Last night during small group, which was amazing, the question was asked about 1 Samuel 19:9 and the "evil spirit from the Lord". We had a lot of discussion about this, so I thought I'd give you my thoughts on this.
First of all this isn't the first time for it to happen to Saul, here's the first time;
Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. Saul's attendants said to him, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 1 Sam 16:14-15
The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand… 1 Samuel 18:10
And then again here;
But an evil [a] spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, 1 Sam 19:9
The question that was asked was "does God send evil spirits?"
Well, there are different theories about this.
Let's start with this one:
Ancient Hebrew is full of figurative language, and active verbs are frequently used to express NOT the doing of the thing, but the PERMISSION of the thing. So, when the writer wrote "from the Lord", he was actually using an IDIOM to indicate that the Lord ALLOWED or PERMITTED the evil spirit to come upon Saul.
The term 'evil' could have a wide range of meanings e.g. bad, unhappy, sad of heart or mind, injurious etc., and 'spirit' can even mean 'disposition of mind or attitude'. It could refer to "a variety of negative attitudes common to wicked people, and be extended to include the consequences of that kind of lifestyle". The 'evil spirit' that came upon Saul could have been his own bad attitude which made him jealous, irritable, and vindictive.
To me that seems to make sense, but I'm a little cautious when it comes to explaining God's ways so that I can "get it".
The "spirit" is from the Lord. That is, it is the Lord who directs the Holy Spirit to forsake Saul. The evil spirit is also from the Lord. This should not be surprising, because God is sovereign. Satan cannot do anything to anyone without God's permission (Job 1 and 2).
Really, He would do that?
This is more common in scripture than you think. In Psalm 78:49, God judged Israel "by sending evil angels among them." In Judges 9:23, "God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem." In 1Kings 22:22, God sent a "lying spirit" in the mouth of the false prophets to send Ahab to his death. God removed His Spirit from the disobedient Saul, which opened the door for an evil spirit to come and torment Saul.
What we see in these passages follows a pattern. When God removes His hand, there is a void that gets get filled by evil, which leads to destruction or to torment. The devil and the evil spirits do the work, but God has allowed them to do what comes natural to them for His own purpose. God does not commit wickedness, but He uses the wicked for His purpose. In the end, God will have His glory.
We do know this, when Saul is "filled with" with jealousy or anger, the spirit would come upon him.
Like Saul, we are more vulnerable when we surrender self-control, whether by anger, greed, drugs, or sexual immorality, to name a few, we create a void for evil to take up residence.
For me, I'd rather not experience them…I've got to stay close to God so that I can't be filled with anything else!