If God didn‘t send His Spirit until Pentecost, what does Haggai 2:5 mean?
This question gives us an opportunity to review the differences between the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament and His work in the New. The verse reads, “According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” Please note something significant about this statement: “my spirit remaineth among you.”
The word “among” is key here. It indicates that in Old Testament times the Holy Spirit dwelt among the people. In the present age He dwells in people. There is a great difference. The verse reminds us of God’s promise and special relationship with His chosen people. It also mentions a specific time in Israel’s history—the coming out (exodus) from Egypt. Indeed, God instructed Moses, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exod. 19:6).
God added, “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Loiu their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them: I am the LORD their God” (29:45, 46). We find a further reference to this “dwelling among” His people in Exodus 33:14: “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”
It is interesting, having noted these passages in Exodus, to look ahead to the prophecy of Haggai and its context. Haggal spoke to a people who had strayed from God. Yet Haggai proclaimed God’s gracious words, “My spirit remaineth among you.” God had not forsaken His people, although they had forsaken Him and their apathy toward His love and holiness highly displeased Him.
The Holy Spirit’s work prior to Pentecost goes all the way to eternity past. The Holy Spirit actively participated in forming the divine decree of the Godhead (Gen. 1:26). The Holy Spirit participated with the other members of the Godhead in creation, as we see not only in the “let us” references in the Genesis account of creation but also in the plural designation of God (Elohim). Other references to the Spirit’s involvement in creation are Job 26:13; 33:4; and Isaiah 40:12–14.
However, His involvement included more than creation—it included things such as revelation and salvation.
The Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament as well as in eternity past. He enabled certain men of God to receive and speak or write God’s revelation, just as He did in the New Testament. Furthermore, His dealings with mankind involved striving with man (Gen. 6:3) and in coming upon people for the purpose of empowering them for a ministry or task. He did not indwell believers permanently as He does today; He was “upon,” “with,” or “among” them. Some of the things He did for people then He continues to do for us today, such as granting wisdom and understanding (see Exod. 31:1–6; Neh. 9:20). The Bible records that the Spirit descended upon Samson (Judg. 13:25; 14:6), David (1 Sam. 16:13), Elisha (2 Kings 2:9–15), Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:2; 3:24), and others.
When God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world as a baby, the Holy Spirit’s work was especially significant. We affirm, according to Matthew 1:20, that Jesus Christ was conceived, not of humans but of the Holy Spirit. Then as the Child grew, the Spirit was obviously upon Him (Luke 2:40). At His baptism Jesus received the anointing of the Spirit for His Messianic work (Luke 3:21, 22; 4:16–21). The Holy Spirit was also at Jesus’ death, enabling Him to endure the suffering and to carry out the giving of His life for our sins (Heb. 9:14). He also participated with the Father and the Son in the Resurrection and the Ascension (Rom. 8:11; Eph. 1:17–22).
Today, besides restraining lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7), the Holy Spirit ministers to the lost in convicting them (John 16:8–11), in pointing them to Jesus as the only way of salvation (Rom. 5:1–5), and in giving the sinner the disposition to believe (John 6:63). He ministers to believers not only by saving us (Titus 3:5) but also by indwelling us (Rom. 8:9,11). He seals us (Eph. 1:13), prays for us (Rom. 8:26, 27), convicts us of sin (1 John 3:20), teaches us (1 John 2:27), guides us (Rom. 8:11), sanctifies us (2 Cor. 3:18), fills us (Eph. 5:18), and gives us spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4–31).
How thankful we should be for the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. May we not grieve or quench Him but, rather, let Him have His way completely (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19).
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