Many years ago, I read Watchman’s Nee’s book ‘Release of the Spirit’ then later on his epic ‘The Spiritual Man.’ Both of which have helped to think of the ‘soul’ as the receptacle in which God’s Spirit operates. Now, while this verse seems strange in the sense that it suggests our spirit can be provoked to anger, there are three things to consider here:
- During the time of Ecclesiastes- long before the day of Pentecost – the Holy Spirit did not live within the person but came upon them at God’s direction to facilitate ‘one off’ acts to achieve God’s will.
- Because of this, it’s quite possible the term ‘spirit’ is used here to reference a sense of the person’s emotional response as to what is happening.
- The understanding of our own human spirit is different to that of God’s Spirit. The human spirit being carnal in nature as easily influenced by our human (carnal) nature.
However you understand the term ‘spirit’, one thing is sure – we as humans can easily be provoked to anger where rash actions land us in trouble. That is why we can say something that is cruel in the heat of the moment or hold on to a grudge even though slighted by someone many years earlier. In such times, the advice offered in the wisdom Book of Ecclesiastes is to not be quickly provoked because ‘anger resides in the lap of fools.’
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13v44
A good number of years ago, I decided to start an Arts Cafe at the church. As we neared the opening night, the minister asked me how much I was charging for tickets. I told him a minimal amount and he encouraged me to double it because his experience was that when you charge little (or put things on for free) people do not attend. Why? Because without an adequate price tag on it, I had inadvertently suggested to people it was not worth them investing their time. (And I discovered over the years that he was right!)
The verse above – taken from the parable of The Kingdom of God and the Pearl – emphasises the enthusiasm that should accompany such a remarkable find. The realisation that God’s Holy Spirit (like a pearl) is now living in every single believer to guide, strengthen, teach, and equip – should have every believer jumping and shouting for joy – and it does…but all too soon, the fact that His Gift is free can cause many of us to become complacent and idle.
Central to spiritual demise is the incorrect thinking that developing and using our spiritual gifts is an optional task. True, for those people who have no understanding of spiritual things, why would they believe in God or worry about developing their spiritual gifts? However, for those of us who do believe and are aware of spiritual outcomes in this world, the question must be: why wouldn’t we develop our spiritual gifts? After all, to engage with our spiritual gifts is to engage with God – and to reverance the special pearl that now lives within us – that being the kingdom of God!
Want to know how to do this? Then take the free (but incredibly valuable!) spiritual gift test at primary gift.
‘Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?’ (Psalm88v10)
For me, this scripture speaks prophetically into the ultimate purposes of God – namely, that when our human flesh is unable to support us any more and death comes upon us, that will be the time that the sessence of our being – our spirit – will rise up to be with God.
What’s more, the spirit rises not do this to mourn the loss of human life but to praise God to whom the believer’s continued existence becomes manifest in the heavenlt realms.
Truth is, God does not show wonders to the dead but to those who are spiritually alive!
As mentioned at the start of these posts on the work of the Holy Spirit, the term ‘spirit’ is interchangeable in that it can mean one of many things in the Old Testament. So far we have encountered it as relating to human disposition – that is,
- the psyche by which a person’s sense of wellbeing is described by him or her as being happy, morose, jubilant etc.
- the spirit is referred to in a communal way in which one person’s affinity with another makes them kindred just as with Jonathan was one in spirit with David. (That said, CS Lewis would probably more accurately define this as Philia – love of friends as in detailed in his book The Four Loves).
- and lastly, the move of the Spirit that enables a person to do God’s work. As when the Holy Spirit falls upon a person and they prophesise or are renewed with super human strength or knowledge or wisdom. Though the point to note here is that in the Old Testament this is always a temporary infilling as the Spirit rests upon the person for the duration of time needed to bring about the outcome. (Though this changes after Jesus’ death and resurrection once the Counsellor is sent and the Holy Spirit finds a permanent recepticle in everyone who believes in Christ – the measure and capacity of this being determined by the person’s willingness to be obedient to God).
So- with these three definitions explained, a task for you. Which one of the three definitions best describes the opening verses in which ‘King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine?’
‘You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.’ (Nehemiah 9v20)
In chapter 9
, Nehemiah makes the case that God’s grace is abundant. Although in the past, the people had abandoned God – resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and them being taken into captivity – God is forgiving and will restore. Hence, Nehemiah’s attempts to organise the remanant of the people and rebuild the defences around Jerusalem.
In this section of Nehemiah’s much large speech, he reminds the people of God’s providence and care for them throughout history and exhorts them to remember that the good Spirit who has instructed them in the past and (by inference) will do so again. All that the people need to is trust God to do what He has promised.
As it is, the people, after a lot of grumbling, do take God at his word and begin to move on from despairing about the situation to being more focused and proactive in bringing about a solution. In this instance, the physical act of repairing the walls, hanging the doors and defending the breaches in the wall area until (at last) everything was restored and they could all return to their families.
Given that the Holy Spirit instructed people then and that God does not change with the passing of time, why not pray that God will speak clearly to you this day and instruct you as to what happens next, where you go and what you will repair and restore for God.
To understand this event we need to get to grips with the backstory as prior to David’s anointing, Samuel takes Saul aside for disobeying God in that he had not fulfilled his duty in respect to Agag – the king of the Amelekites – and ignored the destruction of their livestock. Mortified at learning he had been rejected by God, Saul tries to make amends by:
‘So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.’
Back to David, God’s replacement. Although a child, his pedigree is clear. David…
- blaming the failure on his men saying he was afraid of them (Sam 15v31)
- begging Samuel to return back with him so he won’t lose face. (Sam 15v26-30)
- failing to do his duty so Samuel is forced into doing it instead for him (Sam 15v33)
- takes after God’s heart
- is fearless in his actions that are motivated by his loyalty to God
- strives to do the right thing, defending the weak and poor
A loyalty and respect for God and those over him that will lead David into the service of King Saul, putting him in jeopardy as he attempts to do be obedient and do right by God.There’s no comparison between these two kings.
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!
Today, we begin a new series on the works of the Holy Spirit in human history and how the Divine has operated in our world over the centuries.
The first way that God operates relates to the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit came upon an individual to temporarily equip and compel them to fulfil a God-given task (or tasks).
The second way God operates – most commonly seen in the New Testament – is where the Holy Spirit comes upon the person to permanently fill them with His Presence like a fluid” remaining within them throughout their lives unless curtailed by decisions that thwart His activity within them.
So, to be clear…
…when David implores God: ‘Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me,’ his understanding is that the Holy Spirit is resting upon him and not a permanent indwelling. After all, David fears God’s Spirit will be taken away.
Converesely, in Luke 14v26 where it is recorded that ‘the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and…remind you of everything I have said,’ this is understood as a permanent infilling because the Spirit is thereafter continually active in the person in as much as He is allowed.
Got it? Then we’re ready to explore the Old Testament and the works of God’s Holy Spirit…