Chapter 5: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
by Samuel James McBride, N. Ireland
The Holy Spirit is the common Author of both the Old and New Testaments and His work in terms of Inspiration has been considered in chapter 4 of this book. Due to this Divine authorship there is no confused or contradictory element as to the Person or work of the Holy Spirit anywhere in the sacred volume. The Old Testament contains many references to the Holy Spirit both explicitly mentioned and illustratively depicted in type and vision. The full scope of revelation as to this Divine Person can only be reached with the advent of the New Testament. Yet we must acknowledge that a study of the Holy Spirit’s actions in Old Testament times is vital to enable a correct appreciation of how He works in the present age and how He will act in the age to come.
This appreciation is very important and practical since some Christians, with confused notions about the Holy Spirit’s mode of action in the present Dispensation of Grace, have misappropriated Old Testament passages about the Holy Spirit directly to themselves with sad and damaging results. In successive eras of Church History there have been various outbreaks of phenomena that are attributed to the Holy Spirit’s action, but when viewed according to a dispensational viewpoint (i.e. "rightly dividing" the Word of Truth) can be Scripturally identified as subtle works of the flesh that tend to further the enemy’s agenda.1
While pious and helpful works about the Holy Spirit and His ministry abound, it is well to recognise that the 19th Century recovery of dispensational truth2 emphasised neglected aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work concerning His role in the Church, in the world and in the individual Christian in this present age, while highlighting distinctive aspects of His ministry in earlier dispensations.
Right at the very start of Holy Scriptures we encounter references to the Holy Spirit. The Creation narrative begins with Him moving over the face of the waters when the earth was in primordial chaos, Gen.1.2. The word "moved" is sometimes rendered "fluttering" as would a bird’s wings. This creational role of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in Job 26.13, "by His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens". Also Ps.33.6 speaks figuratively of the Holy Spirit in creation thus: "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth."3
The Holy Spirit is not only central to creation, but also is involved in sustaining the creation through what we may think of as the laws of nature, see Ps.104.29-30, and Isa.34.16. Such verses should oblige believers to judge the agnostic or atheistic presuppositions of contemporary natural science as fundamentally flawed.4
The New Creation is a New Testament term that borrows from the Old Testament doctrine of creation and the centrality of the Holy Spirit is just as important in the one as the other.5 The doctrine of the new birth is not unique to the New Testament. Nicodemus was admonished by the Lord Jesus Christ for his poor grasp of this important Old Testament doctrine, which someone of his religious attainment should have known. The Holy Spirit is central to the new birth of a soul. The likeness of wind and of breath is used. The wind in Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezek.37.1-14, comes to quicken the lifeless bodies, an Old Testament example of the Holy Spirit’s activity that Nicodemus ought to have recognised.
The Days of Noah
In the antediluvian period the wickedness of man greatly increased. Yet God’s longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, even after God had made known His decision to end the world with a flood. During this time the Spirit of God was active. "He strove with man in his rampant wickedness till God would strive with him no longer, Gen.6.3."6
That a small minority of earth’s inhabitants were faithful believers demonstrates the Holy Spirit’s spiritual quickening of those patriarchs who were otherwise dead in trespasses and sins. Abel, Enoch and Noah are three examples celebrated in the New Testament.
In addition to the Holy Spirit striving with man and quickening souls, we find His witness working in that far off age through the earliest instances of prophesying and preaching. Enoch’s prophecy of coming judgment on a God-rejecting world looks away beyond the more immediate cataclysm of Divine judgment in the days of his grandson Noah. That Enoch was quite aware of the coming flood is implied by the meaning of his son Methuselah’s name, "When he dies it shall come", and within a year of this oldest man’s death the flood swept away the world of the ungodly. Enoch’s utterance also embodies an implicit reference to the Rapture of the saints prior to the Second Coming in judgment, for there must first be a prior reunion of the Lord with His saints before they are brought with Him in the apocalyptic epiphany. This remarkable prophecy is passed over in the Old Testament record, and only made known to us in Jude’s Epistle. The Holy Spirit Who inspired Enoch’s initial utterance has seen fit in His wisdom, to embody this ancient utterance in one of the very last New Testament epistles – proof of the unchanging truth and relevance of Divine prophecy, however ancient, and of our reliance upon the Holy Spirit in preserving God’s Word down through the ages.
