In this episode, Tim and Jon continue to unpack the concept of the Holy Spirit. Last time, they focused on the spirit of God. This time, they’ll look at what the word spirit means and the difference between God’s spirit and human spirit. Scripture is full of examples of God’s spirit influencing and empowering people, but is this really still happening? What does the spirit of God have to do with us today as followers of Jesus, and how will God use his spirit and use people to fulfill his purpose for creation?
In the first part of this episode (01:33-18:36), the guys look at the Hebrew word for spirit, “ruach.” They track the ruach of God throughout Scripture, so that we can begin to understand the purpose of God’s spirit. They also talk about what it means for humans to have a spirit.
In the next part of the episode (19:00-40:43), Tim and Jon break down the four different definitions of ruach. They look at the way God’s spirit empowers people in Scripture, working with their human spirit to accomplish God’s will in the world. God uses some pretty bad guys in the Bible, but understanding the different aspects of God’s ruach can help make this a little more clear.
In the final part of the episode (41:26-51:38), Tim and Jon look at the Hebrew prophets and the way they spoke about the ruach of God. God’s ruach and the new creation are directly connected. The Messiah is described as one who will be fully permeated by the ruach of God, and his coming will completely change the way creation operates. The prophets reiterate what so much of the Hebrew Scriptures are pointing to: The only hope for creation and humanity is for God to recreate humans through his spirit.
Video: This episode is designed to accompany our video, "Holy Spirit." You can view it on our youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNNZO9i1Gjc
Scripture References: Psalm 32, Psalm 51, Genesis 41, Exodus 31, Deuteronomy 34, Micah 3, Isaiah 11, Ezekiel 37
Show Music: Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music; Blue Skies by Unwritten Stories; Flooded Meadows by Unwritten Stories
Podcast Date: March 03, 2017
Speakers in the audio file:
Jon: This is The Bible Project podcast. In this episode, we're going to continue a
conversation I'm having with Tim Mackie about the Holy Spirit. If you haven't
listened to the previous episode, I highly recommend it. We're going to pick up
where we left off.
In the last episode, we talked about ruakh being wind, breath, and spirit - a word to
used for all three of those concepts. In this episode, we're going to pick up and talk
about a fourth meaning of the word ruakh, which is man's spirit. What does it mean
for humans to have a spirit and how is that different from the breath of life?
Then we talk about the three main activities of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.
Last episode, we talked at length about the first one, which is the spirit involved in
creating and sustaining all of life. We'll talk about the second activity, which is God
empowering people for specific tasks.
Tim: Spirit is something that keeps you alive. You live by the Spirit. But then he says, you
can also get out of step with the Spirit. So the spirit never leaves any living creature
in the sense that I'm alive. But you can be filled with the spirit of life, but not be in
tune with the Spirit of God.
Jon: Then we talk about the third activity, which is God's Spirit recreating the world and
Tim: What's going to have to happen to humanity so that we become people who truly
love God and love others.
Jon: Thanks for listening in. Here we go.
Let me do the blitz - recap. This is for my benefit. Creation. Creation is this way to
describe when the wilderness, the tohu wa bohu, just the waste, and wild creation
becomes ordered and meaningful and full of life. In order to do that, God's Spirit, His
ruakh is hovering and actively participating in how that was done. So it's the ruakh
of God that brought forth creation in the first place. And by creation, we mean that
ordered life full place that we know.
Not only that. In Genesis 2 humans were given the ruakh of God so that they weren't
just dirt, but we're also now animated. In the worldview, as you look around at
yourself and you're breathing in ruakh and you are breathing out ruakh, and you see
the wind blowing, and you see things just coming out of the ground, that you can
eat, and then other animals eat, and you see all this order in the sky. All of that in
your psychology is must be powered by the ruakh of God. It's coming into your
lungs, but it's also all around you.
And so, while everyone alive has the breath of life has God's energizing Spirit
keeping them alive, there's another biblical concept that man has his own spirit, his
own ruakh. And that's where we're going to pick up right now.
Tim: The last main nuance of the word spirit is a use of spirit to talk about a human
mindset, or intellectual consciousness or purpose. Psalm 32:2 [Tim inadvertently referenced Psalm 33:2], "Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them, and in whose spirit is no deceit."
Deceit or treachery isn't something that I breathe.
Jon: Or is in your breath.
Tim: Yeah. Now, the animating life energy, which is already a metaphor for breath, has
another layer of metaphor to it, that we're talking about the invisible mindset or
frame of mind that I have here that are consciousness or purpose of treachery or
deceit. So you can just say, "There's no deceit."
Jon: So he's just talking about consciousness in a way?
Tim: Yeah. I've used here the phrase "frame of mind," or you could say conscious
purpose. Where is deceit? Can I touch deceit? No, it's invisible. It's a series of
thoughts and ideas in my mind. But in the Old Testament, there's no word for brain.
