Chapter 18 – The Holy Spirit in the Book of Isaiah

“Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers.” Acts 28 : 25.

The name “Isaiah” means the “Salvation of Jehovah.” Isaiah is the prophet of salvation, and the revealer of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, the divine agent in the work of salvation.

1. ISAIAH’S CONSECRATION. Isaiah’s revelation of the Holy Ghost begins with his own call and consecration. We have the account of this remarkable experience in the sixth chapter of Isaiah. It began with a vision of the glory of God, which the Apostle John tells us, was the vision of Christ in His primeval glory.

The immediate effect of it was the revelation of his own sinfulness and unworthiness, and he threw himself upon his face, crying, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, . . . for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Every true baptism of the Holy Ghost must begin with the revelation of our sin, and this must come from the revelation of God’s holiness and glory. As soon as we get undone, God is willing to begin to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.

Isaiah took the place of death, and then came the touch of life. A living coal from the heavenly altar was brought by one of the seraphim and laid upon his lips. What an angel’s fingers could not endure, the lips of mortals can receive. This was the baptism of fire, and its effect was to cleanse his lips and purge away his iniquity, that he might be fitted for his great commission.

No man is fit to represent God and be the instrument of the Holy Ghost until he first receives the cleansing power of God. It is not the baptism of power we first receive, but the baptism of purity, of fire that consumes and cleanses intrinsically and utterly.

Like the baptism of Pentecost, which was a tongue of fire, so it came to Isaiah’s lips and so it must come to ours. The effect was consecration for service. Then he could hear the voice of God. Then he could see the great purpose of Jehovah, desiring to fill the earth with His glory. Then he could hear the heavenly cry, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And then he could answer unreservedly and unconditionally, “Here am I; send me.”

God wants to send His workers, but He will send only volunteers. There must be perfect partnership. We must be willing to go, and then we must be sent.

But how was Isaiah sent? He was sent to do the hardest work. He was sent to a people that would not receive him. He was sent knowing that his message would be rejected. He was sent to a place of failure and persecution, and, at last, to a martyr’s death. He was sent to know that his words would come back as echoes in his own lifetime, and that not until later generations would they be fully received and the glorious harvest gathered.

This knowledge, however, made no difference to Isaiah. Enough that God had sent him, and that he was carrying out the divine commission. Some would receive it; but it would be a tenth, a remnant, a little flock, who would hearken to his voice and become the seed, the holy seed, of a future harvest.

So God sends us, when we receive the baptism of fire. Often there is hard, uncongenial, unrequited service. Let us go, like Isaiah, as the witnesses even of unpopular truth and a misunderstood ministry. So long as the Master is honored and pleased, what are men?

We are talking through the telephone of the ages. Some day the answer will come, and the Lord will say, “Well done!”

2. THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Isaiah’s next unfolding of the Holy Ghost is in connection with the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us three pictures of the baptism of Jesus with the Spirit.

The first is in the eleventh chapter, from the second to the fourth verse: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”

Here we have three sets of qualities which the Holy Ghost was to bring Christ. First are His intellectual enduements, “The spirit of wisdom and understanding.”

Wisdom is the power to apply knowledge, understanding knowledge. Both are necessary to real practical wisdom. One may know much, and yet not know how to use it to advantage.

The Holy Ghost gives not only knowledge, but practical wisdom. So He rested upon the Lord Jesus, as He will rest upon those in whom Jesus still abides, unfolding the will of God, the mind of Christ, the meaning of the Scriptures, their particular messages to us, and the lessons of our lives and our times.

In the second class of qualities bestowed on Christ is executive power, the spirit of counsel and might. Counsel is the power to plan rightly, and might the power to execute our plan.

Without a good plan the most earnest work is often a failure, and without executive ability the best plans often come to nought. In human affairs, these are usually divided; one has the conceiving mind, and another the executive right arm. But the Holy Ghost is both, and He gave both to the Lord Jesus Christ, making Him the Wonderful Counselor, and, at the same time, the Mighty God, whose counsel shall stand and who will do all His pleasure.

