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The Promise of the Spirit


The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology
“One of the major marks of the new age will be the outpouring of God' Spirit upon his people (cf. Heron 1983: 17-20). In Isa 44:3 God promises, 'I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, / and my blessing on your offspring,' like life-giving water on thirsty ground. Ezekiel develops the idea: God promises that when the exiles are restored, he will 'put a new spirit within them' (Ezek 11:19), thus enabling them to walk in his ways. In 26:25-27 God declares, 'I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all uncleannesses... A new heart I will give you, a new spirit I will put within you... I will put my spirit within you.' The day is coming when 'I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God' (39:29).”

5-2.2 THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT

“The giving of the Spirit in the OT is an exceptional occurrence; a relatively few individuals receive the Spirit, usually for limited periods of time. The OT also reflects a longing for a fuller outpouring of God's Spirit, and promises that this will indeed take place when the new order dawns.

The psalmist prays that God would put 'a new spirit within me' (Ps 51:10). Isaiah sees the need for God's people to be cleansed 'by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning' (Isa 4:4); they must suffer God's judgment 'until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high,' bringing a rich harvest of justice and righteousness (32:15-17 RSV).

5-2.3 THE SPIRIT AND GOD'S PEOPLE

One of the major marks of the new age will be the outpouring of God' Spirit upon his people (cf. Heron 1983: 17-20). In Isa 44:3 God promises, 'I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, / and my blessing on your offspring,' like life-giving water on thirsty ground. Ezekiel develops the idea: God promises that when the exiles are restored, he will 'put a new spirit within them' (Ezek 11:19), thus enabling them to walk in his ways. In 26:25-27 God declares, 'I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all uncleannesses.... A new heart I will give you, a new spirit I will put within you... I will put my spirit within you.' The day is coming when 'I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God' (39:29).

The future outpouring of God's Spirit is dramatically portrayed in Ezekiel's vision of the valley of bones (37:1-14). The present state of 'the whole house of Israel' (v. 11) is like that of a people who are not only dead but whose bones lie dried out and unburied on the slopes of a valley,, they are cut off from life and their hope is lost. The only hope for the resurrection of God's people lies with God. The prophet is instructed to promise such a resurrection, employing the various interlocking meanings of ruach (cf. Maertens 1966: 36). God says to the bones, 'I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live' (v. 5); only the breath of God (Gen 2:7) can confer life. The prophet is to summon this breath 'from the four winds' (v. 9) that will blow across the valley revitalizing the corpses. This breath/wind is none other than the Spirit of God: God will raise his people from the grave of exile, restore them to the Land, and 'I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live' (v. 14). 'Ruach in the book of Ezekiel was related most closely to a messianic people, a people renewed by the Spirit to fulfil the purpose of God in history' (Moody 1976: 22). Ezekiel's dry-bones prophecy can be thought of as having fulfilled to some extent in the return from exile in Babylon. Yet insofar as that return fell short of expectations, Ezek 37:1-14 is to be seen as containing a 'surplus' of meaning referring to a still future eschatological event.

The prophet Joel introduces his vision of the new age (Joel 2:28-3:21) with a prophecy of the future outpouring of God's Spirit:

Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit. (2:28-29)

This is linked with the cosmic portents that will precede the Day of the Lord (2:30-31; cf. 2-2.3). Three points relating to this passage should be noted. Firstly, the emphasis is on the future reception of the Spirit by all God's people (v. 32a), without distinction of sex (sons/daughters, male/female slaves), age (old men/young men), or social status (male/female slaves i.e., in addition to free persons.). Secondly, the outpouring of the Spirit is linked to the gift of prophecy. Thirdly, the outpouring of Spirit is an eschatological event, occurring 'afterward,' and linked to the cosmic signs and the Day of the Lord.

In the Prophets, therefore, we find anticipation of 'a new era in which the Spirit will work among a greater number of individuals and different kinds of people to create a more faithful community of men and women serving God' (Blomberg 1996: 345)"

Charles Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Dec 11 2002) p. 275-76





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