Formations 06.04.2017: Come, Holy Spirit

Genesis 1:1-5; 2:4b-9; Job 34:12-15

One of the oldest songs of Pentecost is Veni Creator Spiritus, attributed to the ninth-century monk and theologian Rabanus Maurus. This hymn to the Holy Spirit is traditionally sung on Pentecost and other occasions (ordinations, church dedications, etc.) to invoke God’s transforming power. Here is an English translation:

Creation of Adam from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o’erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

This week’s lesson highlights the work of the Holy Spirit as Creator as reflected in two Old Testament passages. From the very beginning of Genesis, we see how “God’s wind” sweeps over the primeval waters (Gen 1:2) and how God “blew life’s breath” into the nostrils of the first man (Gen 2:7). (The Hebrew word ruach can mean “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.”) Next, Job 34 describes humanity’s continued dependence upon God’s “spirit” and “breath” for its very existence.

On this Pentecost Sunday, we explore the role of the Holy Spirit outside the confines of specifically Christian experience. Not only does the Spirit empower our witness and confirm our salvation, the Spirit gives life to everyone. Therefore, everyone we meet has been at some level touched by the Holy Spirit.

No one is beyond the reach of God’s Spirit. That was the lesson on the first day of Pentecost, as the church poured out into Jerusalem with a life-changing message for people of every race and language. As we study our texts about creation, they can remind us that God’s Spirit has touched all people from the very beginning.

“Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest,” Catholic Online http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=332.

Discussion

• What other Bible passages can you list that speak of God’s activity in the lives of all people?
• Does the Holy Spirit still create today? Explain.
• What do Genesis 1 and Job 34 imply about how even non-Christians are connected to God through the Spirit?
• How can these passages help us find common ground with all people, even those with vastly different backgrounds, beliefs, or ways of life?

Reference Shelf

The Spirit of God

In the OT the Spirit of God was not as fully understood as it later came to be in the NT. It appears as a mediating concept of God, to some extent bridging the gap between the spiritual world and that of the human. Ruah is the common word for the Spirit of God in the OT, while nepes is never used in this way.

The Spirit of God is seen as being associated with God in creation: “and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). Some interpreters view this as simply being nothing more than a wind sent by God to blow over the primordial waters, but it appears that far more than this is intended here. This idea of God’s Spirit being associated with the deity in creation is also seen in the book of Job (34:13-14). At the same time, in neither place does the context indicate anything like the personality applied to the Spirit, the personality found later in the NT.

Robert L. Cate, “Spirit in the Old Testament,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 854.

The Creator Breathes Life

Having affirmed divine justice, Elihu hastens to emphasize mortals’ absolute dependence on El [i.e., God]. He does so by recalling the ancient belief that the creator breathed life into the first man; and after that into every living human. If El were to withdraw that breath, they would return to dust. It follows that El is favorably disposed toward mortals. Furthermore, Elihu says, a reasonable person knows that no one who despises justice would dare rule over others. This principle even applies to earthly rulers, Elihu insists. “Would one say to a king, ‘Worthless’ or ‘Evil’ to nobility?” (v. 18), for even they exercise justice impartially.

James L. Crenshaw, Reading Job: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2011), 140.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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