At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

Four Lessons About Gifts of the Spirit From the Old Testament

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Do the gifts of the Holy Spirit matter for our everyday work? In the Old Testament, there are a number of gifts the Holy Spirit gives Israel that are applicable to our life and work today.

Strength and Leadership

The Holy Spirit empowered various people in different ways to establish and protect the kingdom of Israel. It is said about Gideon in Judges 6:34 that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” The words “came upon” literally mean “clothed.” The Spirit put on Gideon as a cloak. Similarly, “the Spirit of the Lord fell on Jephthah,” and he was able to win the battle against the sons of Ammon in Judges 11:29-33.

When the Spirit of the Lord fell on Samson, he became extraordinarily strong. He was strong to begin with, but the Spirit made him stronger. In Judges 14:6, Samson is attacked by a lion. The scripture says, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” and he was easily able to tear the lion apart.

Likewise, the Lord can take our existing strengths and make them stronger. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon these judges, it gave gifts of leadership, courage, and strength. We can receive these gifts, too.


The Lord also took people who were already gifted by his Spirit and caused their gifts to reach their potential. Exodus 31:1-5 says about Bezalel:

And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, in bronze, and in the cutting of stones, for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.

The Spirit takes a man that is already a gifted artist and increases his gift. All of our gifts are affected by the Fall. They can be withered, misdirected, or dormant. The Spirit can take our gifts and cause them to:

  • Be directed to his glory.
  • Unfold and reach their potential.

This is what the Spirit did for Bezalel. The Spirit can do this not only with artistic gifts, but also with gifts in education, business, law, politics, and other areas. The Spirit can unfold the potential of your gifts if you ask.

Prophecy & Gifts of Speech

There are numerous prophets who were inspired by the Spirit to speak God’s word. Amasai is a prophet whose story in I Chronicles is relevant to us in our work.

In the days after Saul died, David was in the wilderness at Ziklag. Various groups of people came to him professing loyalty. Amasai was the chief of a group of thirty men from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah who came to David. He wanted to know whether or not he could trust them.

The Spirit came upon Amasai, and he said to David,

We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse. Peace, peace to you, and peace to him who helps you; indeed your God helped you!

The phrase “The Spirit came upon Amassi” again means that the Spirit “clothed” Amasai. The Spirit came powerfully upon him. He was then able to speak so persuasively that David took the thirty men and made them captains of his “mighty men.” That’s a quick shift from suspicion to confidence!

The Spirit can do the same today, perhaps in a military context, like the story above, or in politics, in business, in education, or other situations. We can ask for the Spirit to give us persuasive speech so that others will have immediate confidence in the truth of what we say.

Civil Administration

Saul was gifted to be able to lead Israel as king. This is what made Saul’s disobedience in I Samuel 13:1-14, and the loss of his kingship, so dramatic. David, Saul’s successor, is also gifted for kingship. I Samuel 16:13-14 records that when Samuel anointed David, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David,” and “now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.”

It seems that David was given the gift of leadership commensurate to being a king, and this gifting was taken away from Saul. Saul had not lost his salvation, but lost the equipping to be king.

The context of this story is the theocracy of Israel. It does, however, give us a precedent to say that God can give gifts of leadership to people in political power, even heads of state. This is not promised today, but it is a gift that is much desired. We can ask the Lord to provide such empowerment.

Next week we’ll explore other implications of the gifts of the Spirit for our work.

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