When the Spirit falls

Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah…But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. 

1 Samuel 19:19-24

Saul was out to kill David. Saul was jealous of David and at times lost his mind in fits of rage. Yet, when the Spirit of God falls, the plans of humanity fall apart. No matter how many times Saul sent men to kill David, they all ran into the thick Presence of God and started prophesying. Saul then decided to do it himself, and he too was waylaid by the Spirit of God. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry...especially when God decides to interrupt them.

One of the main promises of when the Holy Spirit is poured out on everyone–prophesied by the prophet Joel and then quoted by Peter–is that everyone will be able to prophesy.

…this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18

So we know that when the Spirit falls upon people (like in the Old Testament), or when the Spirit fills people (like in the New Testament), the result is often the gift of prophecy.

We also know that when the Spirit falls, our plans get interrupted and disrupted. Things get messy. King Saul found himself lying naked day and night. Neat and tidy Sunday services burst open with fervor and fire. Calm and respectable people get undignified. This has always been the case when the Spirit falls in power. It will always be the case no matter how tidy we try to force the Spirit to be.

Sometimes the Spirit falls so powerfully that we are unable to continue with our day. We are knocked to the ground or so enraptured with His Presence that we don’t want to do anything else but be with Him. Notice what happens to one of Saul’s servants when he goes to offer sacrifices at the tabernacle.

Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.

1 Samuel 21:7

Sometimes in our normal obedience, maybe something we’ve done a thousand times, the Lord comes and detains us in His Presence. Suddenly the ordinary worship becomes a divine encounter. When this happens, it’s best not to fight it. If the Lord wants to interrupt our routines and traditions with His beauty and power, we should be grateful. We should linger. We should surrender and allow ourselves to be detained before the Lord.

We American Christians can get so offended by the messiness that comes with the Spirit of God. We can get put off by such raw displays of divine affection. We like to be in control, and we’ll often resist the move of the Spirit to try to stay in control.

But is that what the Lord did with us?

No. The Lord saw all of our messiness, the sin and chaos of our lives, and never once flinched. He didn’t get offended by our mess or distance Himself because of it. Instead, He did the opposite. He came near. The Spirit saw all of our chaos and mess and decided to move in. He decided to take up residence inside the mess and then invite us to join Him in the great renovation of our lives.

Do we not owe God this same response to the messiness that comes with a move of the Spirit? When the fire falls and we get pushed out of our comfort zone with things like the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t we do what He did for us? Shouldn’t we lean in instead of push Him away? Shouldn’t we embrace Him as He has embraced us…mess and all? Shouldn’t we put to death our inner control freak and let the Spirit lead us?

I think so.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

A Different Person

Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?…The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”

1 Samuel 10:1, 6-7

Samual was the prophet and judge for Israel when Israel asked for a king. They wanted to be like all the other nations around them who had a king, so God handpicked Saul. Samuel anointed Saul with oil and spoke a prophetic word over his life. The Spirit of the Lord would come upon Saul, enable him to prophesy, and would change him into a different person. And that is exactly what happened.

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 

1 Samuel 10:9-10

What happened to Saul when the Holy Spirit came upon him is a foreshadowing of what happens to the early disciples when the Holy Spirit comes upon them during Pentecost in Acts 2.

When we put our faith in Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit within us and are saved. We see this happen to the early disciples in John 20:22. Yet, when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, as it did to the early disciples in Acts 2, we often see a dramatic shift in the life of the believer. Along with life change, we see supernatural gifts like prophecy awakened.

When Peter tries to explain the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, he describes it as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:14-18

One of the effects of the Holy Spirit coming upon a believer–sometimes called being “filled with the Spirit”(read Ephesians 5:18; Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8 & 31; Acts 13:9 & 52)–is that they begin to prophesy. In other words, they begin to hear more clearly from the Lord than they’ve ever heard before, and they feel a fiery urge to speak those words. Yes, there are many other gifts that are awakened or imparted when a person is filled with the Spirit, but throughout scripture, prophecy is one of the most prominent and consistent ones.

And similarly to Saul, when a believer goes from having the Holy Spirit dwell in them to then also being filled with the Spirit–having the Spirit come upon them–they feel changed. It often feels like a second conversion experience. Many testimonies attest to the feeling of being changed into a different person, as Saul was.

A hunger for intimacy with God gets ignited. A sense of how completely loved you are by the Father overwhelms you. Gifts and talents that you had before are set ablaze with the power of the Spirit. Love and grace for people around you increases. Your prayer life deepens. Old sin habits aren’t given a second thought because your desires have been renewed. You no longer want the old things you used to want. Your boldness for the gospel triples.

I am convinced that as followers of Jesus we were never meant to only have the Spirit dwell within us. We all were meant to have the Spirit come upon us. We were meant to be changed and empowered as Saul was. We were all meant to be filled with the Spirit and meant to live a dynamic, supernatural lifestyle. This is what God always intended, not a new religion but a new kind of humanity.

