The First Encounters of the Holy Spirit of God with Man

by Chester K. Lehman
Chapter 2 of The HOLY SPIRIT and the HOLY LIFE


Already in the opening chapters of the Bible God encountered man. Practically all of the elements of the Spirit's work in the life of man are latent in these opening chapters. By studying them we gain perspective and direction for tracing later encounters of the Spirit of God with man.

The first statement, "In the beginning God" (Gen. 1:1), brings us to the eternal Being through whose word the heavens and the earth were created. The doctrine of creation stands as a mighty stronghold at the threshold of divine revelation.

Significant for its relevance to later study is the expression, "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). The verb was moving suggests the image of a bird brooding over her nest. "This metaphor," says Swete, "Suits the secondary rather than the primary meaning of ruach; it is not the wind, but the divine energy that is regarded as vitalizing the germs which the Divine Word is about to call forth." (James Hastings, Ed, A Dictionary of the Bible, article, "Holy Spirit," by H. B. Swete, New York: Scribner's, 1903, Vol. II, p. 403). It is possible, however, that Psalm 104:29, 30 explains the metaphor according to the primary sense of ruach. In verse 29 the word plainly means breath while in verse 30 Spirit seems to be its proper sense. How Israel interpreted the Spirit of God in the light of their monotheism, we do not know. There is no Biblical evidence which would indicate any problem or temptation to polytheism. At whatever time the words, "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters," first came to the ears of Israel, they spoke of their God as mightily energizing in His world. In the words of E. Y. Mullins, "The Spirit brings order and beauty out of the primeval chaos and conducts the cosmic forces toward the goal of an ordered universe." (Jame Orr, Gen. Ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article "Holy Spirit," Chicago: Severance, 19030, Vol. III, p. 1407). Job expressed the idea in poetic form, "By his Spirit the heavens are garnished." (Job. 26:13, ASV).

The pronouncement, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31), begins to reveal the character of God. His creation was very good. While the Hebrew word tob (good) is a very general word, it is soon thrown into contrast with evil as in Genesis 2:17, "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (See also Isa. 7:15; Jer. 24;2). "Similarly it is often used almost synonymously with 'right'--a more definitely ethical term" (Alan Richardson, Ed., A Theological Word Book, New York: MaMillian, p. 99), as in Deuteronomy 6:18, "You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord" (See also Deut. 12:28; Josh. 9:25; I Sam 12:23). We may consider that the God who created everything very good is good in His very nature.


Our next step is to get a picture of what man is by creation. Simply stated, he was made in the image and likeness of God. According to James Orr, "The two ideas denote the same thing-resemblance to God" (James Orr, Gen. Ed., op. cit., article, "God, Image of," Vol. II, p. 1264. See also Orr's God's Image in Man and Its Defacement; Laidlaw's, The Bible Doctrine of Man; Alan Richardson, op. cit., article, "Image," by J. Y. Campbell, p. 110, etc.) It is this resemblance that gives man his supreme dignity over all other creatures. This is seen in Genesis 9:6. The reason that the death penalty should be inflicted upon a murderer lay in the fact that God made man in His own image; an assault upon man is an assault upon the divine majesty (Vos, Biblical Theology, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948, p. 65). This dignity underlies the psalmist's words, "Thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5).

There are reasons why Old Testament writers may have thought of the divine image as referring in part to man's bodily form. He walked and talked with them. But the passages quoted above would lead us to believe that man's supreme dignity lies in a spiritual likeness to God. Paul confirmed this idea when he said, "Put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24). In Colossians 3:10 he added knowledge to true righteousness and holiness. This passage gives profound in-sight as to the nature of God's image in man. Here is an important area for later discussion: it is these endowments that were lost in the Fall and need to be regained by putting on a new nature. To regain them requires a creating, a renewing by God.

The second account of creation, Genesis 2:4-9, tells us, "Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Verse 7, ASV). God's life-giving breath made man a living being. As Kevan states, "Man must not be thought of as having a soul; he is a soul" (Francis Davidson, Ed., The New Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953m Commentary on Genesis, p. 78). God is the source of man's life. In this lies man's kinship to God. The Spirit of God communicated to the soul of man. The intercourse was solely spiritual. This is another step toward understanding the encounters of God with man: the way of communica. tion of God with man is through the Spirit. The Spirit engages the soul.


