THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The first work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was His participation in creation.
Genesis 1:2 – “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
The main work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was to give certain servants of God power and ability to accomplish something for God’s people or His kingdom.
Exodus 35:30,31 – Then Moses said to the Israelite’s, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skill.”
Here we see Bezalel filled with the Spirit of God that he might have wisdom, understanding and knowledge to work on crafting items for the Temple of God. It was not purely a natural task, but a spiritual one because he needed to be able to do it just as God prescribed. It is very possible that Bezalel did not have the ability in himself to make all the items and things God required. Therefore, he gave him His Spirit. As we will see later on in this series, the Holy Spirit did not reside in him but only rested on him to do the assigned work. After the special task was done, the Holy Spirit was more than likely removed from Bezalel.
Numbers 11:16-17 – “The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.”
Here we see that God’s Spirit was on Moses. This was necessary because Moses was first and foremost a prophet. (Acts 3:22) All the prophets were mouth pieces for God and as result were under the power of the Holy Spirit when they spoke.
2 Peter 1:21 – “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Secondly, Moses was God’s leader for the people of Israel so He needed God’s Spirit on him to know the will of God and work the miracles of God before the people. In turn, God took some of the power of God’s Spirit from Moses and put it on the 70 elders that God had selected to lead the people of Israel together with Moses. Taking “some of the power of the Spirit that is on you (Moses), was a figure of speech. God did not give the 70 elders some of His Holy Spirit, but all of it that they might have God’s authority and power to lead and serve the people of Israel. Another way of saying it is that God gave them ability to be leaders of God’s people along with Moses through the Spirit of God. Although they received all of God’s Spirit, they did not receive all of God’s power. Moses had greater power, a greater anointing than the 70 elders. We see this idea of “greater anointing” in the story of Elijah and Elisha. Elisha received a double portion of God’s Spirit.
All the appointed judges over Israel in the Old Testament were given the Spirit of God that they might have power to deliver God’s chosen people from their enemies as well as lead and judge wisely. (Judges 3:9;-10; 6:34-35; 11:29; 14:6,19; 15:14) Also, all of God’s chosen kings received the power of the Holy Spirit to deliver and lead God’s people in the way that they should go. (1 Samuel 11:6; 16:13; 2 Chronicles 15:1-2; 2 Kings 2:9, 15)
It is interesting to note that there is no mention of God’s Spirit ever being on Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. The reason is that they didn’t have specific tasks to accomplish. Therefore, the didn’t need any special ability, power or authority from God. They were only called to live by faith and obedience to Him.
Finally, we see the Spirit of God mentioned many times in the O.T., but the Holy Spirit only mentioned three times. (Psalm 51:13; Isaiah 63:10,11) The reason for this is because the work of the Spirit in the O.T. was not to sanctify people or enable them to obey God as it is today in the N.T.