The Prophets Saw the Activity
Of God’s Spirit
...in Visions of Creative Power
TWO MAIN WORDS are used in the Hebrew Old Testament often translated “prophet.” One is nahbi. This means “a spokesman.” Its biblical reference is to a “spokesman” for the LORD God. The other word, sometimes translated “prophet,” sometimes “seer,” is ra'ah. Its emphasis is on one who “sees.” Thus, its reference is to one who “sees” things from the viewpoint of Heaven. Even though the second of the two words does not occur as often as the first, it can be easily implied that a spokesman for God is one who has seen—and heard—things in the heavens and brought back to the ears of men in the earth a description of what he has received. Thus, a speaking, and writing, Prophet is a Seer, even though he may not always be called such.
Sometimes—as it was with Ezekiel in the first chapter of his Book—a Seer saw things so difficult to describe that someone who only sees from an earthly view is left to speculate on what the Prophet was, indeed, seeing. This is why we need the help of the Holy Spirit in studying the Prophets. Consider the living creatures Ezekiel made the wonderful attempt at describing, and the wheels that moved with them. How difficult it was for him to interpret the vision in words of human understanding! The passage is difficult even to a reader of the original Hebrew, but Eugene Peterson in The Message makes a great effort at interpreting it. See this selection from his translation. Note the activity, and the fire, of the Spirit. It begins to be apparent that Ezekiel was seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the heavens. Spending time with this, we see it was from right out of eternity, preceding the formation of the earth. Each creature went straight ahead. Wherever the Spirit went, they went. They didn't turn as they went. The four creatures looked like a blazing fire, or like fiery torches. Tongues of fire shot back and forth between the creatures, and out of the fire, bolts of lightning. The creatures flashed back and forth like strikes of lightning. As I watched the four creatures, I saw something that looked like a wheel on the ground beside each of the four-faced creatures. This is what the wheels looked like: They were identical wheels, sparkling like diamonds in the sun. It looked like they were wheels within wheels, like a gyroscope.—Ezekiel 1:12-16 [MSG]The Message
WHEN WE SEE the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, we began to comprehend what Ezekiel saw. Or, at least, we begin seeing on earth what he was seeing in the heavens. In the Book of Acts we see the work of God’s Spirit up close and personal in the lives of men and women. As He descended upon the one hundred and twenty gathered in that upper room in Jerusalem, His appearance was like brilliant torches from heaven as He sat upon each of them. See this from an interpretation of the passage in Acts that describes the activity of the Spirit starting His work in the Church. The followers of Jesus were all together in one place… All at once there was a sound from heaven like a powerful wind. It filled the house where they were sitting. Then they saw tongues which were divided that looked like fire. These came down on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit…— from Acts 2:1-4 [NLV]New Life Version
Ezekiel saw of the Spirit’s activity in the heavens energizing the work of creation. Now He was coming into the Church for the work of the new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). As He came upon that Pentecostal gathering in Jerusalem, He looked like fire. John the Baptist, the last prophetic forerunner of the Lord Jesus, had this to say about Jesus: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire—Luke 3:16.
When the Spirit of the Lord began His work in mankind, we saw Him first in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, as we move into the Book of Acts, we see His work beginning in Christ’s Body, the Church. The energetic Force of Heaven, difficult for a Prophet to describe, came upon a group of Jesus’ disciples in a practical demonstration of His work that changed lives. He brought life where death had reigned. He made sick people whole. He drew people together in a communion we are coming to know as the Church. And, He even turned the world upside down as some who opposed His work viewed it (Acts 17:6).
Search as we may, we can find no Scripture telling us that the Holy Spirit will cease the work begun in Acts. Rather, the more we investigate, the greater becomes our conviction that the work we saw then, coming from our Father in the heavens, will continue till the end of the age—perhaps in even greater measure as the age draws on to its conclusion.
BUT, BEFORE LOOKING further into the New Testament, as we expect to do in succeeding articles, there are yet some significant Scriptures regarding the Holy Spirit for us to see yet in the Prophets of the Old Testament. Two passages of particular note are in Isaiah. They are of clearer understanding than what we saw in Ezekiel. It was Isaiah who best described how the Spirit of God Who has worked from the ages past in the heavens will work in our present age.
