There are many instances we see the Holy Spirit at work in the Old Testament. Right at the beginning of the Bible, we see that the Holy Spirit was involved in the creation of the universe: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)” The Spirit is also given credit in the work of creation in Job 33:4 and Psalm 104:30.
Other ways we see the Spirit at work in the Old Testament are to:
Skill people for specific tasks
Exodus 31:1-5: Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.
Grant supernatural wisdom and understanding
Gen 41:38-40: So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
Numbers 24:1-4: “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke his message:
‘The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:’”
1 Samuel 19.23: “So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth.”
2 Samuel 23:2: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”
Give special strength for war:
Judges 3:10: “The Spirit of the Lord came on him [Othniel], so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him."
Even though the Holy Spirit was definitely at work in the times of the Old Testament, we know that the full scope of the ministry of the Holy Spirit would not be fulfilled until after Jesus returned to heaven. In an earlier entry we discussed how the Covenants of the Old Testament were good, but the greatest covenant of all was the New Covenant established by Jesus. In the Old Testament God’s character of grace can definitely be seen, but it is in Jesus Christ that we see God’s grace on full display and highlighted with a spotlight. In the same way, the Holy Spirit was definitely at work during Old Testament times, but it is through Jesus that the Holy Spirit is able to fully shine.
Jesus understood how essential the ministry of the Holy Spirit would become, proving to be beneficial in both giving glory to God and in the lives of those in whom the Spirit would dwell. Indeed, Jesus makes a profound statement to his disciples in John 16:7, telling them that it was better for them to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus with them. In the words of pastor J.D. Greear: “Having the Holy Spirit inthem, he said, would be better than having his bodily presence beside them.”
This is why the day of Pentecost was such an important event in history. It marked the beginning of a new era, an era in which the Holy Spirit’s very presence would dwell in the souls of men and women. Consider 2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” and 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
The very fact that we can have God’s Spirit living within us should cause us to marvel at his excellence! Jesus has been called Emmanuel, which is God with us. But with the Holy Spirit, we have God in us! “Wonder of all wonders, the same Spirit who empowered Jesus’s earthly life and sacrificial death now has been given to us today. He not only works on us, and through us, but he dwells in us.” (Pastor David Mathis).
Yet the Holy Spirit does not dwell in everyone on the planet. Not everyone has been forgiven of their sins through faith in Christ. God, and thus the Holy Spirit, is perfect and cannot dwell in places that are unholy and unclean. Our hearts must be washed and cleaned before the Holy Spirit can come in. The Holy Spirit himself even takes on a vital role in the work of cleaning us, in our salvation. He convicts us our sin and enables us to understand what Jesus did for us. One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is Titus 3:4-7. I encourage you to read it slowly and pause a minute to reflect on what it means:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
What a wonderful passage! The most important role of the Holy Spirit is to point us towards the one who can save us, the one who was born miraculously 2,000 years ago.
In closing, there are so many other ways the Holy Spirit ministers to us and through us for the building up of His church, but to touch on them all would make this post into a book, which is longer than what is intended here.
Questions to consider:
Do you view the Holy Spirit as a person or as a force?
How can you pray more to the Holy Spirit?
How can the Holy Spirit point you more towards Jesus?
How can the Holy Spirit enable you to talk to others about God or build up God’s church?
For further reading:
*all Scripture quoted from the NIV