The first recorded incident of human history has to do with God's establishing a standard to which Adam was bound. He was permitted to eat freely of all the trees of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he was not to eat. Death was the penalty for disobeying this command. I believe that the author of Genesis was describing a historical event. This event was one of the most profound of all Biblical history. It pictured God's first encounter with man. In this encounter God made a requirement which moved solely on the plane of obedience. Obedience to God was Adam's first responsibility. The test was designed to lead Adam from moral babyhood to maturity. He should come to this maturity without the experience of sin. He should learn the antagonism of good and evil by obedience to God.

God also foretold the outcome of disobedience. It would be death. What death meant was left for Adam to experience after the Fall.

Adam and Eve soon experienced the tension between good and evil which obedience to God's commands would bring. The serpent questioned God's command; he injected suspicion, and distrust of God's integflty. The fruit of the tree was something to be desired. Yielding to their desires, Adam and Eve at once experienced the opening of their eyes; and lo, the sense of nakedness dawned upon them. In guilt and shame they hid from God. They had come to know good and evil, not by enduring the antagonism between the. two? but by experiencing sin and its guilt and depravity.

God's subsequent meeting with Adam and Eve was in reality an encounter. The freedom of fellowship was gone. It was necessary for God to search out the transgressors and to confront them with their sin. But God did not stop with this. He pronounced a curse upon the serpent. He initiated action which would reverse the attitude of the woman toward the serpent. All humanity would be drawn into the conflict. All would face the temptation with the same grim reality as did our first parents. But mercy and grace pointed the way to the serpent's overthrow. Out of the race would come One who would deal the crushing blow. Until this was accomplished, the tree of life was guarded against man's partaking of it.

Our consideration of this encounter of God with man has led us forward another step. Obedience to God is man's first duty. This obedience involves a terrific tension between good and evil. Solicitation to evil comes through suspicion of God's goodness and through man's unlawful desire. Sin results in guilt and in loss of fellowship with God. Through an age long conflict all humanity will experience the same personal struggle with temptation as did Adam and Eve. But the ultimate outcome is the destruction of the serpent.

This alerts us to learn more of God's standard of holiness, of the effects of sin upon man, of the nature of the remedy required for sin, of the arena of combat into which man is inevitably drawn, and of the dynamic which is necessary to effect the evil one's overthrow.


With Noah. As human history moved on, the damning results of sin became manifest. The verdict of man's sinfulness reads, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). In sharp contrast with this, Noah stood as "a righteous man, blameless in his generation" (Gen. 6:9). The judgment of the Flood was therefore inevitable. Later writers and Christ did not fail to see the moral causes of this judgment; in fact, they found in the cosmic proportions of the Flood a powerful argument for the final judgment at the return of Christ.

The transaction effected between God and Noah after the Flood was called a covenant, a name of strategic significance in the record of God's encounters with man. The initiation of this, as well as of all later covenants, was taken by God. Accordingly, He bound Himself to fulfill what He promised and in formal ratification of the promise, gave the external sign of the bow in the cloud. God promised that He would never again destroy the world by a flood. The appended reason, "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21), suggested that the Lord would meet man's needs by redemption rather than by judgment. One requirement to which man was bound deserves notice. Man should not eat blood. Life. is in the blood and therefore the sanctity of life should be recognized by not eating blood. Man's life is of greatest dignity because "God made man in his own image" (Gen. 9:6). As God was carrying forward a plan of redemption the human race had to recognize the worth and glory of human life. Noah's offering of clean birds and animals gave witness to God's limiting man's meat foods to the clean. This regulation prepared man for the ethical requirements of covenant fellowship with God.

With Abraham. Centuries later God encountered Abraham, giving him a threefold promise: the land of Canaan, numerous posterity, and being a blessing to all mankind. A few of Abraham's many extraordinary experiences need to be mentioned, as they give meaning to the covenant God made with this great patriarch. One of these was Abraham's meeting with Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-20). His very name meant King of Righteousness. The name of his kingdom, Salem, meant peace. United with his kingship was his priesthood to God most high. Such greatness made an immeasurable impact upon Abraham. It displayed before him a kingship of righteousness and of peace. It implanted the concept of a priesthood to God. This experience bore a prophetic message which, it seems, Abraham interpreted as predictive of One to come from his own descendants who would in a still more glorious manner be King of Righteousness, King of Peace, and Priest of God most high.

