Understanding Jesus & The Role Of The Holy Spirit

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John 16:5-18

5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” 17 Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

                                

It is painfully obvious that the disciples did not understand the deep spiritual truths that Jesus was trying to convey to them here.  It must have been difficult for Jesus on this last night of His life before His crucifixion to see His closest friends and followers not understand what He was telling them.  But He knew that they would one day understand, for He was able to promise them that the Holy Spirit would come after He was gone and would lead them into all truth concerning Him and His teachings.

Now Jesus does not use the name Holy Spirit here, but calls him “Counselor” and “Spirit of truth”.  We know from John 14:26 that “the Counselor” and “the Holy Spirit” are one and the same.  I believe that is quite significant these names that John uses for the Holy Spirit.  Notice that in other English versions, they translate the Greek word in verse 7 as “Advocate”.  John is using legal terminology here.  And you might be asking, “So what’s going on here, and why are these titles for the Holy Spirit important?”

Jesus knew that the disciples would soon be on their own in the sense that He would be going back to the Father in Heaven (v. 5).  And Jesus also knew that the disciples would be facing a hostile world that stood opposed to Him and to the Gospel message of salvation through Christ.  (Read John 15:18 – 16:4 and read my last article “The Cost of Discipleship”.)  Jesus knew that the disciples would need help to stand up for truth and righteousness.

    

And so He lets them (and us) know that we are not alone in this battle against sin and evil that is in this world.  Verses 8-11 say that the Holy Spirit, acting as our legal Counselor, will stand up and help us to correct the wrongful thinking of the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.  What does this mean?

When the world says, “Do as you please, for truth is relative and morality is defined subjectively by each individual,” the Spirit of Truth will confirm within us and to the world that pursuing a self-serving life apart from God is to sin against the Almighty God.  Jesus also said that “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)  The religious leaders crucified Jesus for this, but when He rose from the dead, He proved that He was right and also innocent of their charge of blasphemy.  And so the Spirit declares Him righteous, and we as Christians can be assured of this truth also.

Jesus was challenged by Satan himself, who is referred to here as the “prince of this world”.  Satan tried to tempt Jesus to worship him and in doing so would be given all the wealth and power that this world has to offer.  (Matthew 4:8-9)  But only the True God is worthy of our worship, and the treasures of this world will all fade away and be useless in the life to come.  And so the Spirit will help us to realize these lies of the devil, and he will ultimately be judged by God as the “Great Deceiver”.

    

What is the bottom line here?  Jesus came to teach us about the truths of God and the Kingdom of Heaven which belongs to all true believers in Christ.  Sin was blocking all people though from full access to the truth and to Heaven, and so He died to open the door for forgiveness.  And after He ascended to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within all believers, and he strengthens us in our understanding of who Jesus is, and is able to convince us that the “prince of this world” is doomed and has no more authority over our lives.  Hallelujah!!  Jesus paid our debt of sin, and has set us free to live in Truth.  Do you believe that?

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Listen Carefully To Jesus’ Words

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John 12: 44 – 50

44 Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

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As I read these verses above a few times, I could almost see Jesus crying out in a loud voice as he spoke.  It hit me that these were the last words that Jesus spoke publicly before He was arrested and put on trial.  It must have been so difficult for him as he realized that there were still many people back then who would reject his message, and so reject him as the One who could bring eternal life to them.

There was so much that Jesus had to offer for those who would accept him and his message.  There is the promise of eternal life with God which I just mentioned.  There is also the spiritual reality and truth that those who come to Jesus will not only see who Jesus really is, the Saviour for mankind, but also will come to know God the Father who sent Jesus to this world to save us.

And there is also the promise that those who accept and believe in Jesus will “not stay in darkness”.  Jesus is the true light for those who desire to be enlightened spiritually.  There are so many man-made attempts to become like God, or become “one with the Universe”.  But in Christianity, it works the other way.  Jesus is the true light who came down from Heaven to live among us and share this light with anyone who will put their trust in him.  So mankind does not need to reach out to try to find God, God has already reached out to us through his son, Jesus.

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There is something else that caught my attention as I read this passage.  It says in verse 47, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”  I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone in high school as we rode on the bus toward home.  He knew that I had expressed an interest in becoming a missionary one day so I could talk about Jesus to those people who had never heard about him and what he had done for all mankind.

