Revealed, Reclaimed, Received
The Development of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and in the Nation of Israel
The Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead shows Himself throughout the meta-narrative of the Bible. The belief that most Christians overlook the Holy Spirit is Michael Green’s polemic in his volume on the same. Green uses Acts 19:2, where disciples of John the Baptist meet with Paul and express that they are totally unaware of the Holy Spirit, and Green uses this as a base for his discussion. In Green’s book he writes, “…this group at Ephesus must have heard something about the Holy Spirit…but they did not realize the promised Spirit was available to them; that He could make a difference in their lives.”
The difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives is mirrored in the pages of Scripture. The story of the Holy Spirit is revealed to God’s people in the Old Testament, as a powerful force, but the Spirit does not stay in a permanent way among the Israelites. The Holy Spirit is reclaimed in the Gospels bringing forth the New Covenant that is, in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally believers of Jesus Christ throughout the world as a permanent fixture in their lives receive the Holy Spirit. The three aspects of the development of the Holy Spirit in Scripture for the Nation of Israel and us are that they can be seen as being revealed, reclaimed and received. These aspects of this will be brought forth in this work.
One of the earliest examples of the Holy Spirit we can observe in the Pentateuch is the way the Spirit interacts with Moses and the Nation of Israel. In Numbers 11:25-29 it illustrates
the way the Spirit was not permanent in the lives of people as they wandered through the wilderness. In context with these verses, looking backward we see the Lord speaking to Moses in verse 17 of Chapter 11, “And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone”.
The Lord is going to share the Spirit with others; Moses will not be the sole person to experience the Spirit. As we go further into the chapter, and reach verses 25-29, the seventy elders are with Moses as The Spirit comes upon them and they began to prophesy. Unknown to them, God has chosen to send the Holy Spirit to two other men, Eldad and Medad, and they also begin to prophesy in the Camp away from where the other seventy were. But this Spirit experience is a temporary one, the last part of verse 25 points this out, “And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it” (Emphasis mine). The Lord sent the Spirit out among the camp, so that the common people may experience the Holy Spirit, if only temporarily.
Common people appear to have a link with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Jephthah was one of these people. Jephthah might have been lower then the common people, he was the son of a prostitute, and his father drove him out of his home. Sooner rather then later the people needed Jephthah to fight their battles for them, and coming into verse 29 of Chapter 11, we read that, “The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh….” It seems as if the Holy Spirit goes where He will, and falls on whom He will to give victory over the foes of Israel. As Jephthah went from place to place defeating the enemies of the Nation, it was only through the power of the Spirit that he was able to do this. This was not a lasting power, but was seen as The Holy Spirit revealing Himself in defeating Israel’s enemies. A King was longed for that would have the Spirit of God in him forever.
This King was coming and the prophet Samuel is charged by God to replace Saul, Samuel speaks to Jesse the father of seven sons, asking Jesse where are all his sons, and we read that Jesse said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” (1 Sam16: 11). When the youngest son arrives David, the Lord instructs Samuel to anoint him “for this is he” (1 Sam 16:12). David now has the Spirit of the Lord; it rushed upon him (1Sam16: 13).
A strange thing happens when we continue to read the account of David’s anointing. In verse 13, we read that as the Spirit rushed forward into David, now it just as quickly departs from Saul. “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1Sam 16:14). Not only did the Spirit of The Lord leave Saul, but also it was replaced with a harmful spirit. We can see that in the Old Testament the Spirit was revealed to the people but it was not revealed and settled in them permanently
Feeling the power of the Holy Spirit was something that the most notable King of Israel felt. In Psalm 51, King David feels the power of the Spirit as he cries out for the Lord not to take away the Holy Spirit from Him. (Ps 51:11) David knows this Spirit of God in an intimate
way, he has felt and spoken to God through the Spirit. In this time where David has sinned against the Lord, the one thing he pleads with God not to do is “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps 51:11). It seems that David is quite aware that the taking away of the Spirit removes him from the presence of God, a two-fold damnation for the King a “man after God’s heart”.
The stable presence of the Holy Spirit is going to be revealed and reclaimed through the Messiah and in the story of the development of the Nation of Israel. The Prophets of Israel announce through their writings about the coming of the enduring presence of the Holy Spirit. The Prophet Isaiah speaks for God when he tells about the tree of Israel cut down to a stump, but the tree is not dead and it will soon bear fruit. Isaiah informs the Nation about the Holy Spirit “resting” upon “Him”, “Him” being the Messiah. This meaning of rest speaks of permanence, something the people have been looking for. A time where the Spirit of God would dwell with them again as it had been in the wilderness with the Tabernacle. But Isaiah points to something much more then the Tabernacle, he points to a Redeemer, the Messiah, a true sinless King of Israel, and a second Adam.
