Galatians: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, Review and Supplemental Material (Monday, July 9, 2012)

The Holy Spirit

Sixth Week


July 9, 2012

Imagine the scene. Nearly all the Israelites who’d left Egypt with Moses had died in the desert. The next generation — desert-hardened, accustomed to traveling as led by God’s special presence in the camp — prepared to cross the Jordan and conquer the Promised Land.

God called the people together to remind them of the covenant he’d made with their parents — a covenant we call “Deuteronomy” or “Second Law,” because this was the second giving of the Law of Moses.

After recounting God’s mighty works on behalf of his beloved Israel, he declares —

(Deu 10:12-16 ESV) 12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

1. What did God mean by “circumcise … the foreskin of your heart”?

You have to start by thinking about the purpose of literal circumcision, which God instituted beginning with Abraham, centuries before the Exodus.

(Gen 17:10-11 ESV) 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.  11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”

Circumcision marked Abraham and his descendants as being in covenant relationship with God. Now, it was not the most obvious mark, of course, but in that culture, sex with a “priestess” was a very common fertility ritual — and no Jew could “worship” in that way without advertising his covenant relationship with God.

To circumcise your heart is for your heart to display your commitment to God. People should be able to see where your loyalties lie by your passions and feelings.

2. It’s been commonly taught that Judaism was a religion of externals, in which the heart was unimportant. Is that true?

Not remotely true. Jesus branded some Jews, especially the Pharisees, as hypocrites, but the religion God gave the Jews was all about the heart. Jesus’ point was not to condemn Judaism so much as those who attempted to be a true Jews without circumcision of the heart.

3. Why say “be no longer stubborn”? What would be the opposite of stubborn?

Submissive as opposed to rebellious. “Stubborn” refers back to earlier portions of Deuteronomy recounting earlier events in Jewish history —

(Deu 9:13-14 ESV)  13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people.  14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.'”

“Stubborn” is to be so rebellious that God loses patience, perhaps even bringing destruction.

Near the end of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks of a future time when Israel rebels and is severely punished by God, driven from the Promised Land and scattered among the nations. But, Moses prophesies, if Israel repents, God will bring them back —

(Deu 30:3 ESV) 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.

4. Did the scattering happen as prophesied? When?

Yes, when Judea was taken into Babylonian Captivity. Nebuchadnezzar defeated Judea in two wars. In the first, he took many of the people captive and carried them back to Babylon. The prophet Ezekiel was among them. Jeremiah remained behind and prophesied to those remaining in Judea.

In the second attack, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.

5. When did God gather Israel from all the people?

There are two correct answers.

The classic answer is when Ezra and Nehemiah led a band of Jews (not nearly all) to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and Temple, all under the rule of the Persians.

But in the minds of most Jews, the Exile continued even after that. After all, most Jews had not yet returned and Israel remained scattered among the nations. Moreover, the many promises made by God to send a king — the Messiah — to re-establish the throne of David had not yet occurred.

Therefore, the Jews of Jesus day were expectantly awaiting the “Kingdom,” the re-established kingdom of Judea, to be ruled by a king descended from David who would bring a time of great happiness and prosperity.

In that sense, which is, I believe, the truest sense, the Exile continued until Pentecost, at which time God began to fulfill his promises regarding the Kingdom.

The prophets referred to the coming of the Messiah, the establishment of the promised Kingdom, and God’s rule on earth through the Messiah as “good news,” which is why the Jews Jesus preached to knew what he meant when he spoke of the “good news of the kingdom of heaven” long before he revealed himself to be Messiah.


July 4, 2012

(Deu 30:6 ESV) 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Moses says that when God gathers his people together, “God will circumcise your heart.”

6. How does Deu 30:6 differ from Deu 10:12?

Both passages intend that God’s people love him with all their hearts, but after the Exile, their hearts will be changed by God. Rather than being a command to honor by self-help, it’s a promise and blessing to be received with gratitude.

The result is life in contrast to the destruction that follows being stubborn. The history of Israel proves that, over the long haul, self-help is not enough and leads to rebellion and death — regardless of good intentions. Only when God enters our hearts to change them do we experience true life.

7. How do you imagine God intended to honor his promise to circumcise the hearts of his people?

Of course, God could do this himself. He’s God! But the rest of the Scriptures credit the Spirit with being the means by which God keeps this promise.

8. What does he say is the purpose of this kind of circumcision?

“[S]o that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

The result is a dramatically changed relationship with God in which we truly do attain to the kind of love God wants — resulting in life.

(Jer 4:4 ESV) 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”

Many years later, Jeremiah prophesied as Nebuchadnezzar was marching on Jerusalem to eventually overthrow the city, destroy the Temple, and take the Jews into Babylonian Captivity.

9. Why does Jeremiah command the Jews to “remove the foreskin of your hearts”? What would the Jews have had to do to accomplish that?

The time of Exile had not yet happened, and so God had not yet entered the hearts of his people through the Spirit.

The Israelites were in rebellion against God — stubborn — to the point that God was again ready to destroy them, as at Horeb during the Exodus (Deu 9), and the solution was the same as before: submission and repentance. But the Jews did not repent.


July 5, 2012

(Jer 31:31-34 ESV) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah later speaks of a time after the Exile when God will make a “new covenant” with Israel.

10. When did God keep this promise? (Luke 22:20; 2 Cor 3:5-6; 3:16-18; Heb 8:8-13)

The “new covenant” is, of course, what we call Christianity. It’s the new relationship with God made available through Jesus.

