On Them or In Them? The Old Testament Saints and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
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Twenty-first century Christians often think of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a New Testament phenomenon that has persisted to the present day. When discussing Old Testament saints, it has been said even in the seminary setting (I attended one for 9 years) that the Holy Spirit came “on” people in the Old Testament but lives “in” people in the New Testament. In other words, the teaching that persists today says that the Holy Spirit didn’t live inside of Old Testament saints.
This is problematic for a few reasons: 1) Old Testament saints are elevated Scripturally as examples of faith; 2) Old Testament saints also received the gospel in the OT; 3) if the Old Testament saints didn’t experience the Holy Spirit living inside them, then some Old Testament passages must be reinterpreted, if not flat-out contradicted and denied, to make sense. For these three reasons alone, the Old Testament saints did have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We’ll start with the Old Testament saints as recipients of the gospel, then work our way forward.
The Old Testament saints: recipients of the gospel
The Old Testament saints, contrary to what many believe, were recipients of the gospel in the Old Testament. We know this because of what has been said about the Old Testament saints in the New Testament.
First, there’s Abraham, known as the father of many nations (“Abraham” is Hebrew for “father of many nations”), who received the gospel when the Lord appeared to him in Genesis 12:
Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Paul says that Abraham received the gospel back in Genesis 12, and he quotes the passage for proof:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:1-9)
Abraham received the gospel in the Old Testament, and Paul explicitly says that “the Scripture…preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand.” In other words, Scripture was fulfilled in that, long before Christ came to earth and preached the good news, Abraham received the gospel. How were the nations blessed, as God told Abraham (Genesis 12:8)? The nations were blessed by Jesus Christ — who came through the lineage of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16).
Abraham received the gospel, but he wasn’t alone. The Israelites also received the gospel. Paul tells us so in Hebrews 4:
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:1-13)
The Israelites received the gospel in the wilderness, but they didn’t have faith. You can learn all about the gospel message in the wilderness by visiting our work titled “Did the Old Testament saints get the gospel?”, but the gospel message was preached in the wilderness and the Israelites were saved. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 10 tell all:
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)
1 Corinthians 10:1-11 shows us that the Israelites were “baptized” and “drank of the spiritual Rock” that was Jesus Christ. This alone says that the Israelites were saved, had true salvation. But then they lusted after evil things (v.6), they were idolaters (v.7), committed sexual immorality (v.8), and they tempted Christ and were destroyed by serpents (v.9). When the Israelites are bitten by the serpents, they are bitten because they tempted Christ by murmuring and complaining about their circumstances instead of trusting (having faith) in God to sustain them.
The Israelites suffer the serpent bites in Numbers 21:
4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)
The Israelites complained against Moses and asked him why he’d brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. By complaining about their deliverance, they were complaining against Christ and tempting Him — and the result? The Lord sent serpents that bit them. Having been bitten, some remaining alive and some dying, the living Israelites pleaded with Moses to pray to remove the serpents from their midst. The Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent, set it on a pole, and then elevate the pole in the people’s midst so that, whoever looked on the bronze serpent, would live. And sure enough, it happened as God told Moses it would.
Jesus uses the bronze serpent as the context for His gospel message when talking with Nicodemus at night:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, 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. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:1-17)
Jesus says that He must be lifted up “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.” By “lifted up,” Jesus was saying that He has to be crucified and hung on the Cross. Sure enough, when He is crucified, He is “lifted up” from the earth, hung on a Cross that was tall, and stretched out for the empire to see. Jesus Himself says that “if I be lifted up from the earth,” that His death would “draw all men unto Myself” in John 12:32. His crucifixion would allow all men to be saved, and the Holy Spirit would use the gospel message of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection to draw all humans, every man, woman, boy, and girl, to Himself. The context of lifting up the serpent, the symbol of the Israelites’ disobedience, was the key to them finding healing and forgiveness. The bronze serpent was a symbol of the divine punishment on the Israelites for their murmuring, complaining, and unbelief. In Numbers 21, the Lord forgave the Israelites for their sin by removing the serpents, but they had to look on the serpent to live. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “the wages of sin is death,” and the fiery serpents were the sign of death upon the people. But by looking on the bronze serpent, a sign of the serpent’s defeat, the people were healed.
