Category Archives: spiritual sight

Holy Spirit in Human History (Othenial)

‘The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.’ Judges 3v10

The context of how and why God’s Spirit comes upon Othenial is better understood through the community’s ‘on-off’ relationship with God. In Judges 3v7-10 we are told:

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord…and served the Baals and the Asherahs…so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them.’

What I find sad in this passage is how long it took the Israelites to return to God. Eight years of slavery to the King of Aram before they reach breaking point and cry out for a deliverer. No sooner has the community cried out, then God sends them a deliverer. But why did it take so long? Moreover, why didn’t they cry out sooner and be restored back to God?

My understanding is that it took them eight years because this was how long the people were prepared to suffer this hard yoke of slavery before acknowledging their mistakes and returning to God. Consider the two types of responses observed in this passage:

  • People serve idols and suffer for eight years before crying out to God for help?
  • Othenial  is called by God and responds immediately to His call to action?

Surely, it’s a no brainer!


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Understanding scripture in context while keeping God good?

‘But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the Lord your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.’ Deuteronomy 2v30

If we see God as anything other than good and loving in this scripture we will encounter a problem. Why? Because it suggests God made Sihon’s spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate so that  his army would fall into the hands of the Israelites.

Now, while I agree that Sihon was both stubborn and obstinate, I take issue with the idea that somehow God intervened and turned his heart this way – mainly because I don’t believe God is a dualist – i.e.) a God who overrules peoples’ freewill and is capable of good and evil.

What actually happened?

Well, my understanding of this scripture is that Sihion’s attempts to thwart the Israelites – and by extension God – led to him becoming frustrated. Too proud to admit defeat and unwilling to acknowledge the one true God, Sihon becomes obstinate and refuses to yield. To those in his court and outside of it who witnessed this change in the king, it may well have seemed like ‘God had made his spirit stubborn’ when really it was an issue of pride that would eventually bring the king and his army down.

So what shall we take from this?

A maxim in life that I have adopted is to try and  ‘keep God good’ when I read scripture. Especially, if the words suggests anything other than God is good. Often, I ask myself if what was reported was done so as a human assessment of how it looked to people at that time rather than the reality of how God was working within that particular situation. As we do this regularly, we keep God good in our speech and our thinking. Be blessed.


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Holy Spirit in Human History (8)

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11v29)

Those of us with knowledge of what happens 1300 years later at Pentecost will read Mose’s response as more of an unintentional propheric utterance to the people challenging him.

In Acts 2 we read of how Jesus’ disciples – bouyed by seeing him alive – obey his instruction to remain together as they pray for the Counsellor to be sent to them. What happens next is staggering as God’s Holy Spirit arrives comes upon them and they spill out into the streets, glorifying God to people in other languages who (convicted by what they hear and see) respond to the message and also become Jesus’ followers. More than that – the disciples discover that if they lay hands on these new believers and invite the Holy Spirit into them, it happens and these new converts are also filled with the Spirit of God.

How true the outcome: I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!

 

 


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Holy Spirit in Human History (7)

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. Numbers 11v25-26.
Aside from God coming down in a cloud, the description of the Spirit resting on Moses which then separates into strands to rest on the elders present (causing them to prophesise) is very similiar to the Christian experience of Pentecost where the tongues of fire reach out to touch each of them (Acts 2v3) .The only exception being the incident with the two elders who were absent from the group yet still ended up being moved by the Spirit to prophesise in the place where they were located.
Of course, the major difference between the two different experiences is with what is happening in the spiritual realm as the Spirit directs His work. The Old Testament experience of God’s Spirit resting on a person was always understood as a temporary measure to equip the person for a particular task or calling. However, in the New Testament, the understanding was that when the Holy Spirit entered the believer, there was nothing temporary about it.  God now lived within the believer and was made permanent as God moves from ‘resting on’ the person to ‘dwelling in’ the person.
 Yes, human rebellion can lead to grief and lessen the work of the Holy Spirit within us for a time but the presence of God – as secured through sacrifice – can and will always lead to ‘Christ dwelling in you – the hope of glory! (1Cor 1v27) Hallelujah!

