The One Spirit in the Old Testament

Intro: Do you know the One Spirit; the Holy Spirit? If we do not, it is not because the Bible is silent about Him. Most would view the Holy Spirit as a New Testament character. Most of what we know and teach about comes from His activity in the New Testament. He is mentioned 264 times in the N.T.; 60 times in the gospels, and 57 references in the book of Acts alone. Only 3 N.T. books do not mention Him (Philemon, 2 & 3 John). But the One Spirit is also mentioned 88 times in 23 O.T. books. A proper view of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is essential to understanding His work in the New Testament and today.

I. The One Spirit in Creation: The Holy Spirit was involved in creation.

• Genesis 1:2The 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.

• Genesis 1:26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…

A. The One Spirit was striving with men prior to the flood. Genesis 6:3And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”This probably has reference to the work of prophets such as Enoch (Jude 14) and Noah (who is called a preacher of righteousness in 2 Pet. 2:5.) God’s Spirit was at work from the beginning, calling men and women to obedience.

II. The One Spirit and the Nation of Israel: The Spirit of God is mentioned in connection with the development and life of the nation of Israel. As God’s people, the Israelites were given the Spirit of God in various elements of their relationship to God. It was through the Spirit they would live.

A. Israel’s Leaders – “The Spirit came upon them”

1. Tabernacle building: God’s Spirit was given to enable certain individuals to do the work that God had commanded. Exodus 31:1-6Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, 5 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 “And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you:

a. The Spirit-provided ability was connected to the task at hand. There is no evidence that this supernatural endowment was passed on to others, or became an end in itself. This seems to reflect upon the miraculous gifts of the Spirit in the N.T. They were provided one piece at a time, for the purpose of revealing the message of the gospel. When the revelation was complete that which was “in part” was done away. (1 cor. 13:9)

2. Leadership: Throughout the O.T. God’s Spirit rested upon Israel’s leaders. The Spirit indicated to Israel that these men were chosen by God. The Spirit also provided for the military victory of God’s people.

a. In Numbers 11 God made a provision in behalf of Moses. The burden of leading the enormous group of Israelites in the wilderness was too great for Moses alone. So God had 70 elders of Israel come before Him at the tabernacle. Numbers 11:16-1716 So the LORD said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone. God placed His Spirit upon these men to enable them to judge, discern, and lead as He desired. Numbers 11:2525 Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.

1) Again, we can notice here that the miraculous element of the Spirit’s work was temporary. They only prophesied for one day. This event is also a preliminary view of the work of the Holy Spirit in the N.T. Why only one day of prophecy? What was the point of the miracle?

2) The purpose of the prophecy was to reveal to the congregation that these men carried the authority of God. They had been chosen as God’s messengers, and that one day of miracles proved it for all time. The miracle did not define the arrival of the Spirit, but proved it.

b. The Spirit helped the judges of Israel to lead the people: OthnielJudges 3:9-119 When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest for forty years. Notice that the Spirit brought the wisdom to judge, the military victory, and the ensuing peace. The scriptures tell us that the Spirit of the Lord rested upon Gideon, Jepthah and Samson, and others in their positions as leaders of Israel.

c. Joshua – Numbers 27:18And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him… Deuteronomy 34:9Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. It would seem that is some sense the Spirit was already was with Joshua before Moses laid his lands upon him. (defeated the Amalekites – Ex. 17:9-13; one of the faithful in Numbers 14); But the Spirit was provided in a greater measure in response to the need at hand.

d. Saul – 1 Samuel 10:1-10Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?… v. 6- Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man… v. 9- So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.

1) The Spirit was with Saul and he had great success as king until he disobeyed God. But when he rebelled, he lost the Spirit of the Lord. 1 Samuel 16:14But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him.

e. David- In the verse preceding the departure of the Spirit from Saul – 1 Samuel 16:13Then 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. David was already a godly young man (defeated Goliath). The Spirit was with David to help him do a better job leading Israel than he could by himself. He asked God to not remove this gift after he sinned with Bathsheba. Psalm 51:11Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

f. Meeting Special Needs: It appears that the Spirit came on men to help them during emergencies or unusual situations. This was seemingly a temporary endowment to meet a special need.

1) The men who came to David while he was hiding from Saul in Ziklag – 1 Chronicles 12:18Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: “We are yours, O David; We are on your side, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.” So David received them, and made them captains of the troop.

2) When Asa began to reform Judah (2 Chronicles 15:1-2Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded…)

3) When Judah was invaded by the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites (2 Chronicles 20:14-15Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah…)

4) When Joash rebelled against Jehovah (2 Chronicles 24:20Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.‘)

B. Israel’s Prophets – “Thus says the Lord…” The most well-known work of the Spirit in the Old Testament was enabling men to prophesy through inspiration. Prophecy included more than foretelling the future. It included the ability to reveal God’s will to Israel and the nations. The prophets were commissioned by God, and endowed with His Spirit, in order to call the nation to repentance and obedience. The scriptures describe the Spirit coming upon the prophet (Mic. 1:1) or that the Spirit of God was in him (Dan. 4:18). Ezekiel 2:2Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me.

1. Nehemiah recounts God’s provision for Israel, physically and spiritually. Nehemiah 9:20You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:30Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

2. Israel’s sin and apostasy are described as a refusal to listen to the One Spirit of God.

• Isaiah 30:1Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin. Isaiah 63:10-11But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them. Zechariah 7:12 – Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

3. Summary of the Spirit’s Work in the Old Testament.

a. The One Spirit of God was active in the physical creation; and would also be active in the spiritual creation of God’s people, Israel.

b. The Spirit’s gifts were not given to all God’s people, even among the saved within Israel.

c. The Spirit’s gifts were given to some to equip them for service, so that the commands of God could be fully obeyed.

d. The Spirit’s gifts were not given to individuals for personal benefit, but for the good of the nation of Israel.

e. The gifts were temporary and lasted only as long as the need for the person’s services remained.

f. Temporary miraculous signs were sometimes given with the gifts to provide evidence of the gift.

g. The Spirit was the revealer of God’s message to His people. God’s prophets spoke through the Spirit of God. To reject the prophet was to reject God’s Spirit.

h. The Spirit of God was the avenue through which the blessings of God came to His people.

C. Israel’s Future: Israel’s future as God’s blessed people was dependent on the work of God’s Spirit, and their cooperation in that work. Throughout the O.T. the prophets predicted a time when the Messiah would arrive to reign over the Kingdom of God. This coming Messiah would come with the Spirit of God. But this coming would be more. Instead of a select few receiving the Spirit to help them in their service for Israel, the time would come when the Spirit would be given to all. The coming of the Spirit would signal the restoration of God’s Kingdom and the blessings of God.

• Isaiah 44:1-3Yet hear me now, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. 2 Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.

This lesson has been an introduction to a greater discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit in the N.T. We will look further into this coming of the Spirit.