In the last post taken from the Book of Haggai, we discovered how the term ‘spirit’ was better rendered in that instance as human enthusiasm. Not so in this verse. The big giveaway is the capital letter which denotes this is the ‘Spirit’ of God. And what an encouragement Haggai brings as he tells the people that while they may have broken their covenant with the Divine, He has not forgotten or done so with them. Not only is God’s covenant ongoing but His Spirit still remains among them. Why? Because a time will come when God’s Holy Spirit will not ‘just’ remain among the people but He will transformationally live within them to guide, encourage and strengthen! Now that is Good News!
‘But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.’ (Micah 3v8).To understand the context for this visceral response from Micah, we have to understand how Jacob and Israel have fallen far short of the standards of God. The chapter begins with
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel.
Should you not embrace justice,
2 you who hate good and love evil;
In fact, we learn in what follows, that the duplicity of Israel’s leaders and rulers is also echoed in the behaviour and compliance of the people they rule over who also refuse to change and are being crushed by this situation. Not only that, prophets who should have been speaking the truth were receiving payment for favourable oracles to those in the administration. What is God’s response? To choose Micah as a vessel. To choose one who is willing, receptive and open to being directed by the Holy Spirit to tell it as it is!. Directed and enabled by the Holy Spirit, Micah calls out the rulers and leaders for their rejection of God in favour of greed and evil, challenging them as to who and what they have become.
Unlike most prophets who were often rejected and killed, it appears Micah had a long ministry spanning several decades. A legacy to a man directed by God’s Spirit and fearless in speaking the truth.
Recently, while writing on the Genesis account of Noah, I observed how (after the Flood) his sons and grandsons spread out to inhabit the land. A biblical account made more interesting by the fact that there is no record of any women being involved in the process which (as most of us know) requires adult females as well as adult males. The reason for this omission? It was a patriarchal society! Their history was recorded from the perspective of men and women were written out of the script unless somehow significant to the account.
Fast forward, several thousand years and God speaks through Joel about the equality of women and men as God sees and understands His Creation. God’s sending of the Holy Spirit that will fall on both female and male was to address the misogynistic misunderstanding that women were insignificant and very much part of God’s plan of salvation. Sadly, in the two thousand years since, many women still struggle for equal rights in the world and that fight goes on. However, the Holy Spirit now inhabits and enlivens men and women who are receptive to His indwelling within them, Hallelujah!
As this series on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament nears its close, it is helpful to remind ourselves about how the term ‘spirit’ is referenced in these earlier books. At the most basic level, the term ‘spirit’ is sometimes used as a word to describe the emotional state of a person such as ‘his spirit was crushed’ or ‘her spirit grew faint.’In other passages the word ‘Spirit'( note the capital ‘S’) relates to the Spirit that comes from God and is of God. And lastly, there is a very unique usage of the word ‘spirit’ which comes from God and rests on a chosen person (not within them) as He directs them towards a specific mission or purpose. Once achieved, this temporary imparting of God’s spirit is lifted from the person. All of which begs the question, why?
Well, when Joel prophesied the words above, he spoke as a person directed by God’s Spirit in Old Testament times. The Holy Spirit was yet to come into the world to ‘fill’ people on mass because Jesus had yet to become incarnate in our world. Indeed, it will be 31 years after this – when Jesus, as a grown man dies and resurrects – that the disciples will discover that God’s Holy Spirit is on its way. Of course, as The Holy Spirit fills them and they speak in tongues and give prophesies, the disciples will find themselves equipped and energised through God’s Spirit that lives IN them. In the process, fulfilling Joel’s prophesy but also the the first of many times that they as ‘sons and daughters will prophesy )as) old men will dream dreams, and young men (and women) will see visions.’