Noah was a preacher of righteousness. That this preaching was in the power of the Holy Spirit cannot be doubted for the New Testament states that it was through the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus preached to the spirits in prison, 1 Pet.3.19. This is generally taken to refer to the faithful preaching of Noah to those God-defying antediluvians currently described as "spirits in prison".7 They had benefited from the patient longsuffering of God; they had spurned the striving of the Holy Spirit; they had ignored the construction of the ark before their very eyes, and were disobedient to the preaching of Noah. Collectively they are referred to as "the world of the ungodly" 2 Pet.2.5.
It is noteworthy that the grand subject of Noah’s preaching was righteousness. Hebrews chapter 11 reminds us that Noah became "heir of the righteousness which is by faith" – language similar to that used of Abraham’s status as heir in Rom.4.13, where it is stated to be "not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith". Justification by faith is the grand unifying element of Gospel preaching throughout all ages. Noah’s preaching is unique as being the longest lasting. For 120 years he continued. The great theme of God’s righteousness cannot be "preached out" even during that length of time. We must observe the distinction that Noah preached a righteousness that God demanded while the present day message is of a righteousness that God supplies in His Son. Nevertheless this is a lesson and challenge to all who preach the Gospel in this present age. Have we that kind of grasp of the doctrine of justification by faith? It is salutary that Noah’s preaching even though enabled by the Holy Spirit, resulted in no conversions save that of his own immediate family. The Scripture tells us that thereby he "condemned the world" Heb.11.7.
The status of the Old Testament writings as being Divinely inspired directly by the Holy Spirit is fully attested in the New Testament. Some nine times in the Old Testament the prophets are described as "My servants the prophets", eg Jer.7.25; 26.5; 29.19; 35.15; 44.4. They had a Spirit-empowered mandate to communicate secrets revealed to them by God, to warn of judgments coming for the sins of God’s people and to set before His people the Law of God. Abraham is the first person specifically called a prophet, Gen.20.7, though not, as we have seen, the first to prophesy. The other patriarchs are also called prophets, see Ps.105.15.
Though not often mentioned in connection with the inauguration of prophets, the practice of anointing prophets was recognised, Elisha is one example, and the patriarchal prophets were described as "Mine anointed" Ps.105.15. David’s anointing by God is mentioned in connection with his psalms and inspired utterances, even though his anointing by Samuel seems to concentrate on his kingship. "David ... the anointed of the God of Jacob and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, "The Spirit of the LORD spake by me and his word was in my tongue" 2 Sam.23.1,2. Anointing was a ritual practice that had the signification of being specially endowed with the Spirit of God for a particular office of service. From Moses’ statement to Joshua in the Eldad and Medad incident we learn that prophets were so constituted by the Spirit of the LORD, Num.11.29, whether or not an outward anointing was performed upon them. "Would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit upon them."
