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The Power of the Cross: Old Testament Foundations: Signs, Wonders and the People

In addition to a theological analysis of idolatrous worship, the Old Testament gives us an account of an actual deliverance. In this case, the power of God became available to set king Saul free from demonic oppression.

One of the saddest accounts in the history of Israel is the story of Saul’s disobedience toward God. The prophet Samuel, who originally anointed Saul king, put the king’s rebellion in the strongest terms: “Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft,” and added, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king” (1 Sam. 15:23). As part of God’s punishment of Saul, “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Sam. 16:14). This statement does not mean that the Lord commands hosts of evil spirits and sends them against hapless mortals. Rather, the Lord sometimes allows evil spirits to have their way with people who have rebelled against God, and that is one form of divine judgment upon them. A good example occurs in 1 Kgs. 22:19-28, where God allows a lying spirit to speak through false prophets, with the result that sinful king Ahab is led astray to campaign against the Aramaeans, and is killed in the battle. In the case of Saul, God allowed the judgment of demonic affliction to be ameliorated at times by his servant David. David would play the harp in Saul’s presence when the evil spirit attacked the king, and then “relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Sam. 16:13, 23).

On the basis of Rev. 19:10, we can now define the “prophetic” as that which is a “testimony of Jesus Christ.”

This is a case of deliverance (at least temporary deliverance) from demonic oppression, but it is not just deliverance by a shepherd boy. David had already been anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul, and when he was, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Sam. 16:13). Not only was David anointed by the Spirit; he was also a prophet, as we know from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:30). It appears, then, that the David who delivered Saul was an anointed, prophetic figure, who of course not only became king of Israel, but also spoke prophetically of Christ on a number of occasions (e.g., Pss. 2, 16, 22, 110).


Old Testament Healing and the Prophetic

I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.

- Moses

These examples of prophetic healing and deliverance through prophetic figures in the Old Testament make a clear point. God chose to do signs and wonders through anointed, prophetic figures. He did them through his prophet and covenant mediator Moses; he also did them through other prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, and David. The New Testament evidence is similar. God did signs and wonders not only through Jesus4 (the Prophet and Mediator of the New Covenant), but also through Jesus’ disciples during his earthly ministry, and then through the apostles and other Christians5 as the church age began.6 The parallel suggests that God has always intended kingdom life in both Old and New Testaments to be “prophetic”—a life that includes signs and wonders. This may seem a bold statement, but other evidence supports it, including both the outpourings of God’s Spirit and the prophecies of such outpourings in the Old Testament.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2006

About the Author: Jeffrey J. Niehaus, A.M., Ph.D. (Harvard University), M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), is Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching, Dr. Niehaus ministers and lectures in various churches on such topics as spiritual warfare and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Regularly presenting papers on higher critical issues and Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, Dr. Niehaus’ scholarly interests include biblical theology and the idea of covenant and covenant schemes in the Bible. Faculty page

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