Let’s have a look at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. We can see that the Holy Spirit is there from the beginning.
In the first verses of Genesis, we see the Holy Spirit at work in creation. In fact, the Father Son, and Holy Spirit are all there if you can understand what’s taking place in Genesis chapter 1:
The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. So, God Father, Son, Holy Spirit were all there at creation.
The Bible tells us later on in Genesis 1 that God made human beings as a spiritual beings in the image of God.
Notice there that the words there were in the plural form. Why doesn’t it say ‘let me make man in my image’, it says let us make man in our image. This is one of the early indications right there, in Genesis chapter 1, that God is a tri-unity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I should have also mentioned that the word for God in Hebrew ‘Elohim’ is a masculine plural word which is used in the phrase In the beginning God (Elohim – plural) created (singular) the heavens and the earth.
So, God said let us make man in our image, that also tells us that human beings are distinct from animals.
I don’t believe in evolution. I don’t believe in ‘microbes to man’ evolution.
I believe that God created us as distinct creatures and special creatures, and that God made human beings with a Spiritual dimension, able to relate to God. That’s what it means to be made in the image of God.
Therefore, we have something which is different in humans, between humans and the rest of the animal creation.
Humans are distinctly able to commune with God. And in Genesis 2 verse 7 it says:
So, human beings have a body, a soul, and a spirit. (We have a little diagram).
We have human beings who are made with a tri-partite nature of body, soul, and spirit and you can see there, the spirit in the centre, which is to control the soul, the emotions, the mind – the intellect -, and the body.
When they’re all working together in harmony under God, you have harmony in the body, in the soul, and in the spirit. And God made us with that spirit part of us to be filled with His Holy Spirit.
Of course, the problem came in after the fall of man, when sin caused the separation between God and man. And, instead of having the Holy Spirit there, in the centre, you have the spirit of man or, even the spirit of evil. An evil Spirit which will cause dysfunction in the soul, in the mind, in the emotions and the will, and will cause a process to come into the body which will lead to sickness, to decay, and ultimately to death.
So as the Holy Spirit part comes out, so then the wrong spirit comes in, and you have disorder in the human Spirit which is the problem of humanity from the beginning.
Still, humans have a spiritual dimension and even after the fall, there is still something within human beings which is seeking after God.
It’s interesting to note that no one has ever discovered an atheistic tribe. People may have distorted ideas of God, but everyone has some idea that there is a God, and some idea to search for God.
There’s something within us which reminds us that there is a God who we need to seek after.
I said, because as human beings we have a spiritual part of us, within us, there’s always going to be a search for God. Even atheists have something within them in this regard which leads them, when they get in trouble, to often cry out ‘Oh God’.
So why did they say it ‘Oh God’? Because somehow there is something inside people which tells us there is a God and that we need to seek after Him.
God has put eternity into their hearts. There’s something within us which tells us there is a God and we need to seek Him.
We can’t find out the work of God by our own strength, but we can through what He reveals to us.
Ecclesiastes also tells us of the difference between humans and animals. It says:
It’s telling us that there is something different between humans and animals, there is something within humans which is a spiritual nature and that, when we die, our physical body may go down to the dust of the earth, but our spirit will return to God.
We have that barrier which is caused through sin coming into the world, through Adam and Eve submitting to temptation, breaking God’s only Commandment ‘not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. After that, they come to know evil as well as good.
As they come to know evil, they are under the power of the evil one who is Satan.
And God promises a solution to this problem when he speaks to the serpent, to Satan, and says in Genesis 3:
In other words, One is going to come who’s going to break this power of Satan, who will be the seed of a woman – be born of a woman, who will break the power of the evil one, who will crush his head but who will also be bruised in the process.
The first messianic prophecy of many which would come. Particularly, in the book of Isaiah where we read about the ‘suffering servant’ who will be wounded for our iniquities, whose chastisement for our peace will be upon Him, by His stripes we are healed. And He’ll be bruised in our place. He would take the punishment for our sins which happened when Jesus died on the cross in order that we might be redeemed.
So, that is the promise of God but, in the meantime, God is going to be working by the Holy Spirit to prepare for this event to take place.
The Holy Spirit is going to be striving through the Old Testament with the sinfulness of humanity.
When we come to the time of the flood, the Bible tells us of great wickedness coming on the earth and of judgment coming too. And with the instructions to Noah to build the ark and in Genesis 3, the Lord says:
God is going to be restraining evil, but there’s a time coming when God is going to bring judgment because of man’s sin. Whether the 120 years here means He’s going to restrict their lives to 120 years or there’s going to be the flood coming 120 years later, this is subject to debate, but what it really means is that, there comes a point when the Spirit of God is no longer going to restrain, but he’s going to allow judgment to come upon the earth.
It tells us that the work of the Holy Spirit is to restrain, to come to strive with man against evil, and to convict of sin and righteousness, and judgment as Jesus spoke.