Abraham believed the stupendous promises of God. The narrator of Genesis added, "And he [the Lord] reckoned it [his belief] to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). Since Paul used this same statement as a foundation for the great doctrine of justification, we are safe in considering Abraham's life as an example of the operation of faith in obtaining right standing with God. Abraham did not possess the righteousness which the Lord required, but he found peace through God's reckoning his faith for righteousness. Abraham having manifested his faith, the Lord initiated a solemn covenant and sealed it by passing between the pieces of the sacrifice (Gen. 15:17). By this act He invoked upon Himself a curse if He failed to fulfill it. Abraham soon realized that faith in the Lord who solemnized a promise by a covenant imposed upon him a life of holiness. His God said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless" (Gen. 17:1).

Since the word (I>tamin (blameless) was used also of Noah, we should take a brief look at its meaning. It is the word commonly used to describe animals fit for sacrifice and is translated without blemish. Translators render it variously as perfect, undefiled, upright, sincere, sound. At a later time God said to Israel, "You shall be blameless before the Lord your God" (Deut. 18:13). Apparently Jesus, by way of the Septuagint, picked up the word and said, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48). From this we gather how expressive and central this word is for describing God's demand that man be like Himself.

The command of God to Abraham demonstrates the inseparability of one's faith and manner of life, a truth which will be discussed in a later chapter

Closely tied in with this covenant is the institution of circumcision. We may infer that it taught a lesson closely connected with the "walk" and "blameless" life required of Abraham. It effected a separation between Abraham and his uncircumcised neighbors. At some time between his day and that of Moses it gained a moral connotation. In the time of the lawgiver we read of uncircumcised lips and of uncircumcised hearts (Ex. 6:12, 30; Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; etc.). Note that the moral application was directed to the need of cleansed speech and heart. The latter is the seat of the "thoughts and intentions," and the former the most ready channel for their overflow.

The words righteous and righteousness (tsedeq and tsedaqah) also have loomed up before us in these narratives. The writer of Genesis calls Noah a righteous man (Gen. 6:9). and says that on account of his righteousness God spared him from destruction (Gen. 7:1). We have already noted that the Lord reckoned Abraham's faith as righteousness. We are led farther toward understanding this idea in God's conversation with Abraham concerning the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 18:22-23). Difficult ethical problems faced Abraham when he asked, "Wilt thou... destroy the righteous with the wicked?" and somewhat later, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Used with blameless (perfect) in connection with Noah and in contrast with wicked in Abraham's question, the word righteous carries a distinctly ethical and religious connotation. Righteous Lot and the wicked men of Sodom stand as opposites spiritually. In Abraham's concern that the Judge of all the earth do right the forensic or judicial aspect of the word appears.

In these early uses of this great family of words (righteous, be righteous, righteousness) we should note that it first appeared in an ethical setting. Its meaning seemed to be that which conformed to a standard. This standard would lead back to the Judge of all the earth, out of whose very nature proceeded righteous judgment. God measured and required of man conformity to this standard of righteousness. Abraham's faith was counted for righteousness-clearly implying that Abraham could not attain to God's standard of righteousness but that God graciously reckoned Abraham righteous by reason of his faith.

Thus through the controlling idea of a righteous standard determined by the nature of a righteous God, God pointed the way for man's manner of life under the covenant.

How the ethical implications of the covenant with Abraham came to bear on one who was included in its privileges is graphically shown in the case of Jacob. This young man, twice the supplanter of his brother Esau, was fleeing from home when God encountered him by dream at Bethel. As God confirmed to him the promise made to Abraham, Jacob laid hold of it in evident faith. After a checkered life covering more than a score of years, Jacob was commanded by God to return to Bethel. During this time Jacob had met his counterpart in Laban. On his journey, learning that Esau was coming to meet him, Jacob finally had to face up to his long-standing sins. Willing at last to acknowledge his sin to God, Jacob cried, "I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant" (Gen. 32:10). It is this background which gives meaning to the Peniel experience and the change of names from Jacob to Israel. His was the story of a transformed life. He had come to know that a man of faith needed to walk before God Almighty and be blameless. Faith had to be translated into life.

The career of Joseph reveals the beauty of character that was possible under the covenant of promise. His sensitivity to things right was shown in his bringing an ill report of his brothers to their father (Gen. 37:2), in his steadfast refusal to give heed to Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:9), and in his gracious forgiving of his brothers (Gen. 50:15-21). Joseph recognized that sin is first of all against God. Without question he experienced the grace necessary to forgive. Aside from Jesus such integrity of character is hardly paralleled anywhere else in Biblical history.

