Bible Study Series: Holy Spirit - Roles, Types and Imagery
The Holy Spirit - The Hound of Heaven
by I Gordon
- We'll start with what Jesus said about the role of the Holy Spirit in convicting sinners and drawing them to Himself
- We'll explore the Old Testament type of Eliezer, Abraham's servant, going out to bring a bride for Isaac
- We'll look at three parables that Jesus gave which emphasize the work of God to find the lost sinner
- We'll also look at our role, in connection with the work of the Holy Spirit, in drawing the lost.
Mmmm... there's a bit to go through there! I might have to keep it brief in parts but let's begin with what Jesus said about the conviction of the Spirit.
- Firstly in regard to sin: We live in a world where people don't want to know about sin because they don't want to be accountable to the Judge of all mankind. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin in general but there is a specific sin that is in focus here 'because men do not believe in Me' Jesus said. That is the greatest of all sins... Unbelief. Faith in Jesus is the only answer to sin and to reject that is to reject the only way of escape. Jesus' death has paid the price for all sin but without faith in that sacrifice the sin remains. So belief in the Lord Jesus is critical. You can't just sit on the fence when it comes to Jesus. He didn't give you that option. When I was being 'pursued' by the hound of Heaven there were verses that cut really deep and as I read the book of Mathew for the first time, this was one of them - 'He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.' (Mat 12:30) This verse told me that I couldn't just live life being neutral toward Jesus. I was either for or against Him and to not be for Him was to be against Him. So the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, with the greatest sin of all being unbelief. As Bob Dylan once sang 'Either ya got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain't no neutral ground'.
- Secondly in regard to righteousness: Jesus said the Spirit would convict men in regards to righteousness because He was going to the Father and they would see Him no more. Hmmm... What does that mean? It means that the One who man rejected and cast out as a worthless criminal, is the only One who is worthy. He is the only One who is righteousness based on His own work and that work is complete and perfect. And that is evidenced by the fact that He conquered the grave and went back to be seated at the right hand of the Father. There is no tomb or grave that contains the bones of Jesus! Any righteousness that man comes up with outside of what Jesus did is simply self-righteousness and self-righteousness is no righteousness. Well it is nauseating righteousness and it will not stand before God. Jesus alone has won the right to ascend into Heaven and in terms of salvation the only true righteousness that we have is His righteousness accredited to our account. So the Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness because we need someone else's righteousness to make Heaven. Our self-righteousness is as filthy rags before God. But thank the Lord that His righteousness gifted to those who believe!
- Thirdly in regard to judgement: The Spirit convicts in regard to judgement because the prince of this world now stands condemned. Note the present tense in that. Satan, the god of this world, is already condemned. And anyone who follows the prince of this world (whether knowingly or not) stands condemned already with him. Judgement has been pronounced and the death sentence has already been read. It is simply a matter of time before their name is called. This is what the Holy Spirit also convicted me about all those years ago. I saw that I was literally one breath away from Hell and, but for the mercy of God, there go I.
So there is the role of the Holy Spirit in regards to convicting and drawing the lost. He is the hound of Heaven and has been chasing and convicting people for 2000 years now. And He won't stop until the door is fully closed, the heavens are opened, and the Lord returns. So let's have a look how this is pictured in the Old testament.
- The servant/helper is sent by the Father
Gen 24:1-4 Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. (2) Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, "Please place your hand under my thigh, (3) and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, (4) but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac."
- The eternal purpose and free will shown
Gen 24:8-9 "But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there." (9) So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.
Parable of the lost sheep
Work of the Son - as the great Shepherd
Luk 15:3-7 Then Jesus told them this parable: (4) Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? (5) And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders (6) and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' (7) I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.This parable pictures Jesus as the Shepherd who was willing to leave all that He had to go out and find the lost.2 He was actively looking for the one that was lost during His ministry on earth, even willing to go to the cross to pay the price for the sheep's redemption. The use of 'sheep' in this parable pictures the sinner as, well, stupid! Sheep are prone to wander and become lost! They don't want to be lost or separated but once lost they can't find there own way home and need the help of the shepherd to rescue them. Thus it is with fallen humanity so the fact that the Great Shepherd left all to look for the lost is something believers should, and will. be eternally thankful for!
Parable of the lost coin
Work of the Holy Spirit, through the Church
Luk 15:8-10 Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? (9) And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' (10) In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
This parable pictures the work of the Holy Spirit, through the church (pictured by the woman). She uses the light (the word) to try find the lost coin in a dark house. The coin that is lost represents the helplessness of the sinner to be saved in their own strength and goodness. Just as a lost coin cannot make itself 'found' again by itself, so the sinner cannot save themselves. Jesus said that salvation was impossible for man... but all things are possible for God! But the Holy Spirit is searching and uses believers in this search to find those that are lost!
