Sunday, May 11, 2014
The Holy Spirit, Part 13
The final direct mention of the Holy Spirit in the book of Psalms is in Psalm 143. We read “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good, lead me in the land of uprightness,” Psalm 143:10. Like Psalm 25 or 119, the psalmist asks God to teach him to do His will. Now this is not some subjective, intuitive sense the psalmist is pining for. Rather, it is an objective understanding of God’s person revealed in the Old Testament, as much of it as had been written by that point.
He reasons that because Yahweh is his God, he ought to do God’s will. Because his God revealed His will in a simple, objective format (the written word) the psalmist goes a step further. He asserts that God’s Spirit (the divine author of Scripture) is good, for only a good God would reveal so much to a people who deserved nothing but the punishment due their sin. His eye is toward entrance into God’s presence. Psalm 25:4-5 states “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”
Both in eternity and here and now the only light that can lead is into a land of uprightness is God’s full counsel, the whole of the Bible, as illuminated by its divine Author. Obedience to the word in a spirit of faith will yield blessing and power to perform the works God has set forth that we should do. The psalmist yearns to have a life that reflects a love for God; the only meaningful way this can be done, in either the psalmist’s day or our own, is to read God’s word, internalize it, and obey. Christians, this message is especially for you. God’s Holy Spirit is still good, and is powerful and willing to lead every one of us into the land of uprightness. The question remains is if we are as willing?
We skip ahead now to the book of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah wrote numerous times and in great detail about the forthcoming Messiah of Israel, depicting our Lord both as the suffering servant and conquering king. He was the child born of the virgin, and the heir and seed of David. He was God eternal and yet fully man. In one such passage we find numerous mentions of the Holy Spirit in rapid succession as it were. “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse (David’s father), and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 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,” Isaiah 11:1-2. Before I go on to address more fully what I’ve just quoted, let us look ahead into the gospel of Matthew and find the literal fulfillment of this prophecy.
“When [Jesus] had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him,” Matthew 3:16. This moment began the Lord’s public ministry. Jesus was baptized as a sign of obedience to God, setting forth to His future disciples an example. Then He went into the wilderness 40 days, and returned to preach the gospel. This incident in Jesus’ life is of such importance that all four gospel writers see fit to include it in their biographies of Jesus’ life and death, Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-33.
I believe the reference in Matthew that I quoted might rather be the witness of John the Baptist in the latter portion of the verse, since we read in John’s gospel that God the Holy Spirit told John that whoever he saw having the Holy Spirit descend upon, this was the one who would baptize rather with the Holy Spirit, as John said, Matthew 3:11. The Holy Spirit took on the visage of a dove so that others might see Him alight upon the person of Christ. Note that the writers always describe the Holy Spirit’s descent upon our Lord as “like a dove.” They didn’t necessarily say that it was a dove, but that the appearance of the Holy Spirit apparently resembled the animal in question. Later, the Holy Spirit would come to the first generation of disciples as tongues of flame to empower them for the ministry that Jesus had set them to, Acts 2:3-4.
It is clear that Isaiah saw the Lord very clearly in this prophetic vision. The Spirit of the Lord indeed rested on Jesus, the coming Messiah. With His arrival came wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and godly reverence. Even our Lord, God incarnate, waited as a Man to be anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit before beginning His ministry of teaching and healing, tireless pursuits in God’s interests that would require a God-like amount of power to perform. Therefore our Lord gives us another example of obedience, since we are told that apart from the energy and agency of the Holy Spirit the Christian cannot accomplish anything that possesses genuine spiritual merit. Jesus was given all authority in Heaven and earth, but He did nothing apart from the will of the Father; and it is the Father’s will that we Christians seek Him, to walk with Him and be filled with His Spirit so that we may have power (both ability and authority) to do the works ordained for us to do.