With Israel. The covenant idea deepened as God instituted such agreements one after another. The progress manifested in the covenant with Israel is first seen in its two sidedness. God proposed the covenant relationship; the people of Israel voluntarily gave commitment to obedience. A solemn transaction, the "cutting" of the covenant, enacted the agreement which bound both God and Israel. In the whole process God's encounter was real, personal, loving, redemptive, sanctifying.

The words of God's proposal to Israel bear repeating: "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:3-6). Important for observation are: (1) The proposal of the covenant had its basis in God's love. It "seems baptized in the very warmth of divine affection" (Vos, op. cit., Old and New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948, p. 125). (2) The covenant proposal had its basis in the redemption from Egypt. (3) The covenant bound Israel to obedience. (4) On the ground of this obedience Israel became God's own special possession. (5) Being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation marked Israel's distinctive covenant privileges.

One desires to linger on these great ideas. The love basis of the covenant grew in importance throughout Israel's history. Accordingly we read, "The Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep; he will love you, bless you. . . ." (Deut. 7:12, 13). Further, implicit obedience to God on the part of Israel was central to continued covenant fellowship. No room was granted for any other allegiance. God was everything to Israel or He was nothing. Again, being God's own possession had special bearing on Israel's manner of life. Israel would need to live befittingly to one possessed by God. This idea carried over to the truth of Israel's unique position as a kingdom of priests. All Israel were "to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God," and by so doing were to "declare the wonderful deeds of him who called" them "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Pet. 2:5-9). God was teaching Israel about their holy mission to other people. They were to be a holy nation. They were not going to live in a vacuum; by their separation from other nations their manner of' life would testify to the holiness of their God.

Every step in the instituting of the covenant, as well as the content of the covenant, pointed to the holiness of Israel's God. Redemptive in character, marked by burnt and peace offerings, these very offerings spoke of Israel's consecration to God and of the resulting fellowship with Him. The climax to the whole scene centered in the elders seeing God and in their eating and drinking as His guests.

The Ten Commandments lay at the very center of this covenant and on this account became Israel's fundamental law. Here were basic ethical precepts which, according to Christ's interpretation, resolved man 5 manifold duties to two: love to God and love to one's neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). With deep understanding Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4 as defining this love to God. He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."

The covenant relation of God and Israel naturally led to God's provision for worship. The fleeting vision of God and of the eating of the fellowship meal by the elders of Israel on Sinai pointed the way to similar privileges for all Israel. Accordingly God said, "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst" (Ex. 25:8). This tabernacle was to be pitched in the midst of the camp of Israel. Its location was a perpetual reminder of Israel's supreme spiritual privilege-God was dwelling in their midst. But with this symbol of His presence, God was teaching another lesson. Though He was dwelling among them, yet Israel's access to His presence was to be severely restricted. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies; his access to this sacred place was permitted only once a year; and even he, the high priest, could enter only with the blood of a sin offering (Lev. 16).

What did God teach by this witholding of Himself from easy access? The answer was written large in the priests' manual, Leviticus, in which God gave full instructions as to how His people might come into His presence for worship. It was bound up in the word holy (qadosh). Five times God said, "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 11:44, 54; 19:2; 20:7, 26). Some derive the Hebrew word from a root meaning to shine. According to this etymology, God is the resplendent One. This would be in accord with the positive aspect of holiness, that of purity. To this idea the ethical significance of the word would naturally attach itself. Others derive the word from a root in which inheres the idea of cutting or of separation. According to this root, holiness means aloofness, majesty, unapproachableness. This derivation seems to be the preferable one (Vos, op. cit., p.265; James Orr, Gen. Ed., op. cit., article, "Holiness," by Lambert, Vol. III, pp. 1403, 1404; Alan Richardson, Ed., op. cit., articles "Saint, Holy, Divine," by Rankin, p. 215; Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, Philadelphia: Westiminster, 1946, pp. 24-38; etc. By reason of space limitations other significant words have not been considered.). Looking then into the uses of this word in the Old Testament, we may find cases where the sense unapproachableness seems to give it meaning. When we inquire why God is unapproachable, we learn that there is something in His nature which distinguishes Him as Creator from man the creature. We may call it majesty--holiness (Ex. 15:11; I Sam.. 2:2; Hos. 11:9; Isa. 57:15; Hab. 1:12). This truth contrasts God's ethical purity with the vileness of man. Thus when Isaiah heard the seraphim calling one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts," he at once saw himself a man of unclean lips (Isa. 6:3-6). God's command, "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy," may safely be taken, then, in an ethical sense. This becomes all the more apparent as we study the contexts of its five occurrences in Leviticus. The first two occur in a context with sins which separated Israel from God. The others are embedded in the so-called "Law of Holiness" among specific teachings on the proper conduct of the people of God.

