The spirit of Jezebel is a name given to the demonic personality or personalities whose role is to neutralize ‘life giving churches’. These churches are not satisfied to go on doing their own religious thing for their own benefit. They are churches committed to serving the cause of Christ locally and more widely in any way the Lord leads them.
A ‘life giving’ church takes seriously Jesus’ command to, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. They are churches with an outward focus and for this reason they represent a thorn in the enemy’s side. He has effective strategies to bring about their downfall.
Is the church you lead or attend characterized by all or some of the following?
- A passion to press into God and know Him more
- A heart for worship
- A love for the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ
- Open to the flow and ministry of the Holy Spirit
- Led by godly, spirit filled leadership
- A heart for the Kingdom of God not merely focused on local issues
- Passionate for world missionary enterprise
- Moving in intercessory ministry
- Open to and exploring prophetic ministry
- Seeking to speak into your community in ways that will make an impact
Then beware! That church is a target for the attack of the spirit of Jezebel.
In the last chapters of 1 Kings we read of the encounters between Elijah, the Prophet of God, and Queen Jezebel, wife of King Ahab. Ahab had married the Sidonian princess and priestess, Jezebel who brought the worship of Baal Malquat, the fertility deity of the Sidonians, to her new homeland.
A group of several hundred “prophets of Baal” accompanied her. The wickedness and evil associated with the worship of this powerful demonic deity soon swept the land. Under the influence of Jezebel, “Ahab … did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel , to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:33 NIV)
As always at such times, God had preserved a remnant who refused to follow the ways of wickedness and idolatry. Elijah, the Prophet of Fire, was sent by God to call the nation to repentance and back to worship of the true and living God; Yahweh, the God of Israel. The stage was set for a series of dramatic battles between Elijah, servant of God and Jezebel, servant of Satan.
Ultimately, the battle was for the hearts and minds of the people of Israel. Various skirmishes were played out at such places as Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16 -40) where Elijah dramatically demonstrated the power of God by calling fire from heaven. But always the motivating principle was God’s passionate love for His people and His desire for them to live in righteousness and enjoy the benefits of His favour.
In Revelation 2:18-28 we read Jesus’ letter to the church in Thyatira. This church was clearly a ‘life-giving church’. The Lord Jesus commends them with these words; “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” ( Rev 2:19 ). But there was a problem. The enemy had planted in this church a subversive agent who was causing significant disruption to the life of the body.
The following verses give some very clear pointers to the character and operation of one manifesting this very destructive spirit.
- “…calls herself a prophetess.” Note the personal claim to a position of status, influence and authority. There is an arrogance and pride which demands recognition not the quiet humble spirit which waits for godliness and gifting to be recognized and affirmed by the body.
- “By her teaching she misleads my servants…” Note the impact of ‘Jezebel’s’ teaching. Does it glorify Christ by promoting righteousness, holiness and unity? No! Rather it lays the foundations for immorality, idolatry, relationship break down and party spirit. This person’s operation was clearly very subtle for many of the Lord’s people were deceived.
- “…into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” There was a patently fleshly element to this influence in the life of the church. These words speak of spiritual and moral compromise. Jesus requires the highest standards of spiritual and moral integrity among His people. The enemy seeks to undermine these in any way possible.
- “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” Do you see the pride and arrogance demonstrated here? Those deceived by this spiritual entity are blind to their own error and deception. Therefore they see no need to express repentance or apology?
The Spirit of Jezebel Today
Some who study the life of the Church today have become aware that the same destructive spirit which challenged the spirit of prophecy in the time of Elijah and in the church at Thyatira, is very much at work today. The human personalities have changed, but the demonic entities that inspired Jezebel of old, are still the same.
There are a series of very discernable characteristics which define an attack of the spirit of Jezebel upon a community of God’s people. While the attack will generally be personified in one or two people, they may be the unwitting agents in a far more wide ranging strategy to neutralize a ‘life giving’ church. Here are some of the characteristics of Jezebelic agents one might expect to observe and identify through such an attack.
