Sunday, August 31, 2014
The Holy Spirit in Isaiah (Part 17)
We now presently resume our study of following the mentions and doctrine pertaining to the Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive study, but rather to highlight the reality of the orthodox position of the Christian church relating to the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, and how He is abundantly found in the OT. Likewise, as we shall later see (God willing) that the Holy Spirit’s activity and purpose in the OT is more clearly illuminated once we understand the revelation of His person from the NT.
It is by the light of the New Testament that the Old Testament may be more clearly understood. This is basic Christian doctrine and will lead to a proper understanding of Scripture. Forcing the New Testament to be understood by the Old Testament often leads to much error, most commonly erroneous practices such as mandatory Sabbath keeping, legalism, dietary mandates, forced tithing and more. The law of liberty, or the law of love taught, practiced and evidenced in the NT by Christ and His apostles is abrogated to make way for OT legal injunctions that ought not to hinder the Christian church, which is a separate entity from the theocratic state of Israel as it existed under its kings and priests before God dissolved it. But that is a study for another time.
In Isaiah 63 we have several more references of Him straight way. We read in Isaiah “But they (Israel) rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; so He turned Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them. Then He remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: “Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them…as a beast goes down into the valley, and the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest, so you lead your people, to make Yourself a glorious name,” Isaiah 63:10-11, 14.
Here we find an immediate example of needing the New Testament to better understand the present context. We know from Paul’s writings that the Holy Spirit comes upon believers as He apparently did in the OT, save for one large difference: the Christian permanently receives the indwelling Spirit whereas Old Testament saints did not. If this were not so God would not have made mention that in days to come He would do something different with believers, especially mentioning future plans for Israel. He speaks of this at length in Jeremiah 32:36-41 and Ezekiel 37:11-14. The indwelling Spirit is a unique seal for the NT dispensation, as evidenced in 2nd Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30. Hebrews chapter 8 discusses this matter at some length in respect to the dissolution of the OT covenant and the establishment of the NT, concluding with the words, “In that [God] says, “A new covenant” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” Hebrews 8:13. The writer of Hebrews adds later that “God [has] provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us,” Hebrews 11:40. It was sufficiently demonstrated in the Old Testament that OT saints could have the Holy Spirit depart from them, as was the case of King Saul. No such episode is recorded in the NT, and the language of the New Testament runs counter to such an unbiblical concept, opposing what God desired for us with the establishment of the church.
This does not at all mean that the OT has no usefulness to the Christian. It does in every way. Paul writes “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” Romans 15:4. What high regard Paul had for Scripture! He valued and cherished the Old Testament, but even as he voiced this praise he was inspired to write doctrine by the Holy Spirit that helped Christians better understand their position in Christ; that the church and Israel were unique entities in God’s eyes and a new imperative foreshadowed in the OT was to be the guiding factor in a Christian’s life: love. Love for God inflamed by His love for us and fed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit whose task was to conform us in our daily lives to a Christ-likeness so as to better serve our God and help advance His kingdom.
In this text we also find the personhood of the Holy Spirit clearly defined once more. The Holy Spirit is rebelled against and grieved; the Holy Spirit both enters the lives of the faithful and causes rest for not only men, but likewise even the beasts of the wilderness. Certain cults liken the Holy Spirit to an active energy source or life principal in some desperate bid to escape the teaching of the Bible. They seek to remove the deity of the Holy Spirit, but unlike their attack on Jesus Christ, to remove His deity cultists tend to not even allow the Holy Spirit to be a person, much less God Almighty. Yet here we have the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of the Lord being grieved, dwelling within the saints and causing rest, or granting rest as it may be, Matthew 11:28-29. Isaiah compares such an animal to the nation of Israel, and how they are likewise led by the Spirit of God for His glory. Verse 14 contrasts the Spirit of the Lord with the pronoun “You,” clearly indicating equality between both subjects.