The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (Part 2)

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Course: Knowing the Spirit
Lesson: The Spirit in the Old Testament – Topic 2: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (Part 2)
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. Our topic is Knowing the Holy Spirit, and we’ve begun to look at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. What does the Old Testament say about the Holy Spirit? Well, a great deal, as a matter of fact. The Old Testament reveals the Holy Spirit as wind, using this picture from the natural world to describe the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. He is like the wind of God. And in the natural world, this can be very powerful. So sometimes we can think of the Holy Spirit as God’s holy hurricane. But in the natural world also, wind can be soft and gentle, like a refreshing, cool breeze or like the breath of a person. And so we can think of the Holy Spirit as the breath of God. The Old Testament also uses the image of water. Water is essential for life, not just for those living in desert regions, but for every single one of us in cities anywhere in the world. Without water, we cannot live. And God is saying to us, without the Holy Spirit, we really can’t know life. Also, the Holy Spirit is like water because the Holy Spirit is God’s cleansing agent. Water is vital for washing. And so we see the Holy Spirit bringing God’s cleansing and God’s renewing and refreshing in our lives. The Holy Spirit is also likened to fire. Fire is a very powerful natural force. And so the Holy Spirit is extremely powerful and operates just like fire. He is God’s purifying and refining fire. And so we’re going to be looking now into the Old Testament to see how the image of fire describes how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. God bless you as you open yourself to the Holy Spirit to all of these wonderful aspects of what He does in your life; the one who blows God’s power into your life, the one who washes and the one who refines just like fire. God bless you as we study together.

So here we have fire cleansing from sin and preparing for service. and then when we think—let me jump ahead a little bit to draw the parallel to show you that we’re building up a picture of the Holy Spirit getting ready for the New Testament—when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, that was a cleansing activity of God; and intensification of God’s work in your heart to bring purity and to prepare you for service. Genesis 15 and verse 17, here’s a passage of the Old Testament, another fire passage. Here we have Abram and God is coming to make covenant with him and he sees this smoking torch, this smoking oven, but it’s basically a fire. It’s a manifestation of fire, God showing Himself as the God of fire; the God of burning, cleansing fire. “And it came to pass,” I’m in Genesis 15 and verse 17, “and it came to pass when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.” And here we have God’s presence Himself coming down and making a covenant with Abraham. But it’s the fire of God that I want you to notice there. “And the angel of the Lord,” Exodus chapter 3 and verse 2, here we have Moses at the burning bush, ‘And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. And so he looked, and behold the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.” So we have picture of fire again, speaking about God’s holy presence. And then we have in Exodus 13 and verse 21 another passage. “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light and to go by day and night—as—so as to go by day and night.” Exodus 19 verse 18, here we have the fire of God in Mount Sinai. “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” And then another description of that in Deuteronomy chapter 4 verses 11 and 12. “Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of the heaven with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness, and the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but you saw no form. You only heard a voice.” Oh, there is the fire. Now look in 2 Kings. We find God’s fire revealing again His presence and His holiness and His judgment and anger against sin. These are the contexts of these following verses. Look at this—2 Kings 16—[correct reference is 2 Kings 6:17] “And Elisha prayed and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” And so what we have here is a story of Elisha and the army is coming against him and the servant of Elisha is frightened and Elisha said, “Listen, Lord, open his eyes. Let him see what I see.” And he saw this great company of angelic beings and we see the fire of God accompanying them. Deuteronomy 4 and verse 24: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” We mustn’t forget that. When we talk about the Holy Spirit, He comes to bring God’s fire, the burning, cleansing flame, the passionate flame of God, the jealousy of God is expressed in the work of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 66 and verse 15: “For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots like a whirlwind to render His anger with fury and rebuke with flames of fire.” Oh yes. God is a God of judgment. God is a God of wroth. Yes, He will come and He will bring His judgment and the Holy Spirit will bring this judgment as well. The Holy Spirit executes God’s judgment and the fire of God here symbolizes God’s judgment. Malachi chapter 3 and verses 2 and 3—a very powerful passage of the same thing—“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and a launder’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver so that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Here is a burning, cleansing, purging, purifying, refining fire. And He’s the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah. We have a lot to look forward to as we get to know the Holy Spirit. I mean, this is awesome. Well, fire, as I say, revealed God’s presence, it demonstrates His holiness and His judgment and anger against sin. And He called all those He wanted to cleanse to pass through the fire. Another crucial passage, and I want you to turn to it. Isaiah chapter 4. It’s a very important passage because it speaks about the spirit of burning. We’re going to come back to this later on when you look at how Jesus is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit and fire. Isaiah chapter 2—sorry—chapter 4 verses 2-6: “In that day, the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those in Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy. Everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst by the spirit of judgment, by the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion and about her assemblies a cloud and smoke by day and a shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering and there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat and a place of refuge and a shelter for storm and rain.” Now can you see the concept of judgment, the experience of judgment, linked with fire, but this is a judgment that brings a cleansing and a purging and a purifying and a holy presence in the life of the people of Jerusalem. Bear that in mind. We’ll come back to it. It’s a very, very important point. So we see how the Holy Spirit is described as fire. He comes to do all of those things. See His nature, His character, and His activity from that picture.

