We have been looking at how to discern spirits so that we can know whether a spirit is from God or not. In the 4th chapter of Job we hear from Eliphaz a visitation that he received from a spirit. Was this a godly encounter or an ungodly one? Can we discern anything from this encounter or not? Let’s take a look and examine this situation.
"Now a word was brought to me stealthily, And my ear received a whisper of it. "Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, Dread came upon me, and trembling, And made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed by my face; The hair of my flesh bristled up. "It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance; A form was before my eyes; There was silence, then I heard a voice: 'Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? 'He puts no trust even in His servants; And against His angels He charges error. 'How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before the moth! 'Between morning and evening they are broken in pieces; Unobserved, they perish forever. 'Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them? They die, yet without wisdom.' Job 4:12-21 (NASB)
First of all, before we begin, there are those who say that a person with an experience like this can claim it to be God. This person, as some claim, is not at the mercy of someone who did NOT have the experience. The experience itself, when claimed to be spiritual and from God, is enough and requires no proof on behalf of the one who had it. This view is very dangerous – and actually is NOT supported by what is said in the Scriptures. GOD HIMSELF tells us to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Therefore a view of this as sufficient in itself is not wise.
The first thing we see here in Eliphaz’s testimony is that this was a frightening, if not creepy experience. Whether he was asleep or awake is not something that we are able to discern here. But when being visited by spirits, there is validity to the experience being similar to a dream. Joseph had experiences with holy angels that communicated with him in his dreams. Also there is not sufficient evidence to state whether this was a godly or ungodly experience from Eliphaz’s emotional state during the visitation. This should remind us that how we “feel” about something can be a dangerous measure of whether it is true or not. When we examine the role of feelings in encounters with spirits or angels we learn some very important things that we need to remember to rightly discern these experiences.
When you look at the testimony of the Bible on these matters – many who received both godly and ungodly messengers were terrified of them during the visit. Men like Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel were all very frightened by their visitations from holy angels. They each had a sense of dread in their presence, even though for each of them the messenger was not bringing bad news to them personally. Whether an angel is holy or unholy there is an awesomeness in their appearance that can cause men to fear, even to the point of physical trembling and terror. Eliphaz’s experience is in line with these, even though it is a little more creepy and mysterious than most.
One thing that we may be helpful for us to see in these visitations is that in many of the godly ones there is a sense of sinfulness that can be overwhelming to the person in them. Moses hid his face, afraid to look upon God, even in the form of a burning bush. Manoah and his wife (Samson’s parents) had a sense of dread that they were going to die due to the holiness of the angel who visited them. Isaiah was struck with his sinfulness in the presence of God and the holy angels who attended Him. Daniel fell on his face and struggled to breathe because the fear of his sins was so heavy upon him. It was only when the angel of the Lord spoke peace to him that these “holiness” terrors subsided from him. When you think about these particular visits, it seems logical that holy angels bring about a sense of God’s holiness as they appear. That kind of holiness, though only reflected by these beings, should make us feel our sinfulness acutely.
So what do we learn from all of these situations concerning our feelings and properly discerning whether a spirit is from God or not? The main thing we learn is that feelings alone – even possible feelings of unworthiness and sinfulness – are not sufficient for this task. We need something more than how we feel about the situation if we are going to determine the difference between a holy or an unholy spirit that manifest’s itself to us. Hopefully we know that when it comes to our feelings – there is a possibility that we are deceived. Therefore we must be extremely careful with them – and go far deeper than just how we feel when dealing with these things. We need to go to what is being said. When we examine what is said – in light of the Scriptures – we will be able to do a far better job of knowing whether a spirit is saying what agrees with what God has revealed about Himself or not.
Therefore the wise man or woman measures all things by God’s Word. Feelings can be fallible – and can be misinterpreted. We can be deceived by our feelings as well as misled because of how we respond to them. What is most important is what is written. Just remember this (and we will look far deeper into it). Jesus faced a visitation from the chief of all evil spirits. Even He did not discern this situation through His feelings. Jesus heard what was said – and three times responded by discerning and answering with the Scriptures. We will look at this further next week. Until then – discern through the Word. Hold fast to what God says – and learn to judge all things that come at you by what He says.