Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor: The Spirit of the Lord

Last Sunday, we saw in Judges 3:10 that one of the few details given about Othniel was that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.  We’ll find references to the Spirit’s influence in the lives of several of the judges as we work our way through the book.  Judges 6:34: “But the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon…”  Judges 11:29: “Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah…”  Of Sampson, there are four such references – Judges 13:25, 14:6, 14:19, and 15:14.  In each of these cases, the Spirit serves to empower the judges for overcoming some danger or enemy. 

Later in the Old Testament, the Spirit serves to mark out God’s rule through Israel’s kings.  1 Samuel 10:1-11 tells of Samuel anointing Saul king. In v10, we read that the Spirit of God rushed upon him.  However, after Saul breaks God’s law by offering an unauthorized sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13, it is recorded in 16:13-14 that the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David…[and] the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.

So among the numerous functions of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are these – He empowers God’s chosen leader and He marks out God’s chosen king.  It’s critical to remember that the Old Testament was not written to be a completed volume to be understood on its own.  It is merely the first part of the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

An awareness of such things can make our reading of the New Testament far richer.  In the Gospel of Matthew we see pictures of both of these functions of the Spirit of the Lord  being applied to Jesus Christ.  In 3:16-17 Matthew records the baptism of Christ: And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."  This is parallel to the anointings of Saul and David.  After Christ came out of the water, the Spirit descended upon Him.  John 1:32 adds that “He remained upon Him.”  This marked Christ out as the Messiah, the King.  (After the book of Judges, I will be preaching through Matthew.  We’ll find that one of Matthew’s chief objectives is to show that Christ is the King promised in the Old Testament.)

Following this scene, we see the Spirit fulfilling His second function in the life of Christ, that is, empowering Him for obedience.  Matthew 4:1-11 records the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, which begins with these words, Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Following this period of temptation, during which He was perfectly victorious, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee (Luke 4:14).  In Luke 4:17-21, we read of Jesus preaching in the synagogue of His home town, and claiming the Spirit’s anointing to proclaim the gospel and set the captives free:   

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Acts 10:38 tells us how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  Christ’s ministry and power to obey were attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit in His life.  This is incredibly encouraging because the testimony of the New Testament is that Christ drew upon the same resources available to us in our pursuit of obedience.  As Acts 10:38 says above, Christ had the Holy Spirit.  So do we (Acts 1:8).  He knew the Word of God, as evidence both by His knowledge of Isaiah in the synagogue scene quoted above and by His use of Scripture in fending off the temptations of the devil in the wilderness.  Romans 15:4 tells us that the Scriptures are intended for our help and encouragement, as well.  And Christ was a man devoted to prayer (Matt 14:23; 26:36-46; Mk 1:35, 6:46; Lk 5:16, 6:12; Jn 17), to which we also are called (Phil 4:6).

The pictures of the Spirit of the Lord empowering Othniel, Gideon, and Sampson in Judges looks forward to the Spirit descending upon Christ, empowering Him for His mission.  They also remind us that we too have benefited from the presence of the Spirit – His presence is in us eternally.

Praise the Lord for the many ways in which the Old Testament Scriptures point us to Christ and the gift of salvation that He brings.

Posted by Greg Birdwell

1 comment:

Brian Jonson said...

Thanks, Greg. This is helpful.

Here's a question -

What role will the Spirit play in the eternal state of glory? I see His role now as regenerating sinners, convicting of sin, sealing the saints, etc., but what role will He have in eternity?

Thanks!

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