When we look in the Old Testament at the work of the Holy Spirit, we see that the It moved upon individuals, came upon them and raised up those who would lead the people, and would also give the Word of God, either in written form or in prophetic form. The holy Spirit also set aside Israel as his Holy Nation to receive His Commandments.
And we see in the Old Testament that the Spirit of God would come upon people, particularly to anoint them for the purpose of ministry and of leading them.
Also, there are times when the Holy Spirit would leave these people. And this actually points to one of the differences between the work of the Holy Spirit before the cross, before Pentecost, and after.
In the Book of Numbers we read about Moses who clearly was raised up by God and equipped by the Holy Spirit to lead the people, and to give them the Word.
In Numbers chapter 11 there’s an interesting scripture which speaks about the work of the Holy Spirit in that occasion. Numbers 11 verse 16 reads:
The Spirit has been put upon Moses to lead the people. God is saying ‘I’m going to take some of the Spirit which is upon you and give it now to the 70 elders of Israel‘.
And in verse 24 we read what happened:
There’s a variant reading of this scripture which says that they did continue prophesying, therefore, there are two possibilities. But the Spirit came upon them, something visible happened, the Holy Spirit came upon them. There is an interesting little detail too. It says:
What you get from that story is that something happened which was visible: the Holy Spirit came upon the prophets and they prophesied, they spoke out inspirationally the Word of God. It doesn’t say that they spoke with tongues but it does say that they prophesied.
So, something happened which was visible and which came upon them at that time. And it was noticed by those around them, and Moses says: would that all God’s people were prophets. So, clearly, not all people were prophets. But there are selected people who receive the Holy Spirit.
And we see right through the Old Testament that there are certain people who are raised up, who receive the Spirit and are equipped for certain tasks which are given to them.
One of them was Bezalel who created the Tabernacle and the holy garments for the priests.
In Exodus 31 it says:
That was a man who was equipped by the Holy Spirit to create the Tabernacle, to create the Holy garments.
Again, it tells us about the presence of the Holy Spirit with God’s people as they went through the wilderness and as God gave them these different manifestations of His power, and of His presence.
We see also the scriptures speak about Israel’s rebellion against the Lord which is seen as a rebellion against the Holy Spirit, against the person of God in the Holy Spirit. And the implication is that if you rebel against the Holy Spirit, then you’ll have defeat. If you receive the Holy Spirit, and you walk in the ways of the Holy Spirit then, you’ll receive the victory.
There are a number of passages in the later scriptures which speak about this. One of them Psalm 106 where it says:
and in Isaiah chapter 63:
We see here a direct reference to the Holy Spirit. Notice that it also speaks about the Holy Spirit who can be grieved. They grieved His Holy Spirit. You can only grieve a person so, it speaks again about the personality of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit as the one who is leading the people through the wilderness, and the Holy Spirit who is there with them, in person as they go out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land.
You see throughout the Old Testament there are other indications of the Holy Spirit coming upon certain people for tasks, to work for the Lord.
We see this in the story of Saul and David and there’s some interesting references in the account of Saul being chosen as the king. When he goes to Samuel and Samuel finds him looking for his donkeys and Samuel reveals to him that he is going to be the king of Israel. And Samuel gives Saul a number of signs, including one which is the Holy Spirit coming upon him: the Spirit will come upon him and he will be prophesying, receiving supernatural communication from the Lord.
It also says that, as a result of this, Saul is going to be turned into another man, he is going to have some kind of a spiritual rebirth.
1 Samuel chapter 10 tells us this. This is Samuel speaking to Saul, he says:
So, the Spirit of the Lord was going to come upon Saul and he was going to be turned into another man. The manifestation of this would be that he would be prophesying; something would come out of his mouth which would be a prophetic word from the Lord.
And in 1 Samuel 10 verse 10 this happens. It says:
So, Saul had this encounter with the Holy Spirit and It came upon him.
We read also that the Holy Spirit departed from Saul because of his disobedience to the Lord.
1 Samuel 16 verse 14 says:
As the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, It came upon David to anoint him to be king. 1 Samuel 16 verse 13, says:
When David was anointed as a young man by Samuel, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him to equip him to later become the King of Israel. And so you see the Spirit of the Lord coming to anoint him for tasks.
In the story of David, we see also his sin. His sin with Bathsheba after he became king. And interestingly, if you read his psalm of repentance in Psalm 51, the thing which he prays for is that the Holy Spirit would not be taken from him:
Notice there he says do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Therefore, he had some understanding of the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life and his prayer was that the Holy Spirit would not be taken from him as a result of his sin.
Because David confessed his sin and believed on the Lord, the Holy Spirit was not taken from him.
And so we have the these accounts in the Hebrew scriptures of people who were empowered by the Holy Spirit, and who encountered the Person of the Holy Spirit who dwelt within them.
And you can tell which writings are given by God by their content. They will always have some reference to God giving this word thus says the Lord, the prophet speaks. When you look at the other writings like Maccabees and Ecclesiasticus, they may be good, there’s nothing wrong with reading them, but they’re not actually inspired scripture.
