Part 1 October 2023
In July’s edition of the GPS I began a series of studies on the Holy Spirit. In the July and August editions of the GPS we looked at the Biblical information about the person of the Holy Spirit, His personality and then His deity. In September we took a break to look at an unrelated topic. In this month’s edition we will begin to look at the work of the Holy Spirit, to see what He does. We will start with His work recorded in the Old Testament. [I am greatly indebted to Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology for the content of this section.]
The first two references to His work in the Old Testament are Genesis 1:2 and 6:3: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, ESV) The Spirit had something to do with creation. “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”” (Genesis 6:3, ESV) Rather than “abide in,” the NASB has “strive with” and the NIV has “contend with.” In either case, the Holy Spirit was actively doing something related to people, for the text says that He would discontinue doing whatever it was. In both verses the exact nature of the work of the Holy Spirit is uncertain, but the fact that He is mentioned as active in both cases is clear. We will turn now to passages in the other sections of the Old Testament in which the nature of His work is clearly stated. It should be noted that in all of these cases His ministry is to specific individuals as opposed to the entire creation or to mankind as a mass.
The Holy Spirit provided skill to people enabling them to perform various activities. Later in Genesis we read that the He provided skill in the area of administration. For example, it was obvious to Pharaoh that Joseph had great administrative ability because “the Spirit of God” was in him (Gen. 41:38). Then, during the days in the wilderness, when Moses needed help in governing the people, God took “some of the Spirit” that was on Moses and placed it on the seventy chosen to assist Moses and they prophesied as a result of that anointing (Num. 11:25). During the same period we see other aspects of His ministry. The Holy Spirit provided construction skill to Bezalel, a man who was largely responsible for work on the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:3-5; 35:31). Interestingly, about seven hundred years after the Exodus, Isaiah also mentions the Holy Spirit three times in connection with the wilderness wanderings in 63:10, 11, 14.
Many years later, the entire process of constructing the Second Temple was a result of the work of the Holy Spirit according to Zechariah 4:6. During the period of the Judges we read that the Holy Spirit equipped various people with skill to perform military exploits. This was explicitly stated of Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (6:34), Jephthah (11:29), Samson (13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). This same ability was given by the Spirit to Saul early in his life. Samuel prophesied that the Spirit of God would come upon Saul and that he would become a different person (1 Samuel 10:6). This happened as Samuel had predicted (10:6). Sometime later, when Saul heard what the Nahash the Ammonite threatened to gouge out the right eyes of all the men of Jabesh-gilead, the Holy Spirit “rushed upon Saul” and he led a victorious attack delivering the people of Jabesh from the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:6).
The action of the Holy Spirit during the transition from the reigns of Saul to David is very instructive. After Saul was rejected by the LORD from being king, Samuel was told by the LORD to anoint David to be the next king. So, Samuel went to do as he was told. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Samuel 16:13–14, ESV) Sometime later, when Saul was trying to kill David, Saul heard that David was in Naioth. “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.” (1 Samuel 19:20, ESV) When that did not work, Saul, himself went to try to capture David. “And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.” (1 Samuel 19:23, ESV) In this case, the Holy Spirit sovereignly kept Saul from harming David. Later in David’s life, after he repented of his sin with Bathsheba, as a part of his prayer in Psalm 51 he said, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11, ESV) I assume that he was thinking about what had happened with Saul and did not want that to happen to him. Next month we will conclude our survey of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and look at a difference between His ministry in the Old Testament and the New.