Why are Christians filled with the Holy Spirit?
As I’ve been going through a bible reading plan in the hope of reading the whole of scripture this year I came across a book that I’ve definitely read before but never really appreciated until now; and that’s the book of the prophet Micah. In this book there was one particular passage that really blew me away and gives fantastic insight into one of the reasons Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit.
The book of Micah is written at a key point in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament. During the time that Micah was prophesying, around 750-700bc, the ten tribes of Israel in the north were conquered by the Assyrian Empire and taken into exile. Judah on the other hand was faring a lot better and had entered a time of prosperity under the rule of three different kings: Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. However at the same time, many of the powerful and wealthy were oppressing the poor and vulnerable and this is where Micah comes in.
In chapters one and two, Micah tells of the judgement and destruction that is coming on God’s people because of the sins they have committed against God. He also gives them a message of restoration at the end of chapter two, saying that God will ‘gather up the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold.’
The perspective shifts in chapter three. Micah goes from declaring God’s judgment on the whole of God’s people to pointing out a couple of particular groups of people, the rulers and the prophets. He start with the rulers in verses one to four;
And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?— you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron. Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.
We clearly see that Micah is angry at the rulers of Israel and Judah. They are supposed to be looking after God’s people and impartially administering justice upon them but they are doing the complete opposite. Rather than learning from and imitating God in their position of authority, they toss that all aside and exchange a love for good for a love for evil. They take advantage of the people that God has given to them to protect. Their punishment is similar to their sin; as they had refused to listen to the cry of the oppressed, so God refuses to listen to theirs. Micah then goes on to denounce the prophets in verse five to seven;
Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry "Peace" when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths. Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.
We see here that the prophets who are supposed to be leading the people in righteousness and godly living are actually leading them astray. They’re not even paying attention to God anymore, preferring to listen to their stomachs! Speaking peace over those who would feed them and declaring war against those who wouldn’t. The result is a complete removal of the gift God had given them in the first place, they will never see or hear from God again.
Then in next verse Micah starts with the phrase ‘But as for me’. So we know that he’s going to make a point of comparison. We’ve seen how rubbish and corrupt the other prophets have been so I think we might expect Micah to boast in his own goodness and holiness or maybe his successful track record of prophecies and warnings so far. What we actually see is completely different and brings encouragement and challenge for us today. Verse 8 says;
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.
The reason that Micah is different than the other prophets isn’t anything about him but it is that he’s filled with the Spirit of the Lord. This power, justice and might that he speaks of is an outworking of this filling. I think this perfectly describes Micah in this book. He has fantastic courage to stand up to the rulers and prophets and pronounce God’s judgement on them. Unlike the other prophets, he’s not blinded by selfish gain or desire for comfort but is able to discern what God is wanting to communicate has the resolution to be God’s mouthpiece, even in the likely event of future ridicule and persecution.
Notice however that Micah is not talking about an increase in his physical or mental abilities that would make him look impressive but they are characteristics of God that have been given to Him. The purpose of why Micah had been filled is made very clear; it is to declare to the whole of God’s people their transgression and sin against God. Micah has no personal agenda in this exchange only apart from the care that he has for God’s people. His position is one given to Him by God, empowered through God to deliver messages of warning, judgement and hope that all come from God.
One last thing that we can see about Micah that’s different to the other prophets is that his assurance in God and we see that in verse 12;
Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
God has shown Him the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that stands on the mountain in the city. Micah is not prophesying in the dark but from a place of knowledge and insight into what is going to happen. He knows he’s right and what he’s been told will come to pass not because he’s confident in himself but in what God has revealed to Him.
In a lot of ways, we as Christians are very similar to Micah as described in this passage but I want to look firstly at who this passage is really pointing to. A man who is able, with complete accuracy and impartiality, discern right and wrong and declare judgement on people in his own authority rather than someone else’s. A man who truly looked after his people even when they turned their back on Him time and time again. A man who’s had a relationship with the Holy Spirit since before time existed and came to human beings to declare to the whole world their sin and their need to repent. A man who Micah prophesises about in chapter 5 saying that he’ll be born in Bethlehem, he’ll rule and shepherd God’s people and that he shall be their peace. This man of course is Jesus Christ, God himself.
The only reason there is any difference between Christians and anybody else is the mercy that Jesus has offered to us and the work he has done in our lives. The Father has shone in our hearts the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ and the Holy Spirit is transforming us more and more into the image of The Son. Without God, everyone is spiritually dead, in rebellion against Him and in unescapable slavery to our sin. However morally acceptable you think you’re life has been, we’re all like the false prophets and rulers who have treated God, his world and the people he made with utter contempt, only really thinking of ourselves.
Now to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this article; one of the reasons we’re filled with the Holy Spirit as Christians is similar to Micah and it’s to declare to people their sin and their need to turn back to God. Obviously this now includes preaching about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That salvation is found in no one else and he is the way, the truth and the life. In His grace, God chooses to use us to spread the good news and be part of story of God building his kingdom and uniting all things in Christ.
This instruction from God to make disciples of all nations isn’t an easy thing but it’s not impossible either. Obviously we aren’t a prophets like Micah, specifically called by God for the unique purpose of being his mouthpiece to the people of God in the Old Testament. However we are sons and daughters of the living God and filled with the power that raised Christ from the dead. The Holy Spirit gives us encouragement, comfort and strength to live distinctively in a culture that hates people challenging the accepted norms and speaking about the exclusivity of Christianity. In all aspects of the Christian life, but especially in evangelism, we need the Holy Spirit’s help.
My encouragement to you, if you’re not a Christian, it to see Jesus for who he really is. The God who created everything, who died on the cross because of all our sin and who offers a way back into relationship with Him by surrendering up your old life and accepting Him as your Lord and saviour. For those reading who are Christians, I implore you to continually be filled with the Spirit and allow Him to point you to Christ as you point your friends, family and colleagues to Him as well.
So don’t do what I did and don’t gloss over books of the Bible because they seem boring or are not you. Rejoice in the fact that the whole of scripture is about Christ and that speaks to us through every page.
By Matt Graves
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