The work of the Holy Spirit can be seen throughout the Old Testament. He often inspired men to deliver God’s message, called forth-telling. He also caused men to declare things that would happen in the future, or foretelling. We will look at just a few of these.
Balak, king of the Moabites, tried to get Balaam to curse God’s people. Balaam explained he could not go beyond the word of God. The third time he went to prophesy, the writer tells us, “And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him” (Numbers 24:2). After Saul was anointed by Samuel to be the king of Israel, a group of prophets met him. “Then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them” (1 Samuel 10:10).
David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). He also sang, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Jesus and Peter confirmed that David spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16).
Isaiah, the Messianic prophet, wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (61:1). Similarly, Ezekiel reported that the Lord’s Spirit told him to speak, telling the people the Lord said, “Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind” (11:5).
Our Lord said David was inspired by the Holy Spirit. He declared, “For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (Mark 12:36). Peter similarly said the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of David (Acts 1:15-20).
Peter’s first epistle was written to Christians who had been scattered by persecution. He told them the Christian’s goal is salvation in heaven, which is the end of our faith. Then he said,
“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when he testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:9-11).
We may never fully understand how the Holy Spirit inspired men to speak and write. However, Peter did explain that, “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The margin of the New King James version says “interpretation” could also be translated “origin.” In other words, prophecy was not a product of the prophet’s own mind. Instead, they were carried along in their speaking, much as a ship is carried along by the wind, by the Holy Spirit.
While we may not understand all that the Holy Spirit did or how he did it, we can be sure he was active in the Old Testament. That should make us desire to read and understand all we can find there.