The Holy Spirit (Part 16)

Genesis 1

First on our “tour” of the dimly lit chamber of the Old Testament Scriptures, we view the Spirit of God as Almighty Creator. The first glimpse we have of the Spirit in the Bible is in its second verse. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2 CSB).

If you were reading the Hebrew Bible for the first time, you might wonder what the “Spirit of God” meant. The word translated “Spirit” is ruach, which means at its basic level “the expulsion of wind or breath, the idea of air in motion” (Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, p. 16). The first-time reader, or any perhaps reader unfamiliar with the clearer teaching of the New Testament Scriptures, might think this was merely a poetic way of describing God’s creating work.

The idea of ruach is not so much immateriality as energy or power. See, for example, 1 Kings 10:4-5; Micah 3:8. By his ruach, the Lord, Yahweh, gave power to the judges (Judges 3:10; 14:6), called his prophets to their work (Ezekiel 3:12,14), created the stars (Psalm 33:6) and governs the world (Isaiah 40:7; 59:19). All these verses proclaim an extremely powerful Person. So then, we can learn how irresistible is the ruach of Yahweh. Can you remember the old commercial about EF Hutton? “When EF Hutton speaks, people listen?” Not exactly! But when the Holy Spirit of God speaks and works with his almighty power, people do listen and respond to his gentle whisper.

As you read the text more carefully, you notice something: The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The word for hover is used only two other times. In Jeremiah 23:9 it is used poetically of bones, but significantly, it is used in Deuteronomy 32:11 of God’s caring action over his people Israel. The picture in Genesis 1:2 is of the ruach of God working over the formless creation to form it to be a place where people, who could seek the Lord, would live (Isaiah 45:18).

In addition, we can learn more about the ruach of God from Genesis One. Look at 1:26 carefully. God is speaking on the sixth day of creation, and he says, “Let us make man in our image….” Within the context of this passage, the only possible reference point of creative power is the ruach of God, the Spirit of God, mentioned in verse two. Thus in the first chapter of the Bible, we have witness to the Spirit of God being addressed in a personal way as a divine Person. This alone does not prove the Trinity, but it is a signpost pointing to it. This agrees with other Old Testament references about the Spirit’s work in creation (Job 26:11-14; 33:4) and in his ongoing renewal of creation (Psalm 104:30).

On this first step on our “tour”, we learn that the Spirit of God has divine power to bring God’s plan of creation into full realization. As the Son of God made the world (John 1:3; etc.), the Spirit of the Lord acted with him, bringing all to the Father’s perfect design. We are, therefore, considering someone who is almighty and wise, and we do well to bow before him and worship. He knows the mind of the Lord and has all-sufficient power to perform his will perfectly. He is more than able to help us.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Three)

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth (Psalm 19:4c-6 NIV).

In this stanza, David teaches from a more particular example about the heavens. He says, “Consider how the sun is God’s servant to proclaim his glory!” With the poetic language of appearance (how things look to us in a figurative sense—this is not a science lesson), he compares the heavens to a tent that God has pitched for the sun. What a picture! The vast heavens are like a little tent for the little sun (which is really very large) to use. If you want to see a dynamic presentation of this, on YouTube watch “How Great Is Our God?” by Louie Giglio (  If this is so, then how great must be the God who pitched the tent for the sun!

The sun is compared to two people: a bridegroom and a champion runner. Everyday day the sun appears with the virile strength of a newly-married man. He is strong and happy. How much more so the Lord of creation! I used to run cross-country in high school. Yes, I find that surprising also. The most I would run a day was five miles and rather slowly. But I liked to watch truly skilled runners seemingly glide through the course. A high school race is far short of a twenty-six-mile marathon. The sun is also like a marathon runner. Look how effortlessly he runs his racecourse everyday. He enjoys the run, though his circuit is from one end of the heavens to the other. How much more vigorous and joyful is the Creator! And think, this bridegroom/runner has been doing this for thousands and thousands of years without rest for one moment. What then is God who made the sun?

David concludes this description of the sun with a telling phrase: “nothing is hidden from its heat.” Yes, all people everywhere understand the might of the sun. Ninety-three million miles away, and it still sufficiently warms our planet to sustain life! If this is so, then how much more powerful is the One who is Lord of all, who could make such a powerful servant? The calm consideration of this ought to drive all people everywhere to their knees before their Creator.

