25. Saul and the Spirit

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

Know someone who would find this encouraging?

  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
  • Topics:

Our Scripture is from 1 Samuel 10 and 1 Samuel 19, and our subject: ‘Saul and the Spirit.’ First of all, some verses from 1 Samuel 10:1.

“Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his (that is, Saul’s) head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” 1

Then verses five through twelve:

“After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.

And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?” 2

Then from 1 Samuel 19:23-24, this some years later:

“And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?” 3

These passages that I have read are very, very dear to the Modernists - they love them. In any study of the Old Testament and of the prophets, these passages are given a great deal of priority for entirely the wrong reasons. The Modernists want to associate the prophets and prophecy with primitive medicine-men and Shamans and the like. And so they say: “You see, the prophets are like these primitive people and the cultures of central Asia and Africa, they become possessed and they fall down and strip themselves naked and roll around, and ostensibly give revelations.”

This is a false reading of these verses. First of all, we have no occasion elsewhere in the Bible where anything like that which is described in verses twenty-three, and twenty-four of chapter nineteen occurs. Moreover, there is a meaning here that they deliberately ignore. It is important for us to understand what these verses teach us, in order to know the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

First of all, what we see here very clearly is the religious, the theological nature of all civil power. One of the ugly facts of the past few months is that we have had supposedly Christian periodicals printing editorials condemning any involvement in politics by Christians in the name of the separation of church and state. And that because we represent a Christian perspective we can have nothing to do with what is secular. But in terms of the Bible, nothing is outside of God and His government, and the Word of God speaks to every area of life, and the individual, the family, the church, the state, the school; all things are to be under God and His Word.

While in Scripture, very emphatically, the king could not be a priest, he was required to be a prophet. He was required, according to Deuteronomy 17:18-20 to know God’s law and apply it. Like the Levite and the prophet he was to be a master of God’s word, a teacher in his sphere. He was anointed, even as priests were anointed; not just because he was a king, but because he was God’s king, required to acknowledge that fact by his ordination or coronation. The coronation was his induction into God’s service, and the anointing by the priest or a prophet of a king with oil was to signify that he had to rule in terms of God’s Word, and in the Spirit.

Then, second, the anointing and possession of Saul by the Spirit set forth what the life of the king, and of all who are in authority is to be - life in the Spirit. Whatever our authority, whether it be in the home or in our work, or in state school or church, it must be in terms of the Spirit. When we assume authority under God, we must be as Samuel said: “turned into another man.” We must exercise authority not in terms of our word or our wants, but in terms of the Word of God. This is why it is so evil for husbands for example, to quote Scripture that they are the head of the house, and to stop there. Their headship is in Christ, it is under God in terms of the Spirit and the Word, not to give them the right to lay down the law, but to give them the duty to further what God requires of all in authority, in the home or in any sphere. All authority is by delegation from Almighty God, and God’s Word and Spirit are the necessary conditions in any and every sphere, for the faithful discharge of all authority.

But then third, we have a very significant fact. Saul was not himself a believer; he was a commanding person, he was an able leader, but essentially his attitude was one of a studied indifference to God. Hence the cynicism of all those, we are told, who knew him, when they saw him prophesy: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

This was said with humor, unbelievable! It became a proverb in Israel to speak of someone being ‘a fish out of water,’ a man out of his elements; as a preposterous, an impossible thing. Moreover while Saul lived a relatively simple life as Kings go, he was a proud man. And here he was with a company of prophets prophesying, and one of those who knew him said: “But who is their father?” The father of these prophets. The meaning of that is very interesting. Kings came from a royal line, priests came from a priestly line in the Old Testament, they were of the house of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. Levites came from a Levitical line. But the prophets, with a few exceptions like Isaiah, were nobodies - Amos was a fruit picker. They were men whom God chose out of the mass of the people, and anointed and sent forth in the power of His Spirit, to witness to priest and to prophet, and to the people. Their fathers were generally nobodies, and for Saul to associate with nobodies was an amazing fact. And so the statement is: “is Saul also among the prophets?!” one who knew him especially well said: “But who is their father (that he is associating with them)?” Their fathers are nobodies! It was a remarkable situation, only possible because for the time he was turned into another man, the Spirit requiring of Saul that he always be another man.

