Spirit #AtoZChallenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter S

Spirit appears in the Bible more than 550 times. Spirit is a word, which is tricky to define. In the original languages of Bible it is often represented by the word for breath. In earlier times it was sometimes translated into English as ghost. The Holy Ghost is now usually called the Holy Spirit. Ghost has spooky associations. There is nothing spooky about the Holy Spirit.

Spirit is not always used in a positive way. Spirit of jealousy is one example of a negative spirit. A deceiving spirit is another.

As well as the Spirit of God there are many references to the human spirit, high spirits and other words of which spirit forms part.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, who would guide the disciples into all truth. John 16:12-14

The Holy Spirit is a person. The God of the Bible is one God, but three Persons, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. This is the Trinity. Matthew 28:19

The Spirit of God was active in creating all things Genesis 1:2

Jesus Christ claimed that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in him, when he read Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon him. Isaiah 11:1-3

Joel prophesied that God would pour out his Spirit on all people. Joel 2:28 Letter P.

To jump to the story Jesus is baptised by John click here.

Many characters in the Old Testament were notable for having the Spirit of God: Joseph Genesis 41:38, Bezalel son of Uri Exodus 31:2-4, Moses and his helpers Numbers 11:16-17, Caleb Numbers 14:24, Balaam Numbers 24:2, Joshua Numbers 27:18, The judge Othniel, younger brother of Caleb Judges 3:9-11, Gideon Judges 6:34, Jephthah Judges 11:29, Samson Judges 13:24-25, King Saul (at first) 1 Samuel 10:9-13, King David 1 Samuel 16:13, Elijah and Elisha 2 Kings 2:9, Amasai, chief of the Thirty 1 Chronicles 12:18, Azariah son of Oded 2 Chronicles 15:1 , Jahaziel son of Zechariah 2 Chronicles 20:14, Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest 2 Chronicles 24:20, Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3:12 and many other verses, Daniel aka Belteshazzar Daniel 4:9

Job was aware of the Spirit’s power Job 33:4

The prophets Micah, Haggai, and Zechariah all mention the Spirit of the Lord.

Jesus is baptised by John

Luke the physician (medical doctor) wrote about John’s parents, Elizabeth and the priest, Zechariah. Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and told him that John would be born. John was not to drink alcoholic drinks, but would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.

Luke set the scene of John’s ministry firmly in history. When John began to preach and baptise people Tiberias Caesar was the emperor, having already ruled for 14 years. Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. He mentions other rulers too. The high priests were Annas and Caiaphas.

Crowds went out to the other side of the River Jordan near Bethany to hear John preach. He was dressed in the same way as Elijah had been, wearing a garment of camel hair with a leather belt around his waist. He quoted the prophet Isaiah, telling people that his prophesies were about to be fulfilled.

He told people how they should behave, sharing their goods and food with the needy, acting honestly and being content with what they were paid.

John prophesied that another man would baptise with the Holy Spirit. John himself baptised with water as a symbol that people repented of their wrongdoing.

That was why he was surprised when Jesus went to him and asked to be baptised. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He did not need to repent. John suggested it would be better for Jesus to baptise him, but Jesus insisted on being baptised by John.

The two of them went into the river. John baptised Jesus. Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. A voice from Heaven declared, ‘You are my son, whom I love. I am very pleased with you’. (See also Letter L)

John had been waiting for a sign that the one he was preaching about had arrived. He had received a prophecy from God that the man on whom the Spirit would come down and remain on was the one, who would baptise with the Holy Spirit.

John testified that Jesus is the Son of God.

The story is compiled from Luke 1-2, Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3:1-23, John 1: 1-34

In the New Testament there is more information about the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches his disciples and the writers of letters to churches and individuals share their understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

(John 14:15-29, Romans 5:1-5, Galatians 5:22-23 and many more passages, especially in the Acts of the Apostles.)


Rejoice #AtoZChallenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter R

Rejoice appears in the Bible over 200 times. Rejoice is a word which means ‘be joyful’. It is often associated with giving praise and thanksgiving to God. The books of law give instructions to rejoice. The Psalms are full of instructions and reasons to rejoice. The prophets wrote about rejoicing; even Jeremiah, who gained a reputation for being miserable, used the word rejoice many times, including (possibly ironically) in his Lamentations!

Reasons for rejoicing are different in the New Testament and the Old Testament. One Old Testament example was given in my post for the letter N.

In the Old Testament the people were to rejoice when they met together to worship God. Sometimes they rejoiced over their enemies and other times their enemies rejoiced over them. (It depended on the outcome of battles!)

Instruction to rejoice before the Lord for seven days at the feast of Booths (A commemoration of the people living I tents in the wilderness.) Leviticus 23:40

Rejoice when bringing sacrifices Deuteronomy 12:7

There are prayers that enemies will not rejoice over the psalmist (writer of a psalm). Psalm 35:19 is one example.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Psalm 13:5 Letter E and Letter L

In the New Testament God’s steadfast love is also a theme.

In the Beatitudes the word rejoice is used. Matthew 5:12

Jesus promised that his disciples would rejoice and no-one would take their joy from them John 16:22

Like Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes, Paul writing to the believers in Rome told them that he ‘rejoiced in sufferings’. They led to perseverance. Romans 5:3

Lost things

‘The Teacher is telling stories again. Let’s be quiet and hear what he has to say!’

We sat down on the edge of the crowd that had gathered. The teacher’s voice carried from where he was to all the people. We had no trouble hearing him. It was not always so easy to understand the meaning behind the stories he told.