He asked me some very pointed questions.  As background though, he started by saying, “So you want to tell others about Jesus so that they can have a chance to accept him and by that means be able to go to Heaven.”  I replied, “Yes.” to him.  He went on, “But you are saying that if the people hear about Jesus and decide to not accept him, then they will go to Hell.”  And I replied, “Right.”

And then he asked me, “Wouldn’t it be better to leave these primitive native people alone and let God decide out of his mercy to let them into Heaven if they have been good enough?  Rather than go and preach about Jesus and have them reject Jesus and for sure get sent to Hell?  Wouldn’t it be better to just leave them all alone?”

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My friend asked some good questions, at least from a human perspective.  For those of us who really do understand what Hell is really like, none of us would wish for anyone to be sent there.  Even God says in his Word that he wants, “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”(1 Tim. 2:3-4)  And yet in Jesus’ own words, he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I know how difficult this can be for many people, but the truth is that by our own acts of wrongdoing, in the words we speak, the thoughts we have and the actions we take in life, we find we are unable to stand before a holy God, who cannot allow sinful thoughts and behaviours to exist in his presence.  As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  And Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence for all mankind for their sinful nature is death, eternal spiritual death apart from God.

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Praise God though, that Jesus came to tell us that there is a way of escape for all of us.  For those who will accept the death of Jesus to be their substitute payment for their penalty of death, and who believe that Jesus rose from the grave to demonstrate his promise of life after death, then to us, Jesus brings us salvation and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven.

My friend, listen carefully to the words of Jesus.  Not only from these last words of his in the passage above, but in all the books of the Bible where he speaks to us about putting our faith in him.  Remember, he did not come to judge us of our sins, but to free us from them.  So accept him, and be free indeed.

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The Eternal Value Of Bible Translation Work

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Consultant checking of translated Scriptures can be tedious work and very exhausting as we look at every word, every phrase and every sentence of every verse, to make sure that it accurately communicates what was written down by the first biblical authors.  For the past three months, I have been checking various books of the Bible for different language groups.  It is exhausting, but also very rewarding.

There are also times when we laugh and when we cry as the message does not communicate, but something else that we did not intend to happen does happen.  A colleague of mine has also just finished a long period of checking a number of New Testament books for her language group.  I hope you enjoy reading the following story.

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“Is he crying?”  I thought to myself as I looked up from writing corrections on our draft of the Gospel of Mark. I confirmed that the man was indeed crying and then the man beside him began crying and wiping his eyes and several of the other guys began wiping their eyes.  By that time, the first man was in the loud crying stage. He came to me, shook hands for a long time and kept saying over and over, “It’s true! It’s true!”

I was so stunned by his response that it took me a few seconds to realize that the verse that had hit him so hard was Mark 13:31, which in Apal translation says, “‘The ground and sky will disappear,’ he said. ‘Given that [but],’ he said. ‘My talk will not disappear,’ he said.”  I assured him that we were working on something of eternal value.  Everything else won’t last, but God’s Word will never disappear. 

Looking at his response, my guess is that he “got it” much better than I did.  This world will end, but God’s Word will never end.  Seeing his positive response to God’s Word in his own language gave me hope and the motivation needed to keep pressing on through the checking of the Gospel of John.  Sometimes I despaired of the translation ever being accurate enough and communicating clearly enough to make it worth printing.

Even after correcting it with a consultant, we were reading through John and I realized that John 11:25 just wouldn’t work because it sounded like the believers who died would stay happily dead forever.  To live eternally is translated as “being good only like that and only like that” and when that was combined with being dead – they were just “good and dead,” i.e., really dead.  Thankfully, that error was relatively easy to correct by adding in that they would rise again and then live eternally.   

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In addition to numerous other bloopers, two of my blooper “albatrosses” resurfaced again after the consultant had already checked and approved the verses.  We had been checking the placement of the sign above Jesus’ head on the cross and I had been a bit dubious when they  had the piece of paper sitting on top of “Jesus” head for a few seconds.  But they had quickly corrected it when I reread the passage. They knew it wasn’t right to put it on top of Jesus’ head. 