The sun may be like these things to us, but it is in fact just a very small part of the infinite God’s handiwork. What is so incredibly large to us is extremely small to him. It is his servant to proclaim the extent (“one end of the heavens … to the other”) and penetration (“nothing is hidden”) of his ruling power. Now if you cannot escape from the sun, how dare try to you hide yourself from the Holy One?

The sun with royal splendor goes forth to chant thy praise,
and moon beams soft and tender their gentler anthems raise;
o’er every tribe and nation the music strange is poured,
the song of all creation, to thee, creation’s Lord.
(Trinity Hymnal, #113)


Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part Two)

img_4412Psalm 146:1-10

In this psalm, we read of praise to the true and the living God. The Lord’s praise ought always to be on our lips, but sometimes we might feel lethargic or even depressed. The psalmist knew this and spoke to his own soul to stir himself to praise. Next, the spiritually invigorated psalmist gave a warning, a warning against an empty hope. Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save. When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground; on that day his plans die (146:3-4 HCSB).

He warned against making a fatally wrong investment (146:3). A person’s faculty of trust or confidence is like the money of the soul. Be sure you make a wise and sound investment. People are prone to trust in human power, because we rely on our physical senses. Yet the Bible gives such confidence a bad rating (Jeremiah 17:5-6), and points us to a better place (Psalm 118:8-9). He explained the reason that human power is such a bad risk. It cannot save. Yes, even though the godless person sneers, every humans great need is to be saved or rescued.

The psalmist elucidated the reason for this warning (146:4). Humans are a bad risk, for we are victims of mortality. “His breath goes from his body, and his body goes to the grave. His spirit goes one way, and his body another. High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.” [Spurgeon] Humans are a bad risk, because our plans do not outlast us. For long years a philosopher is hailed as the greatest thinker of the age. But then he dies. After he is dead, a new intellect appears who ridicules all the ideas of the former great one, who can no longer defend his views. Soon the dead philosopher is only remembered to be dismissed as incorrect. Therefore, who would put his money in a bank that was sure to fail? Who would invest in a company that soon was to go bankrupt? Yet many do this everyday. What a valuable asset we have: life given and sustained by God! Yet how easily we throw it away on the world that passes away. O my friends, especially my young friends, do not act so foolishly!

Eager to ensure the happiness of his readers and the honor of his God, the psalmist points us in the right direction. He gave reasons for the blessedness of the believers (146:5-10) Verse five is his thesis, the point he wants to convey and the truth for which he praises God. How happy is the man who has the living God as his help and hope! This is the last of the 25 or 26 times that this “blessed” formula occurs in the Psalms.

People whose help and hope is the Lord are blessed because…

  • The Lord is the Creator (146:6). The God who could create all things out of nothing is surely able to save and to uphold those who put their confidence in him. This is a sound investment, one with unlimited resources. The God who designed the universe surely understands how it operates. Therefore, we do not need to fear the as-yet-unseen. Investment counselors my make “educated” guesses about the economy of 2017, but no one really knows what will happen.
  • The Lord is the Controller (146:7-9). To continue our analogy, here is a company with a perfect performance record. The Christian has good and substantial reasons for trusting the Lord. First is God’s benevolence (146:7a-b). The Lord does what is good for his creatures (cf. Psalm 145:15-16). “For all grow hungry, man and beast, and it is God who satisfies their hunger, not the independent operations of the law of nature.” [Leupold] God is also able to reverse circumstances (146:7c-8b). God is able to help those in the greatest, most desperate need. The Lord “consoles the bereaved, cheers the defeated, solaces the despondent, comforts the despairing. Let those who are bowed to the ground appeal to him, and he will speedily up raise them.” [Spurgeon] These abilities are clearly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 7:22; cf. Isaiah 35:5; 61:1). And God’s rule is righteous (146:8c-9). God loves those who do right. This should inspire confidence in God’s people as we live in a world where so many do wrong. He cares for those in poverty, and he opposes the wicked (Proverbs 19:21).
  • The Lord is eternal (146:10; cf. Exodus 15:18; Revelation 11:15). Here is a business that will never close or go bankrupt. Your spiritual money is safe here. In spite of all the bitter malice of the powers of evil, God’s kingdom endures forever. “There will always be a Zion; Zion will always have Jehovah for her King; for her he will always prove himself to be reigning in great power.” [Spurgeon] “They who have such an everlasting kingdom awaiting them in the end can afford to bear trials patiently, not yielding to despair on the way.” [Fausett]

All who have the Lord God as their help and hope listen! We have a great joy, a wonderful privilege, and a delightful responsibility. Let us join together to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts. Our God is worthy of all our praise! To you without hope, there is good news in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have his salvation today. He offers himself to you today. Do not refuse him. How happy you would be if Christ saved you today. This then would be your best Thanksgiving weekend ever! You will be surprised by the joy he gives, an inexpressible and glorious joy. Trust the Lord Jesus today!