The enemy often chooses people who have a thorough knowledge of spiritual issues but wrong motivations to become his instruments in destruction. To many they appear to be very genuine, spiritual people. They use the ‘right’ words and attend the right meetings. However the outward displays of sincerity and commitment may be a cover for wrong motivations or some other sin issue that has allowed the enemy access. The disguise is so good that even the most discerning leaders can miss it completely.
Relationships are the key to the operation of this spiritual subterfuge. The agent seeks to develop webs of relationships which position them in a place to influence others and ultimately to exercise considerable power over the life of the church. There is often an element of deception and manipulation in these relationships.
The pastor is often the point of first approach. To many overstretched pastors, the arrival of a seemingly spiritual and willing worker or couple seems to be an answer to prayer. The tell tale signal is the way in which these individuals seek to position themselves close to the pastor and spouse. A variety of strategies are applied. Personal friendship, financial assistance, support and encouragement, access to confidential information are just some of the baits in the enemy’s tackle bag.
In order to secure the confidence of the pastor in his agent, the enemy may even use this plant to reveal seemingly important aspects of his strategy.
And should the pastor’s discernment warn him of the danger to the extent that he puts barriers in the way, the deception simply changes focus to other people of influence. An elder or spouse, leader of a significant ministry, a home group or indeed any network of relationships that delivers the much sought after influence and ultimately power.
The pastor who seeks to warn his leadership team of the danger is often chided for having an overactive imagination. In the meantime the agent is working behind the scenes to establish a power base from which to operate. It all appears so genuine that most are deceived until it is too late.
It should not surprise us that the church’s unity is the enemy’s favourite place of attack. Clearly Jesus placed great importance on our unity. Unity among His followers is a principle theme in the great High Priestly Prayer of John 17: 20-26. Likewise, the enemy knows that if he can destroy the unity of a church family, bring them to conflict, distrust and suspicion, he has taken a major step to neutralizing them as effective instruments in the Lord’s hands.
People operating under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel will cause division. A favourite target is the unity between the pastor and his wife. Comments like, “I can see your wife does not really understand you,” or “I understand the things that are on your heart and I am not sure your wife does,” are quite common especially when the agent is of the opposite sex.
If that line of attack is unsuccessful the next may well be to generate division in the senior leadership of the church. The eldership or spiritual oversight, worship department or prayer ministry are favourite places for attack. The goal is to drive divisive wedges into crucial relationships. From the enemy’s perspective, the wider the division and accompanying distrust, the more effective the strategy.
The spirit of Jezebel is incredibly manipulative. The agent seems to know instinctively, who are the vulnerable people in the life of a church. Relationships with these people are nurtured. The agent uses information, shared confidences, obligation; indeed any strategy to endear themselves to those whom they feel may be useful in their purposes. Truth is often a victim. One favourite strategy is allowing people to believe things the agent knows to be untrue. One leader calls these people ‘traders’. They will trade anything necessary to gain a position of influence from which they can manipulate. Sadly, few people recognize what is happening. They become victims of a very skilful manipulator.
True spirituality is characterized by humility, gentleness and spiritual authority that come from a close walk with God. The godly person recognizes their humanity and sinfulness. Confession, repentance and apology are characteristic of the godly person. Those through whom the Jezebel spirit operates are very different. Whilst they may appear to be self effacing at times, one rarely hears them acknowledge that they could be wrong.
There is a subtle arrogance and pride which sees their point of view as the only one possible. They will accept the apologies of others with apparent humility but rarely will one hear such apology from them. They may use tears or other emotional outbursts. But one will wait in vain for the agent to acknowledge that they could possibly be at fault.
The operation of the Jezebel spirit is incredibly destructive. It is destructive in the life of the agent. It is destructive in the lives of those who come under their deception. People once characterized by godliness begin to behave in ways that are totally out of character. Foul language, anger, rage, bitterness, ungodly actions and more are the impact of this deception in the lives of others. Once supportive elders and co-leaders turn on those with whom they have formerly prayed and journeyed. Once trusted relationships are shattered, often never to be healed.
