A Spirit of Slumber | Tomorrow’s World

A Spirit of Slumber

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What is the “spirit of slumber”? Do you have it? Is it good or bad? If it is bad, how do you get rid of it?

The phrase “spirit of slumber” is found in Romans 11:8 (King James Version). The Apostle Paul wrote of his sorrow and grief because the great majority of his people, the Israelites, had stumbled at the stumbling stone—Jesus Christ, whom they did not accept (Romans 9–11). Paul explained that this was because they had not yet submitted to the righteousness of God and God had given them “the spirit of slumber” or “a spirit of stupor.”

Paul described this spirit of stupor or slumber as having “eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear” (Romans 11:8). He said this condition continued to his present time, and it continues to our present day.

The Greek word translated “spirit” can refer to one’s mental disposition and the Greek word translated “stupor” can refer to lethargy or slumber. Those with this spirit cannot perceive or understand, because their mental disposition refuses—like a sleepy child who resists being awakened.

Paul paraphrased Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4 in explaining what had happened with Israel’s failures to hear and obey God and avoid His correction. Isaiah 29 describes the people blinding themselves (v. 9) and God pouring the “spirit of deep sleep” out on them, including their false prophets and seers (v. 10). They honored God with their lips, but they “removed their hearts far from me” (v. 13). But though they “erred in spirit” and “complained,” God will ultimately cause them to understand and “learn doctrine” (v. 24), and to hallow His name (v. 23).

Moses also spoke about Israel’s inability to see and hear in Deuteronomy 29:4: “Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.” The blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience described in Deuteronomy 28 have happened and will continue to happen until Christ returns. Deuteronomy 30 describes the great blessing that will occur when God will “circumcise” their hearts so they can experience a complete change of life (v.  6).

Many Bible passages speak of mankind’s stubbornness, hard-headedness, rebellion, and rejection of God and His way, all of which form the cause of mankind’s spiritual blindness and deafness. Thankfully, as Romans 11 and Old Testament prophecies show, this rejection is not the end of the story. There is coming a happy conclusion; Israel’s blindness is not final. Paul uses the analogy of branches broken off of an olive tree, which can be grafted back in. The spiritual blindness will be removed and Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25–26).

Students of the Bible know that Jesus was opposed by the scribes and Pharisees, who were offended by His teaching. Jesus said that the prophecy in Isaiah 29 applied to them because they honored God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8–9). Jesus said they were “blind leaders of the blind” (v. 14). After many encounters with the Pharisees, Jesus taught about their hypocrisy and spiritual blindness (Matthew 23:1–30).

Paul shows that Satan, the devil—who is “the god of this age”—has blinded human beings, their “understanding darkened” by the blindness of their heart (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:18). It is as if there is a veil over their eyes—one that can only be taken away by Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:14).

Is God saying to you, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”? (Ephesians 5:14). If God is opening your eyes to understand His truth, please take advantage of the many free Bible study guides available here at Tomorrow’s World. You might start with the booklet John 3:16: Hidden Truths of the Golden Verse.