Quenching the Spirit – Part 1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–22, ESV)

Have you ever considered what it truly means to “quench the Spirit”? As I was reading through 1 Thessalonians, I came across this verse again and had to stop and think about it. What does it mean to quench the Spirit, or better what do we do to not quench the Spirit? If we do quench the Spirit how does that impact our lives in Christ?

To really answer this question, we must first look at how the Spirit works in the body of believers.

The testimony of the Scriptures shows us God’s spirit at work in the lives of His people, and with the resurrection of our Lord, the actions of the Spirit of God have been made new in the people that God is calling back to himself. What are those things that we see of the Spirit in Scripture?

First, as in Genesis, He gives life. Jesus expressed this in the passage that we quote so often – “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:3–8, ESV) Being born of the Spirit is considered the new life of every believer called by God.

Then what happens after that? The spirit (whom we are told is sent forth from the father and son – another expression for our benefit) will teach us (Jn 14:26), bear witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26), guide us in all truth (Jn 16:13), represent the power of God in the lives of his people (Acts 1:8, Rom 8:26, 15:13), bears witness to our spirit that we are His children (Rom 8:16, Gal 4:6), instill in us the qualities of God’s character (Gal 5:22), and as it is in Genesis, the Spirit Speaks. (Rev 2:29, 3:6, 3:22)

A very important role of the Spirit in our lives is to give manifestations of Himself through the people of God. The Greek word for this word found in 1 Cor 12:7 is phanerosis and essentially means acts in which the Spirit manifests himself.[1] Paul speaking to the Corinthians discusses with them the Spiritual gifts of the body. There are all kinds of gifts given by the Holy Spirit which are to be used for that common good of the body. What I find interesting is that it says to each is given the manifestation, but if we are all given this, then why do we not see His power moving that well in the body today?

 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–11, ESV)

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12, ESV)

Are we living lives that allow the Spirit to manifest his presence through us, or are we doing things that hinders the Spirit in our lives?


[1] [2] [3] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 1245). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

No Ordinary Worm

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” (Psalm 22:6, ESV)

Recently a friend of mine told me about a sermon he had heard on this passage in Psalm 22, he said that the Hebrew term used here for worm was not the normal word used for worm but had another meaning that I should look into. So the following is just a musing of what I have found so far…..

Psalm 22 is considered a Messianic Psalm, it is from this Psalm that Jesus quoted from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”

A person that was familiar with scripture would have recognized these words and possibly have pondered through the meaning of this Psalm in light of all that was happening both at that moment and most likely in the days that would follow.

Of particular interest is this statement in the Psalm “But I am a worm and not a man”. The word for worm in this verse is the Hebrew word “tola’at”. In most of the Bible dictionaries where I looked it up the word could be used as we see here “worm”, but it is also a word that is used to describe the color crimson or scarlet. How is it that this word could have both these meanings?

If you do a word search for the places this is used, you will find it used as a scarlet yarn that was used in the crafting of the High Priest’s garments to be worn for ministering in the Holy Place, the curtains and other fabrics of the tabernacle, it was also used in the coverings of things inside of the tabernacle.

It is thought that the word is a reference to the worm or grub know as (coccus ilicis or Kermes illicis) or more commonly called the crimson worm. The Encyclopedia Britannica has this as a definition…

 A species of scale insect in the family Kermesidae (order Homoptera), the common name of which also represents the red dye that is obtained from the dried bodies of these insects. The dye was often part of the tribute paid to conquering Roman armies, and, in the Middle Ages, landlords accepted it as payment for rent. The oldest known red dyestuff, resembling but inferior in color to cochineal, it was used by the early Egyptians.

Some commentaries on this passage refer to this worm and how it was used in the making of crimson dyes in the Mediterranean area. What most of the commentaries miss though is the fascinating life cycle of this bug.

The male coccus ilicis has wings and is able to fly. Though I have yet to verify the information, in my research I heard a presentation that said that the male hovers over the female during mating but never actually touches the female.

The female will only give birth one time and begins the journey by climbing onto a particular type of oak tree, or wooden post where she attaches herself permanently.

She then creates a hard-outer shell to protect the eggs she lays under her.

When the eggs hatch the babies feed on the flesh of the living mother who is now providing them life.

After a few days the mother dies and at that moment a scarlet liquid leaks out and colors the baby worms and the wood of the tree that it is on. This covering of red dye stains the babies for life.

Three days after the death of the mother, her body shrinks up into a heart like shape that is waxy and turns white. It has the look of wool and flakes off and looks like snow falling from the tree.

If the mother is harvested during the 3 days, the crushing of her body produces the dye that was used for the yarn and fabrics in the middle east and most likely the same process was used in the materials of the Tabernacle. The wax could also be harvested and was used to make shellac.

So, it has been suggested and it is hard to ignore the connections of the symbolism that is represented here. Let’s break it down….

  • Flying male hovering over the female to impregnate her.
    • Luke 1:35 – “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
  • The female climbing onto a tree voluntarily knowing that she would die.
    • Jesus died on a wooden cross that he voluntarily allowed Himself to be nailed.
    • John 10:16–18And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
  • The female worm secretes a hard shell to protect her offspring.
    • John 17:12 – “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
  • The larvae stay alive by eating the flesh of their living mother.
    • John 6:51 – “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
  • The larvae are permanently colored red by the death of the mother.
    • Eph 1:3-9 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ”
    • Heb 12:24 – “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
  • After the death of the mother she turns white and has the texture of wool and flakes off and falls to the ground like snow.
    • Mark 9:2-3 “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.
    • Isaiah 1:18 ““Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

It is interesting to note that in Isaiah the word used for crimson is the same root used in the word worm in Psalm 22.