In this atmosphere we meet a new sort of command. It is "Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy" (Lev. 11:44; 20:7). Consecrate (sanctify) translates a Hebrew word with the same root as that of holy. In its earliest Biblical usage (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 13;2; Num. 3:12, 13) it had the sense of setting apart or declaring as belonging to someone, hence separating. As such it did not have a moral connotation. We may think of this as its formal sense. But when this separating was unto God, the word took on an ethical meaning. To set one's self apart unto God meant to hold one's self aloof from sin. It came to mean to cleanse or purify one's self from sin. Thus God's command, "Consecrate yourselves," led to more than merely a formal act; it carried an ethical sense, "purify yourselves." We should observe that this harmonizes with the literal and ethical senses of the adjective holy.

The covenant with Israel was a manifestation of God's holiness. God manifested Himself in the majesty of holiness to Israel. He proceeded to require Israel to be holy. Israel's holiness had to do with prohibitions against neglecting the poor, stealing, oppression of neighbors, injustice, hating of neighbors, turning to mediums and wizards, adultery, etc.-a list large enough to show that holy living touched every area of one's life. It had to do with daily conduct. It demanded sanctifying, consecrating, cleansing, and purifying. These covenants show the progression of God's encounter with man. God told Noah that in the future He would use positive measures to prevent the necessity of destroying the world. God faced Abraham with the necessity of faith's being translated into perfect walk before Him. God con-fronted Israel with the specifics of the life-walk of a holy nation. "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy."


The language used by Old Testament writers to describe the encounters of the Spirit of God with men had evidently influenced New Testament authors.

Let us look, then, to the way in which the Spirit of God worked in the lives of Old Testament characters. Pharaoh perceived that the Spirit of God was in Joseph (Gen. 4:38). Moses desired "that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (Num. 11:29). In like manner the Spirit of the Lord came upon Balaam, Azariah, and Jahaziel (Num. 24:2; II Chron. 15:1; 20:15). Ezra, reflecting on God's dealing with Israel, said, "Thou gavest thy good Spirit to instruct them" (Neh. 9:20). David, recognizing the Spirit as an Instructor, prayed, "Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God! Let thy good Spirit lead me on a level path!" (Psalm 143:10). He was aware also of how God searched and knew him. He saw that it was impossible to escape from the presence of the Spirit (Psalm 139:1-18).

But men could refuse to heed the Spirit's warning. Ezra lamented that God had warned Israel during their wanderings by His Spirit through the prophets, yet they would not give ear (Neh. 9:30). In similar mood Isaiah spoke of how Israel "rebelled and grieved his holy spirit" (Isa. 63:10). "They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets." (Zech. 7:12).

David described his own experience thus: "The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, his word is upon my tongue" (II Sam. 23:2). Luke put it this Way: "who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit"(Acts 4:25a), Micah exclaimed, "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might" (Mk. 3:8), "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). Paul ascribed to the Holy Spirit the words of God's stern Warning to Judah through Isaiah (Isa. 6:9, 10; Acts 28:25-27). Very fittingly Hosea called the prophet "the man of the spirit" (Hos. 9:7). In the crisis of Joash's rash action, "the Spirit of God took possession of Zechariah" and forthwith he said, "Thus says God" (II Chron.24:20). Ezekiel made frequent reference to the activities of the Spirit. The Spirit entered into him and lifted him up, taking him here and there for special work (Ezek. 2:2; 3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24). Finally Haggai gave strong encouragement to the leaders of his time by quoting God as saying, "My Spirit abides among you; fear not." (Hag. 2:5).

A look at the foregoing shows that the Spirit's operations were direct, personal, dynamic. The Spirit rested upon, entered into, abode among, took possession of men. He filled men with power. He condemned and warned men and was grieved by their rebellion. These expressions almost exhaust New Testament terminology on Holy Spirit operations.