And so, really mind is probably the best English translation of this use of ruakh.
Jon: Okay. So this idea of breath that animates when the ancient thinker wants to explain
how I have purposefully decided to try to deceive, I'm thinking, "Well, this intent is in
no way physical, but it belongs to me. It's my intent. It's within me." What is it? Well,
it must be that breath. It must be that animated force, which again, it's my life.
Tim: It's your ruakh.
Jon: My ruakh. And we would use the word mind.
Tim: Yeah. In whose mind is no deceit. That's why this is different than heart. In the Old
Testament, heart is where is your will and desire and affection. But these uses of
spirit have to do more with what we call mind or consciousness.
Jon: Oh interesting.
Tim: In Ecclesiastes, he says, "Don't be quickly provoked in your ruakh, for anger resides
in the lap of fools.
Jon: Wouldn't that happen in your heart then if it's about emotion?
Tim: So, affection, love, feelings. There's some overlap, but here, in both cases, it's
something to do with a purpose. So you get angry in your mind.
Jon: An intent. There's an intent.
Tim: Yes. The Psalm 51 is the last example, that David praise after messing up with
Bathsheba. And its creation language. He says, "Create in me a pure heart and renew
a steadfast ruakh in me."
Jon: So, create in me new affections and new love and desire—
Tim: Your will and desire and renew a steadfast.
Jon: Let me look it up real quick.
Tim: "A pure heart to create for me, and a spirit that is upright, renew within me. Don't
cast me away from you. Don't take your holy ruakh from me."
Jon: "Create in me a pure heart." When you say "heart," it to means will?
Tim: Will and feeling and emotion.
Jon: Will is different than feeling and emotion.
Tim: It isn't English. I'm just saying, the kinds of things "love the Lord your God with all
Jon: So love is the affection.
Tim: Love is both affection, but it's also about a will and a choice and a devotion too. But
spirit in this is about a mindset up or purpose.
Jon: What's the difference between will and mindset, or will and intention?
Tim: It might be that they overlap in some way.
Jon: One begins with an affection and one begins with—
Tim: Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible do you feel something in your spirit. You feel things in
your heart and in your guts. Your spirit is about ideas, purpose, mind. My mind is the
perfect word for it.
Tim: Ruakh. It's the animating life principles. It's invisible. But then that invisible animation
itself becomes a way of talking about your thoughts and thinking up purposes and
ideas, things you want to do.
Jon: It becomes your thoughts.
Tim: Yeah, you're right. I haven't thought about this before, but yeah, intent, conscious
intent, mind, purpose, that can be called a person's ruakh. Your ruakh. This is where
the idea of God's ruakh and the human ruakh begin to realize late to each other
because there's going to flow out of this a whole what flows out, is that God's ruakh
can enter into humans and influence them and empower them.
Jon: So even though I'm already being empowered by God's ruakh, I have my own ruakh,
and then God can influence my ruakh with his ruakh.
Tim: Yeah, I have my life breath that it's borrowed and gift and animates me. I didn't ask
for it. He's just given it to me. I'll have to thank God for it. But then there's my mind.
Jon: My own ruakh.
Tim: My own ruakh.
Jon: That's different than the life breath.
Tim: Correct. Because it's my thoughts and my purposes. But they exist on the level of
ruakh because they're invisible. You can't see my thought.
Jon: It's different than my emotions and my affections and my heart.
Tim: Yeah. Even you can't see this podcast, listeners, but I'm pointing into my brain.
Jon: That's your ruakh.
Tim: They don't have any concept of brain. And it's not your heart, it's your ruakh. Where
do your thoughts come from?
Jon: Your ruakh.
Tim: It's the invisible ideas and things that occur to you.
Jon: And that's yours.
Tim: It's hard for us not to point to our heads. And that's yours. And so, you have here
then this overlapping concept of that God's ruakh, His own personal life presence
that already animates you anyway, but that can interact with your mind ruakh and
Who is the first person full of the Spirit in the Bible? This is another good Bible trivia.
Jon: Let me now look. I saw the word "Joseph."
Tim: Oh, well, there you go.
Jon: Really? That's the first person, Joseph?
Tim: Yes. When Pharaoh has those weird dreams in the book of Genesis chapters 40, 41
and 42, and nobody can interpret his dream, then there's this slave in prison,
Pharaoh. He interprets the dreams and Pharaoh says, "Oh, my gosh, you are a man
in whom is the ruakh of the gods."
Jon: So this is being empowered differently than being created?
Jon: Everyone's been created with God's ruakh.
Tim: He's not saying, "Oh, you're alive."
Jon: He's saying that you have been influenced by thoughts outside of yourself.
Tim: Correct. You've been privy to ideas and thoughts that there's no way you could
know them unless they were given to you by a divine source.
Jon: The ruakh of God. So not only this ruakh give life, it gives ideas.
