When I first began this exploration of the different uses of the term ‘spirit’ in the Old Testament, little did I imagine the wealth of understanding that would be picked up along the way. Some are obvious like the reference to God’s Spirit. Others less so where the term refers to an emotional state such as my ‘spirit was crushed.’
Yet the work of the Holy Spirit is the converse of this – yes, in our lives we may experience the gift of tongues, prophesy and all manner of other things but we are a hollow gong if we are not driven by the essence of love. Why? Because God’s love is revealed through us to those who are mentally physically, spiritually and emotionally destitute. Rather like the thousands of people who found themselves drawn many miles away from their homes and families to a desolate place so that they could listen to Jesus speak…but then found themselves without food and with no shelter. The same words that flummoxed the disciples that day who when telling Jesus to send the people away because it was late and they had no food to eat, still ring true for us today. ‘You give them something to eat!’ (Matt 14)
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.’
God’s people had been having a bad day at the office – actually, years, weeks, months, days, hours, minutes…You get what I’m saying. The problem? Despite their best efforts, they were unable to keep the laws and decrees that God had given them. What to do?
Well, for the people it was a case that either God had underestimated their ability and set the bar too high or they were doing something wrong because resist as they might, they just kept yielding to temptation – which in this instance was disobedience and failure to God’s law/instruction.
Now, strangely, the solution God brings to the table is a surprise one because it seems the peoples’ failure relates to a lack of God’s presence within them. In other words, their human strength was never going to be enough to refrain from temptation. What they needed was God living within them and this through an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
Whichever way for read this passage – that is, as a foretelling of events at Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit falls upon and mobilises the believers OR a temporary infilling ofGod’s Spirit into the people of Ezekiel’s time so they can do God’s work, the point is human strength and ingenuity is not always enough to evade temptation.
Oscar Wilde is famously quoted for saying ‘ I can resist everything but temptation.’ For christians, the same is true, except for one caveat:
‘We can resist everything but temptation (which we are all susceptible to) however, when we wholly rely upon God’s Holy Spirit and his gracious provision to strengthen our otherwise weak resolve, we can experience victory over temptation, albeit one challenge at a time. Hence, why Christian believe that Christ lives within each of us, guiding us towards decision making that will lead us even further into actions to achieve Christ’s glory. And on that positive note, be blessed!
‘Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 23 The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.24 The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God.’
In short, it doesn’t matter how the people of Israel fare in regard to their obedience to God because at the end of the day His Glory will prevail. Not only that, but He is mindful of those who are exiled and isolated – a salient encouragement and reminder for us in these times of Covid 19 and lockdown.
The reality is God loves you and me. Yes, we will fail Him because like sheep we will stray from time to time but that does not diminish His Love or concern for us who find ourselves locked up and in exiled. Why? Because the essence of His Being is to save and see us flourish. Be blessed!
Continue reading God’s search for those who live as exiles?
In this verse, there are three things that strike me about the Holy Spirit’s influence over Ezekiel in that:
- It is immediate! No sooner has the Spirit come upon Ezekiel then he is ready, willing and waiting.
- Ezekiel – like all prophets – is a conduit that God can use to speak to the leaders. (note that when receiving a word or revelation, prophets are often burdened until they reveal it to others. Sometimes, verbal; other times as some sort of living metaphor [Hosea 1])
- The spirit discerns the heart and actions. That’s why God (and Ezekiel by extension) is aware of how God’s words to Israel’s leaders is fallingl short when it comes to eliciting their action because he knows they are conflicted to do what God tells them.
Of course, this verse has application for us today as we (if we’re honest) also can be rebellious, holding out for what we would like to see happen rather than seeking God’s will in a situation. Understanding this and applying it in our lives is the beginning of spiritual wisdom. Be blessed!