Spirit of God at Work
The Spirit of God is the “Eternal Guard” on duty to watch over the universe and over all life. The Eternal Guard, especially, watches over God’s chosen servants that still live by His laws. In fact, the Spirit of God watched over the mass and over the chaos before He brought order into the universe (Genesis 1:1). Genesis 1:2 gives us this picture, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” Through the same Spirit, God called into being the world and everything in it, including man (Genesis 1-2). Then, God retired and God put man in charge of managing the world (Genesis 1:26-28). But some one, in the shape of a serpent (Satan), derailed man from his task. Man opened the Pandora’s box of evil, and man became intoxicated for as long as he lives on earth, with the sting of the devil; namely, death (Genesis 3). The devil has no influence or no power beyond the grave. Satan put man in a spirit world where man has to choose between good and evil (Ephesians 6:12). It is man’s ability to know good and evil, which makes man God-like. This knowledge of good and evil sets man apart from all other living beings (Genesis 3:22). God, the “US,” has stopped creating. But God has not stopped from keeping His eye on His “image man” and on His garden, the earth. God, the Spirit, and the Son have used many people, both good and evil, to keep His “Redemptive Purpose” for His image alive in man. It should not surprise the reader that the Lord used Nebuchadnezzar more than He used David. The Babylonian captivity preserved the remnant that was needed to bring the Savior into the world. The Lord used Rome more than Israel to share the Savior with the world. They were not good nations, but they provided the means for God’s purpose to continue saving His own likeness in man.
It is “God’s command to manage the earth” that man disputes by insisting that God is behind the good He gives and the evil He uses to punish the disobedient. Very few writers, in the Bible, have tried to explain the contradiction; namely, how can a good Creator be both, good and evil? One of the first writer was the writer of Job who identified the cause of Job’s misfortune with Satan. Even then, Satan could only act with God’s permission and within the limits God set. Satan could take everything from Job, except his soul or Job’s spirit or the will of Job to believe in the goodness of God. Job, in spite of all his losses and suffering, regarded God as blameless. Job, too, believed that God had a reason to punish him for something he or his family had done. Job’s friends were convinced that Job was guilty of serious transgressions. In Job, Satan’s primary function was to find fault with those that were just and with those who did what was right. Satan knows how to find the weak spot in a saint and ruin him or her. Jesus saw Satan trying to unnerve Peter and Jesus prayed for his best disciple: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). Peter well remembered that time in his life when Satan had him on the ropes. Peter wrote, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of you brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever” (I Peter 5:8-11).
In addition to Job, Satan is mentioned in I Chronicles 21 and in Zechariah 3. Both references had to do with marring the character of David, the king, and the character of Joshua, the high priest. Zechariah we shall treat in a separate chapter on the work of the Spirit of the Lord. The author of Chronicles included this report: “Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, ‘Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.’ But Joab said, ‘May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should he bring guilt upon Israel?'” (I Chronicles 21:1-4). Joab obeyed David in counting the people, but Joab disobey by not counting the Levites. This was not God’s will, and Gad, the prophet of the Lord, was dispatched to offer David three options of punishment: three years of famine, or three months of plundering by his enemies, or three days of the sword of the Lord. David chose the third way and the destroying angel to take seventy thousand lives through pestilence. The severity even moved God to stop the dying by halting his angel of death. During David’s time people believed that God could change His mind and do both, bless the people for doing what was right and also punish the people for doing what was wrong. The message to Job had not trickled down to David’s people; namely, that Satan was causing the suffering, the dying, and the devastating, while the Lord God was doing the saving. Jesus’ primary mission was to free man from the idea that God does both, the blessing and the punishing. We shall see later, in our study, when Jesus clearly identified the work of the devil and that man harvests what he sows (John 8:42-47; Matthew 7:1-2,12).
David’s sin to count God’s people, why was it so severe? Counting people had become a practice, which also has been passed on into our time? The answer is found in I Samuel 16:7. The Lord or Spirit said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature because I reject him (Jesse’s big son); for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” The Lord looked into Abraham’s heart right after the birth of Ishmael, took him outside and said, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir. Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:4-5). Again, the Lord looked into Abraham’s heart and saw his genuine faith in his God, by being willing to give up his true and his only heir, the angel repeated God’s promise or covenant, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18). The Lord looked past Ishmael. To see whether Abraham’s heart would part with his son, God focused on Isaac. Abraham was willing to trust God by obeying his voice to return his son to God. Abraham realized that God was using him to create a people that would represent Him, as the true God in the world. Therefore, Abraham would become a blessing and a guide to many nations. It was God’s doing and not Abraham’s, Hagar’s or Sarah’s. The same God is at work in Christ Jesus who declared: “Do not murmur among your selves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:43-45). Acts states: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk (live) in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Only God knows who the true members of His Kingdom are.
It was after Abram practiced his faith by obeying God, that God changed him into “Abraham.” God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations, provided that Abraham lived a blameless life before God. “Wow” that does not sound what people want to hear! Abraham did live the blameless life before God. Unfortunately, his descendants, in the flesh and in the spirit, (by faith only) did not obey the Lord. The Lord appeared to the ninety year old Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face and God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:1-7). The descendants are not limited to Isaac and Jacob, but to all of Abraham’s offspring of Hagar, Sarah, and Keturah (bore six sons) (Genesis 21,25). Jacob or Israel was a small branch in the tree of nations. Both, Ishmael, and Esau (Jacob’s brother) became larger than Israel. The sons of Keturah became nations and they were absorbed by Ishmael in the future rise of Islam.
Abraham also has become the father of all that believe in the One supreme God. Thus—because of Moses, Abraham’s seed has, in a moral and in a religious code of ethics, impacted every corner of the globe. It is Abraham’s faith, and not Abraham’s flesh, that has made Abraham a moral and a spiritual father of many nations (Romans 4). It was a faith, filled with deeds, that even risked the life of his heir. The willingness to offer up Isaac, at a time when it was the only way gods could be appeased, was an enormous proof of absolute loyalty of Abraham to the newly found God (James 2:20-24). There is more to Abraham’s faith than handing Isaac over to God. Abraham also believed that God was able to change the practice of human sacrifices with a substitute. Isaac said to his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:7-8). That was the kind of God Abraham had begun to believe in. Abraham’s God was also the Father of Jesus with whom the impossible becomes possible (Mark 10:27). Jesus linked Abraham with Himself. Jesus declared that his fellow Jews had cut themselves off from Abraham by their deeds. In fact, the Jews had become children of the devil (John 8:33-47). Faith with deeds, and not faith alone, set men and women apart from each other and from God. All of us are being identified and recognized by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:15-23). It is the “Spirit of God” who restrains Satan, the evil one. And when God withdraws His Spirit—all life will cease to exist (II Thessalonians 2:7-12). (References are from RSV)