Saul, in being called to be king, was called to be God’s prophet, and for Saul to fail as a prophet meant also to fail to be a king under God. God rejected Saul, and Samuel did also. Saul wanted to be his own king, not God’s king, he preferred his way to the Spirit's way. And when Saul saw Samuel denouncing him, anointing David to be king in due time and saying to Saul: “Ye shall see me no more. I will not be a part of anything you are a part of, because you are not under God.”

The nineteenth chapter of which we read the last two verses tells us that Saul was enraged at this. He sent men out to capture David and to compel Samuel to return, to arrest him, to bring him back to the court. And so, they were sent to arrest David at Naioth, but on arriving these arresting officers were seized by the Spirit of God and prophesied. Very angry, Saul sent a second detachment, and the same results ensued. Then Saul himself went with others, and the same thing happened to him. Saul and his men were seized by the Spirit, they stripped themselves naked and lay down before Samuel’s dwelling all day and all night, prophesying against themselves and witnessing to God, and witnessing concerning Samuel.

Now, the ironic fact is, the sad fact, that the church is so often trivial, that when they come to this passage they spend most of their time trying to clothe Saul. And so if you go to the commentaries they will tell you: “Well, certainly God didn’t make Saul strip himself completely naked, no doubt he just took off his outer tunic.” But that is not the point. What we are plainly told is that they stripped themselves naked, the king and the high officers of his court rolled around on the ground naked, prophesying against themselves, and for the Lord. Can you imagine a greater humiliation and degradation? That was the point of it all.

Moreover, others refused to see the sovereignty of God in this; H.D.M. Spence said of this incident: “Is it not, however, better to explain the incident by understanding that once more the pitiful Spirit pleaded with the man whom the Lord had chosen to be His anointed?” 4 It is enough to make one cry to see that kind of blasphemy coming out of commentators. The Spirit pleading, begging? Why, the Spirit struck them down! The Spirit was not a pleader, He was sovereign; he broke them then and there, in the presence of the men they had come to arrest. David, who was to be executed, Samuel who was to be compelled to serve Saul against the will of God. God the Spirit struck down Samuel and his men and humbled them, and demonstrated that He could use them in spite of themselves. The text calls attention to their humiliation, their abnormal behavior; it was not what the men planned on.

What, then, is the meaning? Compare what happened when the Spirit possessed Saul and His men, and what happened when Isaiah, in Isaiah 61:1-3 and our Lord reading these verses and declaring they were fulfilled in Himself said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Why? Because, He said because: “I have been called to preach the good news.” Power and total sanity, as against the insanity and degradation of Paul. Christ, filled with the Spirit, sings out of conquest and victory. Saul, abased by the Spirit he rejected, grovels before God’s prophet to prophesy in spite of himself. Saul warred against God and was struck down.

To understand the meaning of that, remember that which again and again we encounter in Scripture, as in Judges 13:22, when the angel of the Lord, the second person of the Trinity appeared to Manoah, Samson’s father; and before Manoah’s wife, to predict the birth of the child and to declare what he should be. And Manoah cried out when he realized with whom he had spoken: “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.” 5 For the sinner to encounter God is death, and this is why when we encounter God, we who are the saved by God, die unto ourselves, for to meet Him is to die unto ourselves, for to meet Him is to die. And we are regenerated and made into a new creation, because when the Spirit comes into our lives the old man perishes, is killed; and a new man made alive, and those who will not come to God, who will not receive Him, have eternal death, eternal reprobation.

For the Spirit to encounter man as He encountered Saul is to break him or to kill him, or to remake him as well. This is why God the Spirit met Moses on the way to Egypt when Moses had gone in obedience to his wife rather than in obedience to God, we are told He sought to kill Moses, and Moses had to make reparation and do that which God required of Him before he could proceed.

The Holy Spirit, God the Father, God the Son are not ‘sweetness and light’, when we deal with the triune God we deal with the Lord, who is not to be trifled with, and when God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit come to sinful men, judgment comes; and if the judgment is not unto redemption it is unto death. And this is why when the Lord of glory came to this world and the world refused Him and they crucified Him, the greatest judgment and killing in all of history took place, the Fall of Jerusalem. Not even in the atomic age has there been a disaster of comparable degree, and there never shall be, we are told, to the end of the world. God is not to be trifled with.

When the Spirit comes into our lives He will use us to destroy ourselves, or He will remake us after His image; He is the Lord.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God we thank thee that in Jesus Christ we have died unto our old man, and have been made a new creature in Jesus Christ, and the habitation, not of sin and death, but of the Holy Spirit. Teach us so to walk day by day that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit, that in Him we may be more than conquerors, and bring all things into captivity to Jesus Christ our Lord. In His name we pray, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Audience Member] How do we understand the angel of the Lord wrestling with Jacob?