In this Messiah, Isaiah points to the qualities of the Spirit (Isa 11:2), the qualities that show the people a new King one who would rule over them with the eternal resting of the Spirit. The qualities of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord would mean to the Nation of Israel, that this King would be a very special King. G.K. Beal writes about the way the Holy Spirit’s gifts were received in the Old Testament, he writes, “The Spirit’s gifts, formerly limited to prophets, kings and priests, usually for service in connection with the temple…” The people of Israel wanted the Spirit to have a home with them forever and in the verses from Isaiah 11:1-3, the prophet announces the coming of that King who will have the Spirit of the Lord forever.
This announcement of this promised King of Israel continues on in Isaiah 44. Here is where the prophet makes an unusual announcement about this King. Isaiah tells us in the first verse of Chapter 44 to “hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!” (Isa 44:1). Isaiah is telling the chosen people, to listen up, perk up their ears for He is about to tell them something very important. Isaiah tells them through the Lord, that He the Lord has made them formed them out of their mother’s womb, and brought them out of slavery. The Lord will not forsake His promise.
God makes a promise with His Nation a covenant, that He will make the land run with the original milk and honey by “pouring water on thirsty ground” (44:3). God then proceeds to tell the people that He will then “pour my Spirit upon your offspring” (44:3) this foretelling of the Spirit of God flowing out like milk and honey, but now flowing out upon their offspring, is meant to give hope to a people starving for hope. In the following verses we see that this prophecy is not meant solely for Israel, but for all the Nations as well. (Isa 44:5).
The expectations and dreams of the Israelites are revitalized in the words of the prophet Joel. Most likely produced during the postexilic period, Joel tells of the Spirit of God again to the people of Israel. God promises to His people, using the same analogy of pouring, His Holy Spirit. This action of pouring is relevant to the Nation because they would understand that this pouring of the Spirit would mean a new King would be anointed or poured out to save them from their captors and the foreign Gentiles who control their land. Joel proclaims, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28).
Ezekiel brings forth the same type of prophecy but he uses a heart analogy where the Lord God will give the people a new heart. “And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”. (Ezek 36:26) Here the prophet tells us something new, that God is going to put a new Spirit in all peoples. Mark Strom puts this new covenant this way, “But in the new covenant, the presence of the Spirit ensures that God’s people have a new heart and remain loyal to Him.”
This new heart and new Spirit is reflected in the promised redemption through Jesus Christ. From Matthew 12:28, Christ tells us that He has come to announce the Kingdom of God with the Spirit of God. The Spirit has come to fully rest upon the God Man Jesus Christ; True Israel and the 2nd Adam have reclaimed the Holy Spirit. This reclaiming of the Spirit upon Christ in a undying way provides for His works and healings during His ministry.
The reclaiming of the Spirit is also found in John 7:37-39, where Jesus uses the same prophetic words of Isaiah to proclaim that He has come to give life (through the Holy Spirit) life giving water. The water analogy is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, but now all people will have the “living water of the Holy Spirit “ flowing out of their hearts.
This fulfillment of prophecy is found in Acts 2:14-41, where Peter, with new found abilities brought about by the Holy Spirit upon him, speaks to the crowd at Pentecost. This is the receiving of the Holy Spirit in the story of the Bible. Here is where all people can have the Holy Spirit of God in their lives, the culmination of all prophecy, Beale rightly describes this saying here that, “Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy to show that in his day it was finally being fulfilled in Pentecost.” Peter presents the people with Joel’s prophecy, and the facts about King David, which in turn provokes the people to question Peter about their salvation. Peter instructs those present to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, through repentance and baptism.
In Acts this fact that all believers can receive the Holy Spirit is reflected in these great words from Scripture. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” (Acts 10:44-45). Now the entire world has the opportunity to receive The Holy Spirit, here it falls onto the believers, and the language of the prophets, “poured out” is used to describe this wonderful event.
This pouring out of the Spirit onto the new church believers in Jerusalem is something new in history as Craig G. Bartholmew and Michael W. Goheen see, they write, “Though the Spirit-filled community of Acts 2 is in one sense new to history, it also stands in historical continuity with the Old testament nation that had it’s origins in Abraham.” The continuity I would place here is that the Spirit of God in the story of God, comes through in the revealing, reclaiming, and receiving of the Holy Spirit.
