The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (Part 1)

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Course: Knowing the Spirit
Lesson: The Spirit in the Old Testament – Topic 1: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (Part 1)
Teacher: Colin Dye

Announcer: Welcome to Sword of the Spirit, written and presented by Colin Dye, senior minister of Kensington Temple and leader of London City Church. Sword of the Spirit is a dynamic teaching series equipping the believers of today to build the disciples of tomorrow. We pray that you find these programs inspiring, and a catalyst in deepening your knowledge of God, your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and your intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Colin Dye: Hello, and welcome to The Sword of the Spirit, a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. And our topic this series is Knowing the Holy Spirit. When we hear the word ‘Holy Spirit,’ I wonder what we think about. We can speak about God as Father, as indeed, the Bible does, and we can understand that image. It’s a familiar one from daily life. We can also speak about God the Son. That, too, is familiar to us in our human language. But when we start talking about God the Holy Spirit, somehow it sounds very, very vague and maybe just a little bit scary. Well this series, we’re going to be looking at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, the New Testament, how to receive the Holy Spirit, what it means to move in the power of the Spirit, how the Holy Spirit leads us into the purity of God, looking at how we can partner with the Holy Spirit, and most important of all, how we can see the Holy Spirit bring us into the very presence of God. But now we’re going to begin and study the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

