Day 8 Study-The Spirit in the Old Testament

We've seen the coming of the great promise which the Old Testament believers looked forward to and hoped for. The New Testament came with Jesus' incarnation, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension. Just as we look back to Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection, living by faith in His work for us, the Old Testament believers looked forward to the promised coming of the Messiah who would set them free, and lived by faith in the work He would do.  In this sense, they were justified by their faith in God's provision for the forgiveness, just as we are today.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The Holy Spirit was active in many ways throughout the Old Testament, and He continues to do many of the same things in our lives today. But now, as New Testament believers, we also have received wonderful new promises regarding the Holy Spirit's work in our lives which the Old Testament believers had not yet experienced. To better understand the Holy Spirit's New Testament ministry, we will first look at His work in the Old Testament.  We've already seen the Holy Spirit as Creator, Life-giver and Life - sustainer. (For review, see Month 3, chapter 1 and Month 4, chapter 1.) Rather than going over this again, we'll move on...

Leadership and Special Abilities

The Holy Spirit was actively involved in the leadership of Israel in the Old Testament. He gave special knowledge and abilities to those He had chosen, to enable them to carry out those responsibilities He had entrusted to them. We'll look at a few examples of the Spirit's anointing and empowering for leadership, beginning with Moses...

There came a time when the burden of leading and judging the nation of Israel was too much for Moses to handle by himself, and he needed help. The Lord told Moses that He would raise up seventy elders to assist him. They would handle the bulk of the day to day decisions and free Moses to handle the most important matters.

The Lord said to Moses: "Bring Me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. ...I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone."    (Numbers 11:16a, 17b)

It required much more than just a natural leadership ability to govern God's people for Him. A godly leader had to have the Holy Spirit empowering him for the job! This is still very true today.  The person who would be a leader of God's people must be filled, led, and powered by the Holy Spirit! There is no other way to be a godly leader.

There were many ways that the Holy Spirit enabled God's leaders in the Old Testament. Let's look at Joshua...

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the Spirit of wisdom...   (Deuteronomy 34:9a)

Joshua was Moses' successor as Israel's leader. We see here that the Holy Spirit filled him and gave him wisdom. Although there is much worldly wisdom that can be learned, true godly wisdom only comes from the Spirit!

Israel often had enemy nations that oppressed them. As long as they loved God and trusted Him for deliverance, He faithfully raised up leaders to go to battle. Before the time of the kings. These leaders were called "judges." It was the Holy Spirit who gave them courage and power for victory. One such Spirit-powered leader was Othniel.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war.  The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. (Judges 3:10-11)

There are many other examples of Spirit-led military leadership, and miraculous victories God brought about. But there were also times when the Israelites rejected God, and didn't look to Him.  Sometimes they sought help from other nations or made deals with their oppressors. The results were always disastrous. There's no substitute for the Spirit's power, and no real victory without Him!

One of the judges of Israel, Samson, was actually empowered with supernatural strength. Once he single-handedly overpowered a thousand men! Let's read about it...

As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.    (Judges 15:14-1)

After many victories, Samson became careless and disobedient to the Lord. His great strength left him as the Holy Spirit departed. His enemies blinded him and bound him, and the great Samson was taken captive a weak man.

The Spirit's anointing was not a permanent promise. The man who received such a commission from God was required to be faithful and obedient. Otherwise, the Spirit removed His anointing. One example of a king who disobeyed God and lost his Spirit-anointing was Saul. 

Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king. - Samuel, speaking to Saul    (1 Samuel 15:23b)

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul ...    (1 Samuel 16:14a)

Saul's successor was King David, a man who loved God greatly.  Nevertheless, there was a time when he sinned greatly against the Lord, and was worthy of great punishment. But the punishment that David feared most was the possibility of the Holy Spirit leaving Him. Let's look at a small part of David's famous prayer of repentance...

Create in me a pure hear, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your Presence, or take you Holy Spirit from me. Restore to the joy of Your salvation ...   (Psalm 51:10-12a)

God honored the prayer of this humble broken man, and restored the precious intimate fellowship he had lost. This is the same David who wrote most of the beautiful devotional verses in the Psalms.  He was also used by the Hold Spirit to record many of the most detailed prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. And last, but far from least, the promised Messiah was born of this bloodline.

The Holy Spirit also empowered certain individuals with skill, ability, and knowledge in various crafts, Let's look back to the time of Moses, and the tabernacle of God...

Read Exodus 31:1-6. What abilities had the Spirit of God filled Bezalel with?

Perhaps the most important lesson about the Spirit's anointing in the Old Testament is found in the story of a man named Zerubbabel.  This man had the difficult task of supervising the rebuilding of the temple of God, destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon years earlier. This work was hampered in many ways and eventually stopped by the enemies of the Lord who fought against its completion. In the midst of deep discouragement and despair, a prophet named Zechariah brought a message from God promising the Spirit Himself would overcome all obstacles of the enemy. In the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, Zerubbabel joyously finished the work.

"This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty. What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. 

