The Coming of the Holy Spirit

by Dr. Michael Whiting

Day 12 of Advent

Today's Reading

Joel 2:23-29

This passage may not seem at first glance to be one fit for Advent, but upon closer examination, it holds a promise that God had in store with the coming of Jesus and indeed one that could only be fulfilled through Him.

The people of Israel in Joel’s day were under the discipline of God for their sins. A locust plague was consuming the prosperity of the land until they were brought to the point of repentance. In response, God promised to restore their fields and their pastures; the death of the land would be swallowed by resurrection and new life.

Amid this prophecy of hope, God promised to send what many translations render “rain.” Interestingly, the word most often used for “rain” in Hebrew is yoreh, whereas the word that appears repeatedly in this passage is moreh, always translated elsewhere in the Bible as “teacher.” It is clear from the context that the prophet is talking about the heavens renewing the abundance of the land, but embedded in this passage is a promise that God would send a teacher of righteousness, which cues us to the Messianic implications of this renewal. God’s Word is often described using natural and agrarian metaphors, and Deuteronomy 8:2-3 reminds us that living by His commandments is necessary for the fullness of life in the presence of God. Another prophet and contemporary of Joel, Amos, prophesied a temporary “famine” of the words of God before the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus fulfilled this promise as the teacher of righteousness, the very Word and Wisdom of God incarnate dwelling with us, embodying righteousness perfectly in obedience to the Father through suffering. His heavenly wisdom was recognized by Peter as “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), although to others His rebukes provoked jealousy and anger leading to His crucifixion. To believe in Jesus is to believe in all that He said as the very words of God, and the Great Commission He gave His disciples was to teach everything He had commanded when He was with them and to continue abiding in His words by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20).

Later in Joel 2:28-29, we read of the promise that “afterward” and “in those days” God would also “downpour” His Spirit on all flesh, which we know from Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 was fulfilled in Jerusalem at the Festival of Pentecost just a few months after the ascension of Jesus. One role of the Holy Spirit is to be our indwelling teacher and to empower us to bear the fruit of obedience in conformity to Jesus. The gift of the Holy Spirit was part of the New Covenant Messianic glad tidings, that God would “put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33; cf. Ezekiel 36:26).

God and righteousness dwell together. In our unrighteousness, God sent us His Son that we might be forgiven, but also that He might take up His dwelling in us that we would live in the righteousness taught by Jesus and in fellowship with Him experience the joys of God’s dwelling with us. Are we being filled with His Spirit to live by the words of Jesus, the perfect teacher of righteousness? Are we experiencing the pleasure of God’s dwelling in our hearts, homes, churches, workplaces, and communities or have we allowed sin its destructive foothold? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that one day in the new earth, there will be no more sin, only righteousness and peace, and the abundance of God’s dwelling with us will be fully known.