“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:3)
In seminary, I was surprised to learn that many scholars are convinced they have everything in the Bible utterly figured out. They also tend to be annoyed by anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Some few of them do believe that whatever we see in Scripture is to be literally understood, whether in the past as history, or in the future as prophesy. But most theologians emphatically disagree, picking and choosing among the Scriptures, believing this part and disbelieving other parts, as they choose. They tend to use the word “myth” a lot when they write books, teach classes and in various ways, profit from the Word of God. All this can be confusing and so eventually we must decide for ourselves with the help of God. At this point it should occur to us that we need help greater than merely human ideas. We need God’s Holy Spirit, and that is exactly what Jesus Christ offers: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name; He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). God graciously gives us precisely what and Who we need.
One thing is certainly clear among most theologians and pretty much everybody else who makes a living out of teaching, preaching or interpreting the Bible—Most have decided that Old Testament prophets and all the Old Testament believers did not have the Holy Spirit IN them like believers today. But there’s more to the Bible than what men teach. Here’s something wonderful: We not only don’t have to agree with them, but we also don’t have to agree with each other. We can safely disagree in love because the gifts of the Holy Spirit give each of us true perspectives that often only seem to differ. If you and I are standing on two opposite street corners and a traffic accident occurs in the intersection, you as a witness might recall that the light was green; whereas I, as a witness on another corner, am convinced it was red. Both of us can be right, depending on where we were standing and what light we saw. I’ll state in advance that I have come to believe that the faithful in the Old Testament were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and that a few in those generations also had the power of what we call the gifts of the Spirit. In the past 2,000 years, the situation has been reversed—the faithful are still indwelt by the Spirit for salvation, but since the Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, MOST can know the POWER of that Spirit right here, right now. The power to prophesy or exercise other gifts, once given to some in a generation, is now available to all who believe.
Today’s Old Testament Scripture speaks of an otherwise obscure man in Israel named Bezaleel, who was “FILLED… with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding and knowledge" (Exodus 31:3). His abilities are recognizable as gifts of the Spirit, later seen in places like 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. However, you may object because God led Bezaleel, as continued into Exodus 31:4-5, to “design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels,” etc. You may not see art as an expression of God, so let’s look further.
Colossians 1:27 says of the faithful, “Christ IN you, the hope of glory.” Galatians 2:20 provides the blessed news: “Christ lives IN me.” But that’s today! What about others like Bezaleel in Old Testament times? What about somebody in Israel, or someone in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, 3,500 years ago? The true answer is that Christ’s work on the cross is infinite, reaching backward and forward in time, and around the world. Even someone like Abraham, who never heard the name “Jesus Christ” in his lifetime, safely “believed in the Lord, and He (God) accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Abraham was just a human being like the rest of us, and we can believe at the level of the heart right now, just like he did. He didn’t understand it all and neither do we. What’s important is to give your heart and life to the Lord. The details come later, as God wills your life and mine. You and I can differ, and at the same time, safely love the Lord and one another.
1 Peter 1:10-11 is clear, speaking of “the prophets” of the Old Testament… "who prophesied of the grace that would come to you… (because of) the Spirit of Christ who was IN them…” And yes, that is a New Testament statement about ancient times. Christ IN them. Let’s look at the “Old Testament,” glimpsing that the only way for anyone, anywhere, anytime, to be right with God is through faith in the Lord, the One who is revealed to us as Jesus Christ.
David, who was a prophet, was suddenly faced with his own awful sin, and he shouted out in his grief, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). The Pharaoh of Egypt observed about Joseph, son of Jacob, “Can we find a man like this, IN whom is the Spirit of God?” In Numbers 27:18, “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man IN whom is the Spirit…” The prophet, in Isaiah 63:11, “remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying, ‘Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flocks? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit WITHIN them?” The prophet Ezekiel reported, “The Spirit ENTERED me” (Ezekiel 2:2 and 3:24). John the Baptist, who has often been referred to as “the last of the Old Testament prophets,” was “FILLED with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). In the Old, as in the New, “if anyone is IN Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you have the least faith in the Lord, He is in you, and you are in Him—forever. As it was for Abraham, David, and Peter—Christ IN you.
Bezaleel, in Exodus 31:3, was "FILLED" with the Holy Spirit of God. You may not find it sufficient that the Lord’s expression for the Spirit in Him was to create breathtaking works of art for the Temple, but like it or not, that’s what the Holy Spirit taught through Moses. The Holy Spirit was IN Bezaleel. We tend to view the Lord’s work in and through us from a very narrow perspective, but is it possible that the Lord would express Himself through the understanding and efforts of an auto mechanic, a nurse, farmer, a doctor, plumber, house painter, caregiver or others who help and improve the lives of those in need? Does the Lord intend more from us than to just teach, preach, pass the collection plate, build religious structures and disseminate religious doctrines? The mundane can be and is miraculous in the hand of a loving, all-powerful God.
Faith is not an opinion, and is more than a decision—faith is an orchestrated change in the person who is permitted to have standing with God on the basis of that faith. Hebrews 11, in Scripture, provides an Old Testament sampling of those who found favor with God on the basis of faith. The chapter begins, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is something substantive placed within you that wasn’t there before. As you pass from Chapter 11 into Hebrews 12, we find that, at last, in faith, we can start laying aside the weed-like sin that wrapped itself around our thoughts, decisions and actions, all our lives.
And we don’t do it alone. Hebrews 12:2 includes the blessed words, “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Or in other translations, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” This is faith that we share with Abraham, Moses, David, and is essentially a seed planted by our Master Gardener into the “ground” which we are. The ground is dead, but the growing seed makes us alive. Jesus Himself is that Seed, bringing with Him the Holy Spirit into the center of our being, rendering us alive in the sight of God. He is planted in us and we are growing into that which is wholesome, worthy and beautiful. He is IN us. He is our faith, our hope and our love, forming us together into what humanity was intended to be before the foundation of the world.
Lord, thank You for faith, which you plant into the hearts of those willing to believe. We trust in You. Human perspectives can differ, but there is One Spirit who leads the faithful. Let our agreement or lack of it always be in love, understanding that YOU are always right. In Jesus Name. Amen.