The Holy Spirit, The Word, and Prayer

Sabbath School commentary for discussion on Sabbath, March 10, 2017.

These three words: Holy Spirit, the Word, and prayer are associated with spirituality. Oftentimes, spirituality is equated with quietness and silence. It is presumed that if a person is quiet he or she must be spiritual. Spirituality is hardly attributed to a noisy and talkative person. Thus, anyone who is loud must not be spiritual. There is a tendency to equate silence with spirituality, even with holiness. In a local Seventh-day Adventist church where I grew up, there was a big printed Bible verse at the top of the chancel’s backdrop that writes, “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.”[1]

Two words from that verse caught my attention--holy temple and silence. They impressed upon my young mind that I should worship God in silence. I have to keep quiet in the church. Even if I feel like speaking I am expected not to even say “Amen!” Older folks in the church appreciated me whenever I remained silent throughout the whole church service. So, I associated holiness to silence as a child. Growing up, I felt that being silent would make me holier. I assumed that since the Holy Spirit works silently within a person, the effect should be silent in nature.

However, when I studied the use of the word “spirit” (Heb. ruach) in the Hebrew Scriptures, I discovered that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is not silent at all. Even the effect of the work of the Holy Spirit is not something esoteric. Here are the examples.

After anointing Saul as king of Israel, prophet Samuel told him that when he approaches the town, where the Philistine garrison is, he will meet a group of prophets coming down from the hill prophesying with lyres, tambourines, flutes, and harps. Then “the Spirit (ruach) of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them” (1 Samuel 10:6, NIV).

The word “prophesying” here refers “not to foretelling future events but to the expression of divine truth in the form of sacred song.”[2] It is interesting to note the type of musical instrumentsmentioned in this text. These are not silent sounding instruments. In other places of the Old Testament, for example, whenever the tambourine is used it is always accompanied by sacred dancing (e.g., Exodus 15:20-21; Psalm 150:4). Indeed, expressing divine truth in the form of sacred song is not a quiet event. The manifestation and working of the Spirit of God in this occasion is not silent.

Prophet Ezekiel experienced the same powerful and loud manifestation of the Spirit of God. He writes, “Then the Spirit (ruach) lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voiceof a great earthquake” (Ezekiel 3:12, ESV). In this example, we can see that the Holy Spirit is associated with “the voice of a great earthquake” (qol raash gadol). This is not a silent Spirit. Apparently, the manifestation of the Spirit is not something abstract. It pictures the Spirit of Yahweh in concrete terms.

Another powerful work of the Holy Spirit is shown in the life of Samson. When the Spirit of Yahweh came upon him, it came upon him mightily. The Bible describes, “Then the Spirit (ruach) of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat” (Judges 14:6a, ESV). Here is another powerful manifestation of the Spirit of God through Samson. He tore the lion with his bare hands. The powerful work of the Spirit of God is revealed here. It enables him to perform this incomparable feat.

Again, these examples in the Bible picture the Spirit of the LORD in concrete terms. There is nothing enigmatic in the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Its impact is expressed in powerful and active way. Indeed, when a person or a group of people were possessed by the Holy Spirit an ostensible action is manifested. Thus, we can say that a “doing person” is a “man or woman of the Spirit.” Concrete works are recognizable evidence of the spirit-filled person. What a person does is the result of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit.

It is general knowledge that spirituality includes meditation. It consists of meditating upon the Word of God. Now, even the word “meditation” in the Hebrew language is not described as a passive and silent act. For example, Psalm 1:2, notes, “in His law he meditates day and night” (NKJV). Joshua, as he took over the leadership from Moses, was told by God to “keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8, NIV). The Hebrew word for “meditate” in these two examples is hagah. Hagah is actually “a bodily action,” which “involves murmuring and mumbling words.”[3]

Traditionally, meditation is using our imagination as we read the Word of God. We imagine the scene where the story was originally told. We try to capture the sound and the smell of a narrative in the Bible. In other words, meditation is using our imagination creatively as we read the Scripture.