This blessing of receiving the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is viewed through the Church planting of the Apostle Paul. His letters have provided us with a wealth of knowledge concerning the way we have received the Holy Spirit as children of God. In Galatians Paul writes to this struggling church about the blessing of Abraham, that this blessing would come to the Gentiles, through Christ. Paul puts it plainly “so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14b) Promised and revealed The Holy Spirit Paul relates, comes to us through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In subsequent letters to his brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus explaining the promise, the guarantee of “our inheritance”. The Holy Spirit promises are made over and over again to the new church so that they might see the great connection between the Nation of Israel seeing the Holy Spirit revealed to them, but never having it personally. This new church of Jesus Christ, are able to not only receive The Holy Spirit, but also be sealed in it. Paul proclaims this in Ephesians, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”. (Eph 1:13)
In his greatest letter the letter to the Romans, Paul brings the entire matter of the Holy Spirit to a climax. The entire story of the development of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is portrayed in the gospel rendition of Paul here. From chapter 8 Paul leads off in verse 14 with a statement that brings the reality of the Spirit to a wonderful work of knowing who we are, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” in the following verse the grand idea of sonship is further elaborated on as we are told, “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry Abba! Father”. (Rom 8:15b) It is our new relationship of receiving the Spirit that has produced an adoption to the Holy Family of God!
Paul continues with the message of a Spirit led community, who have received the Holy Spirit with the words that brings us back to the beginning of the story of the Holy Spirit, in creation. Paul reminds us that even creation has been waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom 8:19) This is the culmination of the entire story of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, that we are now the first fruits of the Spirit, the ones who receive the glory and power of the Holy Spirit after Jesus. (Rom 8:23) We have received this power not as Kings or prophets, but as believers in Jesus Christ, this precious gift so sought after by the Nation of Israel is now available to them if they believe in the True Israel, King Jesus.
Paul is not done speaking about the Spirit of God, in Romans he knows as one steeped in the Law, that the entire Nation of Israel has been longing for this Spirit of God, and he describes the Spirit of God as the hope of Israel for eternity. Their longings are reflected in the time of bondage in Egypt. “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God” (Exod 2:23).
As the people of Egypt were in their own weakness crying out to God for Him, groaning amidst their beatings and heavy work load imposed on them by the Egyptians, Paul speaks that we ourselves are weak, burdened under a heavy load of sin with needs and hopes. It is the long sought for, longed for Spirit of the living God that comes to us, intercedes for us, when we have “groanings too deep for words”. (Rom 8:26)
Finally Paul asserts another special part of the Spirit, that David had known along with all the prophets of the Old Testament, that The Holy Spirit searches through our hearts, fully aware of what we really need and then going before the God and placing our case before Him. All of this conducted through and in the will of Holy God. (Rom 8:27) Holy Spirit received.
In concluding this paper, my thoughts and feelings about the Holy Spirit have been renewed by examining the way He moves through Scripture. The undeniable grace of God to allow me, and us, to receive this free gift of the Spirit when we first believe is extraordinary. Too many times we gloss over the important fact of the Holy Spirit. The story of Scripture and the way the Holy Spirit is brought first to a chosen people through Kings and prophets, and then reclaimed in the work of the Messiah, and then finally to be given as an unmerited grace gift is truly amazing.
In my thesis, the role of the development of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, I wanted to show how this was accomplished, I feel I have done that in three ways:
First, The Holy Spirit was revealed to the nation of Israel, but not permanently. Second, the Spirit was reclaimed in Jesus Christ working in Him and through Him to produce signs and wonders during his ministry on earth. Third, through belief in Christ every believer receives and is sealed with the Holy Spirit of God, something the Nation of Israel sought after and longed for. Now Israel has the opportunity to experience this great free gift through the work of the “exalted Christ” and His Spirit. The Spirit’s cause will bring life to “dry bones”. (Ezek 37:1-14)
Bartholomew and Goheen state the cause of the Spirit this way, “The exalted Christ will now work by his Spirit, who thus becomes the primary actor in the book of Acts. The Spirit sends the good news to the ends of the earth, brings new converts into the community, guides and empowers the apostles and the church to carry out their mission, and acts in judgment both inside and outside the church”.
It is this wonderful message of freedom from slavery that the Spirit now proclaims to all who will listen, it is up to us to bring the Spirit’s role to our churches today, to proclaim the majesty and greatness of our God. If we are up to the challenge, and we can do no less, we are bound as receivers of the Spirit Of God to see that the Holy Spirit is proclaimed as the revealed, reclaimed, and received promise of God’s great covenant with mankind.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:70)
Bartholomew, Craig G. and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in
The Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2004.
Beale, G. K., The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place
Of God. New Studies in Biblical Theology 17. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, Ill.:
InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Green, Michael, I Believe in The Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, MICH: Eerdmans Publishing
Strom, Mark, The Symphony Of Scripture: Making Sense of The Bible’s Many Themes.
Phillipsburg N.J. : R&R Publishing, 2001.
Tipton, Lane G. “Union With Christ Effected: By Faith in Effectual Calling and Regeneration”
Lecture delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, Pa., 19 November 2013.