The common theme of "all His holy prophets since the world began" is the "restitution of all things" at the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 3.21,22. The prophetic ministry also involved rebuke of the people for their sin. As Micah said, "… truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of judgment and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin" Mic.3.8. Sometimes there was a degree of repentance that was associated with postponement of the impending judgment. However, as Ridout points out, we do not find the prophet attempting to restore a ruined state of things to the former condition. "To the eye of sense the work of the prophet was hopeless and gloomy in the extreme ... But if the gloom rested upon the scene close at hand, the glory of God lighted up the future."8
The New Testament grants us special insight into the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament prophetic ministry. This topic also falls under the subject heading of the Doctrine of Inspiration. Prophecy was of Divine, not human initiative, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" 2 Pet.1.21. Moreover the prophets were diligent students of their own utterances, enquiring about the future salvation and grace and the time of fulfilment of these prophecies. "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it [He] testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things that are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven: which things the angels desire to look into" 1 Pet.1.11,12. This passage from 1 Peter tells us that the Holy Ghost was "in" the Old Testament prophets. This is not to be construed as meaning that He was indwelling them in the New Testament sense, for we are next told that the reporting "now" of the Gospel message is through preaching "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven". This highlights an important distinction between the Old Testament prophets and the ministers of the New Covenant now. The Old Testament prophets prophesied of the future, of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, which things are "now reported" as historical facts by the gospel preacher today. The Holy Spirit is on earth having been "sent down from heaven". He is no longer temporarily in believers. He indwells them permanently. The Old Testament prophets had it revealed to them by the Holy Spirit that the subject of their prophesying lay in the future with a coming generation. While we believe that they remained ignorant of the New Testament mystery doctrines, we should not underestimate the extent of their Spirit-given grasp of important doctrines. 9
- 9 How else can Moses have known of the reproach of Christ – which he esteemed greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt?(Heb.11.26).
Not all Old Testament prophecy was spoken by "holy men of God". In His sovereign operations, the Holy Spirit sometimes saw fit to work upon enemies of God and cause utterances and actions that naturally were contrary to the inclination and career path of the individuals concerned. Balaam and Saul are two chief examples of this. The last example of this involuntary prophesying by an enemy of God is found in the case of Caiaphas who said to his colleagues, ""Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only ..." Jn.11.49-52.
The Spirit of God was the key enabling agent in the construction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Bezaleel is especially singled out as the chief craftsman in the great Tabernacle project. He is described as being "filled … with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and all manner of workmanship …" Ex.31.3. Associated with him are Aholiab and an indeterminate number of unnamed individuals who are described as "wise-hearted". Of these it is said, "in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted have I put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee" Ex.31.6. This Divine infusion of wisdom is not the mere augmentation of an admirable natural quality, for in Ex.28.3 the wise-hearted ones who are tasked with making the priestly garments of glory and beauty are said to be "filled with the spirit of wisdom" i.e. with the Holy Spirit. The later Temple of Solomon owed its existence to the Holy Spirit, for its pattern that David delivered to Solomon was given to David by the Holy Spirit "the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit ..." 1 Chr.28.12.
Thus we learn that the gathering centre for God’s people - His earthly dwelling place, or temple was a direct product of the mind of God. The Spirit of God communicated the pattern, and the construction (including such adjuncts as the priestly garments) was not merely the product of human skill, but rather of skilled workers endued with the Spirit of God. Since such is the case for the Old Testament gathering centre, what shall we expect regarding the present-day ground of gathering for God’s people and God’s dwelling-place on earth today? We live in an era of much indifference amongst Christians regarding this issue. The contributors to this book are convinced that the Scriptures alone furnish the Spirit-given pattern that remains mandatory for Christians’ corporate gathering, and that New Testament Church principles become operational only through dependence upon the Spirit of God and in accordance with His revealed will. (See "The Glory of the Local Church" – issued by ‘Assembly Testimony’).
There are two passages in Isaiah that are of special relevance in prophesying the role and action of the Holy Spirit in relation to the coming Messiah. Isa.11.2 states, "… the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD." We recognise immediately that this is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the visible descent of the Holy Spirit resting as a dove upon the Lord Jesus the fulfilment is recorded. Yet there is a sense in which a more extended application of this verse is true of believers in the present age, for in 1 Pet.4.14 we read, "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you". This was not true of Old Testament believers – even the most notable of the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, but it is true of believers in this dispensation. It is a measure of the greatness of our privilege in this age of grace that we find the Holy Spirit applying language to redeemed sinners in 1Pet.4.14 that was previously only true of the Lord Jesus Christ (in Isa.11.4). Let us with Paul acknowledge our debt of gratitude by ascribing praise and worship "unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" Eph.3.20,21.
In Isa.11.2, each of the titles of the Holy Spirit is significant and worthy of consideration – especially as we each ask ourselves to what extent we are filled with the Spirit.
