Sunday, January 11, 2009

Holy Spirit Helps God's People

Jehovah's spirit was moving through King Cyrus of Persia. The King was moved by Jehovah and His spirit to fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah and send the people of Israel home to rebuild to temple of Jehovah. (Isaiah 44:28; 2 Chronicles 36:22) Cyrus wrote this proclamation:
"All the kingdoms of the earth Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me, and he himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God prove to be with him. So let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—which was in Jerusalem."-Ezra 1:2-3

However, some years after this, fierce opposition from opposer's of Jehovah disheartened the Israelites and eventually made them stop the building of the temple by a royal decree from King Artaxerxes himself. (Ezra 4:1, 4-6, 17, 22-24) However, Jehovah was not going to let this happen for long. We are told:
"And Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the grandson of Id´do the prophet prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and in Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. It was then that Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jehozadak got up and started to rebuild the house of God, which was in Jerusalem; and with them there were God’s prophets giving them aid."-Ezra 5:1-2

These four servants of God, Haggai, Zechariah, Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, were instrumental in getting the temple rebuilt. The use of holy spirit in their time is of interest to us today.

God's Spirit Helps the Jews

"And the angel who was speaking with me proceeded to come back and wake me up, like a man that is awakened from his sleep. Then he said to me: 'What are you seeing?' So I said: 'I have seen, and, look! there is a lampstand, all of it of gold, with a bowl on top of it. And its seven lamps are upon it, even seven; and the lamps that are at the top of it have seven pipes. And there are two olive trees alongside it, one on the right side of the bowl and one on its left side.'"-Zechariah 4:1-3

Why is any of this important? The importance of it lays in the symbolic meaning of the objects mentioned.

The lampstand has seven lamps, seven showing heavenly perfection or completeness. Each lamp had seven pipes which were continuously pouring oil from the bowl into each lamp to keep them burning. The oil from the bowl into the lamps is Jehovah's spirit. The lamp itself is symbolic for the temple. The two olive trees, from which the oil was produced, represent two men, High Priest Jeshua and Governor Zerrubabel.-Zechariah 4:14

The prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah would move Jeshua and Zerrubabel to encourage the people to complete the temple. However, how would they do it when the king put a royal ban on the work and hostile peoples were keeping an eye on the Israelites every move? The continuous oil, or Jehovah's holy spirit would be instrumental in helping them. The Bible helps us to see that this is the meaning of this vision. After Zechariah admitted that he didn't understand what this vision meant, the angel told him.

"This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,' Jehovah of armies has said. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a level land. And he will certainly bring forth the headstone. There will be shoutings to it: "How charming! How charming!"' And the word of Jehovah continued to occur to me, saying: 'The very hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his own hands will finish it. And you will have to know that Jehovah of armies himself has sent me to you people. For who has despised the day of small things? And they will certainly rejoice and see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of Jehovah. They are roving about in all the earth.'"-Zechariah 4:6-10

Zerubbabel was not going to amass an army and fight against the Persian empire so the temple could be rebuilt. He was not going to fight with the nations around him. No, Jehovah's spirit would handle the situation. This mountain-like task in front of him will level out and become a level land easy to traverse. What happened?

Zerubbabel got the temple started again. Immediately, "Tattenai, the governor beyond the River and Shetharbozenai and their colleagues came to them" and said, "Who put an order through to you to build this house and to finish this beam structure...what are the names of the able-bodied men that are building this building?" (Ezra 5:3-4) However, Jehovah's protection was on the Israelites. His spirit moved the opposer's to send a letter to the king to find if he had lifted the ban. When the letter got to the king, he made an investigation of the records in Babylon.-Ezra 6:1

After searching the records a scroll was found that said, in part, "In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king put an order through concerning the house of God in Jerusalem: Let the house be rebuilt as the place where they are to offer sacrifices, and its foundations are to be fixed." (Ezra 6:3) This decree made the building work final. The Jews would finish. Why? "For a writing that is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring it is not possible to undo." (Esther 8:8 compare Daniel 6:8, 12, 15) By law, they could not halt the building work. Jehovah's spirit, symbolized by the oil, accomplished this.

