It is essential for you to be able to discern your gifts in order to better understand who you are made to be and what you are to do in your work.
3. Empowering Christians for work in the church and in the world
This series will address the gifts of the Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. The Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament can be divided into three basic areas:
1. Cosmic – referring to the Spirit’s role in creation.
2. Individual – referring to the Spirit’s role in regeneration and sanctification of individuals.
3. Theocratic – referring to the Spirit’s role in empowering Israel.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these three in turn, and what they mean for our vocations today.
Cosmic: the Spirit’s Work In Creation
There are a number of biblical passages alluding to this topic. The general thrust of these verses is that the Spirit completes or refines the work of creation.
Job 26:13 says, “by his breath the heavens are cleared” (or made beautiful). Job 33:4 adds, “the Spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Another instance is Psalm 104:30: “Thou dost send forth thy Spirit, they [living creatures] are created and Thou dost renew the face of the ground.”
Abraham Kuyper writes in his classic, The Work of the Holy Spirit:
It is important to note the Spirit is involved in creating people…made in the image of God. This means that the created (or natural) gifts humans are given are gifts from or of the Holy Spirit. This helps prevent us from depreciating the gifts we are given in creation and over-exalting the spiritual gifts given in redemption. Both gifts in creation and redemption are from or of the Holy Spirit. The latter is not higher than the former…This means that we should generally not divorce natural (created) and spiritual gifts.
We can look at the gifts we have expressed throughout our lives as an indication of where we are to serve both in the church and in the world.
Individual: the Spirit’s Work In Us
I believe that people in the Old Testament were “born again” and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. There are a number of classic sources on this question. One of the most thorough is The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, by Leon Wood. There is also scriptural evidence for this claim.
Jesus talks about being “born again” or “born from above” three times during a conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-10. In verse ten, Jesus asks Nicodemus,
Are you THE teacher of Israel and you do not understand these things?
Jesus is pointing out that based on Nicodemus’ knowledge of the Old Testament, Nicodemus should have known about the Spirit’s renewal or rebirth of individuals. One Old Testament passage that speaks this language is Ezekiel 36:26, which says,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Note the new heart and new spirit that is promised. The hardened heart is replaced with a soft heart. Renewal is promised to take place.
Being “born again” means beginning the process of being restored to what we were created to be according to God’s plan. That process includes our gifts.
Theocratic: Where the Spirit is, There is Power
In some ancient languages, the words for “spirit,” breath,” and “wind” are identical. The Old Testament uses two Hebrew words for “breath” or “wind.”
1. Ruach, which refers to heavy breathing, or breathing through the nose with violence. Exodus 15:8 uses ruach to refer to a “blast” of the nostrils.
2. Neshamah, which refers to quiet breathing.
Ruach is used of wind in Exodus 10:19 – an exceedingly strong west wind. It is sometimes used to refer to strong emotions, as in Genesis 26:35. Here ruach describes the bitterness of spirit between the Hittite wives of Esau towards Isaac and Rebekah.
Where “Spirit of the Lord” is used in Isaiah 40:7, Ruach Yahweh could mean Spirit of the Lord or wind of the Lord. In both cases the idea is power. When the Spirit is present, there is power. He gives gifts and he can empower those gifts.
Our gifts are from the Spirit, and can be empowered by the Spirit to accomplish the purpose for which they are given.
In the future we’ll further explore how the Spirit manifested itself in the Old Testament. We’ll also dive into implications of the gifts of the Holy Spirit for our lives.
What do you think? Where do you see gifts of the Spirit manifested in the Old Testament? Leave your comments here.