I sighed with relief, but something still kept bugging me about it so after the consultant left, I read them the translation of the parallel verse in Mark and one man said, “That is the way it should be in John.  We are missing the piece of wood sticking up behind Jesus’ head in the John translation.  Make it like that!”  So, we revised it and then I asked them one last time about where the angels had sat in the empty tomb.  I knew that we had corrected it so that the angels were no longer sitting on Jesus’ dead body, but there was still something about it that didn’t seem quite right, but I didn’t know what it was.

Finally, one of the guys said, “Well, this says that they sat on the empty spot where Jesus himself had put his own head and the empty spot where Jesus himself had put his own feet.  Did Jesus lie down there on his own after he was dead?”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  The miracle of the resurrection is one thing, but did we really want the miracle of a dead man putting himself in place in his own tomb?  So, that was quickly revised by simply changing a few endings and then putting third person plural endings on the verbs.    

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Then there is Mark 10:27 in Apal which says, “They did it and Jesus was seeing them and said. ‘Men see and whatever whatever [all kinds of things] are habitually being like a mountain,’ he said. ‘Given that [but], God sees and whatever whatever [all kinds of things] are not habitually being like a mountain,’ he said. That verse has been the one keeping us going.  The checking that needed to be done seemed like a mountain, but now the mountain is gone. 

Thank you for praying with us through the longs months of checking.  As a result, we were able to check 35% of the NT and now 80% of the Apal NT has been consultant checked. Praise God with me.    

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Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 5

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In the article two weeks ago, I mentioned that I struggled quite a bit during my first long-term period of being a missionary.  That was when I was serving with Teen Missions and my summer experience turned out to be 18 months in length as I kept extending my time with the mission group.  There were so many new issues to deal with, both cross-culturally and in the relationships I had with my fellow missionaries.

It is now coming up to 35 years for me of being involved in mission experiences, so I guess you could say that I am a “veteran” missionary.  I think I can say that I have grown quite a bit over the years and am able to handle the hard issues that a missionary faces on a regular basis.  And yet at the same time, there are some things that don’t change.  Life is still challenging on the mission field, the Enemy does not let up on his assault, and people can still be difficult to work with.

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I just recently shared with some of my colleagues that there are times when it is good to have a focused time of prayer and fasting.  This would be true when we seem to be facing difficulties that are physically and emotionally challenging, but also when we sense that there is spiritual opposition and/or oppression that is coming against us.

I reminded the group that fasting was a spiritual discipline that was regularly practiced by God’s people throughout the Old Testament period and has continued up until today.  As you might already know, Jesus Himself did not say, “If you fast…” but rather “When you fast….”  One of my translator resources said that “the three primary expressions of piety [for Jews] were charity, prayer and fasting.” (Translator’s Handbook on Matthew for Mt. 6:16-18)

Fasting is normally considered to be a voluntary abstinence from food for the purpose of dedicating one’s self to a time of prayer and drawing close to God.  I certainly recommend this practice as a way to face the difficulties of life and the attacks of the enemy.  James 4:7-8 aptly ties two important spiritual truths together: when we resist the Devil, he will flee from us, and when we draw close to God, He will draw close to us.

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We are encouraged in Scripture to have faith in God, to worship Him and be a praying people when we face difficult times.  James 5:13-15 mentions all of these things as a means to deal with sicknesses that can hit us and sins that we may have committed.  We are also encouraged in Scripture to do battle with our spiritual enemy, the Devil.  Read Ephesians 6:10-18 to understand that many battles we face in life may be spiritual in nature and must be dealt with spiritually.

There are so many more verses that could be mentioned in this whole topic of learning how to stand strong and do battle against the forces that hit us and wear us down.  We must always be ready in our prayers to fight against sickness that disables us, sin that entangles us, and Satan who want to destroy us and our faith in God.

All of this is true, but we must not keep our attention focused solely on the negative side of this great battle that we are in.  If we were to only think about the challenges and difficulties that we face when sickness, sin or Satan come at us, then we probably would end up feeling spiritually fatigued all the time.  I believe that we must also have our focus centered in on the positive side of the victory that is provided for us in Christ.

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When we face great difficulties (whether physically, spiritually or emotionally), we need to pray like Elisha did for his servant when the vast armies of Aram were totally surrounding the city they were in.  Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see the “REAL” reality of the battle.  God heard that prayer and suddenly the servant saw the vast army of God’s angels who would win the battle for them.

