Further to our discussion about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, John Piper takes us to the Aswan High Dam in Egypt to answer the question: How did OT believers experience the Holy Spirit?
I’ve put Piper’s 10 answers below, but you can listen to or read the whole sermon here; and please pay special attention to his exposition of #2 and #3.
1. The Spirit as Creator and Sustainer of Life
2. New Birth and Indwelling of the Spirit
Second, the OT believers experienced the new birth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Nicodemus was bewildered about Jesus’ demand for new birth by the Spirit, Jesus responded (John 3:10), “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand this?” In other words, I’m not teaching or requiring anything new. Any Israelite who has ever been saved had to be born again by God’s Spirit. Otherwise how would they ever overcome their natural hostility to God? How could they have ever submitted to God’s law and pleased him—as many did, like Abel and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Rahab and Ruth and Deborah and David? Paul says in Romans 8:7–9, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.” There are two groups of humans: those in the flesh (born of the flesh) and those in the Spirit (born again of the Spirit). Those in the flesh are devoid of the Spirit and cannot submit to God’s law or please God. Those in the Spirit are indwelt by the Spirit and are enabled by him to fulfill the just requirement of the law.
This means that all the saints of the OT who trusted God and followed his ways in the obedience of faith were born again by the Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit. For example,Numbers 14:24 says of Caleb, “My servant Caleb, because he has a different Spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into this land.” And Numbers 27: 18 says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him.’” The OT believers were saved the same way we are: they were born of the Spirit, they trusted in God’s promises, and they followed his commandments in the obedience of faith.
3. The Constant Presence of the Spirit
Third, the OT believers enjoyed the constant presence of God’s Spirit. Psalm 139:7–10says, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Old Testament believers enjoyed the presence of God’s Spirit wherever they went. It gives me a lot of encouragement, when I am called to go places where I feel insecure, to know that the Spirit is within to give me the words I need and that he is also already in the place where I am going to prepare the way and to hold me when I get there.
4. The Spirit as Counselor and Teacher
5. The Gifts of Craftsmanship and Artistic Ability
6. Power to Denounce Evil and Declare Righteousness
7. Victory over Fear
8. Extraordinary Feats of Power to Help God’s People
9. The Ability to Interpret God’s Revelation in Dreams
10. The Gift of Prophecy