"Spirit Of Heaviness" (February 2008)
I am part of a group of ladies from different churches throughout our community who meet to pray for our city-- it’s governmental officials, it’s schools, it’s churches, it’s businesses. At our last meeting it was brought to our attention that the area we need to focus on was one of a “heaviness over the town”. Of course, we have made this a matter of prayer and are praying against that each day and seeking the Lord concerning what else we need to do about it. As I have been praying, the Lord has been speaking to me more and more about this “heaviness”- what it is and how to pray against it. I was reminded of the scripture in Isaiah 61:3- “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” This verse defines “heaviness” as a spirit.
When things happen to us, they come from two sources- natural occurrences or they are spiritual. For example, if I overeat I will get sick on my stomach- that’s a natural occurrence. But then there are some things that are spiritual in nature. The heaviness that is mentioned in the verse above is not a “natural” thing but it is a “spirit”- it is the “spirit of heaviness”. The scriptures also tell us that there is a “spirit of fear”. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) It’s one thing to be “concerned” about something but it’s another to have a terrifying, gripping fear-- that's when it’s a “spirit of fear” that is attacking you- it’s not natural.
So, what is a “spirit of heaviness” and how do we deal with it? The Hebrew definition for “heaviness” in this verse means: to grow dull, faint, be dim, darkness, despond (to become disheartened or discouraged). The dictionary defines it, in this sense, as: without vivacity or interest; ponderous; dull (not lively or spirited). Jesus addressed this issue of “heaviness”. “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.“ (Matthew 13:14,15) Since this is an evil spirit it’s primary purpose is to “kill, steal and destroy”. It wants to keep you from hearing the truth- the Word of God, or even having a desire to know the truth. It tries to make you despondent and faint. It’s main purpose is to steal your praise.
Why is it after your praise? Because praise will shake prison doors and set the oppressed free. Praise ushers in the presence of God. Praise is a powerful weapon. Through it battles are won. What do I mean by that? God has given us the keys of the kingdom. “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) If you look up the definition of key, you will find that it has many meaning. There is a twofold purpose and meaning in the keys that the Lord has given to His children. The first one represents spiritual authority. Whoever has the keys has the power. At the jail, the jailer has the keys, he possess the authority to open the door and let you out or lock the door and hold you as a prisoner. I have keys to get into my house. That means I have the legal authority to enter. If you don’t have a key to my house, the only way you are going to get in without me inviting you in is by breaking in like a thief. Possessing the keys means that I have been given spiritual authority- the legal right by God- over the “spirit of heaviness” and I can “bind” it’s influence. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)
The other meaning of keys I want to address is: something that affords a means of access- the key to. I never have been able to make a good homemade biscuit. My husband will tell you that as long as it’s hot it’s all right, but let it get cold and don’t even try to eat it. My mother in law makes really great homemade biscuits. She makes them the old fashioned way. I asked for her help and she told me that the “key” to making a good fluffy biscuit is not to work the dough too long. God has given us “keys” to help us get the intended result. These keys might also be called strategies. For example: the key to reaping is sowing. (Galatians 6:7) If you want to reap a harvest, you have to sow. If you need mercy, the ‘key’ to receiving it is to show mercy. (Matthew 5:7) The ‘key’ to receiving direction in times of decision is by “acknowledging the Lord, and He will direct your path”. (Proverbs 3:5,6) The key to having godly wisdom is to ask God for it. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
In dealing with the “spirit of heaviness” God has given us a key to win the victory over it. That key is “praise”. This is why I said that it’s main purpose/objective is to steal your praise. This spirit knows that praise will destroy it. When there is a spirit involved in an attack against an individual, a church or a community it will attack the thing that it knows will destroy it. As in any battle, you always go after your opponents weapons. If he has a gun, you try to get his gun. If you can take out his weapons, you can destroy him because he is defenseless. This spirit comes after your praise by putting heaviness on you- depression, discouragement, dullness, etc. Heaviness is the opposite of joy. If you lose your joy, you lose your strength. “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10a) If you are growing faint, if you get dull of hearing, if you become depressed, if you get despondent you won’t feel like praising the Lord. You will keep your mouth shut, other than to complain about your problem. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4) When the children of Israel were taken captive into Babylon, they were under such a spirit of heaviness that they lost their song. They had no joy, no gladness of heart, no psalm of praise for the Lord left in them. They sat there feeling defeated and wanting to die. “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” (verse 9)
Let me share with you why praise is so important and powerful, and why the enemy tries so hard to steal it from you.
“Praise is a garment.”
(Isaiah 61:3ff- the garment of praise) The garment that is talked about here is like a cloak. A cloak is an outer garment that covers everything else that you have on. It covers what’s underneath so that it is not visible. Under the “cloak of praise” you are hidden/concealed from the enemy. He can’t see everything that he wants to see, so he can’t hit you where he wants to as easily.
“Praise opens prison doors.”
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.” (Acts 16:25,26) The enemy knows there is nothing that can hold you captive when you are offering up praise. His “imprisonments” have no hold you. Bondages are broken, addictions don’t rule your life, offenses don’t bother you, your peace holds steady in the midst of the storm, the fire won’t kindle upon you, the roar won’t make you afraid and the mountain won’t look ominous.