“…His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity…”

Ephesians 2:15

By His Wounds

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.” [Isa 53:4]

Matthew 8:16-17

Jesus was able to set the demonized people free from the demonic spirits that afflicted them with just a word. He was able to heal all the sicknesses that people had. Matthew tells us that this ministry of healing and deliverance was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 53.

This is the passage in Isaiah that we normally view as a prophecy about what Jesus would do for us on the cross.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3-6

So you see, what Jesus did on the cross was more than just pay the price for our sin. He also paid the price for our healing and deliverance.

This is really important because some people don’t feel “worthy” to be healed physically or to be set free from the demonic. But we have to understand that healing and deliverance aren’t things we earn. They are things that were earned for us by Jesus on the cross.

When we get healed or delivered, it isn’t even primarily about us! Yes, our Father loves us and wants us set free. But our healing is primarily Jesus’s reward. Our healing is Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. When we get set free from demonic oppression in our life, it is Jesus’s reward. Our deliverance is Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. These things were the “joy set before Him” as He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). It’s all about Him and the fact that He is worthy, not about us and whether we’ve earned it.

I want to pray for people–for their healing and deliverance–all the time. But this desire isn’t about me thinking I am someone special (although God sees all of His children as special). This desire comes partially from compassion for the person, but only partially. The deeper root of this desire is to see Jesus get His reward! It is to return to Jesus the very things for which He paid so high a price!

This is why testimonies of healing are so important to share. If we get healed, we don’t share that testimony because we are saying that we are special. We share that testimony because we are declaring that Jesus is worthy! We also share a testimony of healing because it increases faith for people to believe that what God did for that person He can do for me. People have experienced their own healing just by hearing the testimony of someone else’s healing!

Do you need physical healing? Do you need freedom from darkness? Jesus already paid the price for it!

Dreamers

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph…

Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee…

Matthew 1:20 & 24; 2:13, 19, 22

In the birth narrative of Jesus, in the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, God communicates to Joseph four different times through a dream. This is consistent with other times throughout scripture where God communicates through dreams (to Jacob – Genesis 28:10-17; to Joseph – Genesis 37:1-11; to Daniel – Daniel 7; to pagan kings – Genesis 41, Daniel 2 & 4) In the Old Testament, King Saul expected dreams to be one of the ways, along with the prophets, that God communicated with him (1 Samuel 28:6).

The prophet Joel prophesied of a time when, because every believer would have access to the Holy Spirit, dreams would be a normal method of communication between God and His people. When the Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter recognizes that moment as fulfillment of the Joel prophecy and quotes Joel 2:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

Acts 2:17-18 (quoting Joel 2:28-29)

Some people experience more dreams than others. And often, if those dreams are not ignored, God will speak more and more to those kind of people through their dreams. The Holy Spirit has made this possible.

Not all dreams are from God. The three main sources of our dreams are: 1)our sub-conscience (unresolved emotions or food we ate the night before), 2) the Holy Spirit, or 3) the demonic realm. Often dreams from the Holy Spirit will be filled with light, bright colors, a sense of profound meaning, or vivid in details. Dreams from our own sub-conscience won’t feel as weighty with meaning and will often feel disjointed and disconnected. Dreams planted from the kingdom of darkness will often be full of fear, dark, violent, and will have grey and muted colors (if not colorless).

If we have a dream, we need to: 1) write it down (as much as we can remember), 2) pray for discernment as to its origin, 3) pray for discernment about the meaning or interpretation of the dream (dreams are often highly symbolic in nature), and 4) seek out help from discerning people and people with the gift of interpretation to bring understanding to our dreams.

For those who are willing to have eyes to see and ears to hear, God is willing to speak to us through our dreams. We will have to be discerning as we unpack the meaning and solve the riddle that dreams often are. But God doesn’t hide things from us; He hides things for us. Many in the Body of Christ are dreamers gifted with this form of the gift of prophecy and yet have never been trained to utilize this gift for the glory of God.

Are you a dreamer?

Total Recall

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 1:18-19

Paul wrote to Timothy as his spiritual son knowing the prophetic words that had been spoken over Timothy’s life. In order for Timothy to fight the good fight and continue in the faith through hardship, he would have to remember the words spoken over his life.

Sometimes prophetic words–words from the Lord about who we are and who we are becoming–come to us through our alone time with God. Sometimes God speaks to us through a highlighted passage of scripture that the Holy Spirit illuminates. Sometimes God speaks to us in our prayer time, calling us into our future through His still, small voice. And sometimes prophetic words come to us through other people who speak a word from the Lord about our lives.

Life can come at us in a way that makes us forget what God has said about us, our identity, and our future. The Israelites were continually getting into trouble because they forgot–forgot what God said, what God did and who they were called to be. Paul needed Timothy to remember the prophetic words spoken about his life so that he would have the confidence to move forward in faith. Remembering what God says about us emboldens us to break through what everyone else is saying about us.

So, if you get a word from the Lord, either through other people or through your alone time with Him, write it down. Keep a journal. And make it a practice to go back and read through them, remembering the words that God has spoken to you and about you. This is essential in fighting the good fight of faith. This is essential is avoiding a shipwreck of faith.