Ruach Elohim

Several weeks ago, I awoke with the words Ruach Elohim playing over and over, as if on a loop in my spirit. I knew the Lord was trying to communicate to me. As such, I was determined to find every appearance of this name in the Biblical text. This began my journey of discovery and a search for meaning and application in my own life. Ruach Elohim from the Hebrew translates as The Spirit of God, the person of the Holy Spirit. Our first introduction to The Holy Spirit occurs in Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.” (AMPC). The creative breathe of God, His Ruach was the power by which He brought all things into being. This divine Wind brought order into chaos, and beauty and design where none previously existed. Then came the culmination of creation as “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7, AMPC). That Breath of Life that animated the first of mankind and put a spirit in his soul is the Ruach Elohim. The book of Job affirms, “[It is] the Spirit of God that made me [which has stirred me up], and the breath of the Almighty that gives me life [which inspires me].” (33:4. AMPC). Psalm 104:29-30, APMC confirms, “When You hide Your face, they are troubled and dismayed; when You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When You send forth Your Spirit and give them breath, they are created, and You replenish the face of the ground.”

The persistent, pervasive blackness was no match for the power of Ruach Elohim as He blew light into darkness; similarly, He continues to illuminate the dark places in our lives. Ruach Elohim, The Spirit of God, is no mere force of nature; but is the first name by which He is revealed, God has given us a distinctive way to understand the magnificent, mysterious, unstoppable, life-giving third Person of the Trinity. The action of the Holy Spirit in the creation story is replicated only once more in the Scripture. “As an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, He spread abroad His wings and He took them, He bore them on His pinions.” (Deuteronomy 32:11, AMPC). This passage serves for as a metaphor of God redeeming His people from Egypt in the form of an eagle stirring up its nest and hovering over its young. This picture of nurture, and ultimately of salvation in the Exodus story, introduces the Holy Spirit in the context of two main functions of divinity—creation and salvation.

Additional expressions of Ruach Elohim are in the context of empowering leaders. “And Pharaoh said to his servants, Can we find this man’s equal, a man in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38, AMPC). In this passage, Pharaoh extols Joseph for his meticulous care to detail and chooses him as his prime minister. On two separate instances, Bezaleel, the craftsman chosen to execute the fabrication of the sacred objects for the tabernacle in the wilderness, encounters this creative power:

And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and ability, in understanding and intelligence, and in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, (Exodus 31:3, AMPC)
And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and wisdom, with intelligence and understanding, and with knowledge and all craftsmanship, (Exodus 35:31, AMPC)

Being filled with the Spirit in these instances meant being equipped with skills for creative leadership; in the case of Joseph, Spirit-inspired leadership not only secures the survival and continuity of his family but also ensures the coming of the future Messiah, and in the case of Bezaleel, leaves the legacy of a beautifully equipped and furnished sanctuary.

On numerous occasions, The Spirit of God moved prophets to speak words of correction and instruction. Balaam, the reluctant non-Israelite prophet, is compelled to go against the wishes of the king who pays him to prophesy doom to the Exodus wanderers and, instead, blesses them by the leading of the Holy Spirit:

And Balaam lifted up his eyes and he saw Israel abiding in their tents according to their tribes. And the Spirit of God came upon him (Numbers 24:2, AMPC)

Azariah spoke words of hope to the discouraged King Asa, urging him to be strong and rid the land of idolatry:

The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. (II Chronicles 15:1, AMPC).

Zechariah, not the author of the book, admonished the people during a dark part in their history:

Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood over the people, and he said to them, Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you. (II Chronicles 24:20, AMPC)

It is only by the leading of the Holy Spirit that prophetic declarations and decrees are made.

Probably the most interesting, and potentially disturbing encounters with Ruach Elohim, occur with Saul, the first king of Israel. Shortly after being anointed by the prophet Samuel, Saul stumbled upon a group of prophets and began prophesying with them as Samuel had previously stated:

When they came to the hill [Gibeah], behold, a band of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he spoke under divine inspiration among them. (I Samuel 10:10, AMPC)

Saul soon comes to the realization that he had been given command of a disjointed, weak realm – weak because attacked from without, doubly weak because divided within. Nahash, king of Ammon, appears abruptly as the attacker of Jabesh-Gilead, which lay outside the territory he laid claim to. Having subjected the occupants to a siege, the population sought terms for surrender, and were told by Nahash that they had a choice of death by the sword or having their right eyes gouged out. The population obtained seven days’ grace from Nahash, during which they would be allowed to seek assistance, after which they would have to submit to the terms of surrender. The occupants sought help from the people of Israel, sending messengers throughout the whole territory, and Saul, responded by raising an army which decisively defeated Nahash and his cohorts at Bezek.

The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was greatly kindled. (I Samuel 11:6, AMPC)

God will cause your heart to break for what break His. This anger and righteous indignation spurred Saul to take decisive action to bring deliverance to the people of Jabesh-Gilead.

The experience at the beginning of Saul’s reign closely mirrored another near its end. After Saul’s daughter, Michal, the wife of David, assisted him to escape her father’s murderous intent, Saul sends out a group of soldiers to arrest David, but in meeting a group of prophets who are prophesying, the Spirit of God “came upon” the soldiers and they start prophesying, as well. This prophetic activity neutralizes their aggressive plans, and on hearing this, Saul commissions yet another group to capture David—with the same outcome. After a third attempt with the same results, Saul sets out himself; but he, too, is overpowered by the Spirit of God, and, instead of murdering his nemesis, he prophesies with the other prophets:

And Saul sent messengers to take David; and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul and they also prophesied. So he went on to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went on he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. (I Samuel 19:20, 23; AMPC)

However, Saul does not stop at mere prophecy; he strips naked, continues prophesying in Samuel’s presence, and ends up laying prostrate on the ground for the rest of that day and all night. Again, the Holy Spirit nullifies a man’s murderous intent, endowing him with an overtly religious experience. This seems in character with Saul. He swings from an insane desire to murder David to fervent devotion to God. 8 That phenomenon may be better understood by noting that other mentions of the Spirit of God in association with Saul are in connection with a “distressing spirit”—literally a “bad spirit of God.”

Saul’s servants said to him, Behold, an evil spirit from God torments you. Let our lord now command your servants here before you to find a man who plays skillfully on the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well. And when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took a lyre and played it; so Saul was refreshed and became well, and the evil spirit left him. (I Samuel 16:15-6, 23; AMPC)

The next day an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved [madly] in his house, while David played [the lyre] with his hand, as at other times; and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. (I Samuel 18:10, AMPC)

The Holy Spirit, Ruach Elohim, is described with great depth in the Old Testament. We see Him associated with creation, and active in redemption and salvation—described in terms of an eagle nurturing its young. The Spirit’s activity is often aligned with pleading, striving, teaching, and warning, in an effort to prevent the dire consequences of human rebellion. Finally, the Spirit is heavily involved in empowering people to do the impossible: artisans are given supernatural ability in building and designing; fearless leadership occurs and guidance is provided to steer wayward generations back into covenant relationship, wooing a bewitched, disenchanted people back to the only One who can save them.

So why had the Holy Spirit impressed on me to do this study? I am not entirely sure but I do know that the creative breathe of God continues to guide me daily to go the seemingly impossible. As I venture into new, unknown territory, I am confident in this one thing:

But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you. (John 14:26, AMPC)

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