I keep telling some of you about how great my professors are. The one mentioned most, Dr. Hess, is my OT professor. I sound like a broken record when I say he is one of the most brilliant Bible scholars I have ever encountered. He talks for 3 hours without notes (except the Bible), never hesitates with students’ questions, and could tell you more about the Dead Sea Scrolls than you thought possible.
Our class two weeks ago blew me away. After talking about ancient manuscripts for an hour, Dr. Hess switched gears and discussed the Bible with us. We talked about Genesis 1:1-2 for two hours. Two verses in two hours. That was not enough time to discuss God’s first words about His Redemptive story.
The most exciting thing about the lecture was the discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit in Creation, and His continual involvement in the Old Testament narrative with a purpose of CREATION and REDEMPTION.
Setting the Stage: The author of Genesis 1 poetically describes God’s masterful creation of the universe. In verse 2 he says “Now the earth was formless and empty.” In Hebrew: tohu wa bohu. This is basically a poetic way of saying that there was no support for life. Next, he records “darkness was over the surface of the deep.” Now, what exactly does “the deep” mean? The Hebrew, tehom, describes subterranean waters. It describes a “potentially powerful” force; something unstoppable.
Genesis 1:2 continues, “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Hebrew for the use of “Spirit of God” in Genesis 1, is ruach. The word actually means “a mighty wind.” (No, not something imagined by Christopher Guest.) And “hovering” connotes a bird flying back & forth, waiting. Waiting. There is a powerful potential, a tehom, underneath this ruach and He is waiting for something to happen. So, the Holy Spirit, this mighty wind, is connected to powerful subterranean waters.
The Red Sea
Fast forward to another connection of the Holy Spirit with water in Exodus.
In Exodus 14, The Egyptians army, the most powerful in the world, is pursuing the fleeing Israelites and have cornered them against the Red Sea. Moses states: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex 14:13)
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “ ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”
The “strong east wind” is the Holy Spirit, ruach. And the use of the word “waters” is the same Hebrew word, tehom that describes the “potentially powerful waters” at the beginning of creations. Except this time, the waters realized their potential.
After this miraculous event, we see a people created Israel. “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant…In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” (Ex 14:31, 15:13).
Return From Babylon
Another important event in Israel’s past, the exile from Babylon, also includes a reference (though more vague) to the Holy Spirit being a part of creating and, especially, redeeming the remnant of God’s people.
Some scripture sregarding God’s leading Israel back to their home are found in Isaiah).
First, God describes how the OLD Israel is going to suffer. Isaiah 5:5-6
5 Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
6 I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.
Second, Isaiah: 40: 23-24. Here, God has destroyed Babylonian authorities. Notice the words (bolded) that are similar to our past references to the Holy Spirit as being a mighty wind. There are different Hebrew words here than in Genesis, but the meaning is the same.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff
Third, Isaiah 55:12-13 God is talking to the Israelites about how He will lead them away from Babylon.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.
“Led forth” here is another description of the Spirit’s work; the word literally means leading a triumphant army from exile. From the WBC (Isaiah) this term connotes that “heavenly messengers recognize the significance of the announcement. God’s plan is being put into effect. Glorious results will follow.” God will recreate His people as they are lead back to their home. They will become a New Israel through a New Covenant.
If this is WAY over your head; don’t worry. It’s way over mine as well, still. But, hopefully you can get the gist that God is amazing and will stop at nothing to keep freeing His people, redeeming them, recreating them. And how amazing is His Word! He is so crafty.
Dr. Hess is also one of the kindest people I know. He prays before each class; last week he prayed that people without a home would find shelter and clothing to protect them in this weather, and that God’s hand would be over the situation and the Christians in Egypt. Our hearts were turned off of ourselves for a few seconds and onto others. So refreshing.