First we have •Isaiah 11:1-4. This tells what the Holy Spirit would do when He entered the scene of earthly activity to work in and through God’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we consider this passage, we will begin seeing that what He would do in the Lord Jesus, He will do in us also. Then we will see •Isaiah 61:1-3 as it lets us in on how the Spirit will work in common man who becomes part of Christ’s Body. Although what we find in Isaiah is the Spirit at work in a Prophet, it becomes clear that in that prophet we have the prototype of anyone one of us who will yield to the Holy Spirit’s work. As we look at all this, and as we see what the Apostle Paul will later describe as the operations of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we want to remember how Jesus said, …He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also—John 14:12. This connects us with the Holy Spirit’s works in Jesus and draws us to see that the same work He did in Him He will do also in us.
As we read the first passage in Isaiah, we will find the qualities of the Holy Spirit at work—whether they be in Christ or in us. As we wait before the Lord, we will come to see it is the lack of these qualities that makes us all the more ready to receive what the Spirit of the LORD will do in us. As for Christ, Paul explains how the principle of weakness making way for strength is applicable to Him.
How could the One by Whom all things consist be weak enough to need the help of God’s Spirit?
This becomes clear when we understand that He made himself of no reputation (that is, He “emptied Himself”), and took upon him the form of a servant (a bond slave), and was made in the likeness of men—from Philippians 2:7. He poured Himself out to become like us and to make himself ready to become a vessel filled with His Father’s Spirit.
ISAIAH WAS much taken with the description of Christ as a tender and weak plant. Later in his Book when he told of His coming as our Redeemer, he saw—as a Seer—that He would grow up before Him—that is, in the presence of His Heavenly Father— like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground—Isaiah 53:2 [NIV]New International Version
As we look carefully at this Prophet’s Word about the Holy Spirit coming, we can find seven points to note about Him. They are significant. A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 1The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him—2the Spirit of wisdom 3and of understanding, 4the Spirit of counsel 5and of power, 6the Spirit of knowledge 7and of the fear of the LORD— and He will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked— Isaiah 11:1-4 [NIV]
In this passage, Isaiah has directed us to behold the Messiah Who was yet eight centuries away when he—as a Seer—beheld Him still in the bosom of His Heavenly Father. He saw Him as a slender twig sprouting up from the root of the old withered stem of David’s father Jesse. He saw Him coming as One extremely weak in His first appearance but Who would become fruitful and mighty by the Spirit of the LORD Who would rest on Him.
The Hebrew word translated rest, (nuwach) is significant in the above passage as it was used to speak of the Holy Spirit. It meant, “to settle down and remain.” When Christ went back to His Father after his thirty-three years on earth as a man, He had been clear in His promise about the Spirit He would ask His Father to send back to His disciples. He called Him the Comforter, the Paraclete, the One “called along side” as a helper. He promised the Spirit that had worked in Him would come and abide with us forever—from John 14:16. This meant he would “settle down and remain” with us.
AS THE SHOOT from the Stump of Jesse, Isaiah had reference to Christ Who would come as the Covenant Son of David, who was the son of Jesse. What Isaiah saw regarding the spirit of the LORD coming upon the stump of Jesse waited 800 years to see its fulfillment, but it did, indeed, take place. …John testified saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him…—John 1:32 [NIV]. Each of the four Gospels gives an account of this happening. The sad thing is that Israel, as a whole, did not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah, even though they held with a strong clutch to their Prophet Isaiah.
We have taken note that there are seven points of description the Prophet gave for the Spirit he saw descending upon the Messiah. Related to this, there are significant passages in the Book of Revelation that speak to us of the seven Spirits. Seven is the number used in the Bible to speak of completion, or perfection. The seven points we observe in Isaiah 11 tell of the complete work the Holy Spirit will carry on—both in Jesus and His Body.
What we see in Revelation points us to the perfection of the Spirit’s work, both in the heavens and on the earth. I have taken various interpretations that I believe capture the meanings of the Original and bring them over into our way of speaking.
•Grace and peace from the One who is, Who always was, and Who is still to come; from the SEVENFOLD SPIRIT before His Throne (that is, God’s Throne)…—from Revelations 1:4 [NLT]. The Spirit of the Lord, in the fullness of His work is here associated with God’s eternal Throne. Peter, on Pentecost, clearly identified the Spirit Who came upon the disciples as sent from the Throne of the Father to which the Lord Jesus had returned. The Holy Spirit, having come now upon earth’s believers, will bring to completion the eternal work begun in the heavens but ready for continuance in God’s Kingdom on earth.
