One of my favorite rafting spots in the North Carolina mountains is the Nantahala River. This river is controlled by a dam that releases a massive amount of water into the river at the same time each day. Before the dam opens, the Nantahala looks like a very wide, trickling stream with many exposed rocks. You might be able to navigate it with a small kayak, but there would still be sections where you have to get out and carry it because the water is so shallow.
But within 15 minutes of the dam opening, the trickling stream is transformed into a rushing river. Large exposed rocks turn into exciting class 3 and class 4 rapids. An eight-person raft can easily be carried along at a swift pace. And yet, it is the same river that was a trickling stream only minutes before.
As I study the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, it reminds me of the Nantahala River before the dam opens. The Holy Spirit is certainly present in the OT. He is active in creation, in empowering individual leaders, and in manifesting God’s presence to Israel. But His ministry is more limited. His presence is more like a trickling stream. However, the OT prophets foretold a day when the Spirit’s ministry would run both deeper and wider.
Ezekiel 36:22-29 tells of the deeper ministry of the Spirit in the New Covenant. God promises that a day is coming when He will put His Spirit within His people, and cleanse them from all their uncleanness. The Spirit will not only be with God’s people, but will now live in them.
Joel 2:28-29 tells of the wider ministry of the Spirit in the New Covenant. God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh—sons and daughters, old and young, even on male and female servants. The Spirit’s ministry will no longer be localized to the temple or the ministries of key leaders. In the New Covenant all God’s people will receive the Spirit!
It would be a mistake to think that the Holy Spirit’s ministry began on the Day of Pentecost. On Sunday we will examine the many ways (often overlooked) that the Spirit was active in the Old Testament. This same Spirit who created the earth, led the children of Israel, empowered King David, and filled the temple, now resides in all who belong to Christ. What OT saints received in partial measure, we now receive in full measure. The trickling stream has now become a rushing river, and we have the privilege of experiencing its power, as our Savior makes us more and more into God’s image!