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DEVELOPMENT  IN  UNDERSTANDING  THE
Holy Spirit / Spirit of God

AS  REFLECTED  IN  THE  OLD  TESTAMENT  SCRIPTURES
 
   
  CONTENTS
1. 
   3.  THE SPIRIT's ACTIVITIES AMONG MEN AND WOMEN
   4.  CAUSES OF CONCEPTUAL SHIFTS
   5.  CONCLUSION
2. 
   6.  Bibliography
 
1. 
INTRODUCTION
 
The Old
Testament Scriptures present the "Wind/Ruach of the Lord" as the principal agent of God's activity in the earth. Although angels do His bidding, it is His own power that is portrayed as the "Ruach" of "Yahweh", representing His person and enacting His will.
 
 
During the course of Old Testament history, changes in the use of the term "ruach" do not necessarily indicate a change in thinking on the essential nature of spirit. The natural development of language idiom in any culture will tend to produce derived and associated meanings of a particularly significant term. An example of this is emotions that are described as a 'spirit' (anger, Job 4:9; despair, Ezek. 3:14; patience, Prov. 17:27), and also non-material agencies (evil spirits) which sometimes may force such an emotion upon a person (I Sam. 16:14; I Kgs. 22:22).
 
 
Further, development in understanding in the Old Testament should be seen as the expansion of seminal concepts, as well as shifts of emphasis appropriate to the need of the situation, rather than changes in essential understanding of the concept from a more-erroneous to a more-correct view, with reference to the Christian Church's dogma. This is demonstrated in Christ's own exegesis of the Old Testament Scripture to the Sadducees on bodily resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33).
 
So
changes in thinking in Scripture concerning the Spirit of the Lord seem to have occurred from two sources:
 
  1.1 General or Natural Development (see Section 3).  
The
real continuity of Israel's religion in the Old Testament period (with its stress on passing on its historical view of its Faith to the next generation, Deut. 5:6-7), with its unique linear view of history and the progressive development of the nation's sacred Scriptures, would tend to produce a continuous enlargement of understanding in the believing remnant that carried the nation's spiritual heritage through the generations.
 
 
1.2 Special or Reactive Development (see Section 4).
 
The
occurrence of new politico religious circumstances would undoubtedly bring a reaction among the faithful to the new threats that challenged the integrity and special nature of their Faith. Faith's response to these would tend to produce new depth of comprehension and an enrichment for following generations via the sacred writings of the faithful core of the covenant nation.
 
 
Thus the physical, social, historical, political, etc., path of the nation toward the "fulness of time" had a dynamic effect upon the growth of their understanding of the Spirit of Yahweh.
 
2.  THE NATURE OF SPIRIT  
The primary
metaphor for the Spirit of God is Wind. It is a marvelous natural image for the supernatural concept it carried. The wind that could not be seen but rolled rocks from before it and swept so fiercely or majestically with such freedom across the terrible wilderness was the most readily available and suitable metaphor to describe the active power of the Most High (Ps. 55:8). To look for some source for Israel in pagan societies of the time of this use is to miss the point that, not borrowing, but a common source – nature – significantly molded thinking about the supernatural.
 
 
Although Michael Green seems intimidated by Moule's skepticism concerning an association of of the Ruach of Yahweh with creative activity (1985:31), explanations otherwise appear forced. That the New English Bible chooses to translate Genesis 1:2 as "a mighty wind blew" does not agree with the verb ("shake" or "tremble" Jer.23:9; "hovering" Deut.32:11). It makes attractive thinking, in the light of modern evolutionary theory and a desire for some agreement from the Genesis account, but it just does not fit the context. Rather, the unfinished creation ("tohu ve bohu") waits under the on-site energy of God's power for the Word to speak light into the first day. Green stresses the link in the rest of the Old Testament between the Word and the Spirit (1985:23) but draws back from recognizing it here, the greatest demonstration of God's power – power which the Spirit directly enacts.
 
