Hi TTP family!! It’s a pleasure to come your way again. It is our prayer and hope that your year has been off to a great start. We hope that our content this year will spur you on to a deeper and more fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus this year.
In 2023 we are continuing right where we left off. In our last blog post we looked at the person of the Holy Spirit, explained and established His deity and how He fits in the trinitarian Godhead. In today’s post, we are going to examine some of the metaphors the ancient writers of scripture use to describe the Holy Spirit and what these metaphors teach us about His role in our lives. Join us on this journey as we explore;
THE HOLY SPIRIT; BREATH, WIND AND FIRE.
One of the inherent difficulties in engaging in any discourse about God is employing a finite tool (i.e., language) to describe an infinite God. Even with our best intentions and efforts we will still come short, but that should not stop us from trying. For the authors of scripture, one of the tools they employed was the use of metaphors. When we use a metaphor, we apply a word or phrase to an object or action which is not literally applicable. For instance, when some human beings are referred to as “pigs”, we are not referring to the absurd notion that they may be crawling on all four, but to the fact that they are dirty. In the same vein, one can speak about God by using words which name or describe things in our universe, without being committed to absurd consequences concerning the similarity between God and those things.
In the Old Testament, the first metaphor we come across in relation to the Holy Spirit is “BREATH”. Time and time again, He is referred to as the breath of God. Interestingly in the Hebrew language there are no separate words for spirit, breath and wind. The Hebrew word used to denote these three concepts is the word Ruach. The difference in meaning is determined by the context in which the word appears. When used of the Holy spirit, it conveys the idea that like breath or wind, the Spirit is real and powerful yet without physical form. When the biblical authors refer to the Holy Spirit as the breath of God, they are pointing to the fact that He is the source of life. In Genesis 2:7 we read:
“7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
God is a spirit. He doesn’t breathe in oxygen, nor does he exhale carbon dioxide. When the Bible says God breathed into man, what it means is that He animated man by His Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that gives us life. In Job 33: 4 we read:
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
In the creation account in Genesis, man and the rest of the animals were made on the sixth day. Both were made from the dust of the ground. The differentiating factor is the Spirit of God. Without the spirit of God, we are no different from the beasts of the field.
This idea of the Holy Spirit as Life Giver is not just seen in the creation of man, but in the recreation of believers in the new birth. When Jesus was expounding on the mystery of the new birth to Nicodemus He says:
“5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Jn 3:5–6.
Just as the Spirit of God animated the lifeless body Adam and brought him to life, the Holy Spirit animates our dead spirits and brings us into a new life in Christ.
The next element used to describe the Holy Spirit is “WIND”. The idea of the Holy Spirit as wind closely resembles the Holy Spirit as breath because in the Hebrew, they are the same word (Ruach). However, as wind the main idea being communicated is that the Holy Spirit is the executing power of the Godhead. When the Father wills a thing, the Son who is the Word declares it and the Spirit executes it. In Psalm 33:6 we read:
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath (Ruach) of his mouth all their host.”
In this verse there is a merger of both ideas. That the Holy Spirit is the executor of God’s will to create as well as the life-giving force. In the book of Job, when Job is reflecting on God’s magnificent power in creation he says:
“12 By His power He stilled the sea; by His understanding He shattered Rahab. 13 By His wind (Ruach) the heavens were made fair; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent.” Job 26:12–13.
Also, at the parting of the red sea, we see the same idea communicated:
“8 At the blast of your nostrils (Ruach) the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea… …You blew with your wind (Ruach); the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.” Exodus 15: 8 &10.
Whether it is an act of creation or De-creation (judgement), the Holy Spirit as wind is the executor of God’s will. For us believers, the Holy Spirit is the One who equips and empowers us inwardly to carry out God’s will in our lives.
“26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit (RUACH) within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26–27.
This is why even after Jesus commissioned the disciples to go out and preach the gospel to all nations, He advised them to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18, Acts 1:1-8). Without the Holy Spirit, you and I will struggle to obey God and carry out His will. We need the Executor of God’s will to empower us.
The last element used in describing the Holy Spirit is “FIRE”. When the biblical authors use fire as it pertains to the Holy Spirit, they are referring to the manifest presence of God. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent. He’s everywhere. He’s with you as you’re currently reading this post but there are times when we can feel the massive weight of His presence. That massive weight is what we call the glory of God. In Exodus chapter 3, when God calls and commissions Moses as liberator for the nation of Israel, Moses encounters the presence of God as fire in the midst of a burning bush. When God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, His presence was with them as pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
After the Israelites came of Egypt, the first time they met God as a group was at Mount Sinai. In this meeting, the active personal presence of God (The Holy Spirit), came down in a form of fire.
“16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.” Exodus 19:16–19.
Beyond signifying the Holy Spirit’s manifest presence in a place, when the Bible uses the element of fire to describe the Holy Spirit, it signals the approval of God. In Leviticus chapter 9, just when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and establishing the priesthood, God showed His approval of the work of Moses and the people by coming in the form of fire and consuming the sacrifice on the altar.
“23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:23–24.
Similarly in the Showdown on mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, God shows His approval of Elijah by coming down in a fire to consume the sacrifice (1 Kings 18:20-39).
In Jesus’ final days on earth, He promised His disciples that He wouldn’t leave them alone but that He would send another comforter in the person of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2 we read about the coming of the Holy Spirit and I want you to pay close attention to the language being employed.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1–4.
In the coming of the Holy Spirit, He comes in a mighty rushing wind and sits on the disciples in cloven tongues of fire. The Holy spirit is the life-giving force. He is the of the who brings the believer from death to life. He is also the one who equips as to the will of God. As the cloven tongues of fire, He is signaling that He is the manifest presence of God with and in the believer. The fire of God no longer dwells upon the tabernacle but in the believer. And finally, as fire He is the sign of God’s approval of our lives. We don’t have to worry if God approves of us or not. We have the Spirit.
Our prayer for you is that as we go deeper in our studies on the Holy Spirit, you will develop a full and meaningful relationship with Him. Stay blessed and see you in our next post.
The Timothy Project… Presenting everyman perfect.