From the Daily Office Lectionary (Yr 1), Thursday in the week of Proper 9B (Pentecost 6, 2015)
1 Samuel 16
14 Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
I can relate. At least to the first part of the verse. How often have I stared at a blank paper or a blank computer screen wondering what to write? Whether it be a letter of condolence to a parishioner who’s lost a family member, note of congratulations to someone, a report to the vestry, or (worst of all) a sermon for next Sunday, what secular authors know as “writer’s block” hits hard and I am left completely uninspired (which, as you know, means that the spirit is absent). That’s been the case most of this week. I’ve had to write two letters of condolence, one newsletter squib, a letter in response to a complaint about a sermon (thank heaven, those aren’t often required), and some sort of something to preach next Sunday, and it’s been like pulling teeth without anesthetic to get the words put together. When I’ve tried to write for this blog . . . nothing; that’s why there’s been no entry for a few days. So I read this verse (or the first half of this verse, anyway) and I can relate. – But “an evil spirit from the Lord”? I don’t get that. What does that mean? If the text simply said “an evil spirit,” it would make sense to me. If it say “an evil spirit from Satan (or the tempter or the devil or Baal or some other agency),” that would make sense. But “an evil spirit from the Lord”? I don’t get that. Does God really send “evil spirits to torment” God’s people? This is, honestly, one of those times when I have to look at the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of the Gospel, squint, and say, “Yeah. Not so much. I think you got that one wrong.” As one of my seminar professors would have said, “The Gospel trumps the Bible.”