In the last post, the observation made was that the spirit of prostitution involves a movement away from God as people seek out other things and rely on them instead of the Divine. In this post, Hosea observes that the reason some people are unable to (later on) be restored with God is because “Their deeds do not permit them to return.” This could be a love for the carnal activity they’re engaged in which (like a placebo) makes them reluctant to give it up. For others, it may be that they are now too addicted to whatever it was that drew them away from God in the first place that they appear seemingly incapable of breaking free from the attitude, behaviour, mindset, etc. However, nothing is impossible for God and when we are ready to acknowledge and confess the wrong turns we have made in our life – God will meet us and redirect our steps back into life with Him.
So that we’re clear from the start, the ‘spirit’ of prostitution that Hosea references is used as a metaphor. It’s an observation about the people of God’s descent as they set aside their marital vows to Almighty and choose to seek out others to help them meet their needs and desires. In this instance, they cleave to the idols used by the fertility cults around them but also use diviners to tell them what the future holds. In short, the people have turned their back on God and placed their trust in others. It’s easily done and common in society as we trust political leaders for our joy and contentment when they can barely manage it in their own lives .Or money, or advances in medicine or other placebos to alleviate boredom or fear or sense of worthlessness. God’s answer to the prodigal that resides in each of us (from time to time) is always the same: return to me.
‘Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.’ (Malachi 2v15) I love the way that Malachi starts the verse by reminding us of the unity of God found within the Godhead. God who is Creator, Saviour and Life giving Spirit, has no disunity within Him. In the same way the Bible also states that God has no favourites because all are considered equal in His Sight. Hence, the Divine expects the same from his creation in our treatment of one another, particularly those encountered, whatever their marital state.
During the time of Malachi, it was easy for men to divorce – all they had to do was just repeat a statement of wanting a divorce from the person and it was enough for it to be considered done. Moreover, very often women had no rights to defend themselves against the accusations which also carried the risk that they would be left destitute and/or shunned by their own family. God’s response is a warning to all – male or female – to be on guard against the carnal desires that overcome our spiritual integrity and lead us on a road away from God. His answer – seek to keep unity and stability within ourselves by not allowing the body to overwhelm our spirit into making poor choices. By maintaining stability, we will not only be on our guard but we will keep unity with those we might otherwise wrong and be unfaithful to.
Following on from the last post, I’d like to add a second post as to what having the (Holy) Spirit of God living within you actually means. In the book ‘Flour Babies’ (Anne Fines), an unruly class of children are set the task of each looking after a bag of flour as if it were their baby. That is, taking care not to leave it exposed to danger (such as rain or the edge of a desk), avoiding handling it too roughly in case it tore and lost flour, etc.
Now I can’t remember how the book ends but I do know that when I trialed it with my class, they – like the characters in the book – struggled to give care and attention to that which had been put in their charge. Likewise, ourselves in that we do carry the most precious gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. In scripture, we learn that our behaviour and actions can quench and grieve the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Hence, why we need to be open and responsive to God, seeking Him in all things and being prepared to be guided by the Holy Spirit for insight, intelligence and wisdom in the day to day issues we face.
‘There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.’ (Daniel 5v11)If you don’t know the story of Daniel, you can find the events that led up to this verse by clicking here. In short, something weird went down at the Palace with a ghostly finger appearing in the room and writing in a strange language on the wall. King Belshazzar calls the magicians to interpret its meaning but they can’t. Instead, they recommend Daniel because King Nebuchadnezzar found him to have insight and wisdom like that of the gods.
Obviously, Belshazzar and his father King Nebuchadnezzar, believed in multiple gods as did many during this time. In reality, what they each became aware of was something powerful and insightful operating within Daniel, giving him wisdom to the problem and its outcome for them as leaders. What struck me while reading this passage is that the same Holy Spirit that was wrongly identified as multiple gods- presumably because Daniel had all the answers – lives in us today! The Holy Spirit – part of the Godhead who comes to live within believers, to direct, challenge, encourage and revitalise, also lives in you and me to provide wisdom and insight. Only difference between Daniel and us today is whereas the spirit rested on him, the Holy Spirit lives in us if we have invited Him into our lives. That’s better than good news – it’s fantastic!