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Deception is one of our greatest human hazards: Centuries before the coming

of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah made a declaration about it that is vital to our

day. He said, "The yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil"

(Isaiah 10:27). The "yoke" represents sin and all aspects of its bondage; the

"anointing oil" speaks of the Holy Spirit’s power to destroy evil and its

deceptiveness. As students of Scripture we need this understanding. For

special-clarity, I quote both the original King James (1611) and the current-

English version (1979). First: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him

(Jesus) ... and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord,

And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the

hearing of his ears." Isaiah 11:2,3. The New King James says: "The Spirit of

the Lord shall rest upon Him ... His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He

shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears"

(Isaiah 11:2,3).

Which translation is correct? Is it "Quick understanding in the fear of the

Lord?," or, "His delight is in the fear of the Lord?" Answer: Both are correct.

Not only so, but the combined message of the two translations is very valuable

to us. Here is why: Translators are faced with choices regarding the words

they use. In this case the topic for both is "discernment." In the New

Testament era, the word "discern" was a Greek medical term which meant "to

cut surgically and look below the surface." This perfectly identifies the

spiritual gift in operation (First Corinthians 12:8). Experiencing it, one does

not merely rely on things as they appear but may know them as they actually

are-- the same way a doctor sees something abnormal. Let me illustrate why

the Isaiah-passage I quoted in two different versions is important: In ancient

Israel, sheep herding was a vital part of life. During the day, it was easy for

the shepherd to see a wolf and protect the flock. Nighttime was a different

story; when darkness fell, the shepherd was powerless. Not so with the dog.

Even in the dark, when he could not "judge after the sight of his eyes or

reprove after the hearing of his ears," the dog could smell a wolf. This may

surprise you but some dogs’ sense of smell is 100,000 times greater than a

human’s. It was this "other sense," one not dependent upon daylight, which

Isaiah said would typify the Messiah.

The key to understanding the operation of "discerning of spirits," is

wonderfully revealed by comparing the two versions of Isaiah 11:2,3. These

two editions use very different language in translating the same word "ruach."

Where the Old King James says, "Shall make him of quick understanding in

the fear of the Lord," the New King James says, "His delight is in the fear of

the Lord." "Quick understanding" and "delight" seem contradictory

translations but each is correct. But here is another mystery: If you are

acquainted with the Hebrew language, you recognized that ruach is the same

word translated as "spirit, wind, or breath" (Genesis 1:1). While the word used

by Isaiah is identical in spelling and very similar in other ways, the two do not

have the same meaning.

The problem translators face in working with ancient languages–as

transposing into modern English–is that they sometimes have a wide range of

words from which to choose. The same is true in English or other languages.

Fortunately, the combined messages of the original King James and the

modern version bring a valuable revelation about discerning of spirits. What I

say may seem technical–but if you want to "cut and look below the surface" it

is vital that you stay with me. When translated as "delight" in the New King

James, ruach refers to the inhaled breath; specifically, as "the delight of

smelling flowers." The original King James, instead of referring to the

pleasure of smelling, refers to the result. In both cases the subject is "inhaled"

breath. When the Scripture says, "The Spirit of the Lord shall ... make Him

of quick understanding," that is, "quick to smell," it figuratively means the

Messiah will be able to "smell a wolf in the dark." That is the clearest, most

perfect illustration of the Holy Spirit's gift of discerning of spirits you will

find. It means that those who operate in this amazing endowment are not left

helpless simply because night has fallen. Not so.

It is this fact that concerns me: I meet Christians who are virtually powerless

in the area of spiritual wisdom and judgement. Many have absolutely no

knowledge about the Holy Spirit’s gift of "discerning of spirits" or its

availability to them (I Corinthians 12:10). These people may excel in their

love for God, are eager to serve Him, sincere in their worship, but do not

possess "quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." They remain spiritually

naïve in detecting Satan's devices. The result is tragic. The high divorce rate

among Christians is primary proof of what I say. Deception tears good couples

apart. Families, individuals–even churches –frequently have long histories of

making wrong decisions. This cannot be the will of God. He is not honored

when the world makes fools of His children. A wise man said: "No one is so

enslaved as he who falsely believes he is free." Please! Reread that statement.