The Spirit of Wisdom
"This kind of wisdom is not to be raised by the intellect or industry of man ... for it is life, strength, a faculty which enters into the very composition of the soul and is the very principle of its being and welfare. It is from above and leads the mind to things above ... Hence this wisdom seems placed as the foremost of the Spirit’s divine operations; because it is the basis and groundwork of all the rest."10 Joshua provides an historical example of one who was said to be full of the spirit of wisdom, Deut.34.9, and elsewhere he is called "a man in whom is the Spirit", furnishing an incidental proof of the "Spirit of wisdom" being a Divine title. It is noteworthy that Joshua’s having the Spirit in him precedes and is not causally linked with Moses’ laying on of hands. That ceremony occurred in obedience to the Lord Who said to Moses, "And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient" Num.27.20. We have a noble example of this aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry post-Pentecost in the gospel testimony of Stephen11 where his unbelieving opponents "were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which he spake".
- 10 Ambose Serle, Essay on the Spirit of Wisdom in "Horae Solitariae" Scott, Webster & Geary: London, 1837.
- 11 Acts 6.8-15: It is important for us to learn the lesson that skill and expertise in apologetics, even when so manifestly Spirit-empowered, and accompanied by miracles, may fail to win over an audience. But Stephen’s witness was no failure. Saul of Tarsus was there to hear it, and though then an enthusiastic enemy of Christ, after his conversion the key elements of his doctrinal ministry can be traced in Stephen’s illustrious last sermon.
The Spirit of Understanding
This implies understanding especially in the sense of discernment. This faculty was essential for discharging the priestly office both in making moral and spiritual distinctions and as a prerequisite for teaching others, Lev.10.10-11; Mal.2.7. Amongst present day believers it is a feature of spiritual maturity, Heb.5.14.
The Spirit of Counsel and Might
Counsellor is one of the titles of the promised Saviour. He will be characterised by the counsel of peace as He combines the office of King and Priest in the future kingdom12. Among believers this is a scarce but highly prized feature. Paul bemoaned the lack of it in Corinth when he beheld the grievous spectacle of brethren rushing into litigation against each other, 1 Cor.6.1-11. Let us be careful to learn the lessons of Corinth in our own day and learn of Him Who is meek and lowly of heart, Matt.11.29.
"Might" refers to the omnipotent power that accompanies Divine counsel and makes it different from mere advice. Furthermore, we are reminded that any other form of might is vain compared with Him: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the LORD of hosts" Zech.4.6.
The Spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of the Lord
Acquisition of spiritual knowledge cannot be done independently of the Spirit of God. Nor can it be divorced from a keen sense of the fear of the Lord. "If any man will (is willing to, Newberry margin) do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God …" Jn.7.17. The Holy Spirit is that anointing which is common to all believers in this age and which acts to promote accurate spiritual perceptions independently of reliance upon human teachers, 1 Jn.2.20,21. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so this takes us right back to the first attribute of the Holy Spirit mentioned in our brief study of Isa.11.4. The conjunction of the perfect and unmeasured fullness of the Holy Spirit resting upon the sinless incarnate Son of God is worthy of much reverential reflection. Truly He is well entitled "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" Isa.9.6.
Isaiah chapter 61 begins with the words "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; Because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek ...". This passage was selected by the Lord Jesus Christ in that notable incident in the synagogue at Nazareth, recorded in Luke chapter 4. When the Lord Jesus read this very passage from the scroll of Isaiah and immediately upon reading the words "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" He stopped reading – right in the middle of a sentence - omitting the words "and the day of vengeance of our God", and closing the book, reached it back to the assistant and sat down. The audience was electrified. "And He began to say unto them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" v.21. To the Nazareth audience this was an amazing thing. He had just identified Himself as the Spirit-anointed Messiah. Not the least surprising thing was the clause at which He ceased reading. For here was the Lord inserting into this verse from Isaiah chapter 61 a great dispensational gap – and that is where we are still. The "day of vengeance of our God" remains yet to be fulfilled.
