Category Archives: Holy Spirit in History

Unable to hear or be convicted by God?

‘There at the entrance of the gate were twenty-five men, and I saw among them Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people. The Lord said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who are plotting evil and giving wicked advice in this city. They say, ‘Haven’t our houses been recently rebuilt? This city is a pot, and we are the meat in it.’ Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, son of man.”Then the Spirit of the Lord came on me, and he told me to say: “This is what the Lord says: That is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind. You have killed many people in this city and filled its streets with the dead. (Ezekiel 11v1b-6)

Continue reading Unable to hear or be convicted by God?


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Empty God or full to overflowing?

‘When the cherubim stood still, they also stood still; and when the cherubim rose, they rose with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in them. ‘(Ezekiel 10v17)
In this verse, we encounter an issue of semantics. We are informed that when the cherubim stood still so did those other things in their proximity. Likewise, as the cherubim rose, so too did these other things with them – all of which is explained as happening because the spirit of the living creatures was in them – but what does this mean?
Years ago – while doing my theological training – I came across the term ‘Kenotic Theory’ in a book by Keith Ward. Hopefully, I remember the definition correctly here but it meant something along the lines of ‘God emptying Himself’ which is useful because it facilitates our human understanding of  why and how humans are enabled to possess freewill. A feat that is only permissible because God creates and facilitates a universe in which humans are able to obey or go against God’s perfect will (should they so choose) because God allows them the opportunity to deny His existence should they so choose.
In a world in which God – in his love –
  • can’t be seen
  • doesn’t retaliate against words made against him
it is easy to imagine that God is either not there or (at the very least) concerned by our antics. However, the act of emptying oneself is not a permanent state of existence but rather a temporary one. In the blink of an eye, God could reveal himself to the nations, creating turmoil for people who now have to face up to the existence of God and how they have or haven’t responded to Him.
Why did the cherubim and the other creatures in God’s presence  respond in tandem as ‘one’ to the movement of the Spirit? Because in the heavenly realm, the necessity for human freewill is superceded as here the divine presence of God is not empty but full to overflowing. The cherubims and other creatures could not help but respond to God’s Presence as this is the zenith of their existence and raison d’être – and so too it one day will be ares also as we thrown our golden crowns before Him.

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When you’re tired, sleep. When you’re weary…

‘Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: “Go, shut yourself inside your house.’ (Ezekiel 3v24)
As always, context is everything. We pick up this verse after God has appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman for the people of Israel, relaying to them God’s warnings. As such, in v24 we see the term ‘Spirit ‘ which refers directly to the God who causes Ezekiel to:
Rise to his feet (then)
Listen
What I love about this verse is the model that it establishes for how each of us can best make ourselves  available and attentive to the leading of God.
Years ago, a christian friend spoke an adage into my life, telling me that ‘when I was tired I should sleep but when I was weary, I should pray.’ That advice has remained with me all my life and I tell you this because while the physical rising to our feet shows a willingness to meet and engage with God (rather than slouch around on a sofa), it is the fact that this action is the prelude to listening to God that is the most interesting part of this verse for me.
Obviously, I can’t speak for anyone other than myself but my experience is that an overly relaxed posture is more conducive to me being drowsy and falling asleep than being receptive to God and what the Divine might be saying to me or instructing me to do.
In summary, all of us can and will fail to live up to being available and receptive to God – thankfully, the Divine is gentle, kind, gracious and understanding . Even so, we each have a responsibility to do our best to make ouselves available to God so that when moved by His Holy Spirit, we will rise and listen to what He has to say.

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How God’s Holy Spirit motivates us to praise and worship

‘Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing.’ (Ezekiel 3v12)
In 1984, shortly after dedicating my life to Christ, I remember having a very distinct dream in which  I was seated in – what I can only describe as – a  large ‘aircraft hanger’ auditorium. Around me were thousands of other christians who were talking excitedly. Suddenly,  down below the elevated position where I and others were seated, someone walked onto the stage. What happens next is a bit of blur but a loud roar went up and as people rose to their feel they just as instantly fell to their knees in praise and worship – all except myself and a few others who blissfully lagged behind those who were on the ball. Falling to my knees, I remember my head being bowed and lips speaking praise as I joined with those around me
In Last week’s post – on Ezekiel 2 – we saw how the weary prophet was lifted and filled by God’s presence to the point where he was enabled to continue despite his fatigue.  In today’s passage, we see how the Spirit not only motivates humans to rise before God but the whole of creation as well for…
Thirty-five years on from my vivid dream – one truth remains standing in that just as believers are afforded a crown only to lay it before God, so too God’s Holy Spirit that causes us to rise will also cause us to find our knees in praise and worship to our Maker.

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Trusting and believing in God?

‘As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.’ Ezekiel 2v 2

In the New Living Translation,  verses 1 and 2 of Ezekiel 2 are phrased in this way:

‘”Stand up, son on man” said the voice. “I want to talk with you,” The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet (as) I listened carefully to his words.’

In these verses, it is clearly God’s voice that calls and commissions Ezekiel. Indeed, no sooner does Ezeliel hear the voice then he is aware of God’s Spirit enlivening him to rise to his feet. Actually, what I love about this particular translation is the intimacy between God and Ezekiel in His words “Stand up, son on man. I want to talk with you.”

Surely this is a verse we should all hold on to in the midst of our fraught lives and busy days?  God knows our weariness: He is aware of our mistakes: those things that haunt us; the ways we have failed him now and will continue to fail him in the future; and our lack of strength to even rise before our Maker. And yet, God is always ready to meet and recommission us to do his bidding in the world. Such is the personal and active God we worship and His gentle way with those who believe and are receptive to God!