Tim: Yeah. Here, I have to influence or empower or enhance human abilities with divine
Jon: We call that the Muse.
Tim: Yes, yeah, it's what the Greeks call it. The Muse, which was a god, a deity. There's the
deities of music and poetry and so on - the divine Muses.
Jon: We get these ideas that feel like are coming from outside of ourselves.
Tim: Yeah, totally. Isn't a genius? The word genius.
Jon: Oh, really? Let's look it up.
Tim: Yeah, look it up. The word genie.
Jon: Comes from that?
Tim: Yeah. It's a spirit being that comes into your mind and gives you ideas.
Jon: It says, "Moral spirit who guides and governs an individual through life, from Latin
genius "guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; but it's
also a prophetic skill." So these are kind of overlapping ideas - the Muse, to the
genius. This is God's ruakh empowering you. That's how we would think about it
biblically, is being empowered for a special task given divine skill.
Tim: Let's keep going. This all overlaps. The second ruakh filled person in the Bible is in
the next book of the Bible, Exodus. This one's a little more well known.
Exodus chapter 31, God says, "Look, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur
from the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the ruakh of God and with
chokmah. I have filled him with the ruakh of God and chokmah and understanding
and knowledge, and all kinds of skills to make the artistic designs of wood and stone
Jon: So this is a second time someone's given the ruakh?
Tim: Yes. First time Joseph is given ideas to interpret a dream and information he couldn't
have otherwise known. Here, it's an artist who can—
Jon: Given the Muse.
Tim: The Muse. He's given a divine ruakh, which is equated with wisdom, chokmah as
applied knowledge and skill to understand and work with these raw materials and to
bring out of them beauty and order that just blows people's minds. This is cool.
There are some things transcendent when humans—
Jon: He was Michelangelo of that day.
Tim: Yeah, totally. That's exactly right. There's something transcendent that we're
encountering in beautiful art because it's the product of a human. But within the
biblical worldview, it's the product of the divine ruakh expressing itself in and
through a human. This is beautiful art. Once again, it's not biological life we're
Jon: We're talking about ability to perceive things that are hard to perceive, and then to
be able to apply that. The perceiving of it seems to be the ruakh, and then the
application seems to be the chokmah. Give and taking it and doing something with
Jon: So the ability to see what a dream means, or to see how this connects to that, or
where poetry comes from, or to be able to perceive a melody that no one has ever
perceived before, all these things that we think of as artistic, that comes from the
ruakh of God.
Tim: Ruakh. You were right back at the first page of the Bible - the ruakh of God.
Jon: The creative force.
Jon: The creator bringing light and life and beauty in a garden out of tohu wa bohu. It's
exactly the same, except it's not biological life, it's order and beauty and meaning.
Intent, purpose. Again, intent. It's applying conscious purpose to these raw materials.
God's ruakh can also influence rulers. It's a big theme in the Old Testament. So there
are individuals who are given positions of leadership, and if they do a good job, they
are said to be filled with God's ruakh. Joshua, when he's commissioned at the end of
the Pentateuch to lead Israel in Moses' place, he's filled with the ruakh of chokmah -
the spirit of wisdom. So he's going to need some kind of divine enhancement of his
Jon: Because what we know from the wisdom literature that wisdom is an attributed to
God. In that sense, then it can have a ruakh.
Tim: We're blending Proverbs Lady Wisdom as a divine attribute of God with spirit and
wisdom. They overlap here. Just like wisdom in Proverbs, it's this invisible causeeffect
pattern woven into the universe. It's an order, which is exactly what the rule off
of God is creating. And so, you can say, "The ruakh of chokmah."
This is a really common theme when Israel is on the verge of chaos. When God's
people need a leader who will help bring order and justice and why is guidance, you
see the ruakh appearing.
Joshua, in the book of Judges, when Israel's getting taken over and beaten by their
enemies, there's all these guys: Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Sampson. And all of them
are great moral characters. But God gives the ruakh to them to enable them to
rescue or something like that.
This is also the role that the prophets play too. God sends his ruakh to influence the
biblical prophets. Micah, in chapter 3 says, "I am filled with power and with the ruakh
of the Lord, and with justice, and courage to make known to Jacob, his rebellion, and
to Israel his sin."
Here is the prophet being given a divine perspective on Israel state. It's kind of like
the Joseph image. He's privy to the divine perspective on Israel's history and on the
meaning of current events. And then he will call out on God's behalf, how they're
breaking the covenant and so on.
This is a whole theme through the Old Testament that God influences humans by his
ruakh by connecting himself to their ruakh, their mind.
Jon: Yeah, giving you a perspective that you wouldn't normally have, ideas and insight
that you wouldn't normally have.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. All of this is the seedbed then for the work of the Spirit in the
ministry of Jesus, and then the way Paul and the other apostles talk about the Spirit
renewing your minds," Paul will say. Paul says, "If you live by the Spirit, keep in step
with the Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit."