What is the serpent business all about? Satan. Satan is referred to in Scripture as “the serpent”:
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. (Revelation 20:1-3)
Satan is called “dragon,” “Devil,” and “serpent of old,” as seen in the book of Revelation. And, as the serpent “bites” and its bite stings, so did Satan bite humanity in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam to sin (and Adam fell for it). He did it by moving Adam and Eve to lose faith in God and mistrust their Creator, who had been nothing but good to them. In return, God pronounced a curse upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent (Satan). This parallels the Israelites in Numbers 21 who complain against Moses and ultimately God and are given the curse of being bitten by fiery serpents (Numbers 21:4-6).
In their misery and with the death sentence pronounced on many who were bitten (who died), the others, wounded, pleaded with Moses to pray to God to remove the serpent bites. Moses does, and the Lord tells him to make a serpent. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are given the death sentence but the Lord brings salvation through “the seed of the woman” who would bruise the head of the serpent:
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
16 To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:14-19)
For the Israelites to be healed, they had to look on the bronze serpent — a symbol of the serpent’s defeat. And the Lord Jesus Himself said that He is the solution to the sin-sick soul and eternal death sentence man has been placed under because of sin. The bronze serpent was a reminder that the serpent had been defeated; similarly, Jesus’ crucifixion, His being lifted up, was a symbol of Satan’s defeat at the Cross:
20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 50-57)
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14)
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:11-15)
In these verses, we see that the war from the very beginning has been between God and Satan, who, once expelled from Heaven by the Lord, decided to come to earth and move man to sin. But, as the Genesis 3 prophecy by the Lord says, the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. Now that the Lord has achieved victory of sin, death, Hell, and the grave at the Cross, death has no more sting, and the grave no longer can claim victory. Jesus has become the curse for us, He has been lifted up as the bronze serpent in the wilderness was lifted up. Those who look to Jesus, who behold Him, who believe in Him, are those who are cured of “the serpent’s sting” (Satan’s blow). The Scriptures us more:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:7-18)
There is a veil that lies over the hearts and minds of the Jews who are still trying to live under the Old Covenant (what the NKJV calls “Old Testament” in its translation of 2 Corinthians 3), but when one realizes that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, he or she can turn to Christ in salvation in the New Covenant and one receives spiritual sight.
As we’ve seen with Numbers 21 and 1 Corinthians 10 in the Old Testament (and Hebrews 4), the Israelites received the gospel in the wilderness, and Abraham received it in Genesis 12 when the Lord came to him and told him to leave his family for a land that He (God) would show him.
If the Jews received the gospel in the Old Testament, then, as Hebrews 4 has already told us, the problem was not getting access to the gospel, but rather, not receiving the gospel and believing it by faith. It was a lack of faith after hearing the gospel, that resulted in the Wilderness Generation perishing in the wilderness.
In this next section, we cover faith, those who believed in the gospel message through faith, whose actions demonstrated belief in God.
Gospel Recipients: Hebrews 11 and the Roll Call of Faith
Abraham, the father of us all, and the Israelites all had access to the gospel even in the Old Testament. That may prove shocking to some who may have never heard of this outside of reading this article. Well, if you’re already in shock, prepare for another: the gospel merited a response of faith or unbelief, and there were those who had faith (Abraham, for example, among others) and those who didn’t (the Israelites in the wilderness).