Throughout the Old Testament and the Gospels it appears that the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the believer was similar in each dispensation prior to Pentecost. The Holy Spirit did not then indwell all believers.
Examples occur in the Old Testament of individuals who are said to have the Holy Spirit in them which are sometimes taken to refute this position. Such cases however are not typical of the general Old Testament saint, but rather of special persons who are selected to fill a particular role in service for God.
There are those who are said to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Bezaleel and co-workers – see above). Of others we read, "in whom is the Spirit" (e.g. Joseph and Joshua). Concerning the Seventy Elders it is written that when the Spirit rested upon them they prophesied. In the case of various judges the Spirit of the LORD came upon them. These include Othniel, Judg.3.10, Gideon, Judg.6.34, Jephthah, Judg.11.29, and episodically in the turbulent career of Samson, in Judges chapters 13 - 15.
The Spirit of the LORD also came upon Saul as prophesied by Samuel, 1 Sam.10.6, on more than one occasion. However, following the anointing of David we read that "the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him" 1 Sam.16.14, though even later, during his persecution of David, there is a final occasion when the Spirit of God came upon him causing him to prophesy, 1 Sam.19.23-24. David differed from Saul in that "the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward" 1 Sam.16.13, thus implying that the Holy Spirit was in David throughout his life. David was very conscious of this privilege and no doubt remembering what had happened Saul, in his contrition over the matter of Uriah the Hittite, he pleads, "take not Thy Holy Spirit from me" Ps.51.11. The believer today ought not to pray "take not Thy Holy Spirit from me" for we know that we are thereby "sealed unto the day of redemption" Eph.4.30.
The overall survey of these Old Testament examples leads to the conclusion that these are instances of the Spirit’s empowering for the performance of a specific task or exercise of an office.13 They do not teach that the Holy Spirit indwelt believers then as He does post-Pentecost.
13Hamilton, James M. Jr. Chapter 3 in "God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments", B&H Academic, Nashville, Tennessee, 2006.
The power of the Holy Spirit physically to take up a person e.g. Elijah and transport him instantly elsewhere was fully accepted by believing Israelites – Obadiah worried that this would happen after he had told Ahab where Elijah was to be found,1 Kgs.18.12, and the sons of the prophets erroneously postulated this as an explanation for the disappearance of Elijah after his rapture to heaven, 2 Kgs.2.16. Ezekiel experienced this supernatural transportation by the Holy Spirit on several occasions, Ezek.3.12; 8.3; 11.1; 43.5.
The same phenomenon is also exemplified in the New Testament in the case of Philip the Evangelist, Acts 8.39. The supernatural empowerment of Samson for his amazing feats of strength and physical endurance are directly attributed to the Spirit of God. Other Old Testament miracles are ascribed to God or the Lord without further distinction as to Divine Persons.
Towards the end of Old Testament as godly Israelites looked back on national history they acknowledged the people’s sin and failure to obey God. They recognised specifically the issue of the Holy Spirit being resisted and opposed by the nation as a whole. This hostility to the Holy Spirit manifested itself in indifference and enmity to the Divinely commissioned prophets. "Thou gavest Thy good Spirit to instruct them" Neh.9.20. "Yet for many years Thou didst forbear them, and testifiedst against them by Thy Spirit in Thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest Thou them into the hand of the people of the lands" Neh.9.30. "But they rebelled, and vexed His Holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy and fought against them" Isa.63.10. "Yea, they made their heart as an adamant stone, Lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of Hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: Therefore came a great wrath ..." Zech.7.12. Stephen’s synopsis of Israel’s history continues this theme and he pointedly concluded with, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One ..." Acts 7.51-52.
With the rapture of the Church the Holy Spirit’s operation in the world to hinder the emergence of the Man of Sin ceases. The relationship of the Holy Spirit to the world and the faithful upon earth is reconstituted upon a more Old Testament basis. This does not imply the absence of the Holy Spirit, as is clear from the fact of widespread conversions, Rev.7.9-17, and the presence of a faithful remnant of Israel. To these persecuted messengers of the coming Kingdom during the Tribulation, the Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would provide them with what to say when undergoing interrogation for His sake, Matt.10.17-20.
