Bible study series: The Beginning and the End - Genesis and Revelation
The brooding and work of the Holy Spirit
by I Gordon
Brood. Brooding. To brood. What comes to mind when you hear that? A grumpy or unhappy teenager sulking in their bedroom? Maybe. But thankfully that's not what I mean by naming this study 'the brooding of the Holy Spirit'. I certainly wouldn't think of the Holy Spirit like that! If we look in a dictionary (which normally helps) we find that brooding can mean two things:
1. think deeply about something1 that makes one unhappy, angry, or worried.
2. (of a bird) sit on (eggs) to hatch them.
Now it is in the second sense that we would speak of the Holy Spirit 'brooding'. Now you might be thinking 'what is all this about? Why even talk about the Spirit 'brooding'? Fair enough! It should become clear soon. What I want to do in this study is look at the passages concerning the Holy Spirit in the first and last books of the Bible. And what we shall see is a theme that begins at the very start of Genesis and carries on right to the last few verses of the last chapter in the last book of the Bible. And it surrounds this theme of 'brooding'. Hopefully it should become a little clearer. We'll start in Genesis and then switch our attention to Revelation but along the way we'll see how the 'brooding' of the Holy Spirit influences our lives.
The Holy Spirit in Genesis
So I did a search of all the verses in the book of Genesis concerning the Holy Spirit. How many would you guess there are?.. Nope. You are too high. There are two. There are really only two verses that specifically address the Holy Spirit of God in the book of Genesis. But though they are few in number they are important in content!2 So how far do you think you need to go in Genesis before the Spirit of God is mentioned? You don't have to go very far into the book to find the first verse. In fact, you only have to get past the first verse! Let's have a look at this first mention of the Holy Spirit because, like many 'first mentions', it teaches us about this One that will play such a pivotal role throughout the rest of scripture.
Gen 1:1-4 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
Right from the very start we see the Holy Spirit there, hovering over the darkness. This word translated 'hovering' is only used three times in the Old Testament and, according to Strong Concordance, is 'A primitive root; to brood; - flutter, move, shake'. One of it's uses later on is in describing an eagle brooding or hovering over it's young.
Deu 32:11 "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.
Concerning this word in Gen 1:2 H.C Leupold writes: "The verb . . . signifies a vibrant moving, a protective hovering' . . . His was the preparatory work for leading over from the inorganic to the organic."
J Vernon McGee writes: And the spirit of God moved." The word for "moved" means brooded, like a mother hen broods over her little chicks. He brooded upon the face of the waters. The Holy Spirit began a ministry here which we will find Him doing again and again. It is re-creation! He comes into this scene and He recreates. This is precisely what He does for us.
So we see right from the very start where there is darkness, there we find the Spirit hovering, desiring to bring new life and a new creation. The Spirit did this with the physical creation back in Genesis but continues to do so spiritually speaking right down through the age in the countless lives that were darkened to the truth... and yet the Spirit broods over them, desiring to see new life. It is for this reason that Jesus said:
John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
Jesus said that no one can enter the kingdom of Heaven unless they are born again. He says there is a physical birth (being born of water through your mothers womb) and there is a spiritual birth where the Holy Spirit gives birth to a living spirit within the believer. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. Look again at what we see the Holy Spirit doing in Genesis 1. Through the activity of the Holy Spirit God said 'let there be light' and He separated the light from the darkness. Has this happened in your life? It is not a stretch to apply it to your life for the Apostle Paul does that very thing:
2Cor 4:6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
And all of this is done through the brooding Spirit of God. Do you realise how the Spirit longs to set people free from the darkness? Do you realise how the Spirit longs to continue separating the light from the darkness in your life?
A personal example
Looking back at my life, I became a Christian in 1990 but I was an unlikely candidate. I was in my first year at University and was quite enjoying life. I was doing well with my sports and academic studies and, to be fair, was enjoying the freedom of being a University student away from home for the first time. And yet something happened that changed everything. I started reading the Bible! It was a Bible that my sister had given my on the 18th birthday and, at the time, I thought it was the worst present ever! I had only opened it once to see and read a soppy inscription and prayer written by my sister in the front cover and that was enough for me! And yet half a year later, when I was leaving for University, I mysteriously took it with me.