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Holy Spirit in Human History (4)

‘But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.’ Genesis 45v37

Now, while I don’t want to rock the boat, it seems to me that the use of  ‘spirit’ in these verses from Genesis is neither ‘animistic’ or ‘dynamistic’ in origin but rather everyday language we might use to describe feelings. For example, Bob was rather down in spirit after his rugby team lost in the finals last week. Yes, I’m down but this relates to my emotional state which revives after a good night’s sleep and time to forget a lacklustre performance. Understanding the spiritual dynamics and how they operate within us will help us to know ourselves better in the same way Jacob revived when he realised it was true that Joseph was alive – an emotional transformation!


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Fruit of the Spirit – faithfulness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23)For many Christians, the call to faithfulness is obvious. The trouble is that while God’s Holy Spirit lives within each believer, our ability to make good decisions depends on the way we choose to orientate our freewill – either towards God or away from Him. That’s why Paul writes:

‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’

Faithfulness to God requires that just like real fruit, spiritual fruit is cultivated through the discipline and desire to nurture it to its full potential. A process that means setting aside our own agenda and taking up God’s plan as we allow this to permeate our daily lives. Yes, there will be times when we take a wrong turn and follow a different drum but the call of God is always to faithfulness.


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Fruit of the Spirit – goodness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23)For some reason, the term ‘goodness’ always reminds me of Jesus’ response to the man who addresses him as ‘good teacher.'”Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10v18)

I love this exchange between Jesus and the man. Was Jesus hoping the penny would drop and the man would realise Jesus was God? The man doesn’t ask how people might one day be considered good. Likewise,  Jesus doesn’t explain the process by which God’s Holy Spirit will enter into believers but he does state that no-one can be considered good by any goodness of their own but only as the goodness of God resides within them.


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Fruit of the Spirit – kindness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23) Continue reading Fruit of the Spirit – kindness


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Fruit of the Spirit – forbearance

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’ (Galatians 5v16-23)

So far, the fruits we have encountered have been easily recognisable  – love, peace, joy (etc). However, today’s fruit –  ‘forebearance’  – is problematic in that we seldom use the term nowadays. Ask yourself: when did you last use ‘forebearance’ in a sentence?

Now while words like patienceself-controlrestraint and tolerance give us a rough idea of what forbearance is about, they do not give us it’s exact meaning. For Paul – who studied law under Jewish teacher Gamaliel –  ‘forbearance’ is a term associated with the wronged party refraining from exercising their legal right to have justice. In other words, showing leniency rather than forcing the guilty person to repay in full.

Paul’s instruction to the Galatians to show forbearance is a call to exercise generosity to others. Not setting the law aside but refusing to punish and admonish the person so they too might experience something of the grace and goodness of God and (in turn) do the same to others. This is forbearance: not negating the law but exercising the right to set it aside so others may know God’s grace and goodness – and reveal it to a watching world.


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Grace to all?

“Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2v7-12)As a writer, I love the subtle nuances found in this passage. Luke – who is the author of Acts – frames the dilemma of the visiting Jews who hear their native language coming out of the mouths of Jesus’ disciples. Now, while I don’t want to focus on the semantics of the piece,  there can be no doubt that the visitors curiosity is picqued by the ‘how’ of the situation they find themselves in

“Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? (v7)

Later, as Peter explains what happened to Jesus and how all of humanity are responsible for this rejection, he delivers his coup de gras:

‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ (v37)

Challenged by the fact they also are culpable, the visiting Jews respond in the only way possible:

 ‘Brothers- what shall we do?’ (v38)

 Peter’s answer doesn’t seek justice, restitution or payment.

 ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (v39)

So, in summary: God is in the business of meeting with people. He does this by drawing alongside (through his people) and getting their attention.  A model, the church has found to work and been using ever since.

 

 


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