But
the Spirit is more than God's wind of power. The Spirit is also the Breath of His presence. The development from "wind" to "breath" is also a very natural semantic step. The wind represented the great Breath/Nephesh of God (II Sam. 22:16), and the breath of the flesh is its ruach-wind (Gen. 6:17). The Ruach and Nephesh of Yahweh (Job 34:14) are often used as synonyms but each has its own special emphasis. His "breath" conveys life as well as power, as He wills. As breath is a sign of life among humans so the Spirit is the life of the Almighty present and imparted (Gen. 2:7). One must be careful however not to read too much into the use of a metaphor (especially in a poetic context), for the "blast" from God's "nostrils" is sometimes just the blowing of a mighty wind (Ex. 15:8-10).
 
 
These concepts of the power and life of God that the term Ruach came to convey naturally also implied His presence with His people, the powerful life-giving presence of their God (Gaybba 1987:17). If the Spirit was the presence of God then His holiness demanded a moral effect in the persons upon whom His (holy) Spirit came. Brian Gaybba therefore observes that "moral and religious renewal was attributed to the Spirit's presence" (1987:18). Against this background then the idea of the Spirit as a "distinct" reality (Gaybba 1987:34) developed (Micah 3:8) and led to the late Old Testament tendency to "personalize the Spirit" (Gaybba 1987:34).
 
3.
THE SPIRIT's ACTIVITIES AMONG MEN AND WOMEN
 
God's Spirit
is portrayed as given or placed 'upon' or 'in' various persons in the sense of equipping them for special functions (artistic skill in Bezaleel, physical strength in Samson), yet with this enabling there is always associated the sanctifying effect of the Spirit as the presence of God. For instance Samson is separated by the life-long vow of the Nazirite. Two functions begin to stand out however that became increasingly significant in the life of Israel – the prophet and the leader or king (although in Moses and Samuel these functions largely coincide).
 
 
The later function of prophet seems to have arisen from the Spirit-related phenomenon of prophesying rather than Law-related teaching. When Moses delegates his leadership to elders, God confirms their appointment by putting the Spirit that was on Moses upon them, and they prophesied together, all seventy, but not again (Num.10:10). In this incident, in spite of what Michael Green says (1985:24), there is no sense whatsoever of communicating a special message to hearers. Hearers seem not to be relevant. This phenomenon, in a more ordered form, is referred to in the levitical worship of God before the Temple was built (I Chron.25:1-8) where Spirit-inspired praise toward God is understood as prophesying.
 
Those
recognized by this speech-enabling experience of the Spirit of God were the natural source for prophets to the nation (I Sam. 19:20). They were persons from whom one could hope to hear the truth revealed and the mind of God communicated. The early term for prophet, seer, indicates that the phenomenon was by vision or dream (as was common to many early societies) as well as inspired utterance. The general use of the term "ecstatic" is not appropriate here for it presupposes an acquaintance with the psychology of the prophetic-consciousness which is certainly not known.
 
 
As the function of prophets in early Israel appears to have been spontaneous and informal so its national leadership also. As the need arose and in answer to the prayers of the people, the Spirit of Yahweh "clothed Himself with Gideon" (Jud.6:34) or "broke in upon Samson" (Jud.14:6,19), thus providing military deliverance and leadership to the people on an ad hoc basis. Disillusionment with Samuel's administrative system and religious decline are given as background to the people's demand for a formally recognized king. This change led to new developments in the nation's experience of the inspired prophet.
 
 
Formal central leadership in Israel inaugurated with the kingship of Saul led, from David's time onward, to a royal seer or prophet, and later, following the fashion of foreign kings, to many professional court-prophets. Thus the association of the Spirit of God with a specific office, which began ritually in the inaugural-anointing of the priests and the cultic furniture, and practically shown by the prophesying of the elders appointed by Moses, was completed, and continued even in the New Testament's view of the corrupted priestly office of Caiaphas (John 11:49-52).
 