To be honest I can't remember the reason I decided to read it but I do remember asking my Mum one day -'Ok, if I was going to read this Bible, how do you do it? Is it like any other book and you start in the beginning and read it through?' She told me to find a book called Mathew and start there. So I did. It didn't matter what I had been doing that day, at night in the student dormitory that I was living in, I would lock my door and get out this Bible. To say that the Spirit was there, hovering and brooding, desiring to see this stubborn dark soul see the light would be an understatement. I only had to read a few chapters before there was utter conviction of sin! Later, as I progressed on with the other Gospels and Epistles, I would wonder over the love of God. For instance I remember finding it amazing, that the angels rejoice more over one sinner that repents than over ninety-none righteous people that don't need to repent! But at the start it was just conviction of sin through the commands of God. I saw that I was a sinner on my way to hell. I didn't actually know one other Christian in the city I was in yet I had a mother and sister back in my home town praying for me and the Holy Spirit drawing me... one formidable combination! And as I read I knew I needed salvation. To cut a long story short I kind of fought it for 6 months but in the end I could resist the conviction no longer. If it meant that I would lose all my friends (which without knowing any other Christians at the time in the city I was in was a big concern for me)... if it meant changing my entire lifestyle... if it meant spending the rest of my University days in my room (apart from going out for lectures!) then so be it. Salvation and Jesus were too important to ignore.
I relay this story because looking back I can see the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit... doing what the Spirit does so well - convicting, drawing, wooing the heart, bringing light where there is darkness yet again. It is the brooding of the Spirit bringing forth new life!
The second mention - and a time frame to the end?
The second and last mention of the Holy Spirit directly in Genesis comes in the important 6th chapter. It comes in the days of Noah leading up to the judgement.
Gen 6:3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."
This is a continuation of the work of the Holy Spirit focusing on the unbelievers. The Spirit is said to be a 'striving with man'. This word 'strive' means to 'plead the cause' and 'minister judgement'. The Spirit is warning, drawing, convincing people of their wickedness and need of salvation. He has been doing it from the fall of mankind so that they would turn from their ways and unto the Lord. That is why Jesus said of the Holy Spirit:
John 16:8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
But note two things from this passage.
THE FACT that the Holy Spirit will not do this striving forever. God is incredibly patient and kind not desiring any to perish but if they will not, will not, will not turn to Him there does come a limit and a time when He says 'enough!'3
THE TIME - In the days of Noah this would be 120 years and then the judgement would come. And what a judgement it was! God gave them ample time to repent if they would... but they wouldn't. There could well be another judgement in mind as well in this passage. I've pointed out in other studies how this judgement in Noah's day points to the final judgement at the end of the age. For this judgement God would not wait 120 years but 120 x 50 years. That is, 6000 years. 6 is the number of man and it seems from scripture that God has given mankind 6000 before the 7th day rest - the final 1000 year Messianic Kingdom. But why multiply by 50 you ask? Two possible reasons. Firstly 50 is associated with the Holy Spirit. The Jews were instructed to count 50 days from the feast of first fruits unto the next feast, Pentecost. Pentecost, you will remember was fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new way to start the church. Hence the name 'Pentecost' means 'fiftieth'. Secondly, the 50th year is also the year of Jubilee in Jewish law where the land returns to its rightful original owner and slaves are set free. So there is a definite possibility that in the larger picture, God's Spirit will strive with mankind for 120 x 50 years/jubilees (6000 years). The end will again bring a judgement as it did in the days of Noah and then, finally, in the ultimate final jubilee, this planet will return to its rightful owner - Jesus Christ!
The Holy Spirit in Revelation
So let's look at the Holy Spirit in the book of Revelation. We'll concentrate on the passages where the Spirit speaks. There are three such times. The first is seen seen through the Spirit's work in the 7 churches of Revelation chapters 2 and 3. When you read the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation you find that they all end with the same phrase. Do you know what it is?
'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'4
Each and every message to the church, with its commendation, its encouragement, its rebuke and correction... all are messages from the Holy Spirit still performing that 'brooding' role like a mother eagle over its young. To some, like those at Ephesus, the Spirit may be saying 'you do many things well, you have endured hardships, but you have left your first love... repent!' To others, like those Thyatira, he may say 'I know of your love and faith and service and perseverance. Your deeds of late are greater than at first... I don't place other burdens on you except that you hold fast what you have till I come'. Oh how the Spirit desires to see us walking in the ways of the Lord. Oh how we quench this work of the Spirit at times! Do you have an ear to hear? I'm sure you've got ears to hear those around you. But do you have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying? Let me remind you that He speaks in the still quiet voice when you make time to get away from the hustle and bustle (if possible!) and dwell on His word and the things of God. The Holy Spirit hasn't stopped speaking. What is He saying to you?
The results of the Spirit's work seen in heaven
Rev 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."
The second mention directly of the Spirit speaking is through the encouragement He gives those that will have to die for their faith during the tribulation period. In terrible times the Holy Spirit specifically reminds them of the rest and rewards to come! 'You will soon rest, and your work and rewards will follow you!' When we go through trying times He will remind us of the same thing! - The coming rest and the coming reward. It is good to think on such things.