Grace and peace, David

For the Glory of God

DSCN0790Isaiah 42:5, 8-9

“We need to see first and foremost that God is God—that he is perfect and complete in himself, that he is overflowingly happy in the eternal fellowship of the Trinity, and that he does not need us to complete his fullness and is not deficient without us. Rather, we are deficient without him; the all-sufficient glory of God, freely given in fellowship through his sacrificed Son, is the stream of living water that we have thirsted for all our lives” (Piper, The Pleasures of God, pp. 18-19, his emphasis). Obviously, what Dr. Piper writes—and more importantly, what the Bible teaches, is completely at odds with the so-called wisdom of mankind and all its ideas, attitudes, words, and actions. Yet only in the glorious God can defeated, debauched, and dying people find real hope. The truth revealed in these verses serves to exalt God’s Servant as Matchless Redeemer, and so this brings more glory to God. This is the best thing that can happen to people, because when we know the glory of God in Christ, then we can enjoy eternal life and all the overflow of his glory to us.

In our previous articles on this passage, we saw that verses 5-9 of Isaiah 42 are a unit, put together something like a sandwich. And we have already considered the innards of the sandwich, the great Servant of the Lord and what he does. But the outside, the “bread” of the sandwich is just as important and provides us with a clear view of the glory or value or shining brilliance of the Lord God.

God identifies himself as the Sovereign Creator (Isaiah 42:5). We hear three couplets in which God describes his creative acts. First, the Lord God talks about his creation of the heavens. In Biblical thought, God’s creation of the vast, spectacular heavens reveals his majesty in a special way (cf. Psalm 19:1-6). Anyone in their right mind who looks at the sun, moon, and stars, and ponders their immensity and the great display of light connected with them begins to wonder. A sense of awe strikes them. And when we think from a Biblical perspective that the Almighty God made them all, we are humbled and stirred to worship. Also when we think of heaven, we think of the place that speaks of God’s throne (Matthew 5:34), of his absolute rule over everything (Daniel 4:25-26). God’s throne was made by God alone. His sovereignty flows from his most excellent being.

Second, God talks about his creation of the earth. He made the earth; in poetic language, he spread it out, like he was unrolling a map. Picture it, as God spread it out. “Hmm, let’s put a large inland sea in the midst of three continents, and while we’re at it, let’s have two large continents cut off from the others by two mighty oceans. Now, where should we draw the rivers? And mountains, hills, and valleys can also show our glory!” God also made what comes out of the earth, like vegetation and animals. To use our picture again: “And we need to make fertile places from which people can get food and build their civilizations. And let’s give them animals and their environment to rule over wisely; then they can reflect our glory in the way they live. When they are wise, caring rulers of creation, they will show our surpassing glory.”

The Sovereign God talks about his creation of people. God created people, too. He made mankind, men and women, to bear his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). This is what gives every person value and significance. This also means that we must respect everyone (James 3:9-10). This is why every word we speak must be spoken in order to build others up (Ephesians 4:29).

Someone might object, “But there is so much that is wrong with that person’s attitudes, words, and actions!” I answer, “Perhaps that is true, but we’re talking about how you must please the Lord. You please him by building others up by your words. And if you can’t think about how you can do that while you disagree with them, then clearly you ought not to get in conversations with them until you learn how to talk godly and wisely.” God gives life and breath to all people. Therefore, all are dependent on him! And it should generate a great deal of holy reverence when we realize that the God to whom we must all give account has such total control over our lives.

All this is not isolated truth; we should admire it, learn it and submit to it. Here, God tells us this in order that we might exalt God’s Servant, who is our covenant and liberator. The Sovereign Creator’s power was displayed in his Son. We are wise to submit to him by living for his glory.

Grace and peace, David