Welcome to The Sword of the Spirit teaching series and our subject is Knowing the Spirit. The Sword of the Spirit is a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. And now we’re coming to look at getting to know the Holy Spirit. It’s a very important part of the Sword of the Spirit series. Because without knowing the Holy Spirit you cannot know God, and without knowing the Holy Spirit you cannot understand the scriptures, because the Holy Spirit has inspired the scriptures and the Holy Spirit will give you illumination on the Word of God. The aim of this course, Knowing the Spirit, is exactly as the title says—knowing the Holy Spirit. It’s not just knowing about Him, it’s knowing Him personally and having fellowship with Him. Now in the introduction, I point out that many people have a clear concept of God the Father. They understand father. Many people have a clear concept of God the Son, or at least sonship is a concept that is very clear in our minds. But somehow, God the Holy Spirit, or in the Authorized Version, God the Holy Ghost. Who is this Holy Ghost? Friendly ghost, perhaps, but Holy Ghost? What is this all about? This shadowy figure, the third person of the godhead, the third person of the trinity. Well, we need, in this program of study, to first of all, grasp who the Holy Spirit is. And then in another program, we’re going to talk to you about ministry in the Holy Spirit. These things are very, very important. We need to grasp that the Holy Spirit is God and yet separate from the Father and Jesus. This is the buildup of the doctrine of the trinity and it’s going to take time for us to grasp these things—perhaps a whole eternity at sometimes. And that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to help us in all things. Now, many people, when they think about the Holy Spirit, fail to grasp that He is God and fail to grasp that He is a person. Maybe the concept, often, is that He’s some kind of force—friendly force—coming from God. Maybe impersonal, like electricity. They call Him an ‘it.’ Don’t ever call the Holy Spirit ‘it.’ The Holy Spirit is a person and a wonderful person that we need to get to know. And so when we get to know the Holy Spirit, we find out what His purpose is for our lives, what part He has to play in our salvation, and what role He plays in the godhead. You will hear in the lectures that I describe Him as the Chief Executive of the godhead, the one who executes on behalf of the Father, the divine will and the one who represents Jesus Christ. And His holy purpose in your life is to bring you closer and closer to the Father and closer and closer to the Son. In the course, I build a foundation from the Old Testament. And we need to understand that the Old Testament does speak quite a lot about the Holy Spirit. Of course, the full teaching of the Holy Spirit is found and developed in the New Testament, but the Old Testament foundation is vital for your understanding. Now by the end of this course, I want you to see that the Holy Spirit is totally centered on Jesus, that He convicts unbelievers about Jesus Christ, and He urges unbelievers to respond to Jesus Christ. He brings about the new birth, by which sinners are enabled to trust in Jesus Christ, and this wonderful release of the Spirit into their lives brings them into the body of Jesus Christ. And He goes on revealing Christ to us as believers. The Holy Spirit witnesses to the fact that we are forever Jesus’. We belong to Jesus forever. And He gives us a foretaste of heaven. He is the one who sealed our salvation, He equips us to serve Jesus Christ, and He equips us to serve like Jesus Christ and He transforms us into the wonderful image of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Well those are the introductory comments, and I’d like to turn you to section one, The Spirit in the Old Testament. I’ve already said that we begin by building a foundation, from the Old Testament, of the Holy Spirit. This foundational teaching is important because the New Testament expands it and builds on it. The Hebrew word that’s used in the Old Testament for the Spirit is the word ‘ruach.’ Ruach. And it’s vital we understand what this word means. I’m describing this word as ‘the blowing of God,’ because the Hebrew word ‘ruach,’ is actually a picture word. A picture word. It gives you a vivid and precise picture of the Holy Spirit. The literal meaning is ‘breath being blown out.’ (blows) That’s the literal meaning. It’s breath, or wind in motion, like you would use if you blew up a balloon or blew out a candle, or if you are panting heavily after running a race. The whole idea of ruach is vigorously moving air, even violently moving air. You will see I call Him—the Holy Spirit—the Holy Hurricane. It suggests a release of energy—God’s energy; an invading force, the exercise of power, dynamic activity evidencing life. Now in some places in the Old Testament, ‘ruach’ describes a wind which is immensely powerful, even destructive at times. But it is always under control and it effects God’s will. This wind, this blowing, the Old Testament ruach, is powerful, but it’s under control and it always brings about God’s will. Let’s look at some examples. We have in Genesis chapter 8 and verse 1 the story of how in the flood and at that end of the flood it said, Genesis 8 verse 1, “God remembered Noah and every living thing and all of the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.” Now can you see this? Here we have the face of the earth covered in water. That’s been God’s judgment. And then He causes His wind to blow and that’s a picture of the Holy Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit moving over the waters. It’s not the first time He’s done that; we’ll come back to Genesis chapter 1 and verse 1 later. It’s not the first time He’s done that, but this is, as it were, a kind of new creation. And God’s wind, God’s breath, blows over the waters and the waters subside. So after the judgment, the mercy of God is shown to the whole of humanity, which at this time is, of course, Noah and his family. And so we see the Holy Spirit powerfully working, bringing about God’s purpose. Another key verse in the selection of verses I have for you in the manual is Exodus chapter 14 and verse 21—in some ways, a similar experience. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night and made the sea into dry land and the waters were divided.” So we have, at the parting of the Red Sea, the wind of God, which is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Probably, we’re meant to understand that God did this by His Spirit. It’s a picture of what God was doing. Moving powerfully by His Spirit, the wind blew and then the waters parted. Whether it was the wind physically making the waters part, or whether the wind was the wind of the Holy Spirit supernaturally making the waters part, either way, it’s a wonderful picture of the Holy Spirit. And so whenever you are shut up in your circumstances and you are surrounded by your enemies, God’s holy wind will come and blow—the breath of God will blow a path right the way through and you will walk on dry ground. Hallelujah. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Another verse taken from that selection is Ezekiel chapter 37 and verse 9. Ezekiel 37 and verse 9. God speaks to Ezekiel and He says, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath and breathe on these slain that they may live.”’” This is the vision of the valley of dry bones. And God says to Ezekiel, “Prophecy to the breath,” some translations say, “wind,” because ‘ruach’ can be translated as ‘breath’ or ‘wind’ or ‘spirit.’ The essential meaning is what I’m going for now, is wind in motion, air in motion. So if this is the breath, the breath of God blowing, if it’s the wind, the wind of God blowing. This holy wind, this breath, the breath of God can produce life. It is the Spirit that brings life. That’s the meaning here in this particular passage. And so we see that ‘ruach’ suggests that the Spirit of God is like a holy hurricane. We cannot control Him. We cannot predict Him. I was in a hurricane, or near a hurricane, very recently in Pensacola, Florida. Hurricane Georges, it was, and I actually got out of the area before the hurricane hit, but we were watching it being tracked by satellite and the television programs, the Weather Channel, was describing it. And they predicted it, but they weren’t quite right. They said, “It could hit here, it could hit there, it could hit here. We don’t know. These are the probabilities.” And that’s in many ways what people are like—theologians especially—when they try to prejudge the moving of the Holy Spirit. You will never ever tame the holy hurricane. He comes from God. He executes God’s will, not man’s will. He comes to do what God calls Him to do and He is powerful. You have to respect this. I began to respect the power of hurricanes when I saw what that hurricane could do. Even in the early stages of it, I took one of the last flights out of the area in Florida to get out of the area and I saw, actually flying above it, I could see the hurricane. It was an extraordinary sight to see the hurricane just coming as I was going in the other direction, thank God. But anyway, that’s what God is like. He is an invading force coming by His Spirit to transform everything wherever He blows. He is God’s power in action. Others of these verses show that the Holy Spirit is like the breath of God because God’s very life is carried on His breath and where the Spirit breathes, God’s life comes. He brings life to the dead. ‘Ruach’ literally means ‘breathing out with great violence.’ It’s not a gentle breeze, a holy wheeze; no, it’s a divine sneeze. God expressing Himself, blowing as hard as He can. And when we come under the moving of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that’s impossible in our lives because of the great power of the holy hurricane—the divine wind of God.