Paul writes Hebrews 11 with a Roll Call of Faith present, a list of Old Testament persons who pleased God with their faith in Him that resulted in perseverance and endurance of their circumstances. Though they didn’t see their salvation in their lifetimes and went to their graves by way of tragic departure, they never wavered in their faith in God. Let’s take a look at the Roll Call of Faith:
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them,embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:4-40)
Hebrews 11 shows us Old Testament saints who have faith in God and are saved and counted righteous because they believe in the Lord, His promises, and His Law (His Word). First, there’s Abel, who “offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” By doing so, he proved “that he was righteous.” In other words, his sacrifice was respected by God (along with himself, for Genesis 4:4 says that God had respect for Abel and his offering) as well as himself. In the early pages of the first book of the Bible, we see that the saints of God had faith.
In Hebrews 11::5, Enoch was taken up by the Lord and escaped death because he had faith (“he pleased God…but without faith it is impossible to please Him,” see Hebrews 11:5-6). Noah built an ark after hearing instructions from the Lord to save he and his family and two kind of every creature. By so doing, he “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith”; in other words, his faith is what declared him righteous. He and his family were saved as a result from the condemnation that the world suffered (“by which he condemned the world,” Hebrews 11:7).
Joseph is mentioned here in the Roll Call of Faith because he believed that the Lord would bring the Israelites out of Egypt and ordered that his bones be taken when it occurred:
22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.
24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. (Genesis 50:22-26)
Joseph was the second-to-youngest son of Jacob, born out of the union of Jacob and Rachel (the woman he loved), and Joseph told his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren (he lived to see the third generation of offspring from his youngest son, Ephraim) to take his bones when the Exodus would occur. He hadn’t seen it yet, but he believed it would come to pass. His speech, like that of his ancestor, Abraham, was a vocal act of faith. And Joseph was indeed righteous: anyone who remembers his story remembers that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but the Lord made Joseph prosper in Potiphar’s house. Even when Potiphar’s wife made sexual advances at Joseph, he refused to entertain them, and despite being falsely accused and sentenced to prison, the Lord blessed Joseph to prosper there. He helped the cupbearer return to his position in Pharaoh’s administration, and one day, the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph’s kind deed and recommended that Pharaoh send for him to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph gives glory to God for his ability to interpret dreams, and Pharaoh’s make him second-in-command over all of Egypt. After all his brothers had done, he could still say “God meant it for good,” a confession that no doubt, was due to the Spirit of God in Joseph’s life.
Moses was hidden by his parents when he was a baby, because of Pharaoh’s command that all the Jewish males be killed. This happened after the Pharaoh tried to get the Hebrew midwives to kill their Jewish males as soon as the women would give birth to them, but the midwives refused to do so and God blessed them for their obedience to Him, not to Pharaoh:
15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”
19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. 21 And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them. (Exodus 1:15-21)
At this point, Pharaoh decided to slaughter every Hebrew male child he could find, so Amram and Jochebed (cousins and spouses) from the tribe of Levi hid their son. They hid Moses by putting him in the last place one would think a child could live (the river); he floated up the river to Pharaoh’s palace, where his daughter found Moses. Moses’ sister Miriam followed the baby as he traveled on the water, and was able to recommend her mother to raise Moses for the Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses learned about his people and their injustices and “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26)
What we read here is that Moses looked to his eternal reward, he believed that bearing the reproach of Christ, bearing the shame that Christ bore, was greater than being an honored son of Pharaoh’s daughter and being in command in Egypt. Whereas the Israelites “tempted Christ” (1 Corinthians 10) with their murmurings and complainings, we see Moses as one who chose to suffer for Christ rather than live in lavish extravagance in a place filled with sin (what I’d call Moses’ very own “Sodom and Gomorrah”). Moses had to come out of Egypt, as did the Jews, because the Lord called the Jews to be a separate people unto Himself and Himself alone. When Hebrews says that “by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27), we see that leaving Egypt had very little to do with his murdering a man out of his sense of justice (though he was tired of seeing his fellow Jews beaten and killed by the Egyptians every day) and more to do with following God, seeing the Lord within, having eyes of faith to believe God despite how great Pharaoh was or may have been. Moses feared God more than Pharaoh. It is outside of Egypt where Moses is called by God to go free the Israelites and tell Pharaoh to “let My people go.”