Let’s go to another one now. Oil. In Old Testament days, oil had at least three practical uses: for cooking, preparing food; in the dark to provide light; and it was also used in medicine as an aid to healing so we can see immediately how each of these has a spiritual application to our understanding of the Holy Spirit. But it was also the ceremonial use of oil to anoint priests and kings and prophets. It was that ceremonial use which is used as a picture of God’s spirit. So anointing with oil symbolized, especially for the prophets and kings, the equipment necessary for service, and was therefore a necessary resource of the Holy Spirit for them to function according to their calling. So we’re on very familiar territory. You can see how this is taken up in the New Testament and really developed. In 1 Samuel 10, we find how Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him and said, “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance? When you have departed from today, you will find two men,” and it goes on to describe the anointing of oil that came upon Saul. [1 Samuel 10:1-2] In 1 Samuel 16 verse 13, Samuel again anointing David to be king. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” Isaiah 61 and verse 1, a picture obviously that’s applying in the first instance to the prophet himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” So this is a description of the anointing that was upon Isaiah. But as we know, it’s a picture, more completely, of the anointing coming upon Messiah. And in Luke chapter 4, Jesus applies this Scripture to Himself and He says, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:21]  And so we find that again and again in the Old Testament, oil is used in anointing to demonstrate God’s presence upon that person and the empowering and equipping necessary to do the job that God has called you to do. So the Holy Spirit is the empowerer, the enabler, the equipper of God’s people.

Now we’re going to have a look at one more of these pictures—the final one—these word pictures. And we are using, looking now, at the word picture ‘dove’ in the Old Testament. Dove. Now again, you’ll see quickly that this is taken up in the New Testament because the Holy Spirit came and descended as a dove upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus saw it, John saw it, and maybe others saw it, we don’t know, but certainly, it’s recorded for us in the gospels. And when we talk about doves, most people think well, this is a simple description of gentleness. We have the English expression ‘lovey dovey,’ this kind of gentle thing. Well, I suppose there is a point to that, but there’s a much wider meaning than that in the Old Testament. You see, doves were used in three distinctive ways in the Old Testament. They were a source of food. Yes, people ate doves. They were also sacrifices—sacrifices that were used by poor people. And they were also messengers. Doves carried messages. They didn’t have telephones or what have you, doves were used to carry messages. Now there is a dove in the Bible, in the Old Testament. I wonder if you remember. Genesis chapter 8. What a wonderful picture of the Holy Spirit. Here we have the picture; at the end of the flood, Noah sends out a dove. You remember that? It’s first of all a raven, and then sends out a dove. And finally, the dove returns with an olive branch in its beak and then finally, it doesn’t return at all. That dove was announcing the existence of a new creation and a new time in the promises of God. In the Song of Songs, the dove is described as the bride of the king. This beautiful picture, “Oh my dove,” Song of Solomon chapter 2 and verses 14, “Oh my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” He is the king’s bride. Now you didn’t expect that when you looked at ‘dove,’ did you? What about the other one—as the acceptable sacrifice for the poor people? If you were poor, doves were an acceptable sacrifice on your behalf other than the more expensive animals that you mightn’t have been able to afford. Now another surprising revelation from the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for dove is ‘Jonah.’ Jonah. Now how would we describe that? What’s the name? Say it out loud. Jonah. Jonah. His name means ‘dove.’ By the way, just for interest’s sake, no comparison to the prophet Jonah, but my name also means ‘dove.’ If you derive it from the Latin, it means ‘dove.’ If you derive it from the Greek, it means, ‘one who stands in authority.’ All right. I like the Latin and I like the Greek. I take them both. I’m a Greco-Latin today. Well, the Hebrew word for ‘dove’ is Jonah, and so the real name of Jonah is Mr. Dove. And he, of course, was a messenger of God. He, of course, was sent on a mission to speak to sinners. Does that remind you of the Holy Spirit? And he spent three days in the fish’s belly before his resurrection—it’s a picture of the resurrection—and he was raised, of course, Jesus was raised in the spirit of holiness. So this suggests that when the Spirit came down like a dove on Jesus at His baptism, it meant much more than gentleness. The dove showed that Jesus was a messenger who would feed God’s people. It revealed the dawn of a new creation and it also pointed to Jesus as a sacrifice for poor peoples’ sins. It also hinted at His death and resurrection as part of His mission to reach sinners and it showed by its descent upon Jesus that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit to bring about all these things and that the Spirit came upon Jesus to bring about all those things in Jesus’ life. Well, that’s an awful lot you can learn simply from these pictures. Looking at who the Holy Spirit is—what His nature is, what His character is, and what He’s come to do.