Now in the Old Testament, we see that the word is used, ‘ruach’ is used of wind and breath. It’s a picture word and it has many different associations. Let me go through some of them. These are marked for you in your manual. God’s Spirit—He’s personal, purposeful, invisible and irresistible. These are the associations we get. Now this is where I tell you what I’m doing. We’re using the picture language of ruach, and we’re building up a picture of the Holy Spirit to what we can learn from Him through the use of this language. When you go through all of these scriptures, these are the kind of conclusions you come through. God’s Spirit is personal, purposeful, invisible and irresistible. He’s personal because He comes from God. He’s purposeful because He does the will of God. He’s invisible because you can’t see Him. He’s irresistible because you can’t resist His effects. It’s also used, this word, ‘ruach’, of individual human consciousness as in the word ‘soul,’ because man has a spirit. You are a spiritual being. Mankind is a spiritual being. So the word ‘ruach’ is used of the human spirit, and it’s also used, literally, of the wind—the physical wind—blowing, rustling leaves, and flattening buildings, depending on whether it’s a gentle breeze or a mighty hurricane. Now there’s no one English word that carries all these meanings, which shows that we are impoverished in many ways and that’s why it’s good to know the original meaning here in the Hebrew. The English word ‘blow’ can mean breathing out of air by a human person, or it can mean the wind can blow, but it does not refer to the human spirit. We can’t say ‘the wind’ referring to our human spirit. So the language is limited in English here, and it might also be in some of the other translations. But it can’t refer to the human intellectual, spiritual and emotional individuality of God and human beings. It can’t describe our human spirit. But we must therefore take great care. When we read in the Old Testament, we see the word ‘spirit,’ we must understand what’s it talking about—God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, or wind, or breath belonging to nature or to people? But when it’s used of God the Holy Spirit, it always suggests God’s power in action. So that’s the Hebrew word ‘ruach’.

But there are many other word pictures in the Old Testament that describe the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at four of them. And as we look at these four word pictures, I want you to grasp the character of the Holy Spirit that’s suggested by these pictures, and His activity. So those are the two things to bear in mind when we go through these pictures: the character of the Holy Spirit suggested by this, and His activity. The first one—water. You know that the Holy Spirit is described as water. That’s a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And of course, this suggests immediately to us that the Holy Spirit is God’s blessing; God’s spiritual refreshment in our lives. Take a look at Psalm 36 and verse 9. There’s a good passage. It says, “For with You is the fountain of life. In Your light we see light.” The fountain of life. Psalm 46 verse 4: “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God; the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” Here we’re talking about the river of God—the streams of God—which is a picture of the Holy Spirit bringing life and refreshment and joy and cleansing and purity and all of the life giving properties of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 55 and verse 1—there’s another one—“Ho, everyone who thirsts. Come to the waters. And ye who have no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” So here we have, in Isaiah 55, the water—a picture of water quenching thirst. And so there is a real sense in which the Holy Spirit answers to the deepest needs in our hearts. The Holy Spirit quenches the thirst of the human soul; of the human spirit. He refreshes, He revives, and He touches us, may I say, where no other can touch us? Hallelujah. Zechariah 13 and verse 1. “In that day, a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” I’ve selected Zechariah 13 verse 1 out of the passages before you because it speaks about the cleansing property of water. And God says, “I’ve got water that will cleanse you, that will take away your uncleanness, take away your filthiness.” That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to bring into our lives the cleansing of God. Now in Ezekiel 47, Ezekiel sees water flowing out from the heart of God’s temple. This water represents the unrestricted flow of God’s blessings to His people. And Ezekiel, as you remember, in chapter 47, was ordered to go on immersing himself deeper and deeper and deeper in the water. And so what God is saying, “I have a flow of my Spirit that comes from my very heart. It comes from the holiest place of all, and it flows into your life and I want you to immerse yourself deeper and deeper and deeper in my blessing.” So the Holy Spirit here speaks of God’s blessing reaching out, touching you, saturating you, sustaining you, filling you, blessing you. And that’s a picture that the New Testament takes on and develops in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and we’ll come to that in due course. Another passage, Jeremiah 2 verse 13, speaking of God being the fountain of living waters. And in the context of God rebuking Judah for idolatry, God speaks to Jeremiah and says, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewn themselves cisterns”—water tanks—“broken cisterns”—broken water tanks—“that can hold no water.” And this shows that God is the fountain of life. He is the living waters that brings life to us and all forms of idolatry are like broken cisterns, broken water tanks that contain no water. So worshipping God alone is what God calls us to do. Anything less than that, if we change Him for any other God, there is no access to life. So if we don’t know God, we’d have no life. That’s what is spoken of there in Jeremiah chapter 2. And then, of course, in John—let’s just go quickly into the New Testament; I know we’re dealing mainly with Old Testament passages right now—but let’s notice that in John chapter 7, verses 39-37, [correct reference is 7:37-38] we have an immediate New Testament fulfillment of some of these Old Testament foundational truths. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart, out of his inmost being, shall flow rivers of living water.” And so we find that the Holy Spirit is the river of God flowing into our lives. Another text—John 4 verse 14—it’s not in your manuals; you might want to make a note of that—“But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life.” So we see at least two obvious uses of water in the natural world. Water is essential for life. You cannot live, medically, more than three or four days, really, without water. Beyond that, it’s very, very dangerous. It’s essential to life. Water sustains life. And so the Holy Spirit is God’s life sustaining force, life sustaining power—now I’m using those terms, impersonal terms at this stage, because we’re going to teach on His full personality and His glorious divinity. But let me just show you at this stage that the Holy Spirit is essential for life. God brings you life by the Holy Spirit. All that in the image of water. There’s a lot in it, isn’t there?