Abraham consumes a large portion of The Roll Call of Faith, particularly because he was the one through whom the blessing (Jesus) was given to the world, as we’ve read in Genesis 12:3. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that he garners a lot of attention here in a chapter that is all about the faith of the Old Testament saints.
First, Abraham obeys God to travel to an unknown place and leave his kindred and family. “He went out, not knowing where he was going,” we read in Hebrews 11:8, a sign that faith doesn’t always mean we know everything that’s around the corner or every twist or turn in the road. Abraham even stayed “in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (vv.9-10). He was dwelling in tents looking for not specifically the city that God promised him or the physical, geographical land that would be given to the Israelites; rather, he was looking for heaven, the heavenly city.
In other words, Abraham was a man of faith who was looking for that city to come, not the city that was. As we’ve already read with Paul in Hebrews 4, the rest that remains for the people of God is a heavenly rest because the Israelites, the ones to whom it was originally promised, did not enter into it because of unbelief (Hebrews 4:2). The heavenly city God prepared for not only Abraham but for all Old Testament saints of faith (Hebrews 11:16, “he has prepared a city for them”). Scripture also says that Abraham believed God’s word to him about Abraham having an heir from his own loins (Genesis 15:6) and it was “counted to him as righteousness.” James 2:23 tells us that believing Abraham was called “the friend of God,” a label not given lightly.
“These all died in faith,” a statement that reminds us that these Old Testament saints had faith. “Faith” is not just a New Testament phenomenon, but rather, one that even OT saints had because, though Jesus had not yet come, they had to believe in his future advent to earth.
In verses 17-19, Abraham returns to the scene once more, as he is told by God to offer up his son Isaac. We’ve already established via our work titled “The Laughter of God: Isaac as a Christ Type” that Isaac was a type of Christ in that his circumstances were miraculous (he was born to Abraham and Isaac, who were over 90 years old when Sarah birthed him; Abraham was 100) and that he was offered up as a sacrifice, a symbolic action to prefigure God the Father offering up Jesus Christ His Son as the propitiation (the appeasing, atoning sacrifice) for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2; 4:10).
Then, there’s Rahab, one that is rarely mentioned when discussing The Roll Call of Faith. We know her story from the book of Joshua:
Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.”
3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”
4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” 6 (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) 7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.
8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
14 So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.”
17 So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. 19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.”
21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.
22 They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them. 23 So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.” (Joshua 2:1-24)
The Jewish spies enter into the land and stay with a woman named Rahab, a harlot (a prostitute), a woman of no good reputation. The king of Jericho tells her to account for where the men are, asking her if they lodged with her. She tells the king they stayed with her but have left (she doesn’t know where they are headed exactly), but she does this to protect the Jewish spies. Her speech to them tells us that Rahab was no clueless woman: she mentions how the Lord dried up the Red Sea and drowned Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Joshua 2:10) and how the Lord also blessed Israel to kill the two giant kings Og and Sihon (v.10). Now, Rahab pleads with the Israelites to spare her life as well as the lives of her family members (brothers, sisters, mother and father).
By hiding the Jewish spies, Rahab showed her faith in the God of Israel because she’d heard of all He’d done and she knew how powerful He was that, if He could do all that, she’d be better off as His friend than His enemy. Rahab proves smarter than what many would’ve thought about a prostitute, and her faith is what plants her into the family and lineage of Jesus Christ:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)
Rahab’s faith not only plants her into the family and lineage of King Jesus, but it also puts her directly in the lineage of David. Rahab was the father of Boaz, who eventually became the husband of Ruth, and their son, Obed, became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David. Rahab was David’s great-great grandmother! She makes it into The Roll Call of Faith and into the family of God. No matter her line of work or her reputation, she makes it into Scripture in more places than one (Joshua 2; Joshua 6; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).