We also need to have our minds opened and attuned to God’s way of thinking.  Romans 12:2 says that we must no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world.  That means that when it is natural to worry, to be afraid, to seek for power, wealth or fame, we are acting in a worldly way.  Instead, the verse says that we can be transformed people when we have our minds renewed by God, and then we will see and understand how good God’s will and God’s ways are and we will be able to follow in that path.

The third part of our selves that we need to focus in on to have a victorious life is to open up our hearts to the full measure of the love of God.  Read Ephesians 3:16-19.  Paul is praying that we all might come to understand just how broad, deep and wide the love of God is for us.  And when we do immerse ourselves into His love, accepting all that the Father has done for us and will do for us out of that love, then Scripture says that our inner being, our heart and soul, will be strengthen by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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So what am I saying in all of this?  I do understand that all of us will face difficult periods in our lives due to the effects of sickness, sin in the world, and the attacks of Satan against us.  But we must not keep our attention focused in on just these problems.  We need to open up our eyes, our mind and our hearts, not physically, but spiritually, to see the victory that God through Christ has obtained for us.  And then we need to walk in the power of that victory as a transformed person, able to overcome these discouragements by our faith.

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Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 2

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“Would you be willing to share with us some of your story of the difficulties you had on the journey to PNG, the doubts or discouragements that came up in those years? How did you keep “the big picture” in view while being a pastor, a youth leader, a “regular employee”, a student for years in different cities? How did you deal with having that dream interrupted when you came back to Canada?”

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This paragraph was posted on the top of Part 1 of this short series on “Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith.”  It would be wonderful if I could just say to others who are facing disappointments and discouragements in life to “just believe”, and have everything turn out alright.  But I have lived long enough and been through enough experiences of life to know that everything does not always work out alright, or should I say, the way we had first wanted things to turn out.

And even as I say that, I think I am partly able to answer the questions being asked above.  There is nothing wrong with a person having a dream of how their life will turn out.  I believe that we were built this way, and part of us dies when we allow our dreams to die.  There is a verse in the Bible that I think is helpful, but can be misunderstood.  Proverbs 29:18a says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (King James Version)

Some speakers have made a lot out of this verse.  They will say, “You need to have a BIG idea.  You need to have a “dream” for your life.  You need to have a goal, a sense of purpose, something that will be your driving force.  And if you don’t have that, then your life will be doomed for failure.  So figure out what you want to do with your life and get out there and do it.

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Now I suppose I am over dramatizing this viewpoint a bit, but maybe not for some people.  I do think there are some young people out there today who think that if they don’t have the direction and the vocation of their life figured out by the time they are 24, then there is something wrong with them and they will probably end up wandering aimlessly about in life.

First of all, let me correct the idea above of what Proverbs 29:18 actually says.  To do this, it would be best for me to show how other English translations of this verse have handled the Hebrew.  Compare the following:

NIV:  “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

TEV:  “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order. Happy are those who keep God’s law!

NLT:  “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.

It is not hard now to see the common thread here.  Whenever people are unwilling to look to God and listen to His divine guidance for their lives, that is when they will run into all kinds of problems in life and end up running around aimlessly, and without purpose and meaning.  To counter this, one needs to get into God’s Law (the Bible) and see what He has to say about how to live one’s life.

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Therefore, when I say “have faith” and mean by this that things will turn our alright, we need to define what (or whom) we have faith in.  Proverbs 3:5-6 helps us to properly define the content or object of our faith.  It says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

So it really is not left up to us to have to “figure it all out” when we are young.  If we have made the decision to trust God with our lives, then the Bible tells us that He will help us by directing us in making these important decisions of life.  We have to get this one thing straight first, who is really in control of our lives, us… or God?

If the answer is God, then we can properly understand and be encouraged by a couple of other key Bible verses.  Take Psalms 37:4 for one, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”   When God is truly first in our lives, then we will be so in tune with God that His desires will become our desires, and God will inevitably fulfill the desires of our hearts, for they are the same as His.  This protects us from the danger of reading into this verse that God is obligated to give us whatever selfish desires we may have in our hearts.

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This leads us to one final verse that I want to look at in this article.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  This is such a powerful verse, and I think one of the verses of the Bible that helps me the most to be able to deal with disappointments and discouragements in life.

