There is nothing new under the sun... including the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of John is my least favorite gospel. There. I said it.

I probably like Luke the best. Maybe Mark. But John? Meh.

Relax. It's a fine gospel. It's just the one I like the least. Maybe you have your favorite and your least favorite too, though you may never have said so to anyone.

We don't like them all equally. It's human nature. That's why we have four, with all of them written in such different styles. Some will like Matthew, others Mark, others Luke or John.

If it makes you feel better, I will tell you that my two favorite stories about Jesus are in John. But honestly, lots of times I don't know what he's trying to say, or I think he's taking way too long to say it. And then sometimes, I just think, "John! Seriously? Why would you say that?"


There's a great example in John 7:37-39. Jesus is teaching some folks about a time that was coming but was not yet, and John says (according to the NIV), "Up to that time, the Spirit had not been given." In fact, the NIV (and many other translations) soften the original Greek, which says, "For the Spirit was not yet."

Huh? The Spirit wasn't yet? Yikes. What about that whole Trinity thing? I mean, sure, that word doesn't actually show up in the Bible... well, I'll save that for another post. For now, let's focus on the point at hand. What is John trying to say here? That before this, the Holy Spirit didn't have much to do with people?

The Hebrew scriptures frequently use the word ruach in reference to the Spirit of God. It can mean spirit, wind, or even breath. I like that. It's as if the Spirit of God is present and active, but impossible for us to get our hands on. Impossible for us to fully grasp. Invisible, but recognized by its results (check out John 3:8).

The Spirit was wildly active in the Hebrew Scriptures. Active from the beginning, in fact. Genesis 1:2 (the second verse in the Bible) says that when the earth was empty and without shape, the ruach (Spirit, wind, breath) of God was there... hovering about. Before the creation event, the Spirit/wind/breath of God was there.

Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, the Spirit/wind/breath of God is closely tied to the idea of creation and bringing about life:

"As long as I have life within me, the breath (ruach) of God in my nostrils,
my lips will not say anything wicked and my tongue will not utter lies."
(Job 27:3-4)

"The Spirit (ruach) of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life."
(Job 33:4)

"...when you take away their breath (ruach), they die and return to their dust,
when you send forth your Spirit (ruach), they are created..."
(Psalm 104:29-30)

I like that last one. When our breath is taken from us, we die. When he gives his breath, we live. Simply put, we breathe in... because God breathes out.

The Spirit did a whole lot more too. It liked to show up and move people to action, whether they were ready or not, and usually they weren't ready. Take Balaam for instance. You can find his story in Numbers 12-14. In a nutshell, an enemy of Israel paid Balaam (he was a prophet for hire) to issue a prophecy against Israel. Balaam makes the trip to Israel and prepares to earn his keep. He opens his mouth to curse Israel when the Spirit of God falls upon him and out comes a blessing for Israel. This sort of thing often happened to people when they least expected it. It happened repeatedly to Saul, the first king of Israel, usually when he was trying to do something that God didn't want him to do, like attack David, God's anointed (1 Samuel 19). Rather than defeat Saul with David's army, God chose to let his Spirit fall upon Saul and his attackers and send them into a prophetic frenzy. Classic God move. Turn blood-thirsty attackers into prophets.

I say do it again, God. Drop your Spirit on our leaders who are completely out of touch with your will. Send them into a prophetic frenzy. I actually don't know for sure what that is, but I'm convinced it would be a hoot.

So many options for images to post here. So many gifs. I'll refrain.

One more thing. In the Hebrew scriptures the Spirit also liked to indwell people, much like it did in the New Testament. Joseph was recognized by the Pharaoh of Egypt as one in whom was the Spirit of God (Genesis 41:38). Moses had it too, so did the elders of Israel (Numbers 11:17), and so did Moses' successor, Joshua (Numbers 27:18). Not to mention the prophets (Micah 3:8; Ezekiel 2:2, 3:24, 11:24).

There are actually many more references to the activity of the Spirit in the Hebrew scriptures. I've simply noted a few here.

All this to say, the Spirit of God most certainly already was. I like to give John a hard time, but the truth is, John was writing after the fact, and simply saying something like, "At this time the Spirit hadn't yet done the stuff my friends and I, and many of you, have witnessed."

Sometimes we act like the Spirit was hibernating, lying dormant until the New Testament. Frankly, that's just wrong, and a poor interpretation of the texts throughout the Bible that mention the Spirit.

"What has been is what will be, 
and what has been done is what will be done.
There is nothing new under the sun."
(Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Comments

  1. A few things. 1. I love that we can breathe in because He breathes out. I think that stuck with me the most. 2. The Holy spirit is SBD 3. You mentioned in the message that in Psalm 51 David was scared the spirit would leave him so that means the spirit can leave a person? John is a bit like my husband in the "just get to the point already!" way.

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  2. Thanks for reading, Jennifer.

    I think we should remember that the Psalms are songs, and we should allow these song writers some poetic license. It's probably a bit like saying, "Don't leave me, God. I need you here."

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  3. Thanks for posting this WG. Just sent this to my brother. ;-)

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  4. Thanks for taking the time to explain this. Good Stuff!

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