Concerning the coming tribulation it should also be pointed out that the Holy Spirit will still be drawing many people during this time. Now I'm not trying to contradict what I said earlier about God's Spirit only striving with mankind for a period before judgement comes! There certainly will be many people upon whom God would have said 'enough!' and upon those He will send a powerful delusion so that they believe the lie according to 2 Thes 2:9-12. But there will also be many others who have not had the same opportunities and have not yet closed their heart towards God. These the Spirit will still draw. And many, countless numbers, will turn to the Lord during this horrific period. The outworking of the Spirit's work upon their heart is dramatically pictured earlier in Revelation 7 which gives us an overview, from Heaven, of the entire Great Tribulation period.
Rev 7:9-14 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." ... Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
John saw multitudes of people, from every nation, people and tongue before the throne of God. They had come out of the Great Tribulation... and they kept on coming! The renowned Greek scholar Dr A.T Robertson writes concerning 'come out of the Great Tribulation' that it is
A 'Present middle participle with the idea of continued repetition. “The martyrs are still arriving from the scene of the great tribulation” (Charles).'
In other words, the Apostle John saw this heavenly scene of more and more martyr's arriving in heaven continually through this whole period of the great tribulation. They just kept coming! 'Look there is more... oh they keep coming! From every nation, every tongue. Look more are still coming. It's endless! So many believers all gathering around the throne! And more are still coming following them!'
This is all the work of the Holy Spirit, even during the darkest of times. Wonderful.
The Spirit's message today
The third and final time that we hear the Spirit speak in the book of Revelation is in it's final few verses in the last chapter.
Rev 22:16-17 I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
The Spirit cries out 'come'! Again, this has been His call since that days of the fall! But there are two 'comes' in this passage. The first is a cry for the Lord Jesus to come. Both the Spirit and the Church are to give this call. If you are a Christian but don't really want Jesus to come then there is something wrong. You are not listening to the cry of the Spirit. With all that is going on around this world that cry should be getting louder and louder within you! I said to a friend the other day that by the time the Lord returns we will have been well and truly weaned off this world! That inner desire to see the Lord return and to be with Him comes from the Spirit of God within the believer. It should be the cry of the church. But it is not the Spirit's only cry.
There is a second 'come' in this passage from the Spirit of God. It is a call going out to all who are thirsty to come and take the free gift of the water of life! J. Vernon McGee writes:
The Holy Spirit is performing His work in the world today in converting and convicting men. He works through the Word and through the church which proclaims His Word. The invitation to men is to come and to take the Water of Life: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters … without money and without price" (Isa_55:1). The Lord Jesus stood and said, "… If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink" (Joh_7:37). That is the invitation that goes out today. If you are tired of drinking at the cesspools of this world, He invites you to come. What an invitation this is to come to Him!
I said earlier that if we are listening to the Spirit then we should have that same cry for the Lord Jesus to 'come'. But the same goes for the second 'come' We should have that same desire for others to 'come' and partake of true spiritual life. if we feel no desire to see the lost saved then again we are not listening to the Holy Spirit.5 And what wonderful work the Spirit is doing today! I was listening to Pastor Jack Hibbs a couple of weeks back6 as he answered Bible Prophecy questions and near the end of the YouTube video he mentioned (and I quote)
'All around the world people are tuning in to get unlimited Bible!' Take the nation of Iran. The CIA, and I won't say how I know this, but the CIA has monitored the most downloaded content in Iran at this time and it is the gospel. Not pornography, not financial info of any kind, not cookbooks. The number 1 download is Bible, Bible programs, Bible sermons. I believe this is the hand of God!'
This is awesome. It is amazing what God, through His Spirit, is doing around the world. But we also want to be used by His Spirit in whatever way we can to be part of that work.
To conclude I just want to briefly mention the promise and fulfillment of this promise from the Spirit. We will partake endlessly of this 'water of life'. This occured on the day of your salvation but it is but a foretaste of what is to come. What is available in the day to come has just been pictured at the start of Revelation 22. We read of the coming day:
Rev 22:1-2 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
A river is pictured coming from the throne of God. But this is no ordinary river for the water it contains is spiritual life! A never ending supply of all that the Holy Spirit is coming directly from God's throne! Imagine experiencing the fruit of the Spirit but in full abundance... The full measure of the Spirit's love... the full measure of His joy... full measure of peace... of kindness, goodness, gentleness... This is all that the Spirit is and awaits us on that day. Believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation but it is said to be a 'deposit'. It is a down payment, sealing those that are God's and guaranteeing their full coming inheritance. The full payment is still to come!
Eph 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit7 guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
Until then believer, hold fast. Keep the faith. Look for the Lord. Focus on your first love (Jesus!) And remember those around you who still need to 'come'! All of these things are pleasing to the Spirit.