So the Spirit is something that keeps you alive. You live by the Spirit. But then he
says, "You can also get out of step with the spirit." The spirit never leaves any living
creature in the sense that he keeps them alive. But you can be filled with the spirit of
life, but not be in tune with the Spirit of God.
Jon: Right. So you could be alive with the breath of God, but the ruakh of God won't be
influencing your ruakh.
Tim: Yeah, shaping your mind and your thoughts and your purposes.
Jon: Now we're talking about four words that we have that's one word.
Tim: Yeah, that's right because there's no word from mind or brain in Hebrew.
Jon: We've got wind, breath, spirit, and mind. In Hebrew, it's all ruakh. In Greek, we have
a word for mind.
Tim: Greek has a separate word for mind to separate it from pneuma, but Paul will often
use the word pneuma of a human.
Jon: Paul intentions?
Tim: To talk about the aspect of humanity that is capable of relating to deep, close
connection with God. He'll talk about his spirit being united with God's Spirit or that
kind of thing. So yeah, this is true that—
Jon: Did we get all of them? There's not a fifth word? I'm worried now there's a fifth
Tim: Those are the four main ones. If you look through the main dictionary entries—
Jon: That's how it's translated?
Tim: Yeah. Wind, breath, mind, spirit.
Jon: And I'm always really fascinated at how language develops. This is a great example.
You have a very simple concept that we all understand" breathing and wind. Both of
those are very rudimentary, and they would have been some of the first words that
we understand as humans because it's like, oh, "That guy's breathing. I have breath.
The leaves are moving. What is that?"
But what's cool about that word, let's say it's a ruakh — and that's how I'm learning
that word is I'm breathing, that's ruakh. The wind is ruakh — what's cool about that
word is it's identifying something that's invisible. Unlike saying, "Hey, what's that?"
"That's a table." It's like, "Okay, cool. That's table or that's a rock," it's something that
I can't see, but it's something that's very significant. It keeps me alive.
Tim: And very clearly real.
Jon: And very clearly real.
Tim: ...my imagination goes.
Jon: It's out there.
Tim: Yes, yes.
Jon: No one's debating about whether or not ruakh is real. People debate whether or not
spirit is real or ghosts are real, but no one's debating about the wind.
Tim: That's right. That's a good point. Keep going. It's a good train of thought.
Jon: So, what's significant about that word is it's invisible but it's super important. I know
that it's real. It keeps me alive. Also, it influences everything around me. And so, as
I'm wrestling through a more abstract concept, such as God's divine nature, and how
it interacts with me in the world, I need language to start to think about that.
I can create a new word, but that's weird because now I have this blank canvas, and
people are going to look at me, and they're like, "That word is gibberish," and I have
to explain that what that word is. So instead, I use a word that they already know,
that I'm intimately familiar with, they are intimately familiar with. And we can start
there because it's a great metaphor to begin to talk about something very
Jon: Now, all of a sudden, we have the same word, and it means wind, breath, and spirit.
And so, when I say in Genesis 1:1, "The Spirit of God, the ruakh of God is hovering
over the waters," you have this image, you have handles to this thing, and it makes
sense, and you're thinking about God in that way, but you know I'm not talking
about literal breath. But it's a good place to start.
Then I'm going along in life, and I realize there's this weird thing, it's like
consciousness. I have this ability in my own self to decide something, and then make
Tim: To think up, we call them concepts or ideas.
Jon: To think of a concept, to have an idea, and then turn that idea into a reality. What is
that? Where is that coming from?
Tim: I don't see it. Like I don't see breath.
Jon: Right. I can't see your ideas. You could be sitting there right now coming up with an
idea, and I would have no idea.
Tim: Is that pun intended?
Jon: No, it just came up. I would have no clue that you are ideating because it's invisible.
So I go, "Okay, what's that? What's that thing that I have? It's super powerful."
Tim: And it produces a visible result in that I go do something.
Jon: I can decide, I'm going to go deceive someone, and that deception is very
significant. It's going to change the course of their life, and it happens within my
owns something — I was about to use a word — in me. It's invisible, it's effective. It
belongs to me, and I'm like, "What is that? How do we talk about that? Let's use the
Tim: It's your ruakh.
Jon: It's my ruakh. Now, I should step back because as soon as I say that, you'd go, "Yeah,
you have breath. You have ruakh." And there's already a very significant spiritual
understanding of that, which is that breath comes from God. God gave you that
breath. God gave you life.
And you're like, "Yeah. Your breath and God gave it to you, it's your life, and it will
be taken from you one day, and it'll go back to God." "No, no, no, that's not the
ruakh. I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ruakh that I have that I'm using, and
it's a different ruakh." And people go, "Oh, I get that because God has a ruakh. And
it's His intention and His creative ability to do things. So yeah, you have a ruakh too."
