Summary: God's presence was with men and women in the Old Testament. He emboldened those who felt inadequate.
Fifty years ago many people did much of the maintenance and repair on their automobiles. Although, the basic workings of the internal combustion engine hasn’t changed, with modern engineering and computer components it is much more difficult to do much to a car or truck today.
That comparison has some similarity to God’s Holy Spirit in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament. In the OT, God dealt directly with his people through prophets and priests and other leaders. Today, however, we have to go into the pages of God’s Word to learn more about his Holy Spirit and we do not have visible evidence of His leading and guiding us.
Of the thirty-nine books of the OT, twenty-three refer directly to the Holy Spirit. In the OT the Holy Spirit is mentioned using different names and titles. A few of the descriptors are; Spirit, Spirit of God, Spirit of Jehovah, Spirit of the Lord, and Holy Spirit. Of the eighty-eight distinct references to the Holy Spirit in the OT, there are 18 different names applied to him . There is nothing in the OT that gives credence to the NT theology of the Trinity and the distinct personality of the Spirit in the full NT sense.
In Genesis 1:26 NASB we read, “Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” This reading implies plural personalities, but there is no clear distinction made. One would be hard-pressed to prove from OT scripture that the Spirit of God is a personality distinct from God.
However, the OT does identify a distinction between God and the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7 NASB states, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” God is present everywhere because God is Spirit . His presence occurs from the heights of heaven to the depths of the grave. No matter where we are, God’s Spirit is there to guide us.
There are multiple passages in the OT that indicate that God and the Holy Spirit are not identical beings.
One poignant passage involved King David after his grievous sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 51:11 NASB reads, “Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
These are the words of one who has walked with God but who knows that the relationship has been shattered. For about a year, David has lived with unforgiven sin because he has not repented of his actions and he created a gulf between himself and God. Now he hopes, by God's grace, that the barrier be removed and that he may once again be brought into the fellowship of the Lord.
When Samuel the prophet had first anointed him as a youth to become the future king, "from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” . It would be frightening to know that you had been cast away from God’s presence. David, the man for being known as a man after God’s own heart , now feels the loneliness that comes from being away from God and His Spirit. David now experiences his own un-holiness in light of God’s holiness. This account of David demonstrates that God and God’s Spirit had distinct roles in his life and actions.
So, there are many OT passages that support the NT concept of the Trinity. In Isaiah 48:16 NASB we read, “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit.” Here, Isaiah is saying in essence, “Okay, people, listen up – God is active and alive – He has plans for us as a nation – and he wants us to be a part of His redemptive plan, so rest assured that God and His Spirit are here with us.”
Nature has always been seen as a manifestation of God’s creation and power. We ‘oh and ah’ at spectacular sunsets, cascading waterfalls, majestic mountains, cavernous canyons, scenic seashores and a host of other natural beauty that we attribute to God’s creative power. And OT writers acknowledged nature as a part of God’s work through the Holy Spirit.
Genesis 1:2 reminds us “that the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters” as our world was formed. There is order and beauty out of cosmic chaos and God’s Spirit moved from the very beginning.
The MESSAGE paraphrase of Job 26:13 underscores a role of the Spirit, “With one breath he clears the sky, with one finger he crushes the sea serpent.”