I’ll end this section as Hebrews does:
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:” (Hebrews 11:32)
There isn’t enough time in the world (or in the space of this article) to detail all who made The Roll Call of Faith, but from what we’ve seen, we know that those who believed in the gospel (the good news about God in their circumstances) were saved and counted “righteous.”
Now that we’ve covered the Old Testament saints and their access to the gospel, and we’ve covered faith as the condition to be counted righteous (some believed, some didn’t), we now travel to the section that you’ve been waiting for: in this next section, we cover the work of the Holy Spirit both on and in believers.
“On” Believers: The External Work of the Holy Spirit
Old Testament believers received the gospel, Paul tells us with regard to Abraham and the wilderness Israelites, and they had to either believe the message and have faith or not believe it and lack faith. Now, though, someone will ask, “Well, isn’t it the case that the Holy Spirit only came on believers in the Old Testament, not in them?”
The Holy Spirit, often known as “the Spirit of the Lord” in the Old Testament, did come on believers to do special tasks. There were moments when the Holy Spirit would come upon a believer to do something temporary and then we’d never hear from them in Scripture again. And then, there were those upon whom Scripture says the Holy Spirit rested, who continued to do their tasks until the day of their death (prophets, judges, etc.)
Who were these individuals on whom the Spirit would rest, and just what did the Holy Spirit use them to accomplish? We’ll turn toward that now.
The Holy Spirit comes upon the seventy elders, they prophesy (Numbers 11)
10 Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”
16 So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”’”
21 And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?”
23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.”
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again. (Numbers 11:10-25)
What we see here is that Moses, in despair over the complaints of the people, feels that the job is too hard for him (I wish pastors would understand that they need pastoral teams around them; would to God they had the humility of Moses!). He prays for the Lord to take him, kill him, because the task was too great for him and he didn’t want to see what he or the people would come to. I imagine Moses didn’t want to be responsible for their deaths, should he not be the leader they needed him to be.
The Lord takes seventy elders, men who were already heads of their tribes before the people, and places the Spirit that was upon Moses (that is, the task of leadership) upon the seventy elders as well. There is one line that we should pay attention to:
and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again. (Numbers 11:25)
They prophesied, but they only did it once: “they never did so again.” This was the sign that the Spirit had come upon them (prophesying), but it only happened once. Unlike some who believe that “speaking in tongues” is a prayer language that is done whenever a person feels the unction of the Holy Spirit in the assembly of the saints or at home, etc., the elders only prophesied once in their entire existence with the power to accomplish the task of shepherding the people.
Here we see the Spirit of God remain on the elders, though they only had one — a single — external sign of the Spirit’s residence. Their act of prophesying was a one-time act, never to be repeated again.
Othniel, Caleb’s brother, serves as judge
7 So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. 8 Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. 9 When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest for forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. (Judges 3:7-11)
Remember Caleb, one of the only two of the older Israelites that made it into the Promised Land because of their faith (Numbers 13:6, 30; 14:6, 24, 30, 38; 26:65; 32:12; 34:19; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:6, 13, 14; 15:13, 14, 16, 17, 18; 21:12 )? That Caleb is the one whose brother, Othniel, becomes an Israelite judge. Remember Othniel, the one that attacked Kirjath Sepher under the promise that he would receive Caleb’s daughter Achsah as his wife (Joshua 15:16-17)? This is the same Othniel we’re talking about here. Judges 3:10 says that “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” pointing to the Spirit’s external work on Othniel that moved him to fight against Israel’s oppressor, the King of Mesopotamia, overcome him, and be victorious.
The Spirit of the Lord comes upon other judges too, such as Gideon, though there is only one verse that attests to it (Judges 6:34). The text says that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon,” a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit externally. The words “came upon” tell us that this was an external work for a certain period of time.