This time he made his meaning very clear. Both his stories were about things that people had lost. The first story was about a man – a shepherd. He had a large flock of sheep, one hundred animals. When he counted them there were only ninety-nine. One was missing.

He left the ninety-nine sheep grazing in open country and went to find the lost sheep. When he found it he carried it back to the flock on his shoulders.

He was so happy to have found it that he invited his friends and neighbours to rejoice with him.

This time the teacher explained his meaning. The lost sheep represented a sinner, who repented and the ninety-nine represented righteous people, who did not need to repent. He told us that there would be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repented than over ninety-nine, who did not need to repent.

We could see that the religious people were not best pleased with this teaching, but the Teacher had not finished.

He told another story. This time it was about a woman inside her house. She had ten silver coins, but lost one of them. So she lit a lamp and swept the house, looking everywhere until she found it.

Then she called her friends and neighbours to rejoice with her because she had found her lost coin.

Again the Teacher pressed the point home: ‘I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner, who repents.’

Luke 15:1-10 The lost sheep and the lost coin

These stories in Luke’s Gospel are followed by the story of the lost son.


Quiet #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Q

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

Quiet is used in the Bible in various ways: silent, not talkative, calm and peaceable. It is used as a noun and as a verb. A search produced more than 50 results for quiet, including quieted, quietness, quietly and quiets. Quiet is required for people to be able to hear important messages. Plans may be thwarted if people do not keep quiet. The sea may be stormy or quiet.

David recognises his limitations and has quieted his soul. Psalm 131:1-2 

The result of righteousness is quietness and trust. (Righteousness is similar to obedience to God.) Isaiah 32:17

The crowd in Jerusalem became quiet when Paul addressed them in their own language. Acts 22:2

Paul advised people to live quietly. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Elijah and Elisha

Child: If Elijah and Elisha were two of the most important prophets, why are their names not on any of the books in the Bible?

Teacher: Elijah and Elisha were two of the most important prophets. In fact Elijah represents all the prophets and was present at Jesus’ transfiguration. The stories of Elijah and Elisha are told in the history books of the Bible, because their actions affected what happened in the time of the kings of Israel. Not many of their words have been written down.

Be quiet and I’ll tell you a story about Elijah and Elisha.

Elijah was easily recognised because of the clothes he wore. His garment was of hair and he tied a belt around his waist. His cloak was a sign of his power as a prophet.

God told Elijah to anoint Elisha as a prophet to follow him. Elijah found Elisha ploughing a field. There were no tractors in those days. The only sort of power available for work in the fields was manpower and the power of animals. Elisha had twelve ploughs pulled by cattle (oxen, they were called) yoked together in pairs. There were eleven other people working with him and Elisha was driving the twelfth pair.

When Elijah saw Elisha in the field he went to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha went to say goodbye to his parents. Then he returned to the field where Elijah was waiting for him. Elisha killed his pair of oxen, chopped up the yoke and made a fire with it cooking the oxen. The people ate with him, before he set off with Elijah to be his helper. He had made a complete break with his previous way of life.

There are other stories about Elijah before and after Elisha joined him, but the one that is perhaps best known about Elijah and Elisha together is from much later. At the time Elijah anointed Elisha by throwing his cloak around him, the King of Israel was Ahab. Before the well-known story Ahab had died and there had been two other kings, first Ahaziah and then Joram.

Elijah was a prophet, who often knew what God was going to do. He knew that God was going to take him up into heaven in a whirlwind. Other prophets also knew this. Elijah and Elisha had left Gilgal. God had told Elijah to go to Bethel. Elisha argued with Elijah, when Elijah told him to stay where he was. He did not want to be parted from him. Elijah allowed him to accompany him to Bethel.

At Bethel there were a number of prophets. They asked Elisha, ‘Do you know the Lord is going to take Elijah from you today?’

‘I know; be quiet!’

Then Elijah told Elisha to stay there as the Lord was sending him to Jericho. Again Elisha refused to obey Elijah. There were prophets at Jericho. They asked Elisha, ‘Do you know the Lord is going to take Elijah from you today?’

‘I know; be quiet!’

Then Elijah said, ‘Stay here. The Lord has sent me to Jordan.’

Again Elisha refused to obey Elijah. They walked on together.

Fifty of the prophets went and stood at a distance looking towards the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped by the river Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided on each side of them and they walked across the river on dry ground.

When they had crossed the Jordan, Elijah asked Elisha, ‘What can I do for you before I am taken from you?’

Elisha replied, ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit’.

‘You have asked a difficult thing. If you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours, but not otherwise’.

They were walking along and talking to each other, when suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated them. Elijah went up into heaven in a whirlwind.

Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’

Then he could no longer see Elijah. He tore his clothes, which was the custom for grieving people and picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen to the ground. He went back and stood on the bank of the river Jordan.

He rolled up Elijah’s cloak and called out, ‘Where is the God of Elijah now?’

He struck the water with the cloak and the waters parted just as they had done before.

He crossed back over to the fifty prophets, who had been watching. They acknowledged that the spirit of Elijah was resting on Elisha. They were not convinced that Elijah had really left.

They offered to go looking for him. Elisha told them not to go, but they went anyway. When they returned to Elisha to say that they hadn’t found Elijah, Elisha’s reply could be translated into modern English as, ‘I told you so!’

Child: So Elisha told the other prophets to shut up at first and, ‘I told you so’ later! I’d be disciplined if I spoke like that!

The story may be found in the Books of Kings: 1 Kings 19:15-211 Kings 22:29-53 and 2 Kings 1-2:18