The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, Lesson 11

The Holy Spirit

An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology

Lesson 11: The Spirit of the Lord and the Spirit of God in the Latter Prophets, February 17, 2019 | The Sanctuary UPC

Daniel L. Segraves

The appearance of the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah 40:13 apparently recalls the phrase from Isaiah 11:2. Three of the seven characteristics of the Spirit of the Lord listed in Isaiah 11:2 are found in Isaiah 40:13-14: understanding, counsel, knowledge. The reference to the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah 40:13 looks back to the Lord God[1] of Isaiah 40:10, which hearkens even further back to Isaiah 40:3, showing that the chapter is an extended messianic prophecy. Here is how it reads, focusing on the key verses: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God’ . . . . Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand . . . . Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:3, 10, 13-14). Paul alluded to Isaiah 40:13-14 in Romans 11:33-34 in his discussion of the depth of the riches of the Lord’s wisdom and knowledge displayed in the mercy of God on both Jews and Gentiles.

[2]That idea that Isaiah 40 prophesies of the coming Messiah is confirmed by the use of Isaiah 40:3 in Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23. In these texts, John the Baptist is the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” and the Lord whose way John is preparing is Jesus Christ.

[3]The Spirit of the Lord refers to divine defense against His enemies in Isaiah 59:19: “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” The “standard” refers to a battle flag that the Redeemer will fly when He comes to Zion. (See Isaiah 59:20.)

[4]In a clear messianic claim, Jesus quoted the next reference to the Spirit of the Lord God: “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2). (See Luke 4:18-19.) Immediately after quoting Isaiah’s words, Jesus said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

[5]In remembrance of the rescue of the Israelites at the Red Sea, Isaiah 63:14 points out that even beasts, like horses, are given rest by the “Spirit of the Lord.” If this is the case, Lord’s people can be sure He will lead them to make a glorious name for Himself. 


[6]The first time the term “the Spirit of the Lord” is used in Ezekiel, it introduces supernatural vocalization: “The Spirit lifted me up . . . . He said to me . . . ‘prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of Man!’ Then the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and said to me, ‘Speak! “Thus says the Lord: ‘Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind’ ” ’ ” (Ezekiel 11:1-5). Ezekiel obeyed: “Now it happened while I was prophesying . . .” (Ezekiel 11:13).[2] As we saw in Numbers 11:25, I Samuel 10:6-10, and I Samuel 19:22-24, when the Spirit came upon people, it was not unusual for them to prophesy. Prophecy was a manifestation of the presence of the Spirit in the Old Testament and even into the New Testament. This sign advanced beyond its previous significance on the Day of Pentecost when all present in the upper room were baptized with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in languages they had never learned.

[7]The second and last time the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord” is used in Ezekiel, it marks the beginning of the vision of the valley of dry bones: “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). In the fourteen verses given to this vision, there are seven references to Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry. (See Ezekiel 37:4, 7, 9, 10, 12.) This is, of course, another indication of the connection between the Spirit and supernatural vocalization. 


[8]Micah’s first reference to the Spirit of the Lord poses a question to the false prophets in Jerusalem: “You who are named the house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the Lord restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good to him who walks uprightly?” (Micah 2:7). Instead of “restricted” or “straitened,” as in the KJV, many English translations render qatzar in such a way as to express impatience.   The grammatical connection between “the Spirit” and “His doings” again indicates that the Spirit and the Lord are not to be thought of as distinct entities.[3]

[9]The other reference to the Spirit of the Lord in Micah has the Spirit as the source of Micah’s power: “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8). This reminds us of the words of Jesus shortly before the Day of Pentecost: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The power with which Micah was filled was not an abstract force, but an enablement to call for justice as he declared Israel’s sins.

[10]The sole use of the phrase “the Spirit of God” in the Latter Prophets is found in Ezekiel 11:24: “Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to those in captivity. And the vision that I had seen went up from me” (Ezekiel 11:24). A comparison with the use of “the Spirit of the Lord” in Ezekiel 11:5 indicates the descriptors are used as virtual synonyms.


[11]The uses of “the Spirit of the Lord” and “the Spirit of God” in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Micah indicate the terms are used as synonyms. They reinforce the observation that it is not unusual for the coming of the Spirit to result in supernatural vocalization. They demonstrate again that Scripture draws no sharp distinction between the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord.

[12]Several texts in this section offer insight about the coming Messiah. What is sometimes called the “seven-fold” Spirit rests upon Him. The forerunning ministry of John the Baptist is anticipated. Jesus Himself quotes from these Scriptures and announces that they are fulfilled by Him.

[13]The Spirit of the Lord has a destructive influence on those who reject Him and provides defense against the enemies of His people. In an interesting comparison of the Lord’s care for both animals and people, we discover that the Spirit gives rest to animals and leadership to His people.

[1] When “Lord GOD” appears, it represents Adonai Yahweh.

[2] “Despite hesitations that have been expressed by many commentators, it seems best to understand the whole of this chapter as being a part of the vision which began in 8:2 and ends in 11:24” (John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 22, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1969), 108.

[3] The link between prophecy and the Spirit in Micah 2:6-7 suggests that Paul alluded to this text in II Thessalonians 5:19-20. In Micah, false prophets resisted true prophecy: “ ‘Do not prattle,’ you say to those who prophesy. So they shall not prophesy to you. They shall not return insult for insult” (Micah 2:6). The false prophets insulted true prophets by accusing them of prattling. Because of this rejection of true prophecy, the true prophets refrained from prophesying. They had been insulted, but they would not insult in return. Then the Lord asks the false prophets, “You who are named the house of Jacob: ‘Is the Spirit of the Lord restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good to him to walks uprightly?’ ” (Micah 2:7). In other words, “Prophecy given by the Spirit of the Lord is of the Lord and is beneficial for those who do right. Why would you want to reject it?” Paul may have had this in mind when he wrote, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (I Thessalonians 19-20).