by Dave Miller
The Spirit of the Lord came on him and [Othniel] judged Israel. - Judges 3:10
The Spirit of the Lord enveloped Gideon, and he blew the ram’s horn and the Abiezrites rallied behind him. - Judges 6:34
The Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah, who traveled through Gilead and Manasseh, and then through Mizpah of Gilead. - Judges 11:29
Then the Spirit of the Lord began to stir [Samson] in the Camp of Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. - Judges 13:25
the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on [Samson], and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. - Judges 14:6
The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on [Samson], and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men. - Judges 14:19
The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on [Samson], and the ropes that were on his arms and wrists became like burnt flax and fell off. - Judges 15:14
The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully on you [Saul], you will prophesy with them, and you will be transformed. When these signs have happened to you, do whatever your circumstances require because God is with you. - 1 Samuel 10:6-7
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on David from that day forward. - 1 Samuel 16:13
Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, - 1 Samuel 16:14
When we think about the Old Testament scriptures, tell the stories, and study the text, the Holy Spirit is usually not the main topic of discussion. When it comes to the study of the book of Acts you can hardly find a discussion that doesn’t include the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, often you will hear the book should be titled the Acts of the Holy Spirit, instead of the Acts of the Apostles. When you take a close look at Judges and 1 Samuel (Samuel was the last judge), we probably should reference a better name for that book as well, Acts of the Holy Spirit - Part 1.
A quick survey of the verses above demonstrate leadership among God’s people was not on the basis of confidence, political prowess, strength, or even perfect character, it was on the basis of obedience to God’s commands through the power of the Holy Spirit. Common men and women were set apart for specific extraordinary leadership and courage beyond their capacity when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
In the case of the book of Judges, the uncommon leaders were God’s response to Israel’s cry for help from disobedience inflicted suffering and oppression. The cycle continued over and over. The people would do what was right in their own eyes. God would bring discipline through suffering and oppression. The people would humble themselves and cry out for help. God would have compassion, set a leader apart and call them to obedience to His Word. The leader would respond in obedience and God would empower them by His Spirit to accomplish deliverance well beyond their capacity or ability. The land would have peace. The next generation would forget and do what was right in their own eyes.
The culmination can be seen in the life of the first King, Saul. Tall and strong, yet afraid and humble, God anoints him as not just judge, but King through the prophet and last judge, Samuel. The difference? Saul would be promised God’s presence in everything he did, not just at certain moments. The story goes well until Saul grows impatient with God’s ways and takes matters into his own hands. He offered up a sacrifice reserved for Samuel. The result? The Spirit of the Lord left Saul for his disobedience. Every moment from that point forward was Saul’s power, an epic failure of historical proportions.
Then comes along a young, handsome shepherd teen, tending his father’s flocks while Samuel searches for the new king among his brothers at their father’s home. When Samuel sees the oldest brother, who looks like a king, God speaks to Samuel in an oft spoken of moment. “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Then comes David after God passes over every older brother. David is chosen and Samuel anoints him King over Israel. Then we are told, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on David from that day forward.”
David’s reign did not immediately begin. Instead he patiently waited on the Lord’s timing and exaltation to the throne. He walked in obedience and faith, and the Lord increased his influence year after year. Significant moments set David apart, like his victory over Goliath, his choice to repent at the kindness of Abigail, his refusal to kill Saul in the cave, his military wisdom, courage, and leadership, all in faithful humble obedience to the commands of his God.
David is by no means perfect. Scripture doesn’t even give us the chance to make David out to be the Savior. In between are women, murder, pride, and fear. But what we do see, are incredible moments of faith in fear, repentance in sin, devotion to God in suffering, and patience trust in the Lord’s timing. God honors his chosen leader with the power of the Spirit of God in every moment of obedience to accomplish all the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, desired for his people in David’s generation. And as the Apostle Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia centuries later, “after serving God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed,” (Acts 13:36).
So now, what do we do with the stories of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? How do we apply them to ourselves? For one, I believe we agree with Moses when he said to Joshua, “If only all the Lord’s people were prophets and the Lord would place his Spirit on them!” and then believe the truth of Acts 2, “Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.” For we are not like those of the Old Testament, waiting, wondering when God will send his Spirit among his people to call out a leader to show us the way. Instead, we, as followers of Jesus, the Church of Jesus Christ, each have been given the Spirit to walk as they walked, to lead as they lead, to do the extraordinary in the mundane through obedience to His Word empowered by the same Holy Spirit that brought courage to Gideon, strength to Samson, and was with King David from that day forward. For the true King and promised Son of David, whose kingdom will never end, is indeed the perfect one. He not only walks in the power of the Spirit, but gives freely and abundantly the Spirit to those who walk in obedience to His commands.
Jesus promised, “If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you." (John 14:15-17)
If the Spirit who empowered Moses, the judges, the prophets, and the kings, did incredible works through their lives, then you, who have believed in Jesus and have received the same Spirit can expect kingdom influence in your life through your obedience according to the measure our Savior Jesus desires.
The prayer of Moses is no longer a future hope of God’s people, but a reality to everyone who believes! “For the one whom God sent speaks God’s words, since he gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:34) As Paul wrote to Titus, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us —not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy — through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:4-8)
Therefore, “don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30) “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.” (Eph 5:1-2) “Because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” (Gal 6:8-9) “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet 2:9)
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