Who is the Holy Spirit?

As we are preparing for Christmas, our thoughts tend to be focused on Jesus, which is definitely the right thing. But if we consider that God is a triune God, there is a third member of the Godhead that we don’t give as much attention to: the Holy Spirit. Today He is our topic of study. Because this topic is vast, we will only cover a portion of it today, the Spirit in the Old Testament. Tomorrow we will continue to dig deeper into more detail of Him, as He is in the New Testament.

In the Old Testament scriptures, the HOLY SPIRIT is mentioned right from the beginning:
“…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2.

The Hebrew word used for the Spirit in this context is ‘ruach”, which is the same word for breath or wind.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 it says, “All Scripture is ‘breathed’ out by God and profitable for teaching,…” This would be the work of the Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 6:3, it is written, “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh; his days shall be 120 years.” This implies that our life vs death is based on God’s Spirit in us; this particular meaning is more about His breath of life, as opposed to the power of the Spirit in us performing miracles, speaking in tongues, gifts of healing, etc.

Think of the Old Testament prophets, judges, and warriors. Many of them had the Spirit come upon them in a mighty way, to fulfill what God had planned for each of them. For King Saul, the Holy Spirit left him because of his disobedience. (1 Samuel 16:14) Other examples are Joshua in whom is the Spirit (Numbers 27:18), Gideon who was clothed in the Spirit (Judges 6:34), Samson was stirred by the Spirit (Judges 13:25), Saul had the Spirit rush upon him, and he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6, 9-10), and Bezalel was filled with the Spirit, with intelligence, knowledge, all craftsmanship to devise artistic designs, to work gold, silver and bronze, in cutting stones, and in carving wood, all for building the temple (Exodus 31:3-5).

King David and Ezekiel the prophet both said that the Holy Spirit spoke through them. David said, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2). Ezekiel wrote, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you…And I will put my Spirit within you…'” (Ezekiel 36:22, 26-27)

In the Old Testament, it appears as though Holy Spirit did not necessarily indwell or fill everyone He was with. This was before Jesus came and was resurrected, so the Holy Spirit was not available to all of mankind. He was selective and his time with them was temporary. He fell upon people, gave them power, spoke through the prophets, gave special skills, gave the ability to lead, etc.

The Holy Spirit is mentioned mostly in symbolic form (as He is the active one), such as:
1. WATER was the sign of the Spirit that purifies:the Spirit as water gives life, it gives birth to new life (the Spirit gives birth to spirit), and it also destroys the wicked (examples of each are in Isaiah, Zechariah, and Ezekiel to name a few books).

2. FIRE is one of the symbols preferred to express the essence and work of God. Think of the burning bush and the column of fire. The Spirit as fire is also able to purify, destroy, and also represent divine anger, His fury, and His wrath (Exodus, Ezekiel, Daniel, Psalms, etc.).

3. The HAND (or FINGER) is the symbol of the love of God for mankind. The Spirit as the hand or finger points to God who acts, works, and saves. He writes with it, He creates with it (Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms).

4. The CLOUD which was the Spirit led the Israelites in the wilderness during the day, and covered God, and protected the people from seeing Him when He was on the mountain with Moses (Exodus).

5. WIND is always connected in some way with the appearance or the action of God, but indicates, however, a reality that is always in motion. A breeze, a breath, a wind. The Spirit’s power was present as the wind, and no one knows where it comes from. This element made it possible to see the mysterious presence of God (Psalms, Ezekiel, 1 Kings, Jonah, Nahum).

It boils down to this: The Holy Spirit proceeds from God, and is God. He is the active one that gives the vital breath to all living things, and He makes and helps God’s people grow. He stirs up the wind, the fire, the water to bring about every change.

So the next time you feel a breeze, blow out a breath, observe the clouds moving, watch a fire, point with your finger or write with your hand, or drink water, remember that these symbols are just another way that God the Father has placed Himself and His Holy Spirit into our world for us to know Him.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”
Psalm 139:7

Food for thought: Have you personally experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Feel free to share!

Fun facts: There are at least 60 references to the person and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In each of those instances, the Spirit came to do His work, then left when He was done.

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Spirit cloud

  • Janet Koolhaas says:

    Great overview. Looking forward to your NT installment tomorrow.

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