[Rushdoony] Very good question. ‘The Angel of the Lord’ refers, of course, to the second person of the Trinity, but where the Son is there also is the Father and the Spirit. Jacob had been the godly son of the two from the beginning, but Jacob also had gone forth to too great a degree in his own wisdom. In effect had halted between two opinions, and he came out of that incident halting physically, but not spiritually, and he was renamed Israel because what that wrestling meant was that the old Jacob died, and the new Jacob prevailed and became a prince with God. Because what Jacob now sought from God was not in terms of himself. He had already been ready before that incident, the previous day, to give up most of what he had to Esau, but what he wanted was the blessing of God, and in that he prevailed, and God prevailed over him. So his name thereafter became ‘Israel,’ ‘a prince with God’.


[Audience Member] In what sense was Saul prophesying, teaching or predicting, or something else?

[Rushdoony] Yes, good question. The word ‘to prophesy’ and ‘prophet’ has a double-sense. It means to predict, and it means to speak for God. So that we are all prophets in the sense, always, that we are called to speak for God, to represent God wherever we are; in our home, work, church, or wherever we are. We are also-called upon to predict because we can predict in terms of Scripture, that the wages of sin are always death, that God’s Word does not return unto Him void; so we have the whole of God’s word as our means of prediction.

Now, we are not told in which of these two senses Saul predicted or prophesied rather, but we can safely assume that it was in both senses. That God required him to witness there that his way was the way of death, that because of that he was under judgment, because of that, just as he had been broken there he was going to be slain in time, and that David was to succeed him. He had gone there to arrest David and to compel Samuel to come back, and when he was broken there he had to witness against every facet of what he had planned to do, which was to overrule God’s plan. He had to prophesy that God’s plan would prevail. So, it was prophecy in the full sense of the term. Yes?

[Audience Member] Is it true to say that in our day and age only the Christian is eligible for leadership in civil government, because only the regenerate is prophet, priest or king?

[Rushdoony] Yes and no. Only the regenerate can be truly, prophet, priest and king. But, this does not mean that God cannot use the ungodly and often does. We had quite a to-do in the press of late because a Southern Baptist leader said that God would not hear the prayers of a Jew. Now, he was not scripturally correct, because we know from Scripture that God heard the prayer of a particularly ungodly king, and answered it. We are told very definitely that He heard Ahab’s prayer, and stayed his judgment until after Ahab’s lifetime. This does not mean that Ahab was converted, just that for the moment he recognized the power of God and humbled himself in fear.

We also know that God used, for example, Cyrus, and refers to him by name, but Cyrus was not a believer. And we find again and again in Scripture that God uses ungodly men to bring forth great things, so, we cannot limit God’s ability to use even men who were ungodly. Now, this is why we are, in Scripture, commanded to pray for those in authority, not just for those who are Christian, because God can work in their hearts. Now we don’t simply pray foolishly as some people do: “Well, bless the president, and bless the governor” and so on, no! We need to pray specifically that God work in the hearts of these men, or else judge them, trip them up, make them to know Him, guide the reins of their hearts into the way of righteousness and truth, whether or not they be converted, you see. This is how we are to pray. So Go, when He requires us to pray for the ungodly who are in authority over us, because when He issues that commandment through Paul it was Nero who was on the throne; now if God could use Nero he can certainly use Reagan and Carter and others like them, and even Jerry Brown!

So, you see, we limit the power of God when we feel that such people cannot be used by God to do good, and we limit the power of prayer, and anything that we can do as citizens if we just say: “Nothing doing, they are no good.” That’s tying God’s hands, and that is wrong. So, you have that very emphatic commandment to pray for those in authority, when there wasn’t a single person in authority who was a believer. And if it had been impossible, why would Paul have appealed to Caesar? He was still ready to believe that God could use even Nero to give justice. And why did he make such an eloquent plea before Agrippa? Agrippa being the kind of particularly immoral and degenerate character that he was, he would have said: “Paul, why waste your breath?” God had a purpose in that. And while Agrippa didn’t dare turn him loose, and he silenced Paul at a point, because he said: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” “Look, I don’t want to hear more; you are troubling my conscience. You are going to force me to see the alternative too clearly.” We know that he undoubtedly sent Paul to Rome with a word in his favor, because he indicates that this would be the case, and takes credit that:

“Well, he really shouldn’t have been kept under arrest, but he has appealed to Rome so it is out of my jurisdiction.” He was no doubt glad it was; that he could send a good word along and salve his conscience, you see. God worked in the hearts of these men. Paul spoke out because he didn’t write them off. Yes?