Jephthah the Gileadite is another example of someone on whom the Spirit of the Lord came, one who was moved by the Spirit externally to defeat the Ammonites. He made a hasty vow, a crazy vow, that he’d sacrifice whatever came through his doors as a burnt offering if he was victorious against the Ammonites. Sure enough, his daughter (name unknown) came through the doors and he tore his clothes when he realized he’d have to sacrifice his child as a burnt offering because of his hasty vow (Judges 11:29-40). His daughter requests two months to go and mourn her virginity with her friends, after which she returns and lets her father slaughter her and offer her as a sacrifice. It was a hasty and unfortunate vow, a tragic vow that I couldn’t imagine having performed, but Jephthah does it as a man of his word.
In Judges 13:24-25, we meet a woman, the wife of one named Manoah, who gives birth to Samson. Verse 25 says “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.” The Spirit of the Lord moves upon Samson in Judges 14 to tear apart a lion and kill thirty men (Judges 14:6, 19). In Judges 15:1-20, he killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey at Lehi after burning their animals, grain, olive groves, and vineyards due to the loss of his pre-arranged wife to his friend.
Kings: Saul and David
The Spirit of the Lord didn’t just come upon the seventy elders of Israel, or just the judges, but the Spirit of the Lord also came upon the kings of Israel. Despite the Lord’s insistence that He be their king, that there be no human king over Israel, He gave Israel what it wanted — a king to go before them and come in before them, “like all the other nations.” And so, it was with great regret that the first king in Israel’s history happened to be one of the worst kings of Israel’s history: Saul.
In 1 Samuel 10, when the Lord has chosen Saul, Samuel pours the flask of oil over Saul’s head (thereby anointing him Israel’s first historical king). Samuel then tells him that, due to the Lord anointing him to be king, he would prophesy:
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance? 2 When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ 3 Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands. 5 After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. (1 Samuel 10:1-7)
Samuel tells Saul that he would meet a group of prophets who would be prophesying, and “the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” And Saul prophesied as Samuel told him he would, with the reaction being, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:11) This only happened once in Saul’s life, but it just goes to show that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon people to do deeds and acts, sometimes as a one-time thing, others in a more long-term state. These acts of the Holy Spirit were not permanent or lifetime, but they were done to show when God had done something new in the life of a person or in the life of the nation of Israel. In this case, Saul prophesies once (a one-time act, like the seventy elders upon whom the Spirit comes to help Moses lead the people).
The Spirit of the Lord also comes upon David when he is anointed king:
4 So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:4-13)
When David is chosen king, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him to enable him for the task of the kingship. And yet, we read that, as the Spirit of the Lord comes upon David, the new king, the Spirit of the Lord departs from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). Some say this is in reference to the kingship, but the presence of an evil spirit (not “a distressing spirit,” as the New King James Version so erroneously says) indicates that Saul was an apostate, not merely someone who “was no longer king,” as some believers have said before. The next section on the Spirit’s internal work (indwelling) will shed light on why this is so.
The Spirit of the Lord comes upon the prophets, those who are messengers from God to relay God’s word to His people, remind the people of God’s Law, to pronounce sentences of blessing or judgment due to obedience or disobedience, and so on.
In our minor section here on the prophets, we see that Isaiah, Ezekiel and Micah all had the Spirit of the Lord upon them by which they were anointed to be God’s representatives on earth. We also see the Spirit of the Lord upon His people, the nation of Israel, as well as others who helped build the house of God.
Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-3), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:1-13), and Micah (Micah 3:5-12) are three examples of prophets upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested and anointed them to speak His words to His people.
Others moved by the Spirit of the Lord
Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah, encourages in battle
14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17)
The Spirit moves Jahaziel to encourage Judah to go into battle, knowing that God had already given the nation the victory over their enemies.
Zechariah is moved by the Spirit to prophesy, is stoned to death by King Joash
15 But Jehoiada grew old and was full of days, and he died; he was one hundred and thirty years old when he died. 16 And they buried him in the City of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and His house.
17 Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. 18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.
20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.’” 21 So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, “The Lord look on it,and repay!” (2 Chronicles 24:15-22)
Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada a faithful priest in the land who died, stood up and testified against the people regarding their idolatrous worship and told them they were wrong for turning against the Lord. Despite his father’s kindness to King Joash, the king decided to kill Zechariah anyway. Sadly enough, the Lord had sent them prophets before he sent Zechariah, but they wouldn’t listen and repent (2 Chronicles 24:19).
