Understanding the prophecies concerning the Holy Spirit is very important if we are going to understand what the Jews expected when the pouring out of the Holy Spirit took place. Until we can grasp what God was promising concerning the Holy Spirit, we will never understand the true implications of the Holy Spirit’s arrival.
Isaiah 32:14-18. “For the palace will be forsaken, the busy city abandoned. The hill and the watchtower will become barren places forever, the joy of wild asses, and a pasture for flocks, until the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest. Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in the orchard. The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever. Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place, and in safe and restful dwellings.”
Notice how the people would have understood the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Verses 13-14 describe the barrenness of the nation of Israel. The palace is forsaken, the city is abandoned, and the pasture is barren until the Spirit is poured out. However, when the Spirit is poured out, the desert would become an orchard. There would also be righteousness, peace, and safety. Nothing in this prophecy suggests or even hints at a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the prophecy about miraculous, spiritual gifts. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit, in this context, simply meant the restoration of the nation of Israel and the restoration of the blessings of God to the people.
Isaiah 44:3-5. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring. They will sprout among the grass like poplars by the streambeds. This one will say: I am the LORD’S; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand: The LORD’S, and name himself by the name of Israel.”
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 44 has the same meaning as in Isaiah 32. The picture Isaiah paints is of God’s blessings returning to the people of Israel. The nation is described as a thirsty land and dry ground that will become fertile when the Spirit is poured out. Isaiah is describing the restoration of the nation as God pours out His blessings on the people.
Ezekiel 37:13-14. “And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
This prophecy is the vision of the valley of dry bones. The vision shows Israel as a broken, shattered nation. God says that He would put His Spirit within them. Ezekiel foresaw the restoration of the nation of Israel (giving new life to the nation) and blessings of God returning to the people. The nation of Israel is dead and lifeless. When the Spirit comes, the nation will be brought back to life.
Ezekiel 39:28-29. “‘Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.”
This prophecy makes the same point as Ezekiel 37. The pouring out of the Spirit is the same as God no longer hiding His face from the people. Israel is depicted as having a favorable relationship with God again. God will not have His back turned, but the people will have God’s favor and God’s blessings restored.
Consider that thus far, the prophets simply promised the restoration of God’s blessings and favor to Israel. Israel would be carried away into Babylonian exile. But when the Spirit is poured out, the kingdom would be restored to Israel, the blessings of God would be restored to Israel, and God would be with the people again. In our next post we will examine the prophecy recorded in Joel 2.