“God sent an evil spirit… so that the violence done to the seventy sons of [Gideon] might come, and their blood might be laid on [all] who killed them…” (Judges 9:23-24 emphasis mine)
It is places like this in Scripture that cause a person to dig deeply and search with the lantern of truth for understanding. What does it say about God if he can send an ‘evil spirit’? Who does he send an ‘evil spirit’ to? Why would God send an ‘evil spirit’?
The short answer to the “who” is the one and only triune God, Yahweh does. Even evil spirits obey him. Does this mean that everything Satan and evil spirits do is under the sovereign control of God?
I’ll address a few things in response to these questions. (This is my sermon text for this coming Sunday and this is my early examinations that raise as many questions as answers.)
First of all… this is not an isolated moment in Scripture. (Judges 9:23, 1 Samuel 16:15, 18:10, 19:9 and I think this is what is implied with Romans 1)
I’ll start with five observations in response to the questions.
1) God can order all of creation to obey him. (“the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19)
2) It is clear that God fights against evil spirits throughout the Bible, and this at least leaves room for consideration that they are at some type of liberty to do as they want within the boundaries God has established. A most important consideration in this is to consider the life of Jesus. Even he had to fight against evil spirits. He commanded them and they obeyed, but they were at least somewhat at liberty to act and torment.
3) The Hebrew word translated “evil” (rah) in these passages seems to be a difficult work of translation. It does not necessarily refer to something morally evil. It could mean “troubling.” So the passages could mean that he sent a ‘troubling’ spirit: that is, a spirit to cause unrest.
4) It would be risky work on our behalf if we conclude that God always sends evil spirits and even riskier if we conclude that he can’t send an evil spirit. At the least, we can conclude that there are times that he does.
5) Because it is clear that there are at least times that God does send evil, wicked, troubling or tormenting spirits, he does so as punishment for something people have done. God judges people by allowing spirit agents to do what they want to do: namely, torment people. This is at least part of what we learn from a passage like Romans 1:18-25.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever . Amen. (Romans 1:18-25 NASB)
I conclude, there is evidence where God’s interest to punish someone and the desire of fallen spirits to torment people are equally ordered, released and at liberty to do as they please. Thus proving their reprobate nature and arrogance to face the wrath of God without the blood covering work of Christ.