4. 
CAUSES OF CONCEPTUAL SHIFTS
 
The
professionalizing of prophethood under Israel's monarchy led almost unavoidably to the development of false prophesying as the monarchy began to corrupt itself and apostatise. The authenticity was now simply the apparently supernatural element, for they claimed to speak from beyond the natural, from the Lord. Reaction to the abuse of the prophetic function produced a significant shift in the concept of the Spirit's activity and nature among the faithful remnant among whom the Old Testament was written. The moral element became more importantly the mark of a true prophet, and this emphasis can be seen in the records of the words of the eighth century prophets.
 
True
prophets were those who addressed the moral apostasy of the nation. They unavoidably contradicted the court prophets and their sponsors, and thus Amos' declaration – "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; I am a herdsman, and the Lord took me from following the flock" (7:14-16). This should not be read as a disclaimer of a certain style (ecstatic) of prophesying, as Green and Gaybba unfortunately allege, but as a denial of any professionalism, in background training or in recognized position. He has been specially commissioned by God to directly address the nation's need. He is no career-prophet! The new emphasis or tone in the voices of God's prophets was a response to the changed quality in the prophetic status in Israel.
 
 
Likewise, the corrupted monarchy called forth not only rebuke from true prophets but also stimulating promises of a spiritually restored kingship – a new 'David' to lead Israel under the Spirit's anointing again – the Anointed/Messiah king. A renewed covenant, not of the hypocritically enacted letter of the Law, but of the heart.
 
 
Thus, the special developments in Israel's understanding of the Spirit of Yahweh were greatly contributed to by the corrupting forces inside the national cult and the vigorous reaction of the faithful remnant among whom the true prophets were spokesmen of the divine mind. From the beginning of the Law a prophet's integrity lay in his or her conformity to its teaching (Deut. 13:1-5) and, as the canon of holy Scripture grew in volume, the significance of this harmony of the new prophecy with the old accepted Word became all the more important.
 
There
is absolutely no parallel among the prophets for our present day expository preaching, and we should not try to see them as sermonizers in any modern sense whatsoever. They were spokesmen and spokeswomen of the Spirit of God, speaking from beyond the natural, whose authenticity could be tested by their conformity to the Word written, consistency with that which the Spirit had spoken previously, but not limited to its previous declarations.
 
 
Royal betrayal of the nation's covenant with God and the heart-breaking course that the nation was plunged into, in the midst of prophetic corrections and warnings, also triggered the increased growth of the Messianic hope. Salvation was in the future. The Spirit of Yahweh would anoint the great Servant of Yahweh with wisdom to enact justice. The Spirit would be poured out upon Israel in this renewal, a renewal with a new covenant written in the heart rather than on tablets of stone as the Ten Commandments.
Jeremiah 31:34-35.
5. 
CONCLUSION
 
This
development in understanding of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament Scriptures is undoubtedly the product of Israel's painful but God-directed history. Israel's sacred canon closes with anticipation unfulfilled. From an understanding of the Spirit simply as God's active power, the awareness of the believing community has grown to apprehend the energizing life, awesome presence, sanctifying nature and hints of personhood of the great Spirit of the Lord Himself.
 
So
this anticipation has its ultimate expectation then in the person and reign of the Spirit-anointed and Spirit-directed king, Israel's Messiah.
As Isaiah prophesied –
 
  "So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun;
for He will come like a rushing stream, which the Wind
[רוּח/rûach/Spirit] of the LORD drives.
'And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression', declares the LORD."
Isaiah 59:19-20.
Yet,
without the New Testament's rich complement of its fulfillment in Jesus the Christ, this forward look of the significance of the Spirit's actions through the prophets would be no more than a process of idealization among a Qumran-type retreating remnant that waited for the never-never of tomorrow.
 
 
Bibliography
 
  Gaybba, Brian    1987  The Spirit of Love, London: Geoffrey Chapman.
Green, Michael   1985  I Believe in the Holy Spirit, London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Payne, J. Barton  1962  The Theology of the Older Testament, Grand Rapids, USA: Zondervan Publishing House.
Robinson, H.Wheeler 1962  The Christian Experience of the Holy Spirit, Glasgow, UK: Fontana Books, Collins.
 



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