This is why the combined translations of the Old and New King James

versions are important to us.

God wants us to succeed and has provided the truth which makes success-

possible. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free"

(John 8:32). Too frequently, truth and freedom are not what believers

experience. Theoretically, what we observe in daylight hours, we recognize

well. When darkness falls, we are helpless as anyone else, easily victimized by

"those who lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:14). When the thief comes to

"kill, steal, and destroy" we are quickly exploited (John 10:10).

This failure is not the will of God for us. Instead, He has provided adequate

protection against this hazard through the Holy Spirit's gift of "discerning of

spirits" ( I Corinthians 12:10). But this gift does not operate automatically; it

has to be sought, nourished, and lovingly protected. A casual attitude toward it

will produce superficial results; an earnest seeking of it will bring remarkable

discretion and judgement. The choice is ours. While we are told to "seek ...

desire ... pursue" spiritual gifts many believers spend their entire lifetime

knowing nothing about them (I Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 39). Though Paul

exhorted, "Concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you

ignorant," there is probably no other subject in which churches are more

illiterate and in the dark ( I Corinthians 12:1 ).

I will never forget the Sunday morning service at Central Baptist Church, near

Chattanooga, Tennessee, when I was doing the "hands-on" ministry and a

woman visitor dropped at my feet in wailing intercession. After she regained

composure, she said in a fearful voice, "You are in danger on your flight this

afternoon." I paid careful attention because I had not told her I planned to fly

home that day. Whether the gift operating in her was a "word of knowledge,"

"prophesy" or "discerning of spirits," I cannot honestly say. I do know in that

moment she was able to "cut and look below the surface." Finally, she told me

to take spiritual authority over the problem when I boarded the aircraft.

That afternoon I carefully obeyed her instruction. But the plane went nowhere.

An engine failed before take-off, the flight was cancelled, and everyone was

put off the plane. When I returned to the church for the evening service an

usher told me, "The lady who warned you about your flight is here. She said

the Lord told her the flight would be cancelled, you would be back for the

service– she brought her husband and wants you to pray for him." The

knowledge this woman had did not come from human ability; she experienced

the Holy Spirit’s miraculous gift of "seeing below the surface" and was able

to give me warning. She had "quick understanding" in the darkness of that


A similar story is told about a group meeting in an old English Armory: A

lady in the congregation interrupted the speaker to warn that they needed to

leave the building. She couldn’t explain but everyone filed out and had gotten

a short distance away when the building exploded. Gunpowder stored in the

building detonated and demolished the structure. Had they remained inside

everyone would have been killed. Did the woman experience a discerning of

spirits or a word of knowledge? I don't know. I only know I want whatever she

had. Nor will I argue with God that such miraculous gifts "passed away." You

shouldn't either–unless you want to blow up.

Besides exposing things that are evil and dangerous, the gift of discerning

spirits also discloses the good and beautiful. Soon after my Baptism-in-the-

Spirit in the late 1970's, I returned to a small congregation in Florida where I

felt isolated and in need of friends. Because of my theological changes, my

former pastor-friends deserted me. One morning I made my first visit to a

pastors' meeting in West Palm Beach and then went alone to a large cafeteria

for lunch. As I sat at the table, trying to fight-off feelings of abandonment, a

young man appeared in the serving line whom I had never seen. In that instant,

the Holy Spirit spoke distinctly: "He is your brother. I want you to meet him."

When I finished my meal, I went to his table, asked if I could join him, and

explained, "The Lord told me you and I are 'brothers'." He gripped my hand,

"Praise God!," he said, "I am glad to meet you! Sit down!" Instantly, we

experienced a fellowship as deep as if we had been friends for years. While

we talked, the Holy Spirit told me to show him a business card in my pocket.

Another pastor had given it to me at the meeting a few hours before.

Removing it, I handed it to him, "Do you know this man?," I asked. He looked

back at me and exclaimed, "Yes!, he is my prayer-partner and brother in the

Lord. Where did you meet him!? How did you get his card?!" Briefly, I


The significance of that event was not about the man at the table, the card, or

the person who gave it. Rather, the Holy Spirit was showing me how His gifts