But the Hebrew word for meditation is not so much focused on using our imagination; it is uttering and speaking the Torah. That is why in Joshua 1:8, the LORD told him to keep the book of the Torah “always on your lips.” Meditating on the Torah is “making sounds of the words, getting the feel of the meaning as the syllables are shaped by larynx and tongue and lips.”[4] There is no imaginative process going on here.

Prophet Isaiah used the word hagah (meditate) “for the sounds that a lion makes over its prey.”[5] Isaiah 31:4, writes, “As a lion or a young lion growls (hagah) over his prey (ESV).” Meditation is not simply using our creative imagination but more of “hearing and rehearing these words as we sound them again, letting the sounds sink into our muscles and bones.”[6] Thus, “meditation is mastication.”[7]

This concept sheds light on Jesus’ words recorded in John 6:53-56, which talk about eating His flesh and blood. He associated eating his flesh and blood with abiding in Him and eternal life. Then, He emphasized in John 6:63, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (ESV). Jesus, in the Scriptures, is the spiritual food that we must eat and masticate. In effect, He doesn’t say hear my words or read my words. Rather “eat” my word!

Indeed, there is nothing abstract in regards to one’s spirituality. Moreover, the manifestation and work of the Holy Spirit are described in a powerful and concrete way. Thus, spirituality is not something abstract or metaphysical but a concrete and tangible living and doing. Spirit possession of a person is a phenomenal behavior not some kind of an abstract attitude or intangible thinking process. A Spirit-filled person is active and dynamic.

[1] This verse is based on Habakkuk 2:20. If we will study the context of this verse, prophet Habakkuk had an ongoing candid dialogue with God asking Him, first of all, why is He not doing something about the violence, corruption, and injustices permeating the Judean society (Habakkuk 1:1-4). And when God answers him that He will use the Babylonians to end this wickedness in Judah, the more the prophet complained (Habakkuk 1:5-11). Why would God use a more wicked nation of Babylon to end Judah’s wickedness (Habakkuk 1:12-17)? At the beginning of chapter 2, Habakkuk writes, “I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint” (NRSV). What follows then in that chapter was God’s answers to Habakkuk’s complaints. At the end of God’s series of answers to the prophet, He concluded “Yahweh is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silence (Heb. has) before Him” (vs. 20). In effect, God was telling Habakkuk “stop complaining” (be silent), because I am in control. This expression in Habakkuk is similar to Zechariah 2:13, “Be silent (Heb. has), all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling” (ESV). The reason to be silent before the Yahweh is because “he is springing into action” (Zechariah 2:13, NLT) from his holy temple.

[2]“Thou shalt prophesy” [1 Sam 10:6], The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (ed. Francis D. Nichol; Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald, 1954), 2:494.

[3]Eugene H. Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1989), 26.

If you respond to this article, please:
Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7908

I’m sure “eating” Jesus’ words is an abstracts concept, as it feeds our spiritual life. Traditionally, Adventist teachings reject the metaphysical. Like the Hebrew culture, spirituality and righteousness is all about “deeds”. Emotional demonstrations in worship are not condoned. For sure, it excludes tambourines and dancing.

On the contrary, the whole person does include, legitimately, emotions, which are even responsible for physical manifestations. We are probably doing ourselves a dis-service by ignoring, at best; and discounting altogether, in the extreme, our emotions when it comes to feeding our spirituality. Eastern cultures are big on meditation; and because the metaphysical is associated with Eastern religions, Adventism shies away from all forms of it.

Nicodemus had a hard time understanding Jesu’s description of “new birth” because it was metaphysical. This may be one reason why SDA definition of justification has to include sanctification - it’s not enough to consider motives, which are not measurable, or even identifiable by observation. This is also why Adventist understanding of Romans 7 is considered to be Paul’s experience before, rather than after, his conversion. It doesn’t seem possible, without metaphysics, that there could be an inner conflict between the “spiritual” and the"carnal" mind, where motive counts more than the deeds - Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Paul’s redemption comes from the opening of chapter 8: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (metaphysically with mind and motive).

