Overview: Part 2
The word for spirit in Hebrew is ruah. It appears in the Old Testament no less than 378 times, being translated as either wind, breath or spirit. The spirit of God is the breath of God, and this divine breath in man is what animates him and gives him life. The spirit is a breath that transcends the physical; it is the wind of God that represents the spiritual element of life as we know it.
The first mention of the term ruah or the Spirit of God in the Old Testament is found no later than the second verse of the first chapter in Genesis.
Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Yes, before there was land, before there was creation, before the garden existed and man was placed therein, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
A thorough study of all the scriptures containing the word spirit or ruah reveals that they can be relegated to one of three major categories depending on the semantic prism or sphere in which the term was used. The three major categories in which the term spirit is used in the Bible are cosmological, anthropological, and theological.
So what do I mean by this? Well, when the Bible uses the term spirit cosmologically, it has to do with nature, the forces of the wind, storms and other attributes of what we would term as naturally occurring. When the Bible uses the term spirit anthropologically it has to do with man and mankind, and when it uses the term from a theological perspective it has to do with God.
The most often repeated symbolism of the spirit is that of air in movement, or the wind of God, regardless of its intensity. This term is used when describing a subtle wind, a storm, the four winds, and even an emotion or anger.
Ezekiel 37:9, “Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘thus says the Lord God: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live.”
When discussing the spirit as breath, throughout the scripture we see that it is referring to the breath of man, describing the three aspects of human existence, the physiological, the psychological, and the spiritual. Essentially, when the term breath is used as a descriptive, in certain passages it can be interpreted as literal breath, in others as spirit, and in others as the soul of man.
While discussing the different aspects of the term ruah might be beneficial and even enlightening, since our focus is on the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit we will limit ourselves to this particular aspect of the discussion and search out a few key characteristics.
Although the term ‘Holy Spirit’ appears only three times in the Old Testament, the terms ‘Spirit of the Lord or Spirit of God’ appear far more frequently.
Psalm 51:11, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
Isaiah 63:10-11, “But they 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?”
What is evident is that whatever term is used, whether the limited ‘Holy Spirit’ in the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord or the Spirit of God, the presence of this third person of the triune God is readily visible throughout. From being present at creation, to guiding the leaders of God’s people, to convicting the world of sin, the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, although marginalized for many years now, is great and wide and deep indeed.
Since we’ve already established the presence of the Holy Spirit at creation, and we did so Biblically, I wanted to go through a few scripture passages that testify to my second assertion, that of the Holy Spirit having an active role in guiding the leaders of God’s people. The Biblical examples of the Spirit of God being upon or guiding individuals include some of the greatest and best known personalities in Israel’s history.
From Joseph, to Joshua, to Ezekiel, to Gideon to Jephthah, to Samson to Saul, to David, the presence of the Spirit was most visible and manifested itself most readily by way of wisdom. Of Joseph, Bezaleel, Joshua, Micah, and Daniel the Word tells that they were filled with the Spirit, and due to this fact they were full of wisdom.
Exodus 31:1-5, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘See I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.”
Deuteronomy 34:9, “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
Daniel 5:11, “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father – your father the king – made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.”
Micah 3:8, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.”
Throughout the prophetic books, the Spirit of God is the spiritual force, the divine power that inspires the prophets, that puts words in their mouths, and gives them the authority to speak.
1 Samuel 10:6, “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
The reason I wanted to include these scriptures in the overview of this series, is to point out the fact that the presence, power, and purpose of the Holy Spirit are not exclusive to the New Testament, they are not something that only came about on the day of Pentecost, but rather they’ve always existed, God has always spoken to His people through His Spirit, and messengers have always been chosen to deliver His words.
The question that we must answer truthfully and honestly, is, if the Holy Spirit, whether as the Spirit of the Lord, or the Spirit of God, has always been among His people, if the Holy Spirit has always operated among the children of God, and has been since the beginning of creation, why would the work of the Holy Spirit suddenly stop? Why would the power of the Holy Spirit suddenly cease to be, if it has been among us since the beginning of creation?
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.