The Holy Spirit of God: The Place Occupied in the Old Testament

Relationship to OT Saints

Two articles follow, continuing in our series on the work of the Holy Spirit of God.

The Scriptures speak of the Spirit of God from Genesis to Revelation. He has a distinct personality, and has specific work to do in every dispensation. He is co-equal and coeternal with the Father and the Son.

There is an important distinction between the Old and the New Testaments: “For He dwelleth with you (Old Testament) and shall be in you” (New Testament) (John 14:17). Before the Lord was glorified and before Pentecost, the Spirit was not poured out upon all flesh, (Joel 2:28,29. Acts 2:17). “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). After the work of the cross and Pentecost, the Spirit came to indwell and empower all believers. Prior to this, the Spirit came upon men, independent of character, for specific work and service. It is never recorded that every individual received personally the Holy Spirit. He was given temporarily and could be withdrawn, as in the case of Saul. “The Spirit came upon him and he prophesied among the prophets” (1 Samuel 10:10, 19:23). “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (ISam 16:10). In this same chapter we read of David’s anointing, “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” David, after his fall, prayed to the Lord that the Spirit would not depart from him (Psalm 51:3). This is not possible in the present era, as the Spirit abides eternally in the believer (John 14:16. Eph 4:30).

The Holy Spirit had an important work not only in the original creation, but in the creation of man. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). Elihu states this fact : “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). The Spirit also sustains life. “Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created” (Psa 104:29,30. Isa 40:7).

It is said of only two men in the Old Testament that the Spirit of God was in them: Pharaoh said of Joseph, “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is” (Gen 41:38). Joseph had supernatural wisdom as an interpreter of dreams and fitness for government. “And Pharaoh made him ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Gen 41:43). Of Joshua it says, “And the Lord said unto Moses, take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit” (Num 27:18). “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him, and the children of Israel hearkened unto him” (Deut 34:9). How necessary it is for one to be guided and empowered by the Spirit in work for God.

The Holy Spirit came upon men, such as Saul and Balaam, who were not godly. This latter was a wicked man sent by Balak to curse Israel (Num 22:6). But we read, “The Spirit of God came upon him” (Num 24:2). God in His sovereignty took this evil man and made him prophecy about Israel’s future blessing and place among the nations. God used him as an instrument to carry out His purpose. Consider also I Samuel 19:20: “The Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.” In contrast, since Pentecost the Spirit’s activity is confined to those who are born again.

Peter wrote: “For prophecy was never uttered by the will of man, but holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21, JND). He also tells us in his first epistle of the source of the prophets’ ministry and writings. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.” The Spirit’s activity is evident, inspiring the writers to give us the prophecies, histories and laws in the Old Testament. Prophets, priests and kings alike were under the power of the Spirit of God. David said, “The Spirit of God spake by me, and His word was in my tongue” (2 Sam 3:2). The Lord in Matthew 22:23,24 declares that David was speaking in the Spirit when he penned Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” This is true of all the other Psalms. Nehemiah wrote, “Yet many years didst Thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by Thy Spirit in the Prophets; yet they would not give ear” (Neh 9:30).

The Spirit of God is spoken of as filling men like Bezaleel in connection with the making of the Tabernacle: “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship” (Exo 31:3, 35:31). The Tabernacle and all it’s glory and perfection resulted from the wisdom of the Spirit of God working through Bezaleel and Aholiab in making all that the Lord commanded Moses (Exo 38:22,23). Although the Spirit did not abide permanently in men, He came upon them for special purposes and at certain times.

In the book of Judges, which records one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history, we read of the Spirit coming upon men endowing them with unusual power. Othniel the first judge was a man of character and courage before being raised up as a judge. The Spirit of God worked in him, and then through him as a deliverer of Israel. “And the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war, and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, and his hand prevailed against Chushan-risha-thaim, and the land had rest 40 years (Jud 3:10,11). Other examples are Jephthah (11:29), Gideon (6:34) and Samson (13:25. 14:6,19. 15:14). Through these men the will of God was revealed and the power of God was seen. “And the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he rent a lion as he would have rent a kid” (13:25). This is an outstanding example of the physical force endowed by the Spirit.

Ezekiel the prophet is an excellent example of a man equipped by the Spirit of God. Throughout the book we read of the Spirit lifting him up, falling upon him and transporting him 3:12,14. 8:3, 11:1,24. 37:1). In Ch.1:28, he had been “upon his face”. In Ch. 2:1,

He is told to stand upon his feet. “And the Spirit entered into me when He spake unto me and set me on my feet.” Humility on his part led to exaltation by God (Matt 23:12, 1 Pet 5:6). Consider Luke 1:19. “I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God, and am sent to speak unto thee.” This should be the attitude of every believer, the presentation of our bodies to God – ready to serve. (Rom 12:1).

Zerubbabel needed encouragement from God, and He gave it to him. We in our day can be encouraged by the same word. “Not by might (of our own) nor by power, (authority from others) but by My Spirit, (His authority, power and energy) saith the Lord of Hosts” (Zech 4:6).