The penitential psalms of David depicted the standard of holiness in the Old Testament. Psalm 32 is a model for confession. Confession is the only way to gain forgiveness from God. In Psalm 51 David acknowledged the depths of the sinfulness of sin in his cry for mercy. Here is seen the nature of the purifying process. It is a washing from iniquity and cleansing from sin. It is a purging with hyssop. It requires the creating of a clean heart and the renewing of a right spirit within. Job had earlier cried, "If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye, yet thou wilt plunge me into a pit." (Job 9:30; 31a). In still more graphic language God addressed Judah, "Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me" (Jer. 2:22).

This spiritual washing and cleansing had to effect a change in David's "inward being." He desired God to teach him wisdom in his "secret heart." The cure was recreating and renewing, an act peculiarly God's. The recreating work had to take place in the heart and spirit.

Guided by Old Testament usage, we would say that to David heart meant the whole inner man. It was variously used: for the mind and understanding, for the will, for the affections, for the conscience, for the motives, for the whole soul (Robert Gable Girdlestone, Synpnyms of the Old Testament, Their Bearing on Christian Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19897, pp. 65, 66; James Orr, Gen. Ed., op. cit., article, "Heart," by J. I. Marais, Vol. II, pp. 1350, 1351). The heart was regarded as the seat of the emotions, passions, and appetites. Thus the radical corruption of human nature was associated with the heart. It was spoken of as uncircumcised, hardened, evil, perverse, godless, deceitful, and desperately corrupt. (Jer. 9:26; Ezek. 4:21; Prov. 26:23; Job 36:13; Jer. 17:9).

David humbly recognized that sin had worked untold ruin in his heart. His condition required a creative work such as God alone could perform. God would need to give him a new, steadfast spirit. To accomplish this, mere human effort would be futile. On this account David pleaded that God would not cast him away from His presence nor take His Holy Spirit from him. In his prayer he recognized that God's creative and renewing work was through God's Holy Spirit. Only through such a work could David have restored to him the joy of God's salvation.

Here, for the first time in Scripture, the Holy Spirit was viewed as the agent of spiritual cleansing. The psalmists and the prophets regarded cleansing, purifying, sanctifying, and making holy as distinctively the Holy Spirit's work. The manner of the Spirit's encounters with man described earlier confirms this conclusion. This fact furnishes the key to man's achieving holiness. It is not by man's power, but by the Spirit of God.

What a picture of spiritual cleansing! The condition required for it was nothing less than a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (Isa. 57:15). What David was willing to do, the nation of Judah refused to do. The divine arraignment found in Isaiah fairly blistered with stern denunciation. The people of Judah were rebellious; they were laden with iniquity; they were the offspring of evildoers; they were sons who dealt corruptly. To remedy such conditions God said, "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isa. 1:16-18). A similarly pitiful picture is given in Jeremiah 13:27, where in view of Judah's abominations, adulteries, and lewd harlotries God asked, "How long will it be before you are made clean?"

It remains to look briefly at a few other precious gems on holiness. Beginning with Psalm 15, we hear the question:

    O Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent?
    Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?

The verses which follow portray a blameless character. It is:

    He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right,
      and speaks truth from his heart;

    who does not slander with his tongue,

      and does no evil to his friend,
      nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;

    in whose eyes a reprobate is despised,

      but who honors those who fear the Lord;

    who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

    who does not put out his money at interest,

      and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
P Psalm 18:20-24:

    The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
      according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.

    For I have kept the ways of the Lord,

      and have not wickedly departed from my God.

    For all his ordinances were before me,

      and his statutes I did not put away from me.

    I was blameless before him,

      and I kept. myself from guilt.

    Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,

      according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

Psalm 19:7-14 is a vivid portrayal of God's encounter with man through His word. It seems unnecessary to quote this familiar portion. Let us give attention to two things: first, David attached to the word of God such epithets as perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true-all surcharged with ethics; second, he described the results of the word's impact in spiritual terms such as "reviving the soul," "making wise the simple," "rejoicing the heart," "enlightening the eyes," and "enduring forever"--again predominantly ethical. He lingered to describe more fully the nature of the word's encounter: "by them is thy servant warned," "clear thou me from hidden faults," and "keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!" The end result most naturally was ethical: "Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression." Finally, David breathed the prayer:

    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
      be acceptable in thy sight,

    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
    -Psalm 19:14.

In similar strain David gave counsel:

    Keep your tongue from evil,
      and your lips from speaking deceit.

