The Inspirational Ministry of the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant

From previous studies we have discovered that the Holy Spirit was very prominent in the Old Testament. In fact, He was also working in the background inspiring the writer of the various books of Scripture. Men like Moses, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah wrote under His inspiration, for we are told by the apostle Peter that “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). The apostle Paul adds, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), therefore the inspiration must have been the work of the God the Holy Spirit.

God’s Spirit moved upon the Old Testament writers and prophets in a remarkable and powerful way. Some of them were may not have been unaware of this fact, but they were granted revelations direct from God, so that His word could be spread abroad. As we read the Prophets we understand that His will, plans and purposes were being made known to Israel and the nations. This inspirational ministry of the Holy Spirit was largely on a personal level, that is, through individual men (and sometimes women such as Miriam, Esther and Ruth.)

Used by but not Filled with
The Holy Spirit came upon people in the under the Old Covenant instead of actually filling them with His presence. When it is said that He did fill them, it was only for a certain period of time rather than having His continuous presence. The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit could only be given after the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Christ … “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7) … “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified) (John 7:38-39). Such a promise is misleading if the Holy Spirit dwelt within Old Testament prophets on a continuous basis.

Guiding and Leading
This does not mean that the Holy Spirit was not continuously upon the earth prior to the Day of Pentecost. His Old Testament ministry was predominately amongst the nation of Israel. God said, “For I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Haggai 2:4-5). As we read the account of Israel’s history, we learn that that often fell away from God because they refused to obey the voice of His Spirit … “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Nevertheless, He never took His Spirit away from them, for they still needed His guidance … “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever” (Isaiah 59:21). The punishment for disobedience included falling into the hands of their enemies, but even when God withdrew divine protection and aid, He was still working to bring Israel to repentance. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit has been doing since the Jews rejected Christ as Messiah and Lord. One day, through His ministry, “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26).

The Holy Spirit’s ministry in the Old Testament was on three basic levels:

1. He worked as the Creator.

2. He worked as the Inspirer.

3. He worked as the Guide.

It is very obvious even to the casual reader that the Holy Spirit was indeed ministering under the Old Covenant, and that through Him the chosen people were being brought into a closer relationship with God. It has ever been part of His ministry, in every era, to draw men and women to the place where they can experience the fullness of God’s goodness, grace, and glory.