So let’s move, now, on into more of what the Holy Spirit has come to do. The phrase ‘spirit,’ or ‘the Spirit of God,’ appears nearly one hundred times in the Old Testament. Now I say nearly one hundred times—it’s very hard to count them perfectly because at sometimes you’re not quite sure whether the wind is being used or whether it’s a Holy Spirit or wind, or the Holy Spirit or the human spirit at times. But anyway, there it is. It’s around a hundred times in the Old Testament. And every time it is used—the ‘spirit’ or ‘the Spirit of God’—every time you find that word, that phrase, it describes God at work: God bringing change, God making a difference to the world and to His people. And so the scriptural material, when we look at it, seems to show seven main areas of activity of the Holy Spirit. But always God at work—the Holy Spirit coming to do what God has called Him to do. First of all, we see Him shaping creation. Job chapter 26 and verse 13, “By His Spirit, He,” God, “adorned the heavens. His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.” Job 33 and verse 4, “The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” So the Holy Spirit is God’s agent in creation. He shapes creation, He molds creation into the shape that God wants it to be, and He animates created beings; He brings life to created beings. Let’s go back to Genesis—Genesis chapter 1 and verses 2. We see it very, very clearly. Here we have the words—the earth—Genesis chapter 1 and verse 2, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a sparrow hawk or one of those birds of prey that hover like that, waiting to swoop right down and to take the prey. That’s the picture here. The Holy Spirit is hovering. Now it can also be translated as ‘brooding’ like a hen broods over the eggs waiting for those eggs to hatch. Either word is a good translation, but I’m using the translation ‘hovering.’ Now what is happening there? Here we have the Holy Spirit hovering and waiting for something. What is the Holy Spirit waiting for? What happens next? “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” [Genesis 1:3] So what we have here is the Holy Spirit hovering, waiting for the Word of God and when God’s Word is released, the Spirit leaps into action. Now that applies to every activity of the Holy Spirit. We see it here in creation, but it applies to every activity of the Holy Spirit. That’s why The Sword of the Spirit is a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. You cannot divorce the two. Now in these manuals you will see there are nearly a thousand scriptures in every one of these manuals. A thousand scriptures. I know. I had to do it all. A thousand scriptures there are, virtually, in every single one of these manuals. And yet, the teaching is not just about dry, academic presentation of scriptural facts; this teaching is to bring you into an encounter with God. Teaching on the Holy Spirit today, knowing the Spirit, is there so that you would get to know the Holy Spirit. So remember, what God has joined together, let no one put asunder. The Holy Spirit works through the Word. Incidentally, if you prefer the picture of the Holy Spirit brooding over these eggs, waiting for them to hatch, this is a picture of how the Holy Spirit broods over God’s purposes so that God’s Word shall come forth to produce life-giving power. Always before God speaks, always before God works, the Holy Spirit prepares the way. That’s what happened to you. The Holy Spirit was brooding over your life. And when the Word of God came, the Word of God entered a heart that had been prepared by the Holy Spirit. Genesis 2 and verse 7 speaks about God breathing life into the nostrils of man and man becoming a living being. What the Father created, the Holy Spirit animated. When He heard God’s Word, the Spirit, the blowing of God, the breath of God, dived into action and released God’s life-giving power and cold dust became warm, living, breathing humanity. We need revival, my friends. That’s exactly what God wants to do. He wants to blow like the breath of God blowing out the dusty, crusty, cold hearted church of God in so many places today, and to bring fresh life and to bring the power of God’s recreation. Amen.

So He shapes and guides and directs God’s creation. Number one. Number two, the Holy Spirit controls and directs history. We have in Psalm 104, a passage which shows how God is in control of the natural world. Psalm 104 verses 29-30, “You hide Your face and they are troubled. You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created. You renew the face of the earth.” Here we have the Holy Spirit acting on behalf of God to control creation, to supervise creation, to renew creation. The Holy Spirit providentially cares for creation. Isaiah 34 and verse 16, “Search the book from the Lord and read, not one of these shall fail, not one shall lack her mate, for my mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them.” Here we have God’s Spirit working over the natural world. Isaiah 40 and verse 7, “The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it. Surely, the people are grass.” Here we have a very strategic statement—a very important statement. The people are grass—frail flesh—and the Spirit moves over the people. The Spirit breathes over them. And when He breathes, He moves the people. Just as when wind blows, the grass moves with the wind. I still have this picture in my mind in Africa of that marvelous Serengeti Plain in Tanzania. Marvelous, beautiful savanna grass just swaying there. And you can even see a lion peering out. And so here we have a picture of what the Holy Spirit does upon peoples’ hearts. God is a sovereign God, my friends. The Holy Spirit is a sovereign Spirit. And He moves the people how and where and when and why He wants to move them. Let’s remember as we bring this first session to a close, the Holy Spirit is the sovereign spirit. And in the next session, we’re going to go on looking at the sevenfold work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and how we can then learn how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. So that’s the end of this first session. God bless you, and we’ll be back for session two.

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.