There is no question that bad things do happen in life, and that not everything works out exactly the way we had hoped.  Sometimes, not even close to what we hoped for.  But God is promising us in this verse that He can take any situation in life, no matter how bad, and bring good out of that situation.  It comes back to whether we really are trusting God to have the full control over our lives or not.  More on this in the next article.

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We Must Put Our Faith In Jesus

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John 8:21 – 30

21 Jesus also told them, “I am going away, and you will look for me. But you cannot go where I am going, and you will die with your sins unforgiven.”

22 The Jewish leaders asked, “Does he intend to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying we cannot go where he is going?” 23 Jesus answered, “You are from below, but I am from above. You belong to this world, but I don’t. 24 That is why I said you will die with your sins unforgiven. If you don’t have faith in me for who I am, you will die, and your sins will not be forgiven.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked Jesus. Jesus answered, “I am exactly who I told you at the beginning. 26 There is a lot more I could say to condemn you. But the one who sent me is truthful, and I tell the people of this world only what I have heard from him.” 27 No one understood that Jesus was talking to them about the Father.

28 Jesus went on to say, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know who I am. You will also know that I don’t do anything on my own. I say only what my Father taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. I always do what pleases him, and he will never leave me.” 30 After Jesus said this, many of the people put their faith in him.

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In our study of the Gospel of John, we have seen many times that people were having trouble understanding what exactly Jesus meant by some of His teachings.  Certainly the religious leaders had no idea who Jesus really was, for if they had, then they would have gladly welcomed Him as their long awaited Messiah, the One who would bring salvation to the Jewish people.

But the people who lived at the same time that Jesus lived among men could not fathom these truths either.  So when Jesus talked about His Father, the people wondered about Joseph and Mary and the rest of His family.  When He talked about going where they could not follow Him, the Pharisees thought He was going to teach Jews in some other countries.  And the people in this passage thought maybe He was going to kill Himself.

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And so Jesus tried His best in this passage to help clear up this misunderstanding among the people.  He tried to reveal to them His true origin and His true identity.  Although still in veiled speech, Jesus made a powerful statement in verse 23.  To get the full impact of this verse, allow me to give you the literal translation of the Greek of this verse into English.  It would go like this:

“You, of the things below you are; I, of the things above I am.
You, of this world you are; I, not I am of this world.”

Although written in Greek, much of the New Testament clearly shows us how much the Semitic Hebrew language and way of thinking affected the way their expressed themselves in their Greek writing.  What we have here from Jesus is an excellent example of Semitic Old Testament style of writing called parallelism.  Parallelism usually has two lines of thought that closely parallel each other.

In verse 23, there are four distinct parts which we will label 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b.  The second line elements usually expand or explain the meaning of the first line.  Or, the second line will be a sharp contrast to the meaning of line one.  Look closely what we have here.  We clearly have an expansion of 1a in 2a: “You are of the things below / You are of this world.”  So we are surprised when 2b is not also an expansion of 1b, “I am of the things above / I, not I am of this world.

In terms of Semitic thinking, Jesus is making a HUGE statement here.  In a literary way, He does this by switching from expansion (2a) to sharp contrast (2b).  And notice how in 2b that Jesus moves the verb from final position to a more fronted position to really give His sentence emphasis, “I, not I am of this world.”   Jesus is part of the Divine Trinity and His place of origin is Heaven.  And the Greek work order and Semitic parallelism are blasting out this message to the people.

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Finally then, Jesus speaks out clearly in verse 24 regarding who He is, and how important it is to believe in who He is.  Understanding now that verse 23 is speaking of Jesus’ divine nature, it makes it easier to accept it when He says, “You will die with your sins unforgiven.”  The clear reason is then given, “If you don’t have faith in me for who I am, you will die, and your sins will not be forgiven.

But we can flip this coin over and say with confidence, “Any person who DOES have faith in Jesus for who He really is, that person will not die and his/her sins will be forgiven.”  There is more we need to say about this, especially with regards to the Greek phrases “I am” which will come up again in verse 58.  Suffice it to say, it is still very important today that we must put our faith in Jesus if we want our sins forgiven, and if we hope to live with God in Heaven forever.

