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38. An Old Testament pattern of the Holy Spirit

Christian theology in a Sudanese context. God the Holy Spirit and our Christian experience.

‘The fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ is His amazing, active, presence in our lives. He does whatever is necessary to deepen our awareness of Jesus Christ’s Person and will. He also enables us to love God and to do His will (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit was present at creation (Genesis 1:2, Hebrew – ‘ruach Elohim’). He is the One Who brings order and form out of chaos. He also sustains the creation (Psalm 104:27-30). Whenever you see a truck-load of sugar-cane going to the refinery, remember the harvest is an evidence of God’s Spirit at work. The whole of nature gives us patterns of God at work.

God also gives gifts and skills to people by His Spirit (Exodus 31:1-6; 35:30-36:1). While everyone can do something, God especially equips some people to be able to do certain tasks. He also gives them the responsibility to teach others to help in the work. Moses appointed seventy men to work with him in leading the people and God put the Holy Spirit on them all (Numbers 11:16; also verses24-30). Balaam prophesied when “the Spirit of God came upon him”, although the circumstances were not suitable for him (Numbers 24:2). There are plenty of other examples in the Old Testament where the Spirit of God is sent to ‘come upon’ people (see: Othniel, Judges 3:9-10; Gideon, Judges 6:34; Jephthah, Judges 11:29; Saul, 1 Samuel 11:6; David, 1 Samuel16:13; Azariah, 2 Chronicles 15:1). As another study, you could look up the word ‘Spirit’ in a Concordance, and see how many of the references in the Old Testament are to the Holy Spirit ‘coming upon’ people. A strong link is established between the Holy Spirit and prophecy – that is, speaking the words of God. Nehemiah summarises this: “For many years (God), You were patient with (Your people). By Your Spirit You admonished them through Your prophets. Yet they paid no attention ..” (Nehemiah 9:30). Reading through Kings and Chronicles, the lives of prophets such as Elijah, there are few examples of ‘the Spirit coming upon’ them actually being said in those words. A phrase with a similar result seems to be “the word of the Lord came to him” (for example: 1 Kings 17:2, 8, 14, 24; 1 Kings 18:1; “the power of the Lord came upon Elijah”1 Kings 18:46; 1 Kings 19:9 etc.). Devout people watching Elijah were able to say his activities were under the control of the Spirit of God (1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16). But there was no single formula used to fit every experience. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit on God’s chosen person, enabled them to know and to do God’s will. The Holy Spirit gave wisdom, authority, boldness, direction, and evidence that this was God Himself Who was at work. Perhaps we can best say that God ‘stirred’ people to accomplish what He wanted at the time (see of Samson, Judges 13:24,25). This ‘stirring’ excites, stimulates, awakens and moves people. Through the Holy Spirit, God became the dynamic of a person’s life. The breath of God was evident. God gave strong evidence through these people, usually at the times they gave themselves strongly over to Him. The two questions of Psalm 139:7 highlight the Holy Spirit as the very presence of God in a tangible way. His presence is obvious and can be known. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” Throughout the Old Testament there is always a hope of something more. The prophets say that a new era is coming which will release the Holy Spirit in a new way. It will all hinge on the coming of the Messiah – the long awaited King of God’s people (Isaiah 11:1-3; 44:3; Ezekiel 36:24-30; Joel 2:28-32). The fuller presence of the Holy Spirit, poured out under the sovereignty of God, will bring yet greater blessing from God, to His people and through them to the world.

Thinking it through. (a). Read the story of Gideon, Judges 6-8, and discuss ‘why and how’ the Holy Spirit came into his life and ministry.

(b). Is it only 6:34? (c). Why do you think there are so few references to the Holy Spirit being on Elijah? (See 1 Kings 17-19 and 2 Kings 1-2). (d). Discuss if there are any differences between ‘the Spirit of God’ and ‘the presence of God’. Share from your own experiences.


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