Recently, at a national level, as well as in the church, we have suffered an attack of the Leviathan spirit. Before you get too mystical about all that, understand that Leviathan is a metaphorical reference Scripture draws from the image of a great serpentine sea creature. It describes a spirit that works to twist words and perceptions in order to disrupt and destroy the people of God.
Isaiah 27:1 reads, "In that day the Lord with His fierce and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, even Leviathan the twisted serpent; and He shall slay the dragon that is in the sea" (Isa. 27:1). Obviously, God would not be upset with the literal sea creature in question. He created that creature and He called it good. Isaiah referred to a spirit, and he employed a metaphor to describe it.
Job 41:18-22 describes it more completely. "His sneezing flashes forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goes smoke as out of a seething pot or cauldron. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth. In his neck remains strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him." The influence of the Leviathan spirit sets fires that devour love and covenant, ultimately robbing God's people of hope and weakening their influence in the world.
One primary means of sowing this destruction is to distort perceptions of what has been said, causing those under its influence to hear innocent things in a twisted way. People then pass their twisted perceptions to one another, now cloaked as truth, thus injecting poison into relationships and weakening bonds of love and unity. A single word, or a single fact out of several, might be altered in some way as to turn an innocent statement or well-intended act into a perception of something unholy or defiling.
Under the guise of "discernment" it will masquerade as the Holy Spirit, subtly insinuating that the actions and words of leadership flow from unholy motivations or broken elements of character. This then becomes a lens through which words and actions are filtered and seen as other than they really were, often the very opposite of what was intended. Under the influence of Leviathan, statements and actions can be taken out of their context in order to make them into something they were not.
When distortion of truth and reality doesn't work, this demonic spirit will turn to fomenting lies, but these lies will be crafted in such a way as to appear to be the truth. Just enough truth will be woven into the fabric of the lie that the lie will seem to be reality, while the oneness of the body of Christ fractures.
The purpose of all this is to motivate people to break covenant and bring division into the church, most often by focusing Leviathan's lies and distortions against leadership. Ever and always, the goal of the Leviathan spirit is to divide and conquer by creating division, to foment suspicion and conflict, and to impugn the righteousness of God's servants in order to discredit them.
In recent days, Leviathan has been at work in the body of Christ, as well as in the realm of government and society. Much damage is being done where this spirit is not identified in one way or another and effectively resisted. Incredibly difficult to dislodge, Leviathan feeds on pride, the assertion, first, that we are "right" in our perceptions and judgments and, second, that we are so holy, loving and in touch with God as to be immune to its influence. This alone creates dangerous vulnerability, despite our best intentions and desires.
The kingdom of God thrives on honor of one another, uplift, encouragement and a singular focus on what God is doing in people and in the church, rather than on what we judge Him not to be doing. Once we begin to focus on what we feel He is not doing, we open the door to the Leviathan spirit to assign blame and foment criticism, to measure the leadership God has put in place and find them broken or wanting in some way. It leads us to fall into the trap of seeing too much the flaws in one another rather than the glory God is creating and the changes He is making in those with whom we've been called to walk.
Let us reject this poisonous, twisting serpent, pray it out of our lives and fellowships and stand on the principles of the kingdom of God in glory. It's time to shine as lights in the midst of darkness.
R. Loren Sandford is an author, musician and the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colorado. He has a bachelor's degree in music and a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. In addition to pastoring, Sandford has an international teaching and worship ministry. Married since 1972, he and his wife, Beth, have two daughters and one son. They live in Denver, Colorado.