Tim: That was really enjoyable to watch you process through that. The way you just
phrased all of that is what was in my head, but I've never even connected it all that
way. But that's exactly right. It's that there's a unity to all those ideas in that word.
That in English we have separated into different words altogether. And that's the
Jon: And that's just to start the conversation. Right?
Tim: Right. This is just the ways the word gets used. The second layer to this is to then go
look at all of the things that God—
Jon: God's Spirit does?
Tim: Now we've got the range of meaning of the word, let's look at all the places where
God's ruakh is doing things. That fits into three buckets.
Jon: That we talked about two of them already.
Tim: We talked of them, yeah.
Jon: One in much detail.
Tim: About God's ruakh as a creator - the creator and sustainer of all life. We talked about
Jon: Then we talked about the second one, which is—
Tim: Of God's ruakh that can interact with and influence your human ruakh.
Jon: Then we talked about Joseph there.
Tim: Joseph, we talked about Bezalel the artist. Here, we're in the category, you could call
it God's anointing. That a biblical image for anointing spirit.
Jon: That's a Bible word though.
Tim: Yeah, it is. But it's so cool because it's where the image of the Spirit as a liquid
Jon: I've never thought of the spirit as a liquid. Am I supposed to?
Tim: Well, if you're going to be filled up with the Spirit, or the Spirit is poured out, those
are liquid metaphor.
Jon: Those are liquid metaphors, but I've never realized that.
Tim: Yes, yeah. Those are both liquid. Those both depend on a handful of passages in the
Old Testament, where the Spirit is described as liquid. Saul and David, when they are
appointed as kings, they get oil. Samuel the prophet comes and pours oil over their
heads as a symbol of commissioning and anointing.
Then on both of those occasions, marks a moment where God's ruakh fills them or
comes upon them to commission them to rule and lead to people. So that's the
Also, the high priests were anointed with oil. They're not connected with ruakh, but
they are anointed with oil. That's where that image comes from. To be anointed
means to be appointed and commissioned to do something on God behalf.
Jon: And you're always some spot on you.
Tim: Yeah. But it's with Israel's kings, the kings, specifically David that the anointing oil
then gets connected to the Spirit coming upon him. That's why he can say at the
poem, he says at the end of his life...In Second Samuel 23, he writes this poem, and
he says, "The ruakh of God speaks by means of me." And he writes this poem.
So David had this awareness of this special empowering presence of God's ruakh as
he was king. And that's why in Psalm 51, he's afraid that his sin with Bathsheba is
going to forfeit. He's so compromised, he's afraid that he's forfeited the special
empowering presence of God's ruakh on him. So he begs God to "create in me a
clean heart, O God, and renew an upright ruakh in me. Don't cast me away, please
don't take your holy ruakh from me."
Jon: And he's talking about God's ruakh, not his ruakh.
Tim: That's right. Give me a new ruakh, and he uses—
Jon: So, give a new mind, a new sense of self.
Tim: That's right. A whole new value system and a whole new way of thinking about
myself and other people. He uses the word create from Genesis 1. It's going to have
to be so radical.
Jon: It's like, you're going to have to recreate it.
Tim: Yes. It's like brand new creation of my value system of my mind. The parallel to that
Jon: That's like true repentance.
Tim: Yes, yeah. And then, renew a ruakh of integrity in my mind. So give me a new heart,
give me a new ruakh that's full of integrity, and don't take your holy ruakh from me.
Jon: So your personal presence?
Tim: The anointing presence that commissioned me and empowers me to be the king of
Jon: And that only happens with kings?
Tim: No, no. It happens with Bezalel to be an artist. It happens with Joseph. It happens
with a number of really morally questionable figures in the book of Judges.
Jon: They get God's ruakh?
Tim: Yeah. So there's both Othniel - he's the first one, Ehud, Gideon. You know, they're
mixed bag. Gideon is pretty a good guy. He's kind of a coward. He lacks faith.
But Samson, he's just a horrible, horrible man. I don't know how on earth he's been
whitewashed to the Christian children's books. Because the real story, he is a sex
addict. He can't get enough sex. He is full of himself. He doesn't care about the laws
of the Torah at all. And he's totally violent, super violent.
Jon: And then God's ruakh appoints him and anoints him.
Tim: But God's ruakh can influence his ruakh to do what needs to be done at moments of
crisis. The whole book of Judges there's another example of God working with Israel
as he fights with them. The fact that God's Ruakh can influence someone doesn't
mean that he endorses them of all their behavior.
Jon: And it doesn't mean that he has recreated them.
Tim: It doesn't mean that his heart has been recreated like...
Jon: It just means that he's come and said, "I'm going to influence you right now. I'm
going to help you understand this dream, Joseph. I'm going to empower you,
Tim: "To kill a bunch of Philistines to rescue the Israelites."
