The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: The Prophets

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Books of the Prophets

The theme of God empowering select individuals to do what no one else in Israel can continues in the Former Prophets (Joshua through Kings) with the Spirit equipping judges to deliver Israel (Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). The Spirit then comes upon Israel’s king when the man is anointed over Israel (1 Sam 10:6, 10; 11:6; 16:13–14), and this is a significant precedent that will be picked up in the Latter Prophets, as they point to a coming King who will be uniquely anointed by God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God keeps Saul and his men from taking David (1 Sam 19:20, 23), and the Spirit spoke through David as he sang his Psalms (2 Sam 23:2). In Kings it was recognized that the Spirit could transport people from one place to another in extraordinary ways (1 Kgs 18:12; 2 Kgs 2:16).

The picture sketched in thus far becomes the basis for the far reaching prophecies announced in the Latter Prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah through Malachi). Isaiah prophesies a day when a new king from Jesse’s roots will reign. Like David, he will be anointed with the Spirit (Isa 11:1–2; 42:1; 48:16; 61:1). Not only will the king be anointed with the Spirit, in the day that he reigns (32:1) the Spirit will be poured out on the people (32:15; 44:3). Jeremiah does not speak directly of the Spirit, but what he says of the new covenant also refers to the day that Isaiah foresees (cf. Jer 31:31–34).

The Spirit enters Ezekiel on multiple occasions (e.g., Ezek 2:2; 3:24), which seems to indicate that his experience of the Spirit was not continual. The Spirit transports Ezekiel from one place to another (3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5; cf. 37:1). The Spirit’s coming upon Ezekiel sometimes results in him prophesying (11:5). In a passage that is similar to Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant (Jer 31:31–34), Ezekiel prophesies a day when Yahweh will put his Spirit back in the midst of his people (Ezek 36:27), and like Isaiah Ezekiel points to a day when the Spirit will be poured out on God’s people (39:29). Ezekiel had seen the glory of God leave the temple (chs. 8–11), and the prophecy in 36:27 seems to point to a day when Yahweh will once again take up residence among his people by his Spirit (cf. 43:1–5). Ezekiel then has a striking vision where he beholds a valley of dry bones, and he is commanded to speak to the bones (37:1–6). As he does so, he is also told to prophesy to the “breath” (same word as “s/Spirit” and “wind” in Hebrew), and the breath enters the bones and by word and wind they are clothed with flesh and sinew and rise to live (37:7–10). This is a picture of the way Yahweh will raise his people from the dead when he brings them back from exile (37:11–14).

Joel points to a day when Moses’ wish that all God’s people might receive the Spirit (Num 11:29) will be realized (Joel 2:28–32). Micah calls on his generation to see the work of God’s Spirit (Mic 2:7), and he asserts that God’s Spirit is empowering him to prophesy (3:8). After the exile, when the people returned to the land and sought to rebuild the temple, Haggai assured them that as Yahweh had been with the people at the exodus, his presence visible in the pillar of cloud and flame, so now Yahweh’s Spirit is “standing” among them (Hag 2:5, the term rendered “remains” [ESV, NIV, NKJV], “abiding” [NAS], or “is present” [HCSB] is the same root that describes the “pillar” of cloud and flame in the exodus narratives). Similarly, Zechariah announces to the people that the rebuilding of the temple will not be accomplished by human might or power but by the Spirit of Yahweh (Zech 4:6). Those who patrol the earth for him set Yahweh’s Spirit at rest (6:8), and again the assertion is made that the prophets prophesied by the Spirit (7:12).

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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