We’ve seen judges, kings, and prophets, along with other individuals within the nation be moved to action by the Spirit of the Lord. We know that the Spirit of the Lord comes “on” individuals to bring about the accomplishment of tasks for which the Lord has assigned them. What few have considered is that the Spirit of the Lord also indwells believers. That is the heart of the discussion, and we take it up in the final section.
In Them: The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, An Internal Work
Most theologians discussing the Holy Spirit or researching on a regular basis have been quick to dichotomize between the Holy Spirit coming “on” believers in the Old Testament as opposed to “in” them in the New Testament. The evidence you’re about to see, however, will shatter that view, as there are a number of biblical texts in the Old Testament that point to the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, living inside of believers, indwelling Old Testament saints.
Joseph was the eleventh of Jacob’s twelve sons, and he was the most persecuted of them all. His brothers, jealous of his dreams and his father’s affections (as demonstrated by the coat of many colors he wore), sold him into slavery to “see what would become of his dreams.” He served Potiphar faithfully but was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife who wanted an affair with Joseph; Potiphar then had him thrown into the dungeon. While he was there, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker; the cupbearer was later taken out of jail and restored to his post, while the baker was hanged, as Joseph had said (Genesis 40:21-22).
And yet, the cupbearer, having promised Joseph he’d remember him when he was restored to his post, forgot all about Joseph — until a night came when Pharaoh’s dreams needed interpretation. Under fear of losing his job and his life, he remembers Joseph in the dungeon as the one responsible for the interpretation of his dream. Joseph is brought to Pharaoh, interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, gives advice on how to prepare for the seven years of famine that would follow the seven years of plenty, and Pharaoh and his servants are pleased. Pharaoh responds,
38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38)
The text says “in whom the Spirit of God,” with the word “is” being supplied by the NKJV translators, but the gist of the idea is present; Joseph has the Spirit of God in him, and Pharaoh acknowledges it. The Spirit of God wasn’t on Joseph to merely interpret the dreams of Pharaoh in a one-time act; rather, it was in Joseph as well, indwelling, the same Spirit of the Lord that continued giving him the ability to interpret dreams, who continued to bless Joseph even when he was mistreated and falsely accused, the same Spirit of the Lord that was with Joseph in all he did and blessed everything he touched.
Joshua is a Jew in the nation of Israel, and we read in Numbers 27 that it was time for Moses to appoint a successor since his time with the people wouldn’t be long. The Lord God told Moses to select Joshua because he was a man who had the Spirit of God:
15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”
18 And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19 set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. 20 And you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. 21 He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him—all the congregation.”
22 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. 23 And he laid his hands on him and inaugurated him, just as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses. (Numbers 27:15-23)
Numbers 27:18 isn’t playing tricks on your eyes, for the Lord tells Moses that Joshua is “a man in whom is the Spirit,” a reference to him having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Joshua wasn’t just given the Spirit for a short time to do a specific act; the Spirit of God was in him, he was a man of the Lord, a believer, a child of God. Joshua was chosen as the one to lead the people, the one who would succeed Moses, the one on whom Moses was to give some authority so that the people would be loyal and faithful to him. He would be next in line after Moses, and his Spirit-filled life and Spirit-indwelled life were the reason behind God’s selection of him for the task.
Daniel, the one known for being thrown in the lion’s den because he wouldn’t bow down to the king’s order and prayed three times a day to the God of Israel (the God of his people), is another Old Testament saint who had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There are a few references to Daniel having the Spirit of God within him:
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. 6 Therefore I issued a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in, and I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation. 8 But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: 9 “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation. (Daniel 4:4-9)
18 “This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.” (Daniel 4:18)
10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. 12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” (Daniel 5:10-12)
These verses give 4 references to the fact that “in whom [Daniel] is the Spirit of the Holy God,” which tells us that Daniel had the Spirit of God within him. Unless we’re going to redefine “the Spirit of God” or say that the preposition “in” doesn’t mean “within,” we’re forced to comply with what Scripture tells us: Daniel had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, even as an Old Testament saint.