And if you understand the nature of inspiration, you can see that there is a difference between good writings which are perfectly okay to read, and inspired scripture which is given by God, it’s given by the inspiration of God and this is what we see in the Old Testament.
And supremely, the Old Testament prophets actually prophesied the coming of the Messiah, the Messiah to be fulfilled in Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, who would come, who would be anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah chapter 11 verses 1 to 2:
In Isaiah 61 verses 1 to 2:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. And those were the words, of course, which Jesus Himself quoted when He went into the synagogue in Nazareth and was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read these words, and said these words apply to me. I’m the one he’s talking about, I’m the one who is the Messiah, who’s come anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel the Good News to the people.
And so we have the prophecy of the Messiah. The Messiah would come in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring the message of God, the Good News, the Gospel, in order that we might receive Salvation. And as a result of this, the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out upon the people.
Isaiah 32 says:
So, you have in the in the prophetic scriptures, a prophecy of the coming of an experience which is going to be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the people of God who believe in the Messiah Yeshua.
We have a number of them of course. The famous one which is quoted by Peter in the Book of Acts chapter 2 and is applied to what happened on the day of Pentecost in Joel chapter 2 verse 30 says:
A prophecy in the Old Testament about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit quoted by Peter in the Book of Acts and applied to what happened on the day of Pentecost.
It’s interesting, if you look at the prophecy of Joel in context, it’s actually applied to the Day of the Lord. A day which, in fact, in Joel chapter 2, speaks first of a Northern army invading Israel and being turned back, before all nations are gathered to Jerusalem for the last battle.
This is similar to what you read in Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39. The Northern army coming against Israel, then an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The prophecy of Joel actually has an end-time eschatological significance in it. And it goes on to say:
If you observe it very carefully, when Peter quotes Joel in the Book of Acts, he doesn’t say this is the actual, final fulfilment of this prophecy. He says ‘this is the kind of thing Joel was speaking about’ so he says ‘what Joel was speaking about you’re seeing taking place now on the day of Pentecost‘.
The prophecy did have a partial fulfilment in what took place on the day of Pentecost, but it also has a future fulfilment that’s going to take place before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.
When you look at the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, many of them have an end-time eschatological significance.
So, they’re looking forward to something taking place following the return of the Jews to Israel and the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them in preparation for the Second Coming of the Messiah.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t apply them to the what’s happened to us through faith in Jesus, but we need to see that that there is a prophecy of something yet to come concerning the Holy Spirit working among God’s people.
In the book of Ezekiel the chapter 36, which speaks about the return of the Jews from the nations to the land of Israel, it says:
And we have another interesting prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Zechariah chapter 12 which again has an end-time application of the nations coming against Jerusalem to battle. And, as they come against Jerusalem to battle, in verse 10 it says:
Who’s the one who has been pierced? And who is the only son? It has to be Jesus the Messiah.
This reminds us of one of the works of the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke about which is that the Holy Spirit is going to bear witness to Jesus. So the Holy Spirit will always point us to Jesus the Messiah.
As the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the people here, they’re going to look upon the one who’s been pierced, who’s died for our sins, has risen from the dead, and gives us eternal life as we believe in Him.
And in chapter 13 verse 1 it says:
The work of the Holy Spirit is to cleanse us from sin and to put within us the Law of God that we might walk in His ways.
Finally, one verse from Isaiah 32 that says:
Promising there that the Holy Spirit is being poured out upon the people and dwelling within them.
Just to sum up what it says here, in the Old Testament, concerning the Messiah and the work of the Holy Spirit:
Old Testament / Tenach
- Holy Spirit at work through people God had raised up to lead His people and to speak for Him.
- Holy Spirit inspired prophets, both spoken and written.
- Holy Spirit comes upon people for service to the Lord. It can also leave them. (See Saul)
- More is promised concerning Holy Spirit. Tied up with Messiah.
- Messiah to be anointed by Holy Spirit. To give the Spirit to those who come to Him.
- Prophecy of end time outpouring of Holy Spirit before Day of the Lord.
The Old Testament says that the Holy Spirit is at work in the people. God has raised up His Spirit to lead His people.
So, what do we make of this? How does it apply to us?
Now, as I said, the Old Testament doesn’t give us the complete picture because to get the complete picture we have to come to the New Testament and to the coming of Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah.
We see there that Jesus is the fulfilment of these prophecies and that Jesus, when He came, told us that He wants us to be born of the Spirit. The famous passage in John chapter 3 which, perhaps, we’ll look at in a little more detail next time, is where He says to Nicodemus:
There’s a promise of Jesus that those who believe in Him will be born of the Spirit, will receive the Holy Spirit to come and dwell within them, in their lives.
And He says: You must be born again. Unless you’re born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.
You can be seeking for God as I spoke earlier about people who are seeking for God and looking for God, but they won’t find Him until they find Him through faith in Jesus, until they’re born of the Holy Spirit. And unless a person is born again, they cannot see the Kingdom of God
Jesus tells us that we need to have this born-again experience, which means the Holy Spirit coming into our lives.