[Audience Member] Could you explain what the ‘Received Text’ is?

[Rushdoony] Yes, a very good question. We have a number of manuscripts that have survived. Now, the manuscript which was used to translate the King James Version is called ‘Textus Receptus’ or the ‘Received Text’. This was the text that was preserved through the centuries as the authentic text. It doesn’t mean that the King James is absolutely correct, but that the text on which it is based is the received text which is very carefully preserved and handed down over the centuries.

Now, very early from the second century, we know from some of the writers of the time that there were attempts to doctor and alter the text to suit the tastes of various heretical groups. The man in whom this type of thing culminated was Origen, a great and brilliant scholar of Alexandria. Origen was Greek in his thinking to the core, he was a Greek philosopher who supposedly became converted. But he continued to believe in a great many things that are definitely not Christian, for example he believed in the transmigration of souls, which is Hinduism. He believed that the Spirit is good and the body evil, which is semi-Manichean in the form he held it; in fact he went so far as to have himself castrated so he would eliminate sexual desire from his life, but he found that it did not make any difference, because the root of sin is in the heart, and the operation didn’t change how he felt.

Well, Origen had a powerful influence. Now the Vatican manuscript and many of the Western texts were based on these faulty ones. When Constantine adopted Christianity, the man who counseled him, Eusebius, was very close to many of these heretical groups. Constantine attempted therefore to have the version of the Bible which Eusebius favored forced upon the empire. Christians by and large refused it. Jerome and the Vulgate continued these faulty manuscripts. The Eastern church has this great thing to its credit, that it maintained the Received Text very faithfully through the centuries, and some of the small groups in the West did also. At the Reformation the Received Text began to come back into its own, first in Catholic circles, but it was really adopted in Protestant circles, and became the foundation of most of the translations.

Well, in the last century under the influence of Westcott and Hort, and the Revised Translation of the latter half of the last century, the whole idea was to go back to these other texts. And although ninety-five percent of the surviving manuscripts of the Bible support the Received Text, they have gone to these defective and heretical manuscripts to make their new translations.

Now you hear a lot of nonsense that supposedly we who favor the King James believe that it is inspired. That is not the point, no translation is inspired; but the text which is used for the King James is the Received Text, very carefully preserved through the centuries. All your other translations are based on faulty manuscripts that have heretical opinions. Now they are increasing the heresy in the newer versions in that they are making emendations on their own, and saying: “Well, even though all the manuscripts, faulty or otherwise read thus and so; we believe it probably read this way. It seems more reasonable to us in view of our beliefs.” So the newer the translation the worse it is. That is why the King James is the dependable one, because it is of the Received Text. Yes?

[Audience Member] It is said that there are no noteworthy Bible scholars who support the Received Text.

[Rushdoony] Well, of course, it is commonly said that there are no Bible scholars of note that uphold the Textus Receptus. Well, the person who says that has suddenly decided that anyone who upholds it is not a scholar. The contrary is the truth; there are a number of very fine scholars, Dean Burgon in the last century was a great champion of it, E.F. Hills, Van Bruggen, Hickoring, and many others today, an increasing number, are beginning to go back to the Textus Receptus. It is commonplace to reject an opinion you don’t like by saying there isn’t anyone of any prestige who holds to that.

[Audience Member] What is the seminary’s opinion of the Textus Receptus?

[Rushdoony] Virtually all the seminaries are against the Textus Receptus. The Received Text is beginning to make a comeback in some of the Bible schools, and in some of the independent scholars. Dallas Theological Seminary, while I don’t agree with it in other respects, is beginning to give a hearing to the idea of the Received Text. If you go abroad you will find some like Van Bruggen who is a professor that do hold to it. Are there any other questions?

Well, if not let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 1 Sa 10:1.

2 1 Sa 10:5–12.

3 1 Sa 19:23–24.

4 Charles John Ellicott, ed. A Bible Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers. Vol. 2. 8 vols. London: Casseli and Company, Limited, 1883, 376.

5 Jdg 13:22.

More Series