Jon: "And I'm going to give you David, the ability to lead as a king." And so, it's God's
ruakh interacting in an anointed way with our ruakh.
Tim: That's leaders. The other main type of person who gets that anointing ruakh of
empowerment are the prophets. Here, it's God's ruakh influencing the ruakh of these
prophets so that what they say out loud, what they go preach on the street corner is
what God wants his people to hear, usually to expose their injustice or rebellion or
idolatry, to warn them about the consequences and to give them hope about the
Jon: So could we say that Balaam...was God's ruakh annoying Balaam? You know, you
don't use the word, but interacting with using Balaam?
Tim: Yeah, Spirit comes upon Balaam.
Jon: God's ruakh comes upon Balaam.
Tim: God's ruakh comes upon Balaam.
Jon: And so that would be in that same category of God?
Tim: Yeah, there you go.
Jon: What's the word we're using?
Tim: I don't know. Let's have a debate. We could do "anointing." That's very biblical, I
agree with you. Some people use empowering - God's empowering presence or
God's empowering ruakh. The word appoints or commission I think kind of gets an
English the idea across because it's about a task or a purpose, whereas empowering
is like, "Makes me strong." Anointing is I don't know. Whatever.
Jon: It's going to do something. It's going to give me something.
Tim: Yeah. But appointing or commissioning gets an important part of that.
Jon: It's related to a task.
Tim: A task.
Jon: And it is always related to a specific task that needs to get done that God's like,
"Look, I know you're screwed up and I haven't made you a new human — which
we'll get to — but I need to use you for this task.” God's Spirit does that.
Tim: The biblical authors would say, "God's Spirit came upon that person." To talk about
the Spirit coming on someone in modern English, in the American context, that
means so many things depending on what church tradition you grew up in. But in
the Bible, Balaam, it's not as if his eyes rolled back in his head. He's just doing his
deal as a pagan sorcerer. But what he says is in fact what God wanted Balaam to say.
If you saw Samson out there knocking down the pillars of that temple, killing all
those people, you would see a man full of vengeance.
Jon: But Balaam was aware of what was happening.
Tim: That's true. Balaam is aware that he is—
Jon: Was Samson aware of what was happening?
Tim: He calls upon God and says, "God, this one last time, Give me some strength.'
Jon: David's aware that he had this. The prophets are aware.
Tim: That's a good point.
Jon: So there's always a sense of being aware that it's happening, but it's not a parent.
Tim: Yeah, it's a good point.
Jon: An outside observer wouldn't go, "Oh, that guy has God's appointed ruakh."
Tim: An outside observer may not know. Right. The point is, they're not depicted as
having some glowing aura around them. A cloud doesn't descend on Balaam.
Jon: They're not having a Holy Spirit seizure or something.
Tim: Correct. Just to remind our listeners, we haven't even talked about the New
Testament yet. This is all just Old Testament usage. So that's second bucket, God's
empowering, commissioning, appointing Spirit covers a whole bunch of things that
God's ruakh does. Our vocabulary for artistic or creative inspiration is it's a breath
Jon: Oh, inspiration.
Tim: We have our vocabulary for ideas occurring to us uses the image of it being
breathed into me from the outside. It inspirited.
Jon: Well, that's what it feels like. It feels like the Muse. It feels like something gave me
Jon: Something gave me this ability to see this way, and I'm just an instrument making it
Tim: Yeah. Many cultures have a concept of the oracle of a person who's in touch with the
gods and therefore, can be given revelations and so on. Not just today. And the
Bible just is like that, too. But the Bible is working with a related idea that humans
can be influenced by God's ruakh.
What's important there, and in the Old Testament this is key, one, it's the seedbed
of the whole concept of spiritual gifts in the New Testament is that where the spirit
empowers people for the mission of Jesus in the world and in the church comes out
of this concept of the appointing Spirit in the Old Testament.
Jon: Then why doesn't Paul ever talk about like the spiritual gift of arts and crafts?
Tim: I don't know. I don't know. I don't think his list of the gifts are comprehensive.
They're just examples. But also a very important idea is that, a human fully alive to
God is a human empowered, connected to an influenced by God's ruakh. And we're
very close to the concept of the incarnation of God entering humanity through the
work of the pneuma in the New Testament, that God wants to be so closely bound
We have this concept of spirituality, that if I am truly a spiritual person, I somehow
have to divorce myself from human life for existence.
Jon: Cardinal existence?
Tim: Yeah. Or even the word spirit in English is in contrast to what is physical. And so, the
most spiritual people in many religious traditions are people who are called
aesthetics. They withdraw from everything that's physical. They eat simple foods.
They don't engage in the physical world. and that's a foreign idea to the Jewish
In the Bible to be influenced by God's Spirit means I'm more human. If there's more
of God at work in me, it doesn't mean I'm less human. I'm more human.