Parable of the prodigal son
Joy of the Father in receiving back the wayward repentant son!
Luk 15:11-20 Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. (12) The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. (13) Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. (14) After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. (15) So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. (16) He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (17) When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! (18) I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. (19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' (20) So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him...
The parable pictures the wayward sinner who has left God for a life of sinful and wild living. The son is pictured as willfully rejecting the Father in this parable for a life of excess and you will note, in contrast to the first two parables, he is allowed to go and no one comes looking for him. The consequences of his sinful life must come home to roost before he can come to his senses, repent and return. But once he does, note how God the Father is pictured towards the repentant sinner - He is seen as one running towards his son, embracing and kissing him.
Just focusing a little more on the second parable, I really like what the Numerical Bible says, for it shows how we play our role as believers in connection with the Holy Spirit, to find the lost:
“The second parable is that of the woman, in the Scripture the figure of the Church, the instrument of the Spirit. The lamp of the Word is in her hand, and she needs it in the darkness of the night, while Christ is absent. The ‘house’ is the circle of natural ties and relationships; for it is not just a question of public preaching, but of that testimony upon which the success of the preacher after all so much depends, and for which the whole Church, and not any class or section of it, is responsible. Good it is to realize that every soul of man, covered with the dust of sin as he may be, and hidden in the darkness of the world, belongs of right to the King’s treasury, and has the King’s image stamped on him, though with sore disfigurement. Claim him we may, wherever we may find him, for God to whom he belongs. This general evangelism, we may learn from the parable here, is what is the mind of the Spirit for the Church indwelt of Him. Here too there must be friends and neighbors summoned to rejoice,--angelic onlookers who are in sympathy with Him who is always the glorious Seeker, and who sets in motion all the springs of love and pity that flow anywhere in unison with His own.”
F.W Grant, The Numerical Bible
All three parables3 answer this accusation. They speak of that which was lost and then found and portray the joy in Heaven when that lost sinner is returned to the family of God. There is joy for the angels when this happens. There is joy for our shepherd, Jesus when the lost sheep is found. There is joy for the Holy Spirit working through the Church (the woman) when the light is turned on and the lost coin shines and is found. And there is joy for the Father who is pictured running to and embracing any repentant wayward child who returns to Him. This chapter, and all three parables, give the heart of God do they not? And His heart is for the lost. So is that your heart? That is a very important question so ponder it for a while. I know we all have different gifts and callings but it is critical to remember that 'the Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost' - and our great commission is to find our role is this grand plan. And quite often this begins in 'the circle of natural ties and relationships' as mentioned above. Let your light shine. Don't hide it. It could be the light that is needed to find the lost but precious coin.
When she got home she sat each of her grandchildren down and told them that she wants to see each one again in Heaven and that they must follow the Lord Jesus. She has continued to be a witness for the Lord to those around her, including a nurse that comes to her home to help. She told the nurse that everything is ok... that she knows who she believes in and despite the temporal pain she is in, she is at peace and looking forward to going to Heaven. The nurse (who works with people in their last days) responded by saying that she had never met someone with such an amazing attitude! We can only pray and hope that she thinks deeply about what it is that would give a person such hope and peace right in the midst of death.
The Hound of Heaven is a 182 line poem written by Francis Thompson (1859–1907) in 1893. Such was the impact of this poem that G. K. Chesterton said “It is the most magnificent poem ever written in English,” to which J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings) responded by saying that Chesterton was not giving the poem the credit it deserves! In “A Study of Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven,” author John O’Conner writes about the title staying: “The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. And it does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood."
William MacDonald quotes an old hymn stating:
"How true are the lines from the hymn “The Ninety and Nine”:
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost."
On these parables Pastor David Guzik writes:
a. Each scene illustrates a different aspect of God's work. The Son seeks the lost as the Good Shepherd, the Holy Spirit seeks the lost with searching illumination, and the Father seeks the lost with open arms upon return.
b. Each scene illustrates an increasing severity of loss. Of the sheep 1% were lost, of the coins 10% were lost, and of the sons 50% were lost.
c. Each scene illustrates a different way of being lost.
i. The sheep was lost by foolish wandering, and so are many people today.
ii. The coin was lost by what someone else did, and we can say that we are lost because of what Adam did.
iii. The son was lost because of rebellion, and a rebellious departure required a submissive return by the lost one.