•(Jesus said,) Write this Letter to the Angel (the Messenger) of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the One Who has the SEVENFOLD SPIRIT of God and the seven stars…—Revelations 3:1 [NLT]. In His fourth Letter to the Church, the Lord Jesus— ascended now back to His Father’s right hand and with the Holy Spirit having come both in Him and in His Body—sends a Word to His people on earth. The work we saw in Ezekiel, glorious with fire but defying our understanding, was the work of the sevenfold Spirit of God. Presently, Christ is adjusting the work of His Body, not yet perfect because too many of its members hold onto their own weaknesses rather than embrace the life and fullness of the Spirit of the LORD.
•Lightning flash and thunder crash pulsed from the Throne. Seven fire-blazing torches fronted the Throne (these are the SEVENFOLD SPIRIT of God)—Revelations 4:5 [MSG]. As the work of God’s Kingdom proceeds through the final days of this age, the fullness of His Spirit implements the work of His Kingdom. He is lending the perfection of His power and authority to it as its work increases in us—and through us. Recall the vision of Ezekiel. We took note how tongues of fire shot back and forth between the creatures, and out of the fire, bolts of lightning. This Word from Revelation brings it home to us that the fire seen in the Prophet’s vision, and the tongues of fire observed on the disciples in Jerusalem are the same—with the following exceptions. The vision of Ezekiel was before the Spirit descended. The upper room explosion was as the Spirit was descending. The Revelation vision takes us from eternity past, through the present, into eternity yet to be known in earth.
•I looked and I saw a Lamb that had been killed but was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are THE SEVEN SPIRITS of God that are sent out into every part of the earth—Revelations 5:6 [NLT]. Seven horns speak of the fullness of God’s power; seven eyes speak to us of the perfection of His wisdom; the seven Spirits speak of the completion of His Spirit’s work, begun in the heavens and brought to completion in every part of the earth.
SO, WHAT IS THE PERFECTION of quality we are to know in the Holy Spirit? Isaiah tells us succinctly and clearly in the passage from Isaiah 11. We will follow each point, recognize its work in the Lord Jesus, and see Him presently at work in the Church. As the age draws on to its end, we can expect to know His fullness in a more perfect dimension. This is not only because it flows out of the eternal purposes of the Lord as they come to completion, it is also because of the dire need arising in the Body of Christ to know His Spirit’s fullness.
Oh, how many are the times through Scripture that we find the power of the Lord making its greatest manifestation when man is at his weakest. Think Lazarus. Think Jesus. Think Pentecost. The darkest hour makes way for the brightest Light.
•First—He is the Spirit of the LORD—Isaiah 11:2. By His Spirit, our eternal Father in the heavens brings us into a communion and abiding relationship with Himself. This communion can never be known apart from the work of His Spirit. Those who try to know Him by forging a relationship with a church come to disappointment. Those who try to know the LORD by catechism study, public confession, personal commitment to His will, but apart from being born of His Spirit, are left empty.
So, it must become settled with us that by an operation of God’s Spirit we come to know Him. This is because He is real. He is personal. He is powerful. We can no more expect to know God by learning of Him than we can expect to find the warmth of a fire without there first being an energetic release that brings the warmth with it.
Do we call God an “energetic release”? Well, yes. We might do that. He is the Father of all Energy, the Source of all Light, the Reason for all living things, the Beginning of everything that is eternal and temporal. The Holy Spirit is never the be conceived of as separate from the Father, or the Son Who came to complete our Redemption. In knowing the Holy Spirit, we are drawn into a living communion with the whole . The fact is upon us—not to be cast aside or taken lightly as some are inclined to do—that it is the Holy Spirit Who brings the reality of the LORD God into our lives. Without His authentic release in us, we have only religious ideals that leave us empty.
•Second—He is the Spirit of the Wisdom—Isaiah 11:2. Wisdom has been eternal with God. All His works were wrought with Wisdom. Before ever He brought forth the worlds, Wisdom was there as His Counselor. As we study Scriptures speaking to us of Wisdom, we are drawn to believe that the eternal Wisdom of God and the Word of God are inseparable. I believe we could say they are identical.
See this Word from John’s Gospel as interpreted in the New Living Translation of the Bible: In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and He was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. Life itself was in Him, and this Life gives Light to everyone—John 1:1-4.
There is a passage in Proverbs 8 that draws us on to see the eternal relationship that has existed between God and Wisdom. As we spend some time with the Scriptures in our “prayer starters,” we can come to know something of the energetic release that Wisdom will bring into us—from out of eternity—as we open ourselves to its work in us.
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