I’ve been going through the Old Testament for my Bible reading these days. Last night I was in the book of I Kings, in the passage where King Solomon dedicates the temple of the Lord.
That’s when I came across a couple of verses that seemed especially familiar:
When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.
— I Kings 8:10-11
I realized that the reason why these verses rang a bell is because I’d heard this passage used many times as scriptural support for the practice of “falling out under the power” – you know, what happens when a preacher “under the anointing” lays hands on someone?
As I’ve said before, since leaving Charismania, I’ve thought a lot about that whole “falling out under the power” experience. It’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever fully come to understand. I know that something was happening to make my knees buckle and force me to the floor when Pastor Smith (not his real name) or one of his visiting ministers placed his hands on my forehead. I’m still just sort of mystified as to what that something was.
Was it the literal power and presence of God Almighty Himself?
Pastor Smith would have had us believe that that’s precisely what it was – that because Pastor Smith “proclaimed the Word” and had an “anointing,” he had the ability to dispense God to his audience. He frequently referred to himself as “a conduit” of this power.
And he used I Kings 8:10-11 as scriptural support for this practice.
But here’s the thing that struck me as I read in I Kings last night: in that passage, it is clear that when the presence of the Lord filled the temple, it was so strong and so powerful the priests themselves were rendered unable to stand.
The priests themselves were unable to maintain control of their actions.
Let’s look a little closer at what this tells us.
Something important to keep in mind is that the priests would have been highly motivated to maintain control of themselves. No matter what your views on God’s unchangeable nature, it is a biblical fact that He appears to have interacted differently with people in the Old Testament than He interacts with us today. In the Old Testament, people could be killed on the spot for failing to follow God’s guidelines – even if they did so accidentally. We don’t see a whole lot of unexplained deaths these days in church. But in Old Testament times, different guidelines seem to have applied. In Old Testament times, people related to God through the “old covenant.”
Since that was the case, I’m thinking that the priests doing their duty in I Kings would have been highly motivated to pay attention and be sure they followed every last letter of the law. I think they would have done all in their human power to remain standing, at full attention.
That tells us that the authentic “presence and power of the Lord” is something so strong, something so unspeakably glorious, that no one, not even the most highly motivated individual, is able to withstand it.
Yet when people “fall out under the power” in today’s Charismaniac circles, lots of people are capable of remaining in full control of themselves and their faculties.
The individual who is purportedly dispensing the “anointing” or “power” remains in full control.
And so do the “catchers,” those big guys who follow the minister and break the falls of the people being prayed for/ministered to.
Last night it struck me that this passage in I Kings absolutely does NOT provide any support for the practice of “falling out under the power” as it is practiced in Charismatic circles today. If anything, I Kings 8:10-11 would prove the exact opposite – that whatever is causing people to fall down these days when the minister touches them simply CANNOT be the actual “power and presence of God.”
If the GENUINE power and presence of God were “in the house” (as Pastor Smith was fond of declaring), then all human flesh would bow in response, just as the priests in this passage from I Kings were forced to do.
There would not be anyone left standing.
Not the catchers. And certainly not the pastor himself.
It suddenly seems terribly obvious that God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, does not manifest himself as some sort of “force” that is dispensed at the will of human beings. The fact that Pastor Smith chose when, where, and how he’d “lay hands on people” – in other words, when, where, and how the (supposed) power of God would be dispensed – would put God at the control and mercy of Pastor Smith.
The Bible shows us that such a notion is absolutely ludicrous.