...The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you."   (Zechariah 4:6-7a, 9)

Today this important lesson hasn't changed. We can never accomplish God's will by our own power, no matter how well-intentioned we may be. And we can never defeat the enemy who wants to overcome us by our own might. To rely on our power or might in any situation will surely result in failure. Yet in the Powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to do all that our Lord desires of us, and all the power of the enemy can not stop Him.

Prophetic Leadership

Certain men in the Old Testament were chosen to receive special revelation from the Holy Spirit and to communicate these truths to the nation of Israel, and sometimes to other nations as well. It was largely through these prophets that God made Himself known.  The Holy Spirit filled these men who were chosen, and through them communicated God's Word.

Many men who were not  known as prophets were given a specific prophecy at a certain time, but they were not continually given these revelations. Other men seem to have been the recipients of a more ongoing kind of prophetic calling, and indeed it became their single profession, and their life's work.

When God called Ezekiel to be His prophet, He showed the man a vision of His awesome glory. Ezekiel did the only reasonable thing - he fell face down on the ground in terror.

As He spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me.   (Ezekiel 2:2)

The beginning of any prophet's ministry was hearing the Word of the Lord, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. No man decided on his own to become a prophet of the Lord. When God called a prophet, the Holy Spirit filled him, and the Word spoke to him.

The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me, and I told the exiles everything the Lord had shown me. (Ezekiel 11:24-25)

In this verse, we learn that the Spirit of God gave the prophets their visions. He directed them to those people who were to receive the message.

Read 2 Samuel 23:2. How does David say the Spirit worked through him?

Through the prophets, the Spirit brought God's Word to the people, He revealed many important things to them.

Read Nehemiah 9:30. How does this verse tell us that the Spirit worked through the prophets?

To admonish someone is to warn them. The Spirit often reminded the people that the results of their disobedience would be tragic, and pleaded with them to repent.

Read Micah 3:8. What did the Spirit empower Micah to declare to the nation of Israel?

Through the prophets, the Spirit often confronted Israel with their sin. He warned of inevitable judgment if the people chose to reject the God who loved them. The ungodly leaders were never fond of this kind of message, and usually did not listen.

The Spirit often used the prophets to teach the people about Him, and to direct them in His ways. Unfortunately, the people usually did not accept the Spirit's message, and never found the peace that God promised His people.

And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me with His Spirit. This is what the Lord says: "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea."   (Isaiah 48:16b-18)

Messianic Prophecies

The prophets often spoke of the promised Messiah, and the salvation to come. The perfect accuracy of the multitude of Scriptures which were fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming attests to their Author.

Read 1 Peter 1:10-12 carefully. In verse 11, who predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory to come?

In verse 10, we see that the prophets "searched intently" trying to find the exact time and details of the visions of the Messiah which were revealed to them. In the beginning of verse 12, what was the answer revealed to them?

At the end of verse 12, who are still intrigued by the salvation mystery, and long to look into these things?


The inspired Scriptures that make up our Bible today were given by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was active throughout the Old Testament, as He progressively revealed the wonder of God and His plan of salvation for us through the many different kinds of writings which He inspired. Our Old Testament is made up of the books of the law, historical books, books of poetry, and books of prophecy. You should remember this verse in 2 Timothy from our day 2 devo:

All Scripture is God-breathed (God-Spirited) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness... 

(2 Timothy 3:16)

Notice the things this verse tells us that the Scriptures are useful for. These are the same things that the inspired messages were useful for when they were first given by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Just in looking at the messages of the prophets in this chapter we've seen this.

Individual Response to God

The Spirit of God leads men to the knowledge of God, and draws them into fellowship with Him. In the Old Testament, the Spirit was also active in this way. Without the Holy Spirit, no one can seek God or understand His ways.

Read Job 32:8. What did Elihu realize that the Spirit of God gives a man (or woman)?

Read Nehemiah 9:20. Why are we told that God gave the people of Israel His Spirit?

Read Psalm 143:10. What work of the Holy Spirit did the psalmist pray for in his life?

We have seen in the last three verses that the Holy Spirit's personal work in the Old Testament included giving God's people understanding, instructing them, and leading them in God's ways.  When God's people followed the leading of the Spirits, He guided them into the peaceful rest of God, and showed Himself strong in their behalf.

...They were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord. This is how You guided Your people to make for Yourself a glorious name. (Isaiah 63:14b)

God often brought painful discipline upon His rebellious people Israel for their wicked ways, yet He always gave them the promise of restoration and full forgiveness when His fatherly discipline had done its work. He promised that by His Spirit He would do a transforming work in their lives, producing a new nature, a new tenderness and sensitivity to Him, moving them by His Spirit within them to love Him at last.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

The whole conclusion of these laws which the indwelling Spirit would move Israel to keep is this:

"Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Jesus  (Matthew 22:37-40)

We'll talk more about the Holy Spirit during our daily devos. The Holy Spirit is working in our lives right now in many of the same ways that He worked in the Old Testament.  Next week we'll explore the Spirit's exciting New Testament promise which we enjoy today.