In the Old Testament

The Power and the Perception

God, who in ancient days spoke to our ancestors in the prophets,
at many different times and by various methods, has at the end of these days spoken to us in a Son whom he appointed heir of all things; t
hrough whom also he made the universe.--Hebrews 1:1,2

Jeff Mezera

These two verses provide the foundation of our faith and trust in the holy Scriptures. God had spoken to human beings at different times and through different methods; he had strengthened them, helped them, judged them, and delivered them through the power of the holy spirit. These “words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets” (Zechariah 7:12 ), “as they were moved by the holy ghost [spirit]” (2 Peter 1:21 ).

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

This revelation was not given completely to one prophet, but in pieces and at “sundry times”; yet all these revelations make one complete whole. “These were scattered bits or pieces given in visions, types, prophecies, given to Moses, Samuel, David, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the progenitors of the Jewish people. God also spoke in various ways, such as visions or dreams, in pictures and types. (Hosea 12:10; Amos 3:7; Job 33:14-17.)” (Meggison’s Notes)

Through Christ, in his pre-human existence, God created the heavens and earth with his mighty power (Genesis 1:1,2; Colossians 1:16 ,17). In the cases of Moses, Joshua, and the elders, the spirit rested upon them through wisdom (Number 11:29 ; Deuteronomy 34:9). Skill was given to the craftsmen of Israel (Exodus 35:21). God through Samson destroyed the Philistines (Judges 15:14 ). Through David he united the two kingdoms and defeated the enemies of the Lord (1 Samuel 16:13 ). Through the prophets he judged, promised, and prophesied the deliverance of Israel through Messiah (Jeremiah 25:3; Ezekiel 8:3; 11:24 ). All this was through the power of God, his holy spirit.

Regarding Messiah, it was prophesied that the spirit would fill his life and ministry (Isaiah 61:1-3), that it would rest on him and give him the wisdom, power, and insight to judge the world, instruct it in righteousness, and destroy the wicked (Isaiah 26:9-15; 42:1).

Regarding Israel it was prophesied that the spirit would be poured out on them during the reign of Messiah, that they would be delivered from their enemies, that they would be the center of that future age (Zechariah 12:10; Joel 2:28,29; Ezekiel 39:29), and that in the resurrection their deceased loved ones would be returned to them and they would all be equitably judged and guided by Messiah (Jeremiah 31:31-36).

In the Old Testament, the actions of the holy spirit are described as filling a person (Exodus 31:3), coming upon an individual (Judges 3:10), strengthening one (Judges 14:6), taken from one person and given to another (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:12), enabling some to perform specific tasks (Exodus 35:30-33), teaching, filling some with wisdom (Exodus 31:3), knowledge, and workmanship (Exodus 35:35).

What is the Holy Spirit?

What is this “holy spirit” which, as we have seen, was manifested in Old Testament times in so many different ways? The word “spirit” is translated from the Hebrew word ruach (Strongs #7307) and is defined as resembling the “breath, i.e., a sensible (or even violent) exhalation.” It is translated in various places as wind, breath, and spirit.

The Jews describe it this way: “A Rabbinic concept to indicate the nearness of God and his direct influence on man is that of Ruach Hakodesh (the Holy Spirit). Sometimes it seems to be identical with the Shekhinah as expressing the divine immanence in the world. ... More often it is employed to describe the endowment of a person with special gifts. Prophecy, in the sense of the ability to interpret the will of God, is the effect of which the Holy Spirit is the cause. Its possession also endows one with foreknowledge” (Everyman’s Talmud, Abraham Cohen, p. 45).

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person, neither in the strictly philosophical sense, nor in the Semitic sense. God’s spirit is simply God’s power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly.”

The holy spirit is the external working power of the Father. His spirit is the mechanism by which he accomplished his will in the Old Testament individuals, and it is how he works personally in our own lives.

It is instructive to contrast the operation of the spirit as it is described in the Old and New Testaments.

·         The holy spirit is not personalized or personified in the Old Testament; frequently it is in the New.

·         In the Old Testament the spirit is described as acting on an individual in specific ways often without understanding; in the New Testament the work of the spirit brings understanding and perception in the lives of believers.

·         The Old Testament prophets wrote as they were inspired, but often they did not understand what they wrote. The revelation we are given in Christ is complete and much better than anything ever given to a prophet.

·         The work of the holy spirit in the Old was knowledge; the work of the spirit in the New is comprehension.

·         The work of the holy spirit in the Old Testament was might; the work of the spirit in the New is light.