People turn on those who have been their spiritual mentors and pastors to the extent that they become cold and uncommunicative. Vicious, slanderous attacks on pastors and elders are quite common. Whole church families can change from a happy, united fellowship to a divided entity in a matter of weeks. All of this has tragic consequences for everyone caught up in the cycle.
Dealing with the Attack of Jezebel
It must be acknowledged from the outset that this demonic attack is incredibly difficult to deal with because of the manner in which it undermines leadership and builds networks of personally supportive relationships.
For congregationally governed churches, it is almost impossible to confront this form of attack without substantial division or even a church ‘split’. In apostolically or eldership governed churches, the task is a little easier because the leadership have authority to confront and, if necessary expel, without reference to the body at large. However a degree of loss is highly probably because of the personal loyalties developed by the Jezebelic agent.
With all of this in mind, what can leaders do to both guard against such attack and to deal with it should it become necessary?
At least part of the problem with the destruction caused by people under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel is that they become deeply entrenched before the leadership is even aware of their operation. Most church leadership teams are totally unprepared for and unaware of this form of demonic attack. They are reluctant to ‘name it’ even if there is a suspicion. After all, the people concerned often appear to be so ‘spiritual’. By the time the attack is identified, huge and often irreparable damage has already been done.
It is critically important for pastors and leaders of ‘life-giving’ churches to become aware of this satanic strategy, to be alert to such forms of attack and to confront them early if such attack begins to manifest. Awareness and watchfulness are two key words.
2. Intercessory Covering
When a pastor or leaders become aware of possible attack, the mobilization of increased intercessory covering is essential. If the church’s own intercessory team has been compromised, it may be necessary to draw on intercessors from external networks, being careful not to give them too much information. Integrity on the part of the leadership team is a critical factor. Godly leaders must not stoop to the same tactics as the Jezebelic agents employ.
3. Outside Consultants
Tragically, by the time leaders become aware of the attack, their own standing in the body may well have been compromised. This is part of the enemy strategy. As a result they may well lack the confidence of the body to act in ways that will deal with the problem. This is especially acute in congregationally governed churches where the spiritual oversight depends on the confidence of the people if they are to exercise their leadership effectively. In such cases a vote of the membership is required to finally resolve the issues. Securing such a decision may be almost impossible without significant fall out or even division.
One way through this impasse may be to bring in an outside consultant who appears to be neutral. This may well be a very risky strategy but it may be the only one available. The difficulty is finding people with the necessary skills and spiritual insights to deal with this kind of spiritual attack. Mediation is not an option. The enemy and his agents never keep their agreements. They don’t fight fair. The use of a consultant can sometimes help.
Regardless of the above, there is no future in living with such an agent of the enemy in the Body. Unless there is clear acknowledgement of the problem accompanied by public confession, repentance, reconciliation and restoration, the agent must be expelled. Experience shows that such restoration rarely happens.
The struggle for most pastors is their own nature – they are pastoral. By nature and calling they believe in restoration. They see any individual as one for whom Christ died and therefore valuable to the Master. The hope of restoration is a major chain within the pastoral DNA. It is this fundamental hope which leaves many churches open to be ravaged by the Jezebel spirit.
One of the only courses of action available to pastors and spiritual oversight is to confront the agent of attack at the earliest possible moment. Once leaders have discerned the nature of the attack, they must prayerfully confront the agent, reveal their actions and call them to repentance and restoration. If this approach fails to bring the desired results, leaders are left with no alternative but to expel the agent from the fellowship. They then face the challenge to pastor the Body through the inevitable fallout. The longer leaders put off the confrontation the greater will be the fallout.
These are serious issues. The implications are significant no matter which way a leader moves. The potential for serious spiritual damage to people is a major cause of concern. The life and health of the Body is at risk. But we are dealing with a vicious enemy of whom Peter wrote, “Be clear minded and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 ISV).
As shepherds of the sheep we are called to confront and deal with any attack which threatens their welfare. Such is the challenge of leadership.
by Dr Gavin D Williams