    Depart from evil, and do good;

      seek peace, and pursue it.

    -Psalm 34:13, 14.

He laid bare his heart before God in the words:

    Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire;
      but thou hast given me an open ear.

    Burnt offering and sin offering
      thou hast not required.

    Then I said, "Lo, I come;

      in the roll of the book it is written of me;

    "I delight to do thy will, O my God;

      thy law is within my heart."

    -Psalm 40:6-8.

    In Psalm 119 we feel that we have come close to the heart of a man of God. He described among other things the rich spiritual impacts of God's word upon him, We learn that the man is blameless who walks in the law of the Lord. A young man can keep his way pure by guarding it according to God's word. The psalmist testified, "I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11). Both Psalms 119 and 19 have added an important point to our understanding of the way of achieving holiness. It is the dynamic of the living and active word of God which pierces to the division of soul and spirit and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). The word of God thus has direct access to one's innermost being and there encounters the self. New Testament teaching hardly transcends this concept of the power of the word of God. In order to get closer to the thought of the author of Hebrews, I have intentionally left word uncapitalized in this discussion. He was writing of the words that God had spoken and Israel had heard, but had not heeded. This word, so personal in its operations, effects the changes unto holiness so beautifully described in these two psalms. Thus the operations of the word of God and the Spirit of God are one in leading the servant to holy living.


    The normative standards, righteousness and holiness, attained their richest ethical and spiritual significance in the teachings of the prophets. The prophetic presentation was supremely theocentric. Prophets based their condemnation of the nation's sins on righteousness and holiness as found in God. In a context of woes pronounced on Judah's wickedness Isaiah said:

      But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice,
        and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
      -Isaiah 5:16.

    Distressed at the threatening invasion of Judah by the wicked Chaldeans Habakkuk cried:

      Art thou not from everlasting,
        O Lord my God, my Holy One?
        We shall not die.

      O Lord, thou hast ordained them as a judgment;
      and thou, O Rock, hast established them for chastisement.

      Thou who art of purer eyes than to behold evil

        and canst not look on wrong,

      why dost thou look on faithless men,
        and art silent when the wicked swallows up
        the man more righteous than he?
    -Habakkuk 1:12, 13.

    Overwhelmed by the thought of God's righteousness and holiness, the prophets denounced sin in most scathing language. Amos and Isaiah wrote most virulently as follows:

      Thus says the Lord:
      "For three transgressions of Israel,
        and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
      because they sell the righteous for silver,
        and the needy for a pair of shoes--

      "they that trample the head of the poor into the
        dust of the earth,
      and turn aside the way of the afflicted;
      a man and his father go in to the same maiden,
      so that my holy name is profaned;
      "they lay themselves down beside every altar
        upon garments taken in pledge;

      and in the house of their God they drink
        the wine of those who have been fined."
      -Amos 2:6-8.

      But you have turned justice into poison

        and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.
      -Amos 6:12b.

      From the sole of the foot even to the head,

        there is no soundness in it,

      but bruises and sores
        and bleeding wounds;

      they are not pressed out, or bound up,
        or softened with oil.
      -Isaiah 1:6.

    Israel's sin was seen in its most serious aspect when it was traced to the people's personal attitude toward the Holy Spirit.

      But they rebelled
        and grieved his holy spirit.
      -Isaiah 63:l0a.

      They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.
      -Zechariah 7: 12a.

    Nevertheless God was calling for repentance and pointed the way to right living. Samples of these passionate appeals follow.

      Seek good, and not evil,
        that you may live;
      and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
        as you have said.

      Hate evil, and love good,
        and establish justice in the gate;
      it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
        will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

      But let justice roll down like waters,

        and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
      -Amos 5:14, 15, 24.

      He has showed you, O man, what is good;

        and what does the Lord require of you

      but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?
      -Micah 6:8.

      Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

        remove the evil of your doings
        from before my eyes;

      cease to do evil,
        learn to do good;

      seek justice,
        correct oppression;

      defend the fatherless,
        plead for the widow.

      Come now, let us reason together,

        says the Lord:
      though your sins are like scarlet,
        they shall be as white as snow;

      though they are red like crimson,
        they shall become like wool.
      -Isaiah 1:16-18.

    Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no plea. sure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, 0 house of Israel?
    -Ezekiel 33:11.