Jon: I'm doing these human things in the way they were really meant to be done.
Tim: Correct, yeah.
Jon: I'm not ignoring them.
Tim: There are so many popular expressions of this in Christian spirituality of like, ‘More
of God and less of me.” Well, okay, less of my like selfishness, sure, but not less of
Jon: But more of your creative.
Tim: Yeah, more of God and more of me. I'm capable of so much more if all of me was
Jon: More of my love, more of my compassion, more of my creativity and imagination,
less of my selfishness.
Tim: Selfishness, physical appetites that make me do selfish things. I don't want less of
that, but more of me as a human made in God's image.
Jon: But wouldn't aesthetics say that? "More of me, more of my joy, more of my love."
Jon: "Less sure worrying about food and chasing down fashion."
Tim: Yeah, you're right. I think the best of the monastic tradition in Christian history has
that sense of withdraw and then engagement for service and love and ministry. But
the extremes of the Christian monastic, like Simeon Stylites...You know about Simeon
Tim: He crawled up on top of a pole and lived on top of a pole for years. His legs
atrophied, got gangrene. He died up there.
Jon: That's interesting.
Tim: He was up there for years. It was just purely—
Jon: How would eat?
Tim: People would bring food up to him. He was basically just "I'm on this top of this poll
for Jesus." He wrote all this poetry that's really disturbing. Simeon Stylites. He was
definitely more of God and less of me as a human because my body is...
Jon: I don't need this half of my humanity in my legs.
Tim: He was skeptical. He was a Syrian Christian monk who lived I think in the fourth
century or something. Anyway. That's an example of the idea of if I'm truly spiritual
and in touch with God's Spirit I have to divorce myself from the physical.
Jon: But when David was more in touch with the Spirit, he was a better King.
Jon: And when Samson was a better fighter, Joseph was better at interpreted dreams,
and Bezalel was better...what kind of art did he do?
Tim: He designed the tabernacle. He designed the Ark of the Covenant.
Jon: Which I've heard it's pretty cool. I've never seen it.
Tim: Or Paul would say, "You're a better pastor, you're a better administrator, you're a
better servant to the poor because of God's Spirit in you." So that's all the
appointing spirit. That's God's ruakh interacting.
Jon: Activity number two of the spirit.
Tim: Huge category.
Tim: Third thing that God's ruakh does in the Old Testament is once Israel and all
humanity has rebelled and made a mess of God's world and made a mess of Israel,
then the prophets who are appointed by God's Spirit to accuse Israel, warn them of
the consequences, but then give them promises of hope, that a future ruler would
come and bring a future hope to creation and that God's people would one day
actually not rebel, but be truly faithful. All of those things are connected to God's
ruakh. It's parallel to God's creating ruakh, but then it's God's ruakh bringing about
new acts of creation.
An example is Isaiah 11:1-11. It's one of the coolest Messianic prophecies in the
whole of the Old Testament. You have a king coming from the line of David. We're
told that four times God's ruakh will influence him. So the ruakh of the Lord will rest
on this future king: the ruakh of wisdom and understanding, the ruakh of counsel
and strength, the ruakh of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Jon: What's the difference between all of these? They're just different ways of talking
Tim: Yeah. God's ruakh rests on this person and permeates their wisdom and
understanding. It permeates their counsel. It's like Solomon. This king will have
wisdom understanding, strategy, power, he'll fear the Lord - we're back in the
wisdom literature here. Every aspect of these kings’ leadership will be influenced
enhanced empowered by God's ruakh.
Then the lines that follow are he's going to bring justice to the poor. Everybody who
takes advantage of the poor, he's going to pronounce guilty. Then this is the lion
and the lamb passage. The lion will lay down with the ox and the child will play near
the Cobras nest and earth will be permeated with the knowledge of God. Isaiah 11.
So this king will bring about a new creation.
Jon: He'll bring about something so radically new, the only way we can describe it right
now is something as absurd as a lion and the lamb chilling together.
Tim: Yeah. And the bear becoming a total vegetarian.
Jon: And kids playing with Cobras.
Tim: That's right.
Jon: It's just happening in India, probably right now.
Tim: And at the core of it all, it's brought about and led by a human king who is hyper
influenced and empowered and permeated by God's ruakh. Four times over God's
ruakh is —
Jon: And so, this is a picture of what you would call new creation because it's a creative
act to do this that's going to fundamentally change the way creation is. Right?
Tim: How it operates.
Jon: How it operates.
Tim: Yeah, and at its helm. Here, the point is the king at the helm of the new creation is
described as being wholly permeated by God's ruakh.
Jon: Is it the prophets who first start talking about things changing in the creative order is
Tim: Yeah, it's the poetic imagination of the prophets.
Jon: So King David in any of his poems, or anything, he was never thinking about...I guess
in that one verse we talked about, he said, "Create in me a new—
Tim: "Create a new heart in me." Yeah, that's in the second part.