“Praise confuses the enemy.”
“And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.” (Ezra 3:11-13) The temple at Jerusalem had laid in ruins with no foundation. So the people got together and rebuilt the foundation of the temple. When they finished, they sang praises and gave thanks to God with shouts of joy and weeping. The shouting and praise was so loud that the noise was heard afar off. By the time it reached the ears of the inhabitants of those lands that heard it, they couldn’t make it out. It was only a noise to them. When we praise the Lord, it only sounds like a noise to the enemy- he’s confused about what we are saying. “Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:6,11) On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those in the upper room, the people who were in the streets heard them praising the wonderful works of God but were confounded by what they were hearing. Our praise will always confound the enemy. He isn’t able to understand what is going on. If he doesn’t understand it, he can’t come up with a strategy to stop it.
“Praise tears down walls and drives out the inhabitants.”
In Isaiah the word for praise (in the garment of praise) is the Hebrew word that means: praise, adoration, song or hymn of praise, thanksgiving. This word comes from another root word which means: to shine, boast, glory, to make a show, a celebration, to be clamorous. When it was time for the children of Israel to posses the land that God had promised them, the first city they encountered was Jericho. You know the story of how God told them to walk around the city for seven days and on the seventh day they were to shout and the walls would come down. “And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.” (Joshua 6:4,5) The Hebrew word for “shout with a great shout” means a war-cry, but it also means to shout for joy. This is exactly what we are talking about. This shout of joy is praise, and praise is a war-cry against the enemy. When you put on the garment of praise and praise the Lord, when you sing praise to Him, when you offer up thanksgiving, it will bring down walls that have kept you from “driving out” those things that have hindered you from possessing your “promised land”-- abundant life that God has promised you. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
“Praise defeats the enemy.”
“Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.” (2 Chronicles 20:17,21-24) A whole army was defeated because the Israelites simply praised the Lord and believed Him when He said that the battle wasn’t theirs but His.
“Praise brings God into your situation.”
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3) When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we draw near to Him in praise, He comes and makes His abode in the midst of our praise. He dwells in our praises, and where He dwells no enemy can dwell. He drives them out. When His presence is there, heaviness can’t stay- it can’t occupy the same place where God is dwelling.
“Praise brings us closer to God.”
“Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:2,4) The ultimate result of praise is that the more we praise the Lord, the closer we get to Him. The closer we get to Him the deeper our relationship with Him becomes. The deeper our relationship the deeper our trust in Him becomes, and we know that we can trust Him. The enemy doesn’t want us getting close to God. He wants to keep us away from God, he doesn’t want us to trust Him, he doesn’t want us believing what He says. If he can keep a break in our relationship he can defeat us because without the Lord we are nothing.
When we begin to pick up our weapon of praise, the enemy will send a “vessel” to try to pour this heaviness out on us. Remember when David danced before the Lord with all His might in praise for the victory He gave him? “And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!” (2 Samuel 6:14,16,20) The enemy sent his own wife to try to discourage and stop him in his celebration of praise to the Lord. He will use your family and those who are closest to you.
When Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people shouted praises and waved palm branches before Him. This made the Pharisees very angry. They told Jesus to tell them to stop. “And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.“ (Luke 19:37-39) When you offer up your praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the “religious” crowd will try to stop you. They will say such things to you as: “all that isn’t necessary”; “you think you are ‘holier than thou’”; “you don’t have to praise Him out loud, He knows your heart”; etc.
When the enemy tries to shut down our praise- no matter who he tries to do it through- we need to remember the words of Jesus, “And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) I don't want a rock to praise Him in my place. “Praise is becoming of the righteous”. (Psalm 33:1) The praise of a rock will not fight or win the battle for me.
There is one thing that we have to note about the “garment of praise”. It’s a garment, it has to be put on. If you don’t put it on, it will stay there; it doesn't happen automatically. God has given us keys but they do us no good if we don’t use them. If I need to go to town and I have the key to start my vehicle, if I don’t use that key I won’t go anywhere. If we don't use the key that God has given us to fight against the spirit of heaviness, we are going to continue to be defeated by it. We will stay depressed, with feelings of failure, our emotions will dictate our actions, we will get dull of hearing the word of God even, and grow faint. Am I saying that using this weapon is always easy? No, when you are under that spirit of heaviness you don’t feel like praising God, you don’t want to make the effort to give Him glory, you don’t want to get up and do it, you would rather lay on the couch and drown yourself in television, eat yourself half to death, hide under the covers, and, in some cases, it will make you want to go back to old habits that gave you comfort (a false comfort). This is why the just live by faith. In order to put on the garment of praise you have to make a step of faith. You don’t wait until you feel like it. Faith is not what you see or feel, it’s the substance of things not seen but yet what’s hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1) It’s a sacrifice of praise. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) A sacrifice is something you bring by faith.
As we have already seen, the word heaviness also means darkness and the word for praise also means shining. Darkness and light are the opposite- you can’t have both at the same time. Heaviness keeps you from shining, but praise will cause you to shine and drive back the darkness. So when you praise the Lord, it causes you to “shine”, and when you shine, all men will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)