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.’
How do you read this verse? Personally, I think the word ‘spirit’ is used here for something akin to temperament or mindset. Why will Caleb and his descendants enter the land while others will not?
Well… Caleb is following God ‘whole heartedly’ and because of that, his descendants are to be blessed also. Between the lines, what we read is that while a person may be following God they may at times be not fully committed and find their heart taken up with other things.
Watchman Nee observes similar in ‘Release of the Spirit’ in which he outlines how an infilling of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the inclination and availability of the soul. A receptacle that can be filled by God’s Spirit but also things associated with human desire. In short, the distractions of this world or God’s Kingdom. For Caleb, following God wholeheartedly was never in question and the only option.