.
The same thing happened to Judas. He wasn’t betraying Jesus because he wanted to –he was made to do it by forces beyond his control. Satan, the very definition of an “evil spirit”, entered him.
Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death; for they feared the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve;4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and engaged to give him money. 6 So he agreed, and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the multitude.
Here’s another take on the same scene.
21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
So what’s going on? This is pretty wild. God isn’t what we thought. What does this say about God and the nature of God?
Are we willing to let God use us like this? This is some hard stuff – wars being waged, innocent people being attacked and killed. All because God makes it happen by sending an “evil spirit”. God is in control of evil spirits? God is in control of everything.
What does this say about “free will”? It is out of the window. These people didn’t decide to be angry or crazy or start wars or betray a friend.
What does this say about bad times, about wars, about people attacking innocent people? David and Jesus were both innocent. They didn’t deserve to be attacked. They’d done nothing wrong.
Perhaps that is it. We need to trust that everything is part of a plan that we can’t see. The more we fight against it, the harder it is for us.
Maybe that terrorist, that road-rager, that narcissistic manager, that abusive parent is part of the plan. Maybe an “evil spirit” entered into them. Who knows? We can’t know. That is part of the problem. We want to see the whole picture, and we can’t. We don’t have the capacity for it.
God says that God is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end at the same time. We can’t comprehend that. It is like trying to play a DVD on a record player. Our technology, the human brain, lacks the capacity to process things like God does.
(All Bible quotes are RSV.)