Judges Part Three Deep Dive
THE IMMUTABLE SPIRIT & THE JUDGES
The book of Judges is a unique book, in and of itself the book appears to merely be a partial historical recount of the nation of Israel. However, with further study, there is much more available to the reader. Much more depth and profound teaching that one can absorb and apply to their life today.
The Immutable Spirit
One idea believers frequently encounter when talking about the Bible is the separation of the New Testament and the Old Testament. We will continue to assert that in fact, they are not separate but rather, distinct. This idea particularly infiltrates theology concerning the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology). It has come about since the Holy Spirit is very closely tied to the Day of Pentecost, as recounted in the book of Acts. This day saw the Holy Spirit was poured out onto the present believers to be a helper to them, as was promised by Jesus. This event is often regarded as the ‘origins’ of the Holy Spirit. This is inaccurate. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is such that it permeates the whole Bible, not only the New Testament. Furthermore, we reach this same conclusion when exploring that God is immutable (unchanging, or unable to be changed), and the Holy Spirit, as part of the Godhead, must therefore also be immutable.
Notably, the New Testament does contain more references to the Holy Spirit, but this is to be expected, due to progressive revelation. (That is as time progresses God continues to reveal more of His nature and His character). So it could be said then that New Testament is a doctrine of development. It is never one of change, but only progress.
The Holy Spirit is first mentioned in the creation narrative in Genesis, in particular, chapter 1 verse 2. In this passage, the Holy Spirit has no formal introduction or explanation. Therefore one could assume the audience at the time of the Old Testament’s authoring, was well acquainted with the Holy Spirit and His workings. Thus the Old Testament is also a place of revelation of the Holy Spirit. From this position one can see that the Old Testament reveals how the Holy Spirit operates in three spheres:
This second sphere shall be the focus for this deep dive.
The nation of Israel from the time of Moses until the election of Saul operated as a theocracy. As we can see from the book of Judges, this is a style of government in which leaders known as ‘prophets’ or ‘judges’ ruled the nation of Israel in the name of God. The Israelites at such a time were stuck in what is called, “the cycle of sin”. That is, they started off worshipping and serving the Lord, but then they fall into idolatry and sin which in turn leads to their enslavement. From this point, they call out to God who responds by raising up a Judge to deliver the nation. It is in this form of governance where we encounter the role of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who equipped and helped the judges to rule over the nation of Israel, and believe me – they needed it.
We can understand the relationship between the divinely called judges and the Holy Spirit through the expression “the Spirit of Lord came upon him.” We have found that this term is repeated six times in the book of Judges – found in 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 14:6, 14:19, and 15:14. These six passages are only about 4 of the prophets – Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, but we can assume the remainder of the judges were also treated likewise.
A word study of the recurring expression is where we begin to uncover more of the nature of the Holy Spirit. In the six times the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” is used there are only two different words used that are translated as “came”. (Although there are two situations in 3:10 and 11:29 where the word “came” is actually part of a Hebrew phrase, so it is only really applicable in its context and thus isn’t of much use for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.) But there are still four remaining passages to explore.
Firstly in 14:6, 14:19 and 15:14 we see these all relate to Samson, and all use the Hebrew word tsalach. This word means to advance, prosper, make progress, or succeed. This meaning becomes even more powerful when we consider the individual situation in which it’s used. In 14:6 Samson and his family were confronted by a lion, the Spirit came upon Samson, and he proceeds to tear the lion apart. In 14:19 Samson was cheated out of his possessions, the Spirit came upon Samson, and he struck down the men who cheated him. In 15:14 Samson was bound and delivered to the Philistines, the Spirit came upon him, and he famously struck down a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone. It’s evident in these situations then that in times of harm, injustice or impossible situations the Holy Spirit is the one who will empower us to make the impossible possible.
The next significant word reference is found in 6:34 which used the word labash. This word means to dress, wear, clothe, put on clothing, or to be clothed. In context, Gideon is calling upon his nation of Israel to defend themselves against the Midianites and Amalekites, and the Spirit comes upon him to lead. To use this word makes the situation different. Rather than specifically empowering Gideon to succeed (although I’m sure it’s still an aspect of it) it is clothing Gideon. To be clothed in the Holy Spirit is similar to a king placing on a kingly robe. It is a symbol of power and authority, of which Gideon would have been in much need. So, we see how the Holy Spirit clothes us with his power and authority, and this is the locale of the success attained.
As Dr S. Lewis Johnson observes, “We have general indwelling. We have eternal indwelling. And yet isn’t it a sad thing in a way, that the Old Testament saints are often superior in their accomplishments to us in New Testament times? Why? Well, because of the principle of appropriation. You know, it’s one thing to know you have great blessings. It’s another to have experienced them… Yes, the Spirit is the greatest unused power in all the world." With this said, we hope that from this study you begin to understand the Holy Spirit more abundantly and have a fresh view of that “great unused power”. Let us never forget this.