Joseph, Joshua, and Daniel are not the only ones said to have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; the Israelites, God’s chosen people, the ones who get the gospel in the wilderness (see Hebrews 4), have the Spirit of the Lord within them, too.
Israel, God’s chosen people, had the Spirit of the Lord move upon particular people to do particular things, but the external movement of the Spirit of the Lord isn’t all there is to the story; rather, the Spirit of the Lord indwelled His people, too, as can be seen in the following passage of Scripture:
7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord
And the praises of the Lord,
According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,
According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.
8 For He said, “Surely they are My people,
Children who will not lie.”
So He became their Savior.
9 In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
And He bore them and carried them
All the days of old.
10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;
So He turned Himself against them as an enemy,
And He fought against them.
11 Then he remembered the days of old,
Moses and his people, saying:
“Where is He who brought them up out of the sea
With the shepherd of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them, (Isaiah 63:7-11)
In Isaiah 63:8, the Lord becomes their Savior; in verse 9, He “redeemed” them. In verse 10, “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit,” something that can’t be done unless one has the Holy Spirit living within himself or herself. In Isaiah 63:11, we see that the Lord is called “He who put His Holy Spirit within them.” Yes, the word “within” is in the text! In other words, the Israelites not only got the gospel and believed for a time (remember, they were “saved” and “redeemed,” as Isaiah 63 above tells us), but they also had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for a time.
The Israelites rebelling against and grieving the Holy Spirit brings a familiar passage to mind that Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:25-30)
The Ephesians were told by Paul not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God; and yet, the Israelites did grieve and rebel against the Holy Spirit in the wilderness. This just goes to show that the Israelites did have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that we don’t have an indwelling that they didn’t have. Either “within” and “in” mean what they do, or else “on” doesn’t really mean “on.”
In light of the above discussion, we’ve seen that the Old Testament saints had access to the gospel, even as early as Cain and Abel, before Abraham received it (Genesis 12:3). The gospel message then, as is the case now, mandated faith in the message, faith in God, and so we see the Old Testament saints make The Roll Call of Faith in Hebrews 11 because of the persecution, suffering, death, and pain they endured as children of God.
In the last information section (prior to the conclusion), we’ve also seen Old Testament saints Joseph, Joshua, Daniel, and even the Wilderness Israelites who had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We examined the Spirit’s work “on” believers to get them to do particular tasks: Saul and David as kings, the judges Jephthah, Gideon, Othniel, and even Samson, as well as others in the nation of Israel who were stirred up by God to speak truth for God and to do things for God.
And yet, the Spirit wasn’t merely “on” believers in the Old Testament. We’ve made a nice, neat dichotomy between “on” and “in” within the field of biblical theology, but all we’ve done is put labels around Scripture and abandon other portions that would speak even clearer truth to us. That’s the problem with so many discussions on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: they’ve characterized the Old Testament so nonchalantly that they overlook Daniel, Joseph, Joshua, Joseph, the Israelites, and even Old Testament saints such as Abraham, Rahab, etc., and deny the Holy Spirit that lived within them.
This discussion brings up some interesting questions, I’m sure, such as the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and how it differs from the Old, but there’s no denying that the Old Testament saints, like modern-day believers, had the Holy Spirit. We can allow this new information to shed light on our approach to Scripture and God’s plan of salvation (of which the Holy Spirit has always been a part), or we can continue to say, “the Holy Spirit was on believers in the Old Testament and in believers in the New Testament.” Whether we’re now willing to correct that age-old statement and expose how erroneous it is becomes a matter of conscience, but Joseph, Joshua, Daniel, and the Israelites will continue to stare us in the face each time we open the Scriptures.