·         The work of the holy spirit in the Old was power; the work of the Spirit in the New is perception.

The Holy Spirit in Type, Symbol, and Prophecy

“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4).

In the Old Testament the holy spirit is symbolized several ways, but generally by the anointing oil. This oil was used in the lamp of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:6; Leviticus 8:12; 10:7).

“The light of this lamp was from olive oil, ‘beaten’ or refined; and the lamps were kept always lighted. This oil was symbolic of the holy Spirit, and its light represented holy enlightenment--the spirit of the truth. Its light was for the benefit of the priests only, for none others were ever permitted to see it or to profit by its light. Thus was represented the spirit or mind of God given to enlighten the Church, in the deep things of God, which are entirely hidden from the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14) even though he be a believer--a justified man (a Levite). None but the truly consecrated, the ‘Royal Priesthood,’ are permitted to see into this deeper light, hidden in the ‘Holy.’ ” (Tabernacle Shadows, p. 116)

This oil was also used in poetic verse as we can see in Psalm 133.

“The anointing oil or symbol of consecration was poured upon the head of the High Priest only, but the under-priests were represented in the members of his body, even as Christ is the Head over the Church which is his body, and all together constitute the Royal Priesthood. So the holy spirit given without measure to our Lord and Head applies to us (his body) through him. The Father gave the spirit to the Son only: all of the anointing oil was poured upon the Head. At Pentecost it ran down from the head to the body and has continued with the body ever since, and whoever comes into the ‘body’ comes thereby under the consecrating influence--the spirit of holiness, the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ, the spirit of the Truth.” (Reprints, p. 3280)

The Song of Solomon contains a description of our Lord and his Bride, the church. The eyes of both are described as doves: "His eyes are like doves beside the water-brooks, washed with milk, and fitly set." "Behold, thou art fair, my love; Behold, thou art fair; Thine eyes are as doves." "Thine eyes are as doves behind thy veil." (Song of Solomon 5:12; 1:15; 4:1, ASV)

"I will, pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring" (Isaiah 44:3). Earlier in this book we read: “Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest" (Isaiah 32:15). In these two instances the holy spirit is symbolized by the rain. (The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, March, 1940)

Many Scriptures speak of the anointing of the spirit of the Lord on both the followers of the Lord, and those who were not the followers of God, to accomplish his plans for his chosen people. The Lord states, “I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him” (Psalm 89:20). As a follower of the Lord, King David was set apart and appointed for God’s purposes, just as King Cyrus had been chosen to carry out God’s will in delivering Israel from captivity.

“Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut” (Isaiah 45:1).

Xenophon, in his first book, De Cyropaed., gives us a list of the nations Cyrus subdued. (“Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, Phrygians, the Lydians, Carians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, the Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, Sacians, Paphlagonians, Maryandines, and many other nations. He also had dominion over the Asiatics, Greeks, Cyprians, Egyptians, etc.” (John Trapp's Commentary). Herodotus said that Cyrus vanquished whatsoever country he invaded.

There is a greater antitypical Cyrus, Christ, who as the deliverer of the world is described as coming “from the rising of the sun, and from the west.” Of that time the Lord says “that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:6).

If God can work in the life of a man like Cyrus, how much more will he work in the lives of those who love him and serve him.

The Future work of the Spirit

“For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (Zechariah 3:9).

“In Zechariah 3:9 [and] 4:2,10 the symbols of eyes, lamps, and spirits are expressed as the external operation of the Lord’s spirit in regards to the protection and guidance of the nation of Israel not only in regards to Israel at the time the prophecy was given to them, but also in that future prophetic millennial day when divine favor, enlightenment, and blessings as the promises of God will be given to that nation.” (Reprints, p. 2521)

“It is not until we realize that the prophecies although having some force and application to the times in which they were written, have a special force and application to us, as the antitypical Israel , and to the building of the antitypical Temple , that we get the true force, value and beauty of these prophecies.” (Reprints, p. 2521).

In Zechariah the seven branches of the lamp are shown in a united form, not as they are shown in Revelation where they are separate and distinct. These seven lampstands in Revelation show the true saints throughout the history of the seven churches in the various phases of the church’s development; in Zechariah’s prophecy they are united, showing the church complete and united.

This, then, is illustrative of the difference between the holy spirit in the Old and the New Testament. In the Old the Lord manifested his spirit as power, in the New with perception. The power and the perception is the assistance we need though the personal working of the Father in our lives to learn his will, and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12 ,13).

“Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” (Psalm 143:10).