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A Response To “Power Comes From The Holy Spirit”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit”.  This article is part of my Bible study series on the Gospel of John.  Part of the article focused in on verse 39 of chapter 7 where John comments that “the Spirit had not yet been given.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raises a good question.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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Not arguing with your scripture quotes, but how is it that long before Pentecost, various OT prophets were operating in the Holy Spirit with massive power and miracles. It seems that the Holy Spirit was always there for those who sought Him. The OT account seems to contradict Jn7v39. Just wondered what your thoughts were.

I comprehend where you are coming from, but I keep finding anomalies to the plain statement that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until Jesus had ascended.  i.e. Proverbs 1:23 ‘Turn you at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.’

This seems to be quite plain (and present tense) in its meaning, and I don’t buy that there is some difference between pouring “unto” and pouring “into”. Added to which it is an open statement to any reader, not just some OT Patriarch.  I also read some other OT verse the other day saying similar. I have sneaking suspicion that anyone who desired God’s Spirit would never have been refused OT or NT.

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There is no question that God’s Spirit was active long before the day of Pentecost.  We have God’s Spirit involved in the creation of the universe in Genesis ch. 1.  And there are many key people who were empowered by the Spirit of God (Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah, Elisha, Zechariah to name a few).

What many people do not understand is that the Spirit of God was given only selectively to some of these key people that God was empowering to do His work during the OT period.  During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Spirit did come down and empower Him, just like the OT judges and prophets.  But the Holy Spirit had not yet been released to all believers yet.

In fact, Jesus himself stated in John 16:7 that the Holy Spirit could not come to help believers until Jesus had ascended back up to Heaven.  This is a divine mystery, but it would appear that God decided to limit His direct involvement in the lives of people with only one Person of the Trinity at a time.  But there will come the day when we all who believe will be with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when we are resurrected into the new heaven and the new earth.

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Let’s take a closer look now at some of the specific times in the OT where God’s Spirit empowered people, and consider the verse our friend pointed out in Proverbs 1:23.  I did check the Hebrew for this verse and taken just by itself, הִנֵּ֤ה אַבִּ֣יעָה לָכֶ֣ם רוּחִ֑י, it can be translated “Behold, I will pour out to you (pl) my spirit.”  In biblical studies and linguistics though, we must always look very carefully at the context in which we find a verse.

Proverbs 1:23 just happens to be part of a larger section (Proverbs chs. 1-4) that deal extensively with the topic of “Wisdom”, and also comes within a unique section of verses in chapter one of vv 20-33.  In this short section, “Wisdom” is personified (which may or may not be a reference to God), and it is Wisdom who starts to say, “I will pour out my….”  So should we translate “ruach” as “Spirit” or something else?

The Translator’s Handbook says:

Wisdom is likened to a fountain of water, a gushing spring for the person who will accept her instruction. Translations differ considerably in this line. NAB has “pour out to you my spirit,” NJPSV “speak my mind,” NJB “pour out my heart,” GECL “I open to you [plural] the treasure of my wisdom.”

It seems best to understand “my spirit” (my thoughts) in terms of what characterizes Wisdom, who is the speaker here. Her essential characteristic is wisdom, and therefore we may say something equivalent to TEV “I will give you good advice” or SPCL “I will fill you with wisdom.”

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Okay, so what about the many other places in the Old Testament where it is quite clear that “God poured out His Spirit” upon His people, or “the Spirit of the LORD came upon them.”  Using word searches like “the Spirit of God”, “God’s Spirit”, and “My Spirit”, I found roughly 50 verses in the entire Old Testament.  With the exception of a few verses which refer to God giving His Spirit to all people, and which are very likely references to the distant future, i.e. in or following the time of Christ, or the end times, almost every other verse was connected to key people and leaders of Israel.

The people to whom God poured out His Spirit were almost exclusively upon Moses and the leaders of his time, upon Judges like Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel.  Then we see special anointing upon the kings of Saul, David and Solomon.  Finally, the Spirit of God came upon the great prophets, from Azariah to Isaiah, Jerimiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, plus prophetic passages that speak of Christ as in Isaiah 42:1-3 and Joel 2:27-29.

The bottom line is that God empowered special leaders of Israel (judges, priest, kings and prophets) when God needed something specifically to be done.  But otherwise, the people of God back then were not fortunate to experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that all believers have access to today.  There is no doubt that we are very privileged to live in the age of the Spirit, who has been  given to all believers after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Thank you God!

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