It is clear that in the Millennium the Holy Spirit will indwell the faithful, and that this is one of the implications of the New Covenant being fully realised. Ezek.36.25-29 speaks of the restored nation of Israel being sprinkled with clean water and being cleansed from all filthiness. These restored ones will be given a new heart and a new spirit. God promises "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them."
The great promise of Isa.59.21 says: "this is My covenant with them, saith the LORD; My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever." This teaches us that the faithful ones of Israel who enter the Millennial Kingdom have the indwelling Holy Spirit and that their descendants become true believers also in perpetuity. Jer.31.33-35 is a similar New Covenant passage that is further expounded in Hebrews chapter 8, which although it does not mention the Holy Spirit clearly accords entirely with the other passages that do. The final Gog and Magog rebellion will consist of those unsaved Gentiles who have been living at the periphery of Divine blessing and includes none of the seed of Israel, Rev.20.8,9. While all who enter the Millennial Kingdom are regenerate, Jn.3.3 and compare Zech.14.16, the descendants of the first generation of believing Gentiles are not all saved, and while outward conformity to righteous rule of the Kingdom is unchallenged, the multitude of rebels at the end proves that the most perfect environmental conditions and that 1000 years of worldwide peace with justice has not improved the native depravity of the human heart.
The description of this future blessing of Israel includes the promise of the Holy Spirit being "poured out". Joel 2.28-32 is the particular passage quoted on the Day of Pentecost. Isa.44.3 also speaks of the same pouring out of "My Spirit upon thy seed", and Ezek.39.29 says "… for I have poured out My Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD". The initial phase of this future outpouring of the Holy Spirit is described in Zech.12.10 when during the day of the Lord Jesus Christ’s victorious return to Jerusalem God promises "I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced ...". This is the moment of national repentance by the remnant of Israel. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants for sin and for uncleanness", Zech.13.1, indicating that this national repentance and outpouring of the Spirit of God depends upon application of the cleansing power of the great Sacrifice of the Smitten Shepherd, Zech.13.7.
The quotation of Joel chapter 2 in Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 2 makes no claim that the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost with all the associated miraculous phenomena had fulfilled this prophecy. Peter says, "This is that …" but it must be distinguished from a final fulfilment. Walvoord15 helpfully points out an important difference between the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the future outpouring of the Spirit at the Second Advent. The Baptism of the Spirit is notable by being exclusively linked to the doctrine of the Church which is His body, 1 Cor.12.13, and limited to the present dispensation. There is no reference to it in any other age. Corporate testimony to Divine truth in the present age is marked by obliteration of national distinction. There is no "middle wall of partition" amongst those whom God has taken out of the nations as a people for His name, Eph.2.11-22, Acts 14.14. After the rapture, however, national distinctions and the prophetic promises to particular nations come back into operation. The idea of a trans-national organism such as the Body of Christ present on the earth is unknown in the Tribulation or Millennium.
In every dispensation the Holy Spirit functions as a restrainer of evil. Whether seen in Genesis striving with the antediluvians or as the Hinderer of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, Whose removal (at the rapture) releases the brake on the emergence of the Man of Sin, the Holy Spirit represents a potent restraint upon human evil. Apart from direct Divine intervention this may be through the impact of the prophetic word, or the moral example of the righteous, or the influence of Holy Scripture. The whole course of Old Testament history demonstrates this. Inadvertent testimony to the truth of this occurs in the writings of secular historians and even contemporary journalists. 16
A comprehensive introduction to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament must take note of those passages where He is not mentioned explicitly, but His presence and activity is taught in an emblematic form. This subject has been dealt with in much more detail in chapter 2 of this book. Another useful reference is Samuel Jardine’s book "Floods upon the Dry Ground".17 Thus here we shall confine ourselves to noticing four of the most prominent in the Old Testament.