But the second thing we know from our natural observation, water is vital for washing. Water is vital for washing. And so it’s not surprising, then, that God would use the image of water to describe how the Holy Spirit brings God’s cleansing into our lives. Now in Old Testament times, if an army had no water, it was defeated very quickly by the enemy. We also know that water is used for cleaning. There are some passages in the Old Testament that show water being used for ceremonial cleaning. And the purpose of that is to point us to the Holy Spirit, who will come and bring God’s purity into our lives. Ezekiel chapter 36, verses 25-28. I’m going to read those because I’m going to come back to them time and again, because this, to me, seems to be a crucial foundational Old Testament text describing the work and purpose of the Holy Spirit in your life. Okay. There we have it. Ezekiel 36 verse 25 and onwards. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes. And will keep—and you will keep my judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave your fathers. You shall be my people and I will be your God.” Mark that text. It’s a very important text. For now, let me point out how God uses the symbol of water to describe the Holy Spirit and the agency of water—what water does—to describe the agency of the Spirit—what the Holy Spirit does. And so God promises to clean you with water and to make you a new person. And so we begin to see how these verses to do with water build up a picture of the Spirit’s activity. He is, number one, God’s blessing. We need Him for life and we need Him for cleansing.

Now we’re coming on to another word picture of the Holy Spirit—fire. You’re probably very aware that fire is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, a picture of God and what God comes to do. Remember? What does fire tell us about the character of the Holy Spirit, what does fire tell us about the work of the Holy Spirit—those things I want you to bear in mind. Well, when we look at the fire passages of the Old Testament, we discover that fire is a symbol of God’s intervention in history. That’s a very important point. Fire is a symbol of God’s intervention in history. And it’s the way—the fire—it’s the way God purified human hearts and cleansed them for service. I’m sure you would remember immediately in this context, Isaiah. That’s what happened to him in Isaiah chapter 6, we know, and verse 6 and onwards, [complete reference is 6:5-9] how that Isaiah felt so impure in the presence of God, he cried out and said, “Woe to me! I’m undone! I’m a man of unclean lips; I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of glory.” And then in verse 6 Isaiah 6, it says, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal,” what’s that? Fire. “Which he had taken with tongs from the altar and he touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips. Your iniquity is taken away and your sin purged.’ I also heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ and then I said, ‘Here I am; send me.’ And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people, “Keep on hearing, but you don’t understand. Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.”’”

And that brings today’s teaching to an end. And I pray that God has blessed you and He will continue to bless you as you go through this series on knowing the Holy Spirit. And I pray that God will bring you closer and closer to this wonderful third person of the trinity, God the Holy Spirit. So till next time, goodbye and God bless you.