Section 5: The Holy Spirit
Week 2: The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Old Testament
Day 5: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Providing Hope for God’s People
Ezek. 37:1-14, Joel 2:28-32
The people of Israel were blessed to have God dwell among them. But, as we’ve seen, even at its best their experience of God’s presence was incomplete because of Adam and Eve’s sin. To complicate things even further, Israel repeatedly turned their back on God. As a result, God allowed them to be taken into exile. In the midst of that difficult time, the Holy Spirit gave them a picture of God’s plan for the future. Specifically, the Spirit pointed to a time when he would be poured out to transform Israel, turning their hearts of stone to flesh so they could genuinely love God and his ways. At that time, they would truly become God’s people and he would be their God and dwell among them in a more intimate way (Ezek. 37:1-14, 40-48, Joel 2:28-32).
Why did the Holy Spirit paint that picture for them? To give them hope. Although the picture he painted was of the future, it was intended to have an impact on their present lives. The Holy Spirit gave them a glimpse of the transformation he would one day bring about in order to sustain them through the difficult times they would face in the meantime. Although the exiles eventually returned home, Jerusalem, their capital city, and the Temple lay in ruins. Both would be rebuilt, but Israel was never the same. Nevertheless the people had God’s promise. Their present experience did not encompass the totality of God plans for them.
Several years ago, Jeni and I went on a trip to Mexico to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. For several weeks before we left, I found myself really looking forward to it. Jeni’s parents, who own a travel agency, had helped us make arrangements to stay at an all-inclusive resort. I had never stayed at one before, and I was excited to find out what all the fuss was about. The interesting thing is that my excitement and looking forward to the trip changed the way I felt about each day leading up to it. The joy I anticipated experiencing in the future somehow entered and transformed my present experience. There were just as many troubles and annoyances as there ever were. But the excitement over what lay ahead changed the way I felt about those things.
That’s what the Holy Spirit wanted for the Israelites. He let them have a glimpse of their future to transform their present experience. He wanted to give them a reason to push through their current troubles and an ability to experience joy in the midst of their suffering.
Our experience today is not all that different from Israel’s. Although we experience God’s presence in a more immediate way than Old Testament believers did, our ultimate hope still lies in the future. We live “in between the times” just as much as Israel did. As a result, we still live in a world were suffering is commonplace. What gives us the strength to keep going? God’s promise that this is not all there is. God has a better future planned for us.
Read Rom. 8:18-27 and Rev. 21:1-4.
How would you describe God’s future plans for you? How should those future plans affect your present experience?