The New Testament account of the Lord Jesus Christ’s baptism by John leaves no doubt as to the meaning of this figure. It occurs in Genesis with some seeing in the "fluttering" of the Holy Spirit upon the chaotic waters of Gen.1.2, the earliest such reference. The first explicit reference is Noah’s dove in Gen.8.8 where its purity is set in distinction from the unclean flesh-centred raven.
The word translated Spirit [ruach] is sometimes rendered as breath or wind. The act of Adam’s creation involved God breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. The invocation by Ezekiel of the wind to bring life-giving breath to the bodies in the Valley of the Dry Bones, chapter 37, is further illustration. Examples of Divine power in destruction or judgment associated with the breath of God or with wind occur in the Old Testament and illustrate the action of the Holy Spirit. These include the desolation of faithless Samaria, Hosea 13.15-16, the destroying wind against Babylon, Jer.51.1, and slaying the wicked one with the breath of His lips, Isa.11.4, – which strikingly parallels Paul’s account of the destruction of the Man of Sin with the Spirit of His mouth, 2 Thess.2.8.
The use of oil as lamp-fuel for illumination is used symbolically of the Holy Spirit in both Old and New Testaments. See Zech.4.1-10 compared with Rev.4.5 and the particulars of the golden candlestick (lampstand) of the Tabernacle. This figure also underlies the meaning of the oil in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew chapter 25.
Oil also is a figure of the Holy Spirit in relation to anointing. Three orders of special spiritual service in the Old Testament are prophet, priest and king. For each of these there are examples of their appointment by means of ceremonial anointing. This represents the outward symbol of the Holy Spirit providing the necessary enablement for discharging the office. In David’s case the anointing by Samuel was immediately associated with the Holy Spirit coming upon him from that time onward. We have earlier noticed the anointing of prophets. The special blend of anointing oil used for anointing the High Priest was compounded after the art of the apothecary and was called the holy anointing oil. It was a very restricted substance, for there was a severe prohibition upon imitation of its composition or unapproved application, Ex.30.22-38. It was used in the consecration of the High Priest and his sons and also used for anointing the Tabernacle and its furniture and the priestly garments,18 indicating the indispensability of the Holy Spirit in the operation of the priestly system in the Tabernacle. Psalm 133 takes this fragrant anointing oil permeating the High Priest and his garments as a metaphor for spiritual unity amongst brethren. This emphasises the value that God places upon unity amongst brethren and teaches us that this can only be achieved through dependence upon His Holy Spirit. These typical lessons make it obvious that the Assembly as God’s gathering centre requires the Holy Spirit to make and keep it operational. Various moves to promote unity among professing Christians based on counterfeit spirituality mirror the fleshly tendency to violate the prohibition on counterfeit anointing oil. Such innovations are of the flesh and promote human control usurping the control of the Holy Spirit amongst believers.19
In the semi-desert climate of ancient Israel with its agricultural economy there was a greater appreciation of this particular symbol of the Holy Spirit than we in the well-watered British Isles are prone to consider. In Isa.44.1-5 there is a very clear promise of the Holy Spirit’s future impartation to the restored nation of Israel depicted as water poured "upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground". This accords with the Saviour’s language in Jn.7.38-39, where this promise is dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ being glorified. Nationally it awaits future fulfilment for Israel. The "blessed man" of Psalm 1 is likened unto a "tree planted by the rivers of water", v.3, symbolising the spiritual secret of sustenance and fruitfulness in a hostile environment. Isa.12.3 depicts the joy of drawing water out of the wells of salvation. Isa.55.1 issues a Gospel invitation, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." The Lord Jesus Christ said in His discourse to the woman of Samaria "whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" Jn.4.14. There is no other provision for the soul’s thirst than the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and the enjoyment of his Salvation through the Holy Spirit. Has the reader obeyed the Holy Spirit’s final Gospel call; "And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him that heareth say, ‘Come.’ And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life freely"? Rev.22.17-18.