5 Likes

Oh, then I am not converted, still feeling Pauls conflict , as depicted, in Romans 7. Neither are my dear fellow believers. I want to be friendly, compassionate, forgiving, helping - - but then , once, I am harsh, judgementa, angry - - We, my church, share our experiences of not at all being perfect and find our relief in Romans 8 : "There is no condemnation - - " - read the whole chapter !

post scriptum : Quite - inbetween - a number of dear earnest believers I have guided on their last way on earth. None was “perfect”, none declared himself to be “perfect” , all placed their hope in Jesus. Can anyone name one who ended his liife in perfection ? Phil 3 : 12 : Paul himself is still "following after - - " !

3 Likes

this is such an interesting, persuasive article…

this may be a white adventist trait, which i’ve definitely seen…but i think ethnic adventism has always been into emotional demonstration…for instance, black adventist churches have always had bodily movement and clapping as part of group singing, which is often highly rhythmical to begin with, and a typical black sermon is usually punctuated by a steady chorus of amens from the congregation…in fact there is often a sort of feedback loop happening during a black sermon: the preacher motivates the congregation, which in turn motivates the preacher…

i’ve seen this same racial divide in other denominations, as well…

Baptism is always in the name of the Father, the Son,and the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge each as distinct entities . Revelation only opens the door wide enough from our redemption.

1 Like

Since the 400’s the Christian church has declared the Trinity.
the FATHER: Maker of heaven and earth, everything seen and unseen.
the one Lord, Jesus Christ, only Son of God. Eternally begotten of the Father,
because, as the OT says, God declared Him “Son”. One with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life who proceeds [sent] by the request
of the Father and the Son. He spoke through the prophets. The Holy Spirit
was in the world from the beginning [hovered over the waters on the 1st day].
Was in the world prior to the Incarnation. The Spirit facilitated the Incarnation,
the Human-God in the life and person of the God-Man named Jesus.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is NOT just a Number in the 28. It is a Basic Belief
of the World Wide Christian Church. Much bigger than just the little insignificant
Seventh day Adventist church in the world.

The work of the H.S. includes presenting our prayers to heaven [even with groanings–
emotions that are beyond our ability to know]. The Spirit prays the prayers of God with
God for us on our behalf. As the Bible says – we REALLY do not know WHAT we should
pray for. That is WHY the H.S. presents our TRUE PRAYER REQUESTS.

the PROBLEM I see with SDA worship, as opposed to Liturgical worship, is that the
community of believers DO NOT recite their Baptismal Vow Beliefs out loud, in unison
as my Episcopalian brothers and sisters do in the Nicene Creed. Each week, as I am
sitting with my Choir group, I say my Baptismal Vows through the reciting of and the
affirming of the Nicene Creed, which has ALL the 28 SDA FB’s in it. There is also
water in a small bowl near the door. So I can place moisture on my forehead as a
symbol of my continued agreement with my Baptism. And re-new my Baptism event
every 7 days, 52 times each calendar year.

1 Like

This article reminded me of a heresy I learned about 40 years ago…“Quietism”

Since many people/congregations in SDA churches are noisier and more undisciplined compared to those in movie theaters…I am not surprised at that notice.

The article counters the indifferent, spectator, non involved mindset of many church members. It is typical in most non SDA churches as well that only a small minority are actively involved in any substantial effort in enlarging the kingdom of God.

What is taking place is just a variation of the OSAS (once saved always saved) heresy.

SDA think that they will be saved because they claim that the robe of JESUS’ righteousness will cover all of their habitual minor defects…as long as they are not mass murderers, serial rapists, political terrorists or child molesters.

Statistics reveal that probably 90% of churchgoers have never read the whole bible once in their lives. Because of this, fanaticism is rampant and generated by those who use verses out of context to perform carnal damage control.

1 Like