When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground (NIV).
On our previous stop on our “tour” in the “dimly lit chamber” of the Old Testament Scriptures, we saw the Holy Spirit’s care in creation and his power to bring God’s plan in creation to full realization. When the Spirit completed the work, everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Next, we see the Spirit of God as Perfecting Presence of God.
The Spirit discloses the presence of God. Please do not confuse God’s “presence” with God’s “omnipresence”. The second is the teaching that God is everywhere throughout the universe, and indeed, beyond it. But the presence of the Lord is “God being present with his people… acting in particular situations to bless faithful folk and thus make them know his love and help and draw forth their worship” (Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 48). See Ex 3:12; 33:14-16; Josh 1:5,9; Is 43:2,5.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, we find that the Spirit makes God’s face or presence known. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Ps 139:7-10 NIV; cf. Psalm104:29-30; Ezekiel 39:25-29). When we’re in the presence of a person, we can see their face. If they hide their face from us, they don’t want to be known by us. God’s Spirit reveals God’s face to us. God wants us to know him personally.
In agreement with this, the Spirit of God rested on people to empower them for important tasks.
- Moses and the elders of Israel (Numbers 11:24-30)
- Joseph (Genesis 41:38)
- Daniel (Daniel 4:8-9; 5:11-14)
- Bezalel (Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-35)
- Saul (1 Samuel 11:6-7)
The Old Testament Scriptures prophesied that the Spirit would rest on the Messiah to help him in his work (Isaiah 11:1-5; 61:1-3). When God is at work to fulfill his will for his glory, there you will find the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6). Therefore, we must seek the gracious presence of the Lord in the Person of the Holy Spirit of God.
With this in mind, we can begin to grasp something of the Spirit’s relationship to the people of God in the old covenant. The Spirit was the Guiding Person. By this phrase, we mean the Spirit was the executive in charge of carrying out God’s purpose of grace.
- The Holy Spirit worked among the people of God as a whole (Isaiah 63:7-14).
- The Spirit is linked with Moses in the working of miracles. Compare Exodus 8:19 with Luke 11:20; Matthew 12:28.
- The Spirit guided the people into the blessings of being in covenant with the living God.
- The Spirit carried out the redemption from Egypt, which is typical of our better redemption from sin. Notice that they “grieved his Holy Spirit” (Isaiah 63:10; cf. Ephesians 4:30). You cannot grieve an impersonal force or breath; you can only grieve a person.
The Spirit of the Lord worked with old covenant believers. David sensed the great benefit of the Holy Spirit’s ministry—to have the Spirit is to have the joy of salvation (Psalm 51:10-12). Yet what David had does not measure up to what we now have (John 14:17).
God willing, in the articles ahead we want to explore this greater blessing of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant. But for now, think about the Spirit as the One leading or guiding God’s people into the experience of God’s blessing. What do you know of this mighty Comforter and Guide? You only receive his blessings through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 7:37).
Grace and peace, David