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THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD

We have spent six weeks looking at Isaiah 9, where the coming of Jesus Christ is described. We now turn to Isaiah 11 where there is a further anticipation of his coming.

Here we read of a close connection between the Christ and the Spirit of God:

‘The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him –
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD’ [11:2].

In Isaiah 42:1 God says

‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit upon him …’

And in Isaiah 61:1 the Servant/Messiah states:

‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me …’

The Gospels also express this Christ/Spirit connection:

‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him’ [John 1:32].

‘For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit’ [John 3:34].

‘”The Spirit of the Lord is on me …”’ [Luke 4:18, quoting Isaiah 61].

We may be tempted here to assume that the relationship between the Spirit of God and Jesus Christ is one of empowerment, similar to the way the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were empowered by the Spirit. Such a view misses the mark. We may even be tempted to think that this is something like the ‘baptism of the Spirit’ or ‘the gift of the Spirit’ that is spoken of by Christians and that Jesus promised his followers. Such a conclusion is also very far from the truth.

What is spoken of here is unique to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. No other human being can claim such a relationship with the Spirit. Nor should any other human being expect or desire such a relationship. The relationship between Jesus Christ and the Spirit is parallel to the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. It is the relationship of the Trinity – in which equality, identity and synergy are key features. To see one is to see the other; to know one is to know the other. When one is present the other(s) is also present.

At the baptism of Jesus Christ, the visible symbol of the Holy Spirit accompanied the audible voice of God the Father, confirming the identity of Jesus as the divine Son [Matthew 3:16,17]. This is the unique relationship – Father, Son and Spirit. Distinct, yet not divided. United, but not fused. All three present together, united in will, united in word, united in work.

When Jesus promised the gift of the Spirit to his followers he explained his own relationship with the Spirit of God in terms of this trinitarian unity, indicating that when the Spirit came, it was he himself coming:

‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor … he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you … we will come to him and make our home with him’ [John 14:15-23, selected verses; note that ‘another’ means ‘another of the same kind’].

Such is the trinitarian equality, unity and synergy that the Spirit of God is also known as the Spirit of Christ:

In Romans 8:9 the Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of God’ and ‘the Spirit of Christ’.
Galatians 4:6 speaks of God sending ‘the Spirit of his Son’ into our hearts.
In Philippians 1:19 Paul refers to help given by ‘the Spirit of Jesus Christ’.
Peter, in 1Peter 1:11, tells us that ‘the Spirit of Christ’ was in the Old Testament prophets.

As we read the New Testament we learn that the Spirit is present with Jesus Christ at every moment - his conception [Matthew 1:18], his temptation [Matthew 4:1], his ministry [Luke 4:14,18; Matthew 12:28; Acts 10:38], his words [John 6:63; Acts 1:2], his crucifixion [Hebrews 9:14], and his resurrection [Romans 1:4; 1Timothy 3:16; 1Peter 3:18].

From these references it is clear that there is between the Son and the Spirit that same intimacy and unity of will and word and work as there is between the Father and the Son.

Here in Isaiah 11 we are presented, not with a Spirit-empowered human being, but with the incarnation: God coming to us as one of us. God speaking to us. God coming in judgement. God coming to redeem. God coming to restore.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014