Describe how the Spirit is first introduced in the Hebrew Bible by reading Genesis 1:1-3. What does God’s ruakh (spirit, breath, wind) do in this passage?
God’s Spirit empowers others for specific tasks. Read Genesis 41:16-39, Exodus 35:29-35, and Isaiah 61:1-4. What tasks did God empower through his Spirit, and what do these tasks have in common?
Read the account of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:16-17. Compare the presence of the Spirit (above the baptism waters) in this scene with the presence of the Spirit (above the chaotic waters) in Genesis 1:1-3. How does this comparison help us see that Jesus is the beginning of a new creation?
Read John 20:11-23, Acts 1:1-8, and Acts 2:32-39. What did Jesus give the disciples after his resurrection? How did the disciples receive Jesus’ gift, and what did his gift specifically empower them to do?
Take time to discuss other themes or key takeaways from what you read together.
Jon: If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the Holy Spirit” and you want to know what it means, where do you start?
Tim: Well, you have to start on page one of the Bible where the uncreated world is depicted as this dark, chaotic place. But then above the chaos, God’s Spirit is there hovering, ready to bring about life and order and beauty.1
Jon: Okay, but what is God’s Spirit?
Tim Yeah, so the Spirit is the way the biblical authors talk about God’s personal presence. The Hebrew word is ruakh.
Tim Yeah. You’ve got to clear your throat at the end.
Jon: So what is it?
Tim Well, ruakh can refer to a number of different things, but what they all have in common is energy.
Jon: Energy? How so?
Tim: So there’s an invisible energy that makes the clouds move or the tree branches sway.
Jon: Right, wind.
Tim: So in Hebrew, that’s ruakh.
Tim Now, take a big breath. So you feel that inside you?
Jon: Yeah. The air?
Tim: Well, specifically the energy. The vitality in your body that you get from breathing deeply, that too is ruakh.
And this is the same word used in the Bible to describe God’s personal presence. Just like wind and breath are invisible, God’s Spirit is invisible. Wind is powerful, and so God’s Spirit is powerful. And just as breath keeps us alive, so God’s Spirit sustains all of life. 2
Jon: Yeah, ruakh.
Empowering Humans [01:18-01:51]
Tim: Now, as we continue on in the story of the Bible, we see God’s ruakh giving special empowerment to people for specific tasks. The first person in the Bible this happens to is Joseph.3
Jon: God’s Spirit enables him to understand and interpret dreams.
Tim: And then it happens to this guy named Bezalel, and he’s an artist.4
Jon: God’s Spirit empowers him with wisdom and skills. He’s given creative genius to make the beautiful things in the tabernacle.
Tim: And we also see God’s ruakh empower a group of people called the prophets.
Jon: They’re able to see what’s happening in history from God’s point of view.
Tim: That’s exactly right.
New Chaos to New Creation [01:52-02:14]
Tim: And here’s the problem as the prophets saw it. While God’s ruakh had created a really good world, humans have given into evil. They’ve unleashed chaos into it through their injustice.
Jon: A new type of disorder.
Tim: Yes. And the prophets said the Spirit would come, just like in Genesis 1, but now to transform the human heart, to empower people to truly love God and others.5
Empowering Jesus to Begin New Creation [02:15-03:22]
Jon: How will this new act of God’s Spirit happen?
Tim: Well, centuries pass and we are introduced to Jesus. And at the beginning of his mission, there’s this beautiful scene where Jesus is being baptized in the waters of the Jordan River.6
Jon: Yeah. The sky opens up and God’s Spirit comes and rests on him like a bird.
Tim: This story’s saying that God’s Spirit is empowering Jesus to begin the new creation. And we see this happening when he heals people or forgives their sins. He’s creating life where there once was death.
Jon: Now, Israel’s religious leaders oppose Jesus, and they eventually have him killed.
Tim: But even here God’s Spirit is at work. The earliest disciples of Jesus, who saw him alive from the dead, said it was God’s energizing Spirit that raised Jesus.
Jon: This is the beginning of new creation.
Tim: Yes, and it’s still going. When Jesus appeared to his closest followers, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”7
Jon: And soon after that, the Spirit powerfully comes on all of his disciples.8
Tim: So that they can become part of this new creation and share the good news and learn how to live by the energy and influence of God’s Spirit.
New Creation [03:23-03:49]
Jon: And so today, the Spirit is still hovering in dark places.
Tim: Yes, pointing people to Jesus, transforming and empowering them so they can love God and others. And the Christian hope is that the Spirit is going to finish the job. The story of the Bible ends with a vision of a new humanity living in a new world that’s permeated with God’s love and life-giving Spirit.