The third class of attributes represents the moral and spiritual: “The spirit of understanding, and the fear of the Lord.” And this is still further amplified by the words, “He shall make him of quick understanding (or quick smell) in the fear of the Lord.” These are highest attributes of character. These the Lord Jesus possessed in an infinite measure.

The Scotch have a phrase which is very expressive. They talk of “sensing” things. To sense a thing is not to reason it out or know it by information, but it is to know it by instinct and intuition. It is somewhat like the sense of smell, or the instinct of the bird that knows the poison berry by the flash of intuition, while the scientist must analyze it and detect the poison by a chemical search.

Jesus had this intuition of right and wrong, this instinctive intuition of His Father’s mind and will, this holy fear of evil, and this holy intuition of good; and this the sanctified soul has in proportion as it knows the Lord Jesus and is filled with the Holy Ghost.

It may seem strange to talk about Jesus, the Son of God, having the fear of His Father. But the more intimate we are with the truest lives, the more respect and veneration we have for them. Love is not opposed to fear in this high, sweet sense, for the more we love and trust a friend, the more we will dread to displease him, fear to offend him, and sensitively seek to please him.

This is the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, which the Holy Spirit is willing to give to every true and sanctified heart. Beloved, let us receive this indwelling Christ and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which He brings in wisdom, executive power, and the quick sense of right and wrong.

The second picture of the baptism of Jesus with the Spirit is in the first four verses of the forty-second chapter of Isaiah: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.”

Here we have a beautiful blending of gentleness and power in the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.”

Every truly great character is simple and gentle. Jesus is the perfect combination of the lion and the lamb, of the dove and the eagle; and He will so fill us that we shall be crowned with the glory of meekness and the strength of love.

There is a third picture of the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost. It is found in the first four verses of the sixty-first chapter: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might he glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.”

This well known passage was directly applied to Himself by the Lord Jesus Christ in His public address at Nazareth. Here we see the Holy Spirit anointing the Lord Jesus; first, for the ministry of the Gospel of salvation to the poor; secondly, with the ministry of healing; thirdly, the ministry of deliverance for the captives of sin; fourthly, the ministry of teaching, the recovery of sight to the blind; fifthly, with the message of His coming, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; and, finally, the message of comfort and consolation to all that mourn.

This was Christ’s ministry, and He fulfilled it in the power of the Holy Ghost. He did not presume to preach the Gospel until He had received this enduement; neither should we. And, as we receive the same Spirit, ours will be a ministry of salvation, a ministry of healing, a ministry of sanctification, a ministry of teaching, a ministry of hope, a ministry of consolation, joy and gladness.

There is a very striking order in these three passages respecting Christ’s baptism. First, it is promised in the second chapter, by the prophet. Next, it is proclaimed in the forty-second chapter by the Father to the Son. Here, it is confessed by the Savior, and claimed by Himself, as He goes forth to exercise the ministry and claim the power.

Only thus can we receive the baptism of the Spirit. It is promised to us as well as to Him, and there must come a moment when it is really given by the Word of God and our act of consecration. Then there must come a third step when we ourselves confess it, accept it, and step forward to realize it in the actual exercise of the gift we have claimed, by proving our faith in our obedience. As we, like Jesus, go forth with the Gospel of salvation in dependence on the power of the Spirit, we, too, shall find, like Him, that we are endued with power from on high.

3. THE HOLY SPIRIT ON ISRAEL AS A NATION. We have a beautiful picture of this outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel in Isaiah 27: 15-18: “Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”

This follows a long season of national depression and sorrow. It brings a complete and blessed revolution, turning the nation to righteousness and God, and changing every sorrow into prosperity, blessing, and peace. The first droppings of this blessed rain are already beginning to come, and the remnant of Israel is turning to God, as well as many to their ancient fatherland.

The Holy Ghost is beginning to visit the seed of Abraham, and soon the wilderness of Palestine shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. Let us pray for Israel, and its restoration will be to the Gentiles and to the world as life from the dead.

There is another picture of the same national blessing in Isaiah 59: 19-21. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, quoted from this passage with direct reference to the coming of Christ and the return of Israel. This is to be accompanied by a wide effusion of the Spirit from on high, which is to be a permanent and everlasting presence.

