For this week’s Bible Study Bible study, we’re going to invite you to reflect on three moments in Scripture that show the Spirit of God at work in the world — it’s timely. As our world continues to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re entering a new season of difficulty, as leaders debate and divide over how to move forward. And as followers of Jesus find themselves drawn into this complex set of issues, there’s no better time to remind ourselves of the work of God’s Spirit in the world.
In the storyline of the Bible, God’s Spirit is in the business of generating life and order out of dismal and lifeless situations. This usually takes place through Spirit-empowered people who live by God’s wisdom and pay attention to the needs of others. And there is no one who more perfectly displayed God’s life-giving wisdom than Jesus, who gave his life in a Spirit-led act of love. This is the same Spirit who is leading Jesus’ followers to imitate his pattern of servant-love in our world today.
In Genesis 2:5 we are introduced to a barren landscape of dirt and rock that is devoid of life. But God breathes into the lifeless dirt to create life. This is a fundamental image in the Bible, that God’s personal life-giving presence is what sustains all living creatures. Apart from God’s own life-presence, there is only disorder and death. But when God’s Spirit is in the mix, the impossible suddenly becomes possible and life can come from non-life.
God’s life-giving Spirit is the one who provides and sustains life in the world. Where do you see life emerging and flourishing around you?
The Spirit is in the business of breathing life where there is hopelessness. Where do you sense a need for new life in or around you? Prayerfully ask God through his Spirit to bring life.
In this poem God is depicted as a lumberjack, cutting down Israel’s leaders who have arrogantly elevated themselves. And in their place, God will cause a new branch to sprout from the lineage of Jesse (David’s father!). He will be empowered by God’s Spirit to be the most wise, kind, and generous leader anyone could imagine. God’s Spirit produces a messianic king who uses his power to serve the poor and confront corruption. And you know God’s Spirit is involved when the signs of Eden begin to emerge, when the powerless are no longer in danger because “the land will be filled with knowing Yahweh like the waters cover the sea.”
What do you notice about what the Spirit does in and through this leader?
Where do you need wisdom in your own life? Set aside some time to ask God’s Spirit to give you wisdom and reflect on how to move forward.
The night before Jesus was arrested and executed, he washed the feet of his closest followers as a rich symbol of his love for them. This was a foretaste of his ultimate act of love on the cross. And this love was supposed to multiply as his followers shared that same self-giving love with each other. When Jesus later promises to send “the Spirit of truth,” he makes it clear that his own presence, comfort, and love will come to take up residence “inside you.” And if the life and love of the servant-king is truly in you, it will lead to further acts of self-giving love, or in Jesus’ words, “the one who has my commandments and keeps them, this is the one who loves me.” The logic is fairly simple. When our lives are characterized by others-centered love, that’s when we know that the Spirit is working through us.
Read John 13:34-35 again and take a moment to prayerfully ask God, by his Spirit, to fill you with the others-centered love that characterized the life of Jesus.
How has God uniquely made you to extend love to others? Where do the needs of others and your Spirit-empowered characteristics and gifts align?