God's Spirit Helps the Christians

"He blew upon them and said, 'Receive holy spirit.'" (John 20:22) At this time, the Apostles were not anointed with the holy spirit. That wasn't to happen until a few weeks later. At this time, Jesus evidently gave them enough to endure until that time. However, it wasn't enough to make the bold preachers of the Good News for we read just eight days later, "His disciples were again indoors...Jesus came, although the doors were locked and stood in their midst." (John 20:26) The disciples spent a lot of time indoors out of fear of retribution at this point.

A few weeks later, though, things changed. It was Pentecost, 33 C.E. and the holy spirit was poured on 120 disciples who were meeting together. "Suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible to them and were distributed about, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance." (Acts 2:2-4) This changed things immensely.

Due to Pentecost, Jews from the diaspora and proselytes from many different countries had converged on Jerusalem. This was a perfect situation. (Acts 2:5-13) Since the disciples were baptized with holy spirit only moments before, they were given a courage that made them act in completely different ways then previously. They showed a new boldness--a confidence--that they had originally lacked.

Since the apostles now had copious amounts of holy spirit, they were able to stand up and give a wonderful speech. They spoke of the prophecy at Joel 2, they spoke of Jesus and his sacrifice, spoke of the prophecy at Psalm 16, and spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was in front of many people whom they were originally hiding from. (Acts 2:14-36) Their speech was so moving that three thousand people were baptized. This is the power of the holy spirit!

The holy spirit was able to help the apostles accomplish many things. One account is particularly interesting. It goes like this:

After Peter and John gave a heart-rending speech, we read, "Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus." This was a new development and so they decided to consult each other on it. They decided to threaten them.-Acts 4:13-17

This did not stop the apostles from preaching. On another occasion the apostles are arrested for preaching again and so this is what happens:

They brought them and stood them in the Sanhedrin hall. And the high priest questioned them and said: 'We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.' In answer Peter and the other apostles said: 'We must obey God as ruler rather than men.'" (Acts 5:27-29) For this, the apostles were flogged and sent on their way--but they kept preaching.-Acts 5:40-42

We can see the holy spirit working in the lives of the apostles and other disciples throughout the book of Acts. Stephen was given a special vision right before death. (Acts 7:55-56) Philip was led to interested people all over Israel. (Acts 8:39) Peter was able to resurrect a woman by holy spirit. (Acts 9:40) Cornelius was given holy spirit to prove that the Gentiles were being called by God. (Acts 10:44-45) Agabus was given warning of an approaching famine on the land. (Acts 11:28) Elymas the sorcerer was struck blind by the spirit. (Acts 13:8, 11) Yes, the spirit was at work this entire time. In fact, the holy spirit was so powerful in these days that Paul could say, "the good news...was preached in all creation that is under heaven." (Colossians 1:23) Thank Jehovah for His spirit!

God's Spirit Today

The promise that Jesus made to the Apostles way back then is just as applicable today in our service. Christ told us: "You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) The preaching work is not something that man can do on his own. Many religions have tried it and failed. The ones that were able to do a small type of international ministry can only get a small percentage of their members to do it only a short period of time. Surely, Jehovah's Witnesses have God's holy spirit helping them in their lives.

Another way that holy spirit helps Jehovah's Christian Witnesses today is by changing their very personalities to match the fruitage of the spirit. They are able to manifest such attributes as love, long-suffering, kindness, faith, self-control and others.-Galatians 5:22-23

As third way that holy spirit helps is connected to what Jesus Christ said, "But when they are leading you along to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what to speak; but whatever is given you in that hour, speak this, for you are not the ones speaking, but the holy spirit is." (Luke 13:11; John 14:26) Yes, the holy spirit will help us in any way that we need it as long as we are acting loyal to Jehovah God and His Son, Jesus Christ. However, we need to keep asking for that holy spirit.-Luke 11:9-13

The holy spirit is so important to Jehovah that anyone saying anything against it is promised not to receive everlasting life. (Matthew 12:31) The reason this is so important is because this spirit is Jehovah's power. The Bible likens Jehovah's spirit to His finger, indicating His ability to accomplish things. (Matthew 12:28, compare Luke 11:20) Faithful Elihu likened the holy spirit to God's breath.-Job 33:4

Yes, Jehovah's spirit is important for all of God's followers everywhere. We need to rely on that holy spirit and let it manifest itself in our lives. May we always rely on this spirit for the "power beyond what is normal."-2 Corinthians 4:7