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Understanding Ezekiel?

‘Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.’ (Ezekiel 1v20)
It is of great benefit when reading Ezekiel to recognise this book is unlike any other. The verse – taken from Ezekiel’s vision- forces the reader to contemplate a scene so wondrous that it defies description. Or at the very least, our ability as humans to contemplate  the complexity of what is being viewed.
However, for the purposes of this series on understanding the Holy Spirit in History,  it will suffice to say that the ‘spirit’ as it is mentioned here falls into one of two explanations – these being:
  1. a supernatural occurence that facilitates the mechanism seen in Ezekiel’s vision?
  2. an unknown dynamic through which movement occurs that Ezekiel presumes spiritual?

From what is encountered later in  the book of Ezekiel, we realise that Ezekiel’s calling iand ability as a prophet is quite unique. However , for now, it will suffice to say his writing points to God who is  revealing what is to come through Ezekiel, his chosen vessel.

click here to read the context of v20 as it appears within chapter 1.
click here for a really interesting piece on Ezekiel

 


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Pride versus humility?

‘Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.’ (Prov 29v23)
As we continue our journey through the Old Testament – identifying the different ways that the term ‘spirit’ is understood  – we  come across this  contrast between ‘proud’ and ‘lowly’ in which we are told that ‘Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.’
Interestingly, ‘pride’ is often rendered as ‘haughty.’ Although ‘haughty’ is a word that is rather out of fashion these days, we are all aware how a haughty person behaves and acts  – namely, in a way that suggests they are superior…but is this really what ‘haughty means?’
A quick look online renders haughty as ‘arrogantly superior and disdainful.’ For me, it is the word disdain that is key to understanding this verse in context. It is one thing to think more highly of yourself than you ought – quite another to believe others are inferior.
Q) Why does the person who is lowly in spirit gain honour in this proverb?
A) Because there is a grounded reality of who they are and their dependence on God.
In summary, those who are humble in spirit recognise their shortcomings in a way that the proud struggle to see. Something to remember in our day to day dealings,  especially when we feel the temptation to consider ourselves superior to those around us,.

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Permanently filled by God’s Holy Spirit?

‘Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.’ (Proverbs 23 v15)

Continuing our series on how the term ‘spirit’ is understood by God’s people in the Old Testament, we come across this verse which combines two pictorial representations. Firstly how the word of God is ‘like a snow cooled drink on a hot day’ to the one who receives it. Then. secondly, how the message refreshes the spirit ‘of his master’ albeit, temporarily

Now, although the proverb is confusing because of the way it is translated, it shouldn’t affect the message of how scripture – God’s living word – is able to bring us relief when we are tired and troubled. True, we may not be in the midst of work in the heat of Summer activity, but we all have times when a reminder of God’s goodness and providence can lift our hearts.

In this context, there can be no doubt that the term ‘spirit’  is here being used to refer to the human ‘heart’ with all its issues. Unlike our physical ‘human’ thirst which is always in need of replenishment, the in-filling of God’s Holy Spirit does away with this necessity as He comes to reside within the beleiver forever. However, it will be many years on from this psalm  that the Day of Pentecost will arrive and Christ’s believers understand this new phenomenon. One in which God will choose to make known among the Jews and Gentiles ‘the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in (us) the hope of glory ‘ (I Col 1v27) and this through the permanent infilling of God’s Holy Spirit!


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‘Lamp of the Lord or God speaking through another?

‘The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being.’            (Proverbs 20v27)
Interestingly, a footnote to v27  renders this verse in a way that reads:
‘A person’s words are the spirit of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being’
For me, both translations make sense as it is about God’s intervention with wayward human behaviour.  In short, it’s about change and spiritual growth. Change that may occur directly as God convicts the person of selfish behaviour and wrongdoing but also through others who speak at His behest to  that person where they are unreceptive to change.
Whatever approach God takes, it is His to initiate and the motivation is always clear as the Divine is about transformation! God transforms all who are open to His Holy Spirit’s prompting. Why?  So that our inmost being – the communication centre by which we commune with God – will function in ways that keep us attuned spiritually (but also physically, mentally and emotionally) but also make us good news in the world to those around us. Be blessed.

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Why we need to assess ourselves honestly…

‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.’ (Proverbs 16v8)

I wonder if you have ever experienced the rumble strips that run along the edge of motorways? By that I mean the safety device along the verge that are intended to help people when – through tiredness or whatever – they gravitate away from the lane they are travelling in and are at risk of colliding with another vehicle or edge. This sudden ‘jolt’ of car thumping across the roughened surface  (hopefully) being enough to jolt the driver back to his/her senses.

In v8 we read that: ‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.’ (Proverbs 16v8) But what does this mean? Is God merely stating an inevitable consequence of rebellious human nature or is there more to be learnt from this verse?

Well, actually – yes. There is something to be learnt from this verse. Rather like the rumble strips that alert us to pending danger, God’s verse warns us of the inevitable outcomes that occur when we allow ourselves to ‘sleep’ rather than be in control of the situation. Or put another way, when we find ourselves being ‘proud’ and unwilling to admit our mistakes, it is a sign that we are not in a good state of mind and that catastrophe is but a rumble strip away.

So, what to do? Well, in summary, two things we might consider is being more aware of the  journey we’re on as we travel along this spiritual road God has placed us on. With this in mind, the two obvious things that come out of v16 is:

  1. to be alert/aware of the danger around us so as not to veer too far away from God.
  2. on occasions when we do veer away, not to panic but make necessary adjustments to get ourselves back on the right track.

Til next time…


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