    These rebukes to sin followed by so gracious calls of God to turn from sin obtain still greater meaning when viewed in the light of the covenant bond between the Lord and Israel. In order to show the inviolate nature of His covenant promises the Lord said:

      For a brief moment I forsook you,
        but with great compassion I will gather you.

      In overflowing wrath for a moment

        I hid my face from you,

      but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
        says the Lord, your Redeemer.

      For this is like the days of Noah to me:
        as I swore that the waters of Noah
        should no more go over the earth,

      so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you
        and will not rebuke you.

      For the mountains may depart

        and the hills be removed,
      but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
        and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
        says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
      -Isaiah 54:7-10.

    In a setting which likens the covenant bond to that of marriage the Lord said, "They have broken my covenant, and transgressed my law" (Hos. 8:1b). How heartbroken the Lord was with Israel is most vividly portrayed in the words:

    What shall .1 do with you, O Ephraim?

      What shall I do with you, O Judah?

    Your love is like a morning cloud,
      like the dew that goes early away.

    Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,

      I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
      and my judgment goes forth as the light.

    For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

      the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.
    -Hosea 6:4-6.

Yet the Lord would restore His people. Commensurate, however, with the grievous nature of the ruptured bond, the restoration had to take on the form of a new covenant and of a remarriage of the formerly divorced husband and wife. The Lord said:

And I will make for you a covenant on that day - ..And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.

    And I will have pity on Not pitied,
      and I will say to Not my people,
        "You are my people";

      and he shall say, "Thou art my God."
    -Hosea 2:18a, 19, 23b.

This prophetic teaching yields several points pertinent to this study.

First, the Old Testament showed definite progress and development in the ethical and spiritual aspects of righteousness and holiness. This prepared the way for the exalted teaching of Jesus and the apostles on these themes.

Second, the normative words, righteousness and holiness, were no mere empty forms. They had to do both with personal living and with the whole realm of human relations. In other words, a vital connection obtained between these ethical and spiritual standards and practical everyday living.

Third, these God-entered normative standards reveal to what depths of degradation pharisaical thought had descended when it measured conduct by outward conformity to legal standards rather than by conformity to the likeness of the righteous and holy God.

It would be profitable, perhaps more logical, to include at this point a discussion of the prophets' view of the work of the Spirit in the future, It seems better, however, for the purpose of this study to consider this subject in the chapter, "The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: Promise and Fulfillment." Likewise, the prophets' view of the Spirit in the Messiah will be studied in the chapter, "The Holy Spirit in Christ: Promise and Fulfillment."

A brief summary concludes this chapter. We found a starting point in God, the Creator, who revealed Himself as personally active in His world. He manifested Himself as righteous. What He does is right. He manifested Himself also as holy: separate and aloof from all that is sinful. The reason for this separateness lies in His pristine purity, so that holiness as it pertained to God came to stand for pristine goodness, for absolute separation from ethical evil.

Three normative words stand before us: holiness, righteousness, and blamelessness (perfection). The first signifies the inijer character of purity; the second, both the inner nature of godlikeness or uprightness of character and its outward expression of right ethical conduct; and the third, ethical soundness, that which has no moral blemish, that which has not been defiled with evil.

Though our first parents yielded to the tempter's solicita tion and fell into sin, God still required of them a life of obedience. In order to teach men that God was righteous and holy, that His commandments were of binding authority, and that implicit obedience resulted in fellowship, God entered into covenant relationship with them. These covenants had their basis in redemption; they were received in faith. God accounted His people righteous on the basis of their faith. He provided an elaborate ceremonial of worship which led His people to a holy life. Finally He taught them the way of holiness. "In the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms" (Luke 24:44). ethical teaching of high order obtains. Through it all God led His people to a knowledge of the holy life.

Alongside of and intertwined with these covenantal relations were the encounters of God with man through His Spirit. These encounters were personal, ethical, inward, continuous, and supernatural. Through His Spirit God entered intimately into the life of man. NQ part of man's being lay beyond the Spirit's touch. Accordingly, the. work of the Spirit of God included warning against error; conviction of sin; searching and cleansing the heart; renewing the mind; and leading, guiding, and teaching His people. At times His work took the form of a new creation, and at other times that of a spiritual resurrection.

What a foundation on which New Testament revelation could build!

The source of this booklet is

Chapter II. of The HOLY SPIRIT and the HOLY LIFE by Chester K. Lehman. Copyright 1959, renewed, by Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania. Copyright now owned by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI 48167.


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June 22, 2000