As a new Christian, I’m not sure if I really understood the wording of this scripture at the time. After all, what is ‘might’ and how does it differ to ‘power’? Moreover, why does God instruct us to operate in His Holy Spirit rather than rely on human ability?
In researching the scripture for this post , I came across an answer on the Internet in which ‘might’ was described as ‘strength.’ It was illustrated by the fact that a person can have ‘might but have no power’ because it is dependent on the ability to do things or know certain information or posses a type of personality that draws people to you. Hence, why Zechariah advises that our human ability to manipulate might, power, popularity, charisma, persuasiveness (et al) need to be set aside if order that the Spirit can be given free reign to convict, encourage, enliven and empower in a way that honours God. In other put our egos aside and allow God through His Spirit to speak.’
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 the title suggests, this book is a lament to God. The first chapter of Lamentations details the changes that have occurred in which the city is deserted and the people taken into exile. Moreover, in the depth of their despair and pity it feels like God has abandoned them – so much so that there is a real sense that not only has their future been stolen away but the presence of God also. In our busy lives – find it here.
Although not the same experience as faced by the Israelites, we too – in our busy lives – can also find our world turned upside down. As I write this, the world is under varying degrees of Lockdown in the collective attempt to beat the pandemic (Covid 19). I am sure that many people in recent months will have (at times) felt alienated, isolated, remote, abandoned, without comfort and even exiled from those they love and cherish. While that might be true in the physical, God’s Spirit will not abandon us – and this is something in the midst of a turbulent and troubled world we can hang on to. For the promise of God is that His Holy Spirit will respond and live within all people – bring comfort, hope and peace.
If you’ve never read the book of Isaiah and this verses sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is! This is Isaiah’s pronouncement – aka ‘The Year of the Lord’s Favour’ – but it is also spoken by Jesus several hundred years later (Luke 4v18) as he brings to fulfilment the prophesy delivered by Isaiah.
That said, the first century attendees had little or no idea as to the impact the verse would have on their lives. Possibly, they imagined it as a time of peace and prosperity where they could recover and take stock of all that has happened to themselves and ancestors. Maybe a return to their homes to worship God as they used to do. But Jesus’ proclamation goes so much further. It’s a declaration of God’s power coming to live within each person through His Holy Spirit – the Third Person of the Trinity who was there, hovering over the waters in Genesis 1 and now living with each person who believes. A guide who lives within each person to guide and explain the truth of God and how to live as a spiritual being. To equip and send each person that they too may
…proclaim good news to the poor (and) bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…’(Isaiah 61v1). This is the God who lives within all who believe.
How significant then is God’s promise in the proclamation that ‘ I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.’ For hundreds of years, God’s people had come to think of the Divine as remote and inaccessible – and rightly so! After all, God was Invisible and beyond understanding. Moreover, separate from His Creation – but all would change with the birth of Jesus Christ as God becomes man – that is the Divine made human – made accessible to those he will come into contact with. God walking and teaching the people. Explaining what their leaders were unable to fathom, then tragedy: Jesus is slaughtered in the prime of life. Confused and heartbroken, his followers scatter only for a resurrected Christ to appear to them to reveal that God cannot be killed. Jesus’ instruction to wait for the Counsellor (God’s Holy Spirit) to arrive results in his followers praying fervently for the next 3 weeks – until one day, out of nowhere, supernatural fire falls from the sky into the room where they’re praying and the disciples fall out into the city, telling everyone about God. And of course as they tell the people so others (aka descendants) come to understand, experience and believe that God is living within them. ‘I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.’
In the verses that come before this scripture, a desperate edict is delivered to the people of Israel. More worryingly, it’s not from humans but from God as evidenced that the ‘Spirit’ (note the capital ‘S’ the word starts with which denotes God’s Holy Spirit) who will bring Divine judgement into being. How different is the Holy Spirit understood by those in Old Testament times from how Christians understand Him today as content to live within the believer and not to judge or condemn, other than to show grace at the end of it and reassure each with forgiveness and assurance. However, you understand God, know this – God loves you. Moreover, a simple prayer of invitation is all it takes for God’s Holy Spirit to come and live within each of us.
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:
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.’
Of course, this outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all people comes at great expense as it requires Jesus to return to heaven in order that the Spirit might replace Him on earth. Now, while it is amazing that the Holy Spirit who is part of the Godhead Trinity who was present at the start of Creation hovering over the waters – it is even more remarkable that God uses his life-force to equip the disciples to think, act and be present like Jesus in their thinking, answers and actions.