Psalm 74; 1 Samuel 16:14–23; Revelation 20:1–6
Evil spirits or the “spirit of evil” has a presence in human culture throughout the ages. Even for those who have no deistic belief, there is an understanding that something is completely evil.
There was nothing positive about the Holocaust. In fact, most people would state that the men and women (for there were both) who created and perpetuated it were evil. There seems to be no question that there was a “spirit of evil” when it came to the Holocaust. The primary spirit of evil took the form of the other. Jews were the others (along with gypsies, we often ignore). Jews were blamed for the punitive consequences of World War I, which destroyed the German economy and culture (in some ways). This allowed a person such as Adolf Hitler to become the leader.
However, the Christian take on Hitler, as hard as it is, was that there was a possibility of redemption for him (along with all the others). How one could, on earth, move beyond what he led takes more than I could comprehend. The spirit of evil takes on many forms. Some of them seem benign. Some of them being obviously harmful. Christians over many years have argued over what makes something evil, or if something is indeed evil. A number of changes in American culture and law in the last few decades have certainly been at the fore.
The spirit of evil that Saul had sounds similar to a split personality. In many places, we read that Saul cared for, respected, and relied upon David. Yet, Saul would try to kill David in many ways, including by chasing him down with an army. The divergence of thinking certainly sounds like modern mental illness. Which leads us back to evil. If someone is mentally ill, is it a spirit of evil or is it something else?
Whatever guise or seeming, until all is over and we are at the throne of God, we will be dealing with a spirit of evil (or many spirits). While the Book of Revelation tells us the end (though God‘s victory doesn’t really come as a surprise), what it means that evil is bound for a thousand years, but will have to be released for a time after that is beyond us. We can guess, but it would only be a guess.
This not a suggestion for fatalism. If we believe that God is good, Jesus died for us, and that we have the Holy Spirit in us, then evil‘s presence is not pre-determined to lead to evil. It is our own thoughts and actions. Our actions, though, cannot be limited to our circle, but must also be part of our community.
- What do you think the difference is between evil, sin, and mistakes? How might understanding these 3 things adjust our interactions with the world?
- When was the last time you used “evil” in conversation? Was the context actually that of evil, or was it something different? If it was evil, what made it so? If it wasn’t truly evil, what might have been a better way to phrase it?
Lord, help us to guard our hearts against evil. Help us to understand your view of evil and to be those that bring light upon it. Amen.