11. How did God keep this promise? That is, how did/does God writes his laws on the hearts and minds of his people?

(2Co 3:5-6 ESV) 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,  6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The new covenant is “of the Spirit,” which gives life — a reference to Deuteronomy 30:6. Of course, the reference to “new covenant” also refers to the forgiveness of sins promised by Jeremiah in chapter 31. Paul pulls the passages together, declaring that this new relationship with the Spirit supersedes “the letter” —

(2Co 3:16-18 ESV) 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

— resulting in “freedom” as we’re transformed more and more into the image of Jesus.

In other words, the “law” written on our hearts is Jesus, the very image of God. When we become more like Jesus, we become more like God — and therefore live more in accordance with his will — that is, his law.

(Eze 36:26-27 ESV) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

While Jeremiah was prophesying in Judea, Ezekiel had been taken captive in Babylon, where he prophesied for the benefit of the Jewish captives there.

12. When was this promise fulfilled by God?

At Pentecost … and every time someone is baptized into Jesus.

13. How did God fulfill this promise?

He poured out his Spirit at Pentecost and promised the same Spirit to all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus. The indwelling Spirit then begins the transformative work described in 2 Cor 3.

14. What’s the effect of God’s work within his children promised by this passage?

The Spirit will “cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules,” that is, to no longer be stubborn and to instead live. In short, the Spirit produces not perfection or sinlessness but submissive, penitent hearts that love with something approaching the intensity of God’s own love —

(Rom 5:5 ESV) 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Isa 44:3 ESV) 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah prophesied before Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but said even more about the new covenant.

15. When did God pour his Spirit on the descendants of Israel?

At Pentecost —

(Act 2:33 ESV)  33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

16. How is the outpouring of the Spirit like “water on the thirsty land”?

The Jews were a desert people. After a drought, the land would be barren and ugly, dead for all purposes. But after a rain, the land would immediately blossom. Leaves would turn green and long-dormant plants would blossom literally overnight.

Just so, the Spirit takes virtually dead people and brings them alive, causing them to blossom as their true natures are revealed and as they grow into the image of Jesus.


July 6, 2012

(Eze 37:1-14 NIV) The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD. ‘”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”

10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.‘”

17. In light of the previous prophecies and teachings, what is this passage talking about? When was/is it fulfilled?

Again, at Pentecost and when any one is baptized into Jesus. We are all transformed from dead to alive when we are converted. We don’t just pass into the grave with Jesus but we leave our own graves, being transformed from walking corpses to living embodiments of the Spirit.

18. This prophecy speaks of passing from death to life by the power of God’s Spirit. Do Christians ever experience the same thing? When?

At baptism. Every time.

(Psa 51:10-11 NIV) 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

After David’s tragic sin with Bathsheba, he penned this psalm.

19. Why didn’t David simply fix his own heart? Why pray that God change his heart for him?

David had walked with God for decades. He’d been a man of intense faith and prayer, and yet despite being “a man after God’s own heart,” he failed and failed horribly. Flesh and blood can do but so much. God is far more powerful.

20. Did God grant this request? If so, how?

Unlike Saul, who lost the Spirit due to his hard heart, David was quick to repent and suffered the discipline of God understanding that he’d brought his suffering on himself. He returned to God and renewed his faith.

God therefore let David keep God’s Spirit within him and helped David defeat sin in his life.

21. What did David mean by “do not cast me from your presence”? In what sense was God present with David in a way that David could lose?

This is surely a reference to the Spirit, through whom God dwelt within David’s heart.

(Eze 36:26-27 ESV) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

(Jer 24:7 ESV) 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

22. What is God promising in these passages? How will he do it?

A new heart of flesh. The Spirit. A heart of faith. A return to God with our whole hearts.

By giving his Spirit.

23. What will be result of God keeping his promises?

We’ll “walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” and we “shall be [God’s] people and [he] will be their God.”

In other words, a new relationship with God in which we are submissive and penitent and in which we enjoy a close, intimate relationship with God.

This language echoes such passages as —

(Exo 29:45 ESV)  45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.

(Jer 32:38-41 ESV)  38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.  40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.  41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.


July 7, 2012

(Rom 2:28-29 ESV) 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

24. What Old Testament passages does Paul assume his readers are already familiar with?

The ones we just studied above.

25. Who receives this “circumcision … by the Spirit”?


(Rom 8:1-2 ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

26. What passage is Paul likely thinking of when he says the Spirit takes us from death to life?

Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones.

27. Based on the earlier readings, what’s the difference between “the law of sin and death” and “the law of the Spirit of life”?

The law of sin and death are the many commands of the “written code” and “the letter,” which we cannot hope to truly obey and so earn our salvation.

The law of the Spirit of life is the new relationship with God received through the Spirit, which changes our hearts and minds by transforming us into the image of Christ.

Rather than being about rules, it’s about becoming like Jesus in his sacrifice and submission, service and suffering. It’s about becoming like God.

(Eph 5:1-2 ESV) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

(Rom 8:3-4 ESV) 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

28. According to the earlier readings, what does it mean to “walk … according to the Spirit”?

To no longer be stubborn, to no longer rebel, to have a soft heart of flesh, rather than stone, to have a heart and mind attuned to God’s will, to be transformed into the image of Jesus

29. If we walk according to the Spirit, what is the promised result?

The righteous requirement of the law will be fulfilled in us. This has two senses. In one sense, it’s fulfilled because God treats us as righteous for the sake of Jesus. In another sense, it’s fulfilled because we actually live in tune with our transformed hearts — not perfectly, of course, but in the overall direction of our lives.

30. In your experience, does God write any of his laws on your heart? Has he done anything to soften your heart? Has he kept these promises?

Strictly for the student to answer. But the student should carefully reflect on the over-arching trends in his or her life — not just the last few weeks or months. Is your heart becoming softer? Are you becoming more like Jesus?

If not, ask yourself: why not? Is it because the Spirit isn’t urging you or because you’re resisting God’s work in your heart?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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