Jon: And that's the same kind of idea.
Jon: It's like, "I have a heart, it needs to be fundamentally different, recreate it."
Tim: Yeah, that's right. That's the second part. If creation itself is going to be overhauled
by a king who's empowered and permeated by God's Spirit, God's own people who
inhabit, who are led by that King and inhabit that, how are any new humans not
going to be like Israel or humanity?
Tim: What's going to have to happen to humanity so that we become people who truly
love God and love others?
Jon: We have to be recreated.
Tim: The prophets use the vocabulary of new creation and spirit together. So Ezekiel is
the most important prophet here in Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37. God says he's going
to give a new heart and a new spirit to his new covenant people. "I'll remove your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my ruakh within you and it will
come cause you to obey my statutes and observed my laws."
So, Ezekiel envisions that the only way that a human is ever going to be fully alive to
God and love God and love neighbor is if God's ruakh recreate them. Specifically,
their heart. And that's exactly what David prays for after the Bathsheba incident in
Psalm 51. "Creates a pure heart and renew a ruakh of integrity within me."
Jon: He wants his heart and his ruakh to be renewed.
Tim: And that's exactly what Ezekiel says. "I'll put a new ruakh in you — it's my ruakh —
and that will transform your heart, your value system."
Jon: Your ruakh is not recreated; you're given a new ruakh.
Tim: Yeah. For Ezekiel, he's so pessimistic of the human condition. He's like, "Scrap the
old. You need brand new humans."
Jon: And that's what Paul's essentially says too.
Tim: Well, yes. But let's not get to Paul yet. The next prophecy in Ezekiel 37 is the Valley
of dry bones. Right after that is the valley of dry bones. He has this strange dream
vision, where he's looking out this Mojave Desert of skeletons. Then God says, "Start
yelling to the ruakh."
Jon: To the wind? He's referring to the wind there?
Tim: Ezekiel 37 is brilliant because it's melding together all three meanings or nuances of
ruakh. "God brought me out by his ruakh into this valley." Then God says—
Jon: By the way, what does that mean? This is like a prophetic—
Tim: It's like a dream vision he's had. He has tons of these.
Jon: It's like, "God gave me a dream."
Tim: It's a symbolic dream vision. He's in a dream.
Jon: A way to say, "God gave me a dream," it says, "His ruakh brought me to this place."
Tim: Correct. That's right.
Jon: Got it.
Tim: And "shout to the ruakh and say to the bones, I'm going to make ruakh enter you
all." So there, it's God's ruakh led me here. Shout to the ruakh. God says, "I'm going
to enter the bones." And then God says, "I'm going to make ruakh enter the bones."
Which there we think creative life energy.
"I'm going to put sinews and flesh and cover you with skin and put ruakh in you all
so that you come alive, and then you'll know that I'm the Lord. So I started
prophesying as I was commanded, and as I did so, there was a noise, behold rattling,
and the bones started coming together. Then I looked, there's sinews growing on
them, and flesh grew and skin covering them." He's watching—
Jon: It's the opposite of them decaying.
Tim: Yes, the opposite of decomposition. Recomposition. "But once they're all put
together, there's no ruakh in them. Then God said to me, "Prophecy to the ruakh.
Just start talking to the ruakh." And you're like, "Wait, the wind, or the breath?
"Prophesy son of man. Say to the ruakh "thus says the Lord God, come from the four
Jon: Plural of ruakh?
Tim: Yes. "Oh, ruakh, breathe; bring ruakh to these bodies that they may come to life." It's
playing on the ambiguity of ruakh that it can mean wind, it can mean breath, it can
mean God's personal presence. It's uniting all of them.
"I prophesied and as I did, so the ruakh came into them, and they all came to life."
This is all a symbolic visionary metaphor he goes on to apply to the exiles. Because
the exiles are saying, "God's forgotten about us, in Babylon, we're dead." And he
says, "Well, you are actually dead."
Jon: "You're like this heap of skeleton."
Tim: This is what you're like. And if you are ever going to love God and love your
neighbor, something like this is going to have to happen to you." The brand new
recreation of humans.
Jon: This would be so cool to animate.
Tim: Oh, dude, it would be incredible. So, Ezekiel 37 is something of a high point in the
Old Testament conception of God's ruakh, because it unites breath, God's creative
life. It's Ezekiel appointed as the prophet by God's ruakh and the only hope for
creation and humanity is for God to recreate humans in our hearts. And through a
metaphor of "to create," "to make new humans" just like Genesis 2. And that's as
good as summary of the Old Testament of vision of ruakh as you could ask for.
Jon: Thanks for listening in. That's the end of this episode. We're going to continue and I
think finish off the conversational on Holy Spirit in the next episode, where we break
ground into the New Testament and talk about Jesus and how the apostles build on
this rich Hebrew concept of God's ruakh.
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