The Holy Ghost is not going to leave this world when Jesus comes back, but, as of old He dwelt in Christ in the days of His suffering and humiliation, so He shall dwell in Him again as He comes to reign in glory.

All that we know of His comfort, joy, love quickening life, and effectual power, is but the merest foretaste of the glory with which He will fill us in those coming ages. Then we shall know not only the fullness of Jesus, but we shall receive the residue of the Spirit, and it shall be true of Israel and of the Church of Christ, “My Spirit that is upon thee, . . . shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever.”

IV. THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR EACH OF US AS INDIVIDUALS. There is another and a greater promise of the Holy Ghost in Isaiah which each of us may claim for ourselves. It is found in the forty-fourth chapter, verses three to five. “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” The only limitation of this promise is our fitness and capacity to receive it. We have here a beautiful picture of the field, the flood, and the fruit.

First, the field is “the thirsty and the dry ground.” In nature as well as in grace there must be a preparation of the soil for the seed and the harvest. The same seed on one field comes to nothing, and on another it produces one hundredfold; so the Holy Ghost is affected by the personal qualities of the heart in which He dwells, and the capacity of the soul for spiritual life, power and blessing. Some seem to be vessels prepared unto glory, and others only for sin and evil.

Two men sit down at the same table. To one it is a feast, to another it is a famine, simply because the one is hungry and the other satisfied. The very best dish on our dinner table is a good appetite. So God’s spiritual preparation for the coming of His Spirit is a deep hunger and thirst. Let us thank Him as He gives it to us, and show more need than fullness, more want than blessing; for “blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

Our best preparation for the Holy Spirit is emptiness, a sense of need, and a real spiritual capacity. Sometimes God has to bring this about by our very failures, and a revelation to us as to our nothingness and worthlessness.

Next, we find that on such a soil He will pour out “floods.” It is not merely a few drops of rain, but the abundant rain, the ample, boundless overflow of His Holy Spirit. Oh, that we might prove the richer fullness of this promise, and let Him pour out a blessing until there should not be room to receive it!

Finally, there is a threefold fruition. First, there is the salvation of individuals. “One shall say, I am the Lord’s.” Next, there must be the public confession of those who are saved. “Another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.” And, thirdly, there is the deeper consecration of God’s people. “Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and call himself by the name of Israel.” This describes a higher spiritual life.

This is a covenant voluntarily signed between the soul and the Lord, in which there is a perfect and entire surrender, and a complete claim of all His blessing and fullness.

Then comes the new surname, which, as with the patriarch Jacob of old, marked a crisis in his history, and a new departure of power and blessing. Israel means “a Prince with God,” the conquering soul, the life that has entered into the divine fullness.

This is the work of the Holy Ghost, to lead us on to all these things; first, to accept the Lord, then to unite with His people and to acknowledge Him publicly, and then to go on into all the fullness of His grace and blessing.

As we receive the Holy Ghost, we must go on, and only as we go on, can we continue to receive His increasing and satisfying fullness. Beloved, have we taken all the steps? Have we signed the personal covenant? Have we special relations with God? Is He to us what He is to no one else? Have we received the eternal surname, and are we written in heaven in characters which no one knoweth, save Him that gave the name and the soul on whom He has inscribed it?

Such, then, is Isaiah’s vision of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit that came first upon him and enabled him to reveal it to others in his yet more glorious ministry, in the person of the Lord Jesus, in the future glory of the Jewish nation, and in the soul that receives His fullness.

All this has come to pass in the ages since Isaiah’s time. We are living in the noontide light and glory of the Holy Ghost. Have these ancient promises and prophesies been fulfilled to us? Has the vision been translated into our life? Have we proved this part of God’s holy Scriptures?

Let us come to Him as did Isaiah, in deep spiritual hunger, self-renunciation, and consecration. Let us receive the living seal which the hand of Jesus is ready to put upon our lips and leave upon the altar of our hearts; then let us go forth like Isaiah, in the power of the Spirit to proclaim His grace and fullness, and to become spiritual conductors, passing the blessing on to the souls that are hungering and perishing around us; let our lives, like Isaiah’s signify “the Salvation of Jehovah.”