The Holy Spirit first appears in the second verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1:2. The earth is formless and dark, and “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. The word for “Spirit” is “Ruach”, meaning “breath of God”. The very breath of God is present at creation.
After that, we see the Holy Spirit again when he comes upon particular people at particular times. Here’s a quick walk through the places in the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
The Spirit fills Moses with skill, intelligence, knowledge, and all craftsmanship (31:3, 35:3).
The Spirit rests on Moses’ elders and they prophesy (11:25). Moses wishes the Spirit would be in “all the Lord’s people” (11:29).
The Spirit “comes upon” Balaam (24:2). Joshua is a man “in whom is the Spirit” (27:18).
The Spirit is “upon”, “clothes”, or “rushes upon” Othniel (3:10), Gideon (6:34), Jepthah (11:29), and Samson (14:19, 15:14).
The Spirit “rushes” upon Saul (10:10, 11:6) and David (16:13). He “departs” Saul (16:14), and comes upon Saul and his messengers (19:20, 19:23) and they prophesy.
David says the Spirit “speaks by me, his word is on my tongue” (23:2).
Elijah says the “Spirit of the Lord” will “carry” Ahab (18:12).
The Spirit “came upon” Azariah (15:1) and Jahaziel (20:14), and “clothes” Zechariah (24:20).
The Spirit warns God’s people “through… prophets” (9:30).
Job says “the Spirit of God has made (him)” and “the breath of the Almighty gives (him) life” (33:4).
David prays that God will not take his Holy Spirit from him (51:11)
We are told that when God “send(s) forth (his) Spirit” people “are created and (he) renew(s) the face of the ground” 104:30.
There is nowhere David can flee from God’s Spirit/presence (139:7).
The Psalmist prays for the “Spirit to lead (him) on level ground” (143:10).
Isaiah prophesies that the Spirit will “rest upon” Jesus, a Spirit “of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (11:2).
The Lord calls his children “stubborn” who “make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (30:1).
The prophet longs for the day “the Spirit is poured upon us from high” (32:15).
Isaiah asks “who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel” (40:13).
We are told of “the chosen one” and that God will “put (his) Spirit upon him” (42:1).
God says he “will pour water on the thirsty ground, and streams on the dry ground” and that “(he) will pour his Spirit upon your offspring, and (his) blessing on your descendants” (44:3).
God makes a covenant that “(his) Spirit… and (his) word… shall not depart out of your mouth or out of the mouth of your offspring” (59:21).
Isaiah, speaking of himself, other prophets, and ultimately pointing to the Head of prophets, Jesus, says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (61:1)
Isaiah laments how God’s people “rebelled and grieved (God’s) Holy Spirit” (63:10).
The Spirit “lifts” him up (3:12, 3:14, 8:3, 11:1, 11:24, 43:5).
The Spirit “enters” him (2:2, 3:24).
The Spirit falls upon him (11:5).
The Spirit places him in a valley full of bones (37:1).
God says that he will not hide his face anymore, when he pours out his Spirit “upon the house of Israel” (39:29)
God declares that he will “pour out (his) Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days (he) will pour out (his) Spirit” (2:28-29).
The prophet says that he is “filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord…” (3:8).
God says that “(his) Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not” (2:5). “In a little while”, God says, “I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the dry land…” (2:6).
“The Lord of hosts” says that the obstacles to rebuilding of the temple will be overcome “not by might, nor by power, but by (his) Spirit” (4:6).
When we arrive at the New Testament, and when Jesus’ work is complete, the prophesies of Joel and Isaiah are fulfilled when the Holy Spirit is poured out in Acts 4:31. The very breath of God in our very midst.
We live in this reality and under this outpouring. We are the ones, the sons and daughters, about whom Joel prophesied. The Holy Spirit is no longer reserved for particular people at particular times, but has been poured out on all who put their trust in Jesus Christ.
But we don’t always experience the Holy Spirit in our lives or in our gatherings with the degree of power that God intends. And that’s a shame.
For our sake
We can so often be like cars along the side of the road that have run out of gas. That’s not what our manufacturer designed us for. We need power (Acts 1:8). Sure, we can coast to a certain degree, but we’re burned out, and we’re empty. When this describes us in our lives and/or in our ministry, the Holy Spirit whispers, “there’s more!”
For the church’s sake
We need the Holy Spirit if we want to proclaim the good news of the Gospel in our churches, through our preaching, and with our music. The Holy Spirit brings unity where the church so often experiences division (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). The Holy Spirit brings a demonstration of God’s power where churches so often rely on the eloquence of words of wisdom (2 Corinthians 2:4). And the Holy Spirit points people to Jesus when worship leaders try to do it on their own (John 16:14).
For our gatherings’ sake
People come to church on Sunday morning, whether they realize it or not, longing for genuine joy, longing to encounter something great, longing to encounter something close, and longing to see God at work. The Holy Spirit helps people encounter the glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) and genuine love of God (Romans 5:5).
For Jesus’ sake
If we really want to be people and worship leaders who bring glory to Jesus and help people see him clearly, then how do we expect to do this without the help and the power of the one whose job it is to glorify Jesus? (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus! We often think we can glorify Jesus on our own and we are dangerously mistaken.
I am increasingly convinced that for a large number of worship leaders, the Holy Spirit plays no central role in their leading. They might pay homage to him on the periphery, or confess a belief in him doctrinally, but he is held at arm’s length practically. The sad result is services and singing that lack a demonstration of the very breath of God in our very midst and this needs to change for the sake of the glory of Jesus!