Is this coincidence? Maybe we are reading into the passage more than what is really there? Or maybe, our God is so infinitely majestic and powerful that he gave unique symbolism throughout His Creation to point us to the work of His Son. I will let you decide, but it is all very interesting.

On Your Heart

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”(Jeremiah 31:33–34, ESV)

When Yeshua inaugurated the New Covenant, which we believe then allows the Holy Spirit to write God’s Torah upon our hearts, what that really means? I have known a lot of good Yeshua following believers in my life and none of them suddenly knew all of God’s commands or understood what it means to walk with God the day the decided to walk a life with Him. In fact, it seems that many believers continue to wade in the mud pit.

I have seen changed lives, and people repent of sin, and walk away from habitual or destructive lifestyles. I have seen restored marriages, angry and hateful people become long-suffering and peace loving, and exhibit qualities of godliness, but even then many of them have very little understanding of God’s Torah.

I have also heard theologians come up with all kinds of excuses as to why, including one that I use to say, which is that we won’t fully have all the Torah written on our heart until he comes back and we get our glorified bodies. But, where does it say that? The prophecy in Jeremiah seems to say that when the new covenant is given, part of that new covenant will be God writing His Torah on our hearts now.

So, what do we do? We dig into the scripture and see if we can see a pattern to help us understand what Jeremiah may have meant.

First we must understand what the scripture means by the heart. The Hebrew word is “lev”. Here is a summary list of what the Theological Dictionary of the OT (1) says this about this word…

1. “heart” became the richest biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature.

2. the majority of the usages of lēb refer either to the inner or immaterial nature in general or to one of the three traditional personality functions of man; emotion, thought, or will.

3. The whole spectrum of emotion is attributed to the heart.

4. Thought functions may be attributed to the heart. In such cases it is likely to be translated as “mind” or “understanding.” To “set the heart to” may mean to “pay attention to” (Ex 7:23) or to “consider important” (II Sam 18:32). Creative thought is a heart function.

5. Wisdom and understanding are seated in the heart.

6. The heart is the seat of the will. A decision may be described as “setting” the heart

Point 6 could be said this way…The heart is the seat of your desires.

Another interesting aspect of the word “lev” is the idea that is presented when one looks at the potential meaning derived from the ancient pictograph letters of this word.  Rev. Kathryn S. Patterson M.Min., BCCC gives a nice breakdown of the meanings:

Another “lamed” word is “lev” which is Hebrew for “heart.”  The Hebrew spelling for “lev” is “lamed” with a letter sound of “L” with a word picture of a “staff, control or strong/strength,” followed by a “bet” with the letter sound of “V” (sometimes a “B” when it has a dagesh or dot in the center) with a word picture of a “house or inside.” Together these two Hebrew letters, “lamed” followed by a “bet” spell “lev,” which is “heart.”  The Hebrew word picture is that the heart controls what is inside.” (http://www.biblelandstudies.com/Lamed.html)

The most interesting use in the above definition was point 4 above which said to set the heart was to pay attention to, or consider important.

Now lets look at a couple of verses of scripture:

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:1–3, ESV)

A lot of Hebrew writing uses what is called parallelism. Where a thought is repeated but in another form. Here is Proverbs 3 the writer (Solomon) tells the son not to forget his teaching and to let his heart (that which controls the inside, the seat of emotions, the inner man) keep his commandments. He then tells him to “Let not steadfast love (chesed) and faithfulness forsake you” . The Faithlife study Bible (2) has this about steadfast love:

The word chesed describes a faithful covenantal love. Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the rule of a king (20:28).

The idea of faithfulness and covenantal love is to preserve the rule of the King, or to say in another way, keep his commandments as a way of showing faithfulness and chesed.

The writer then says to “bind them to your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart”

The Faithlife Study Bible also says this about the idea to bind them to your neck…”A way to keep them close and ensure they will not be forgotten (Deut 6:8–9).” (2)

Here again we are getting parallel ideas, so that even to write them on the tablet of your heart is parallel to”do not forget my teaching” which also carries the idea of point 4 in our definition of the heart above. (“pay attention to” (Ex 7:23) or to “consider important”)

Proverbs 7 is similar in its structure, lets take a look:

My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 7:1–3, ESV)

Here we see the idea to “treasure up my commandments” and the parralel “bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart”  giving us the same basic idea.

So in Jeremiah 31, the the writer may actually be telling us that what controls our inside, our desires, the inner man, is going to pay attention to or consider important the Torah. The one who is going to enable this is the Holy Spirit. Now, that makes more sense to me. The Holy Spirit living inside of me now gives me a passion and desire for God’s word.

This makes what James writes about in James chapter 1 about asking for wisdom, and testing our faith, and steadfastness, that we may be perfect and complete, contrasted by this verse:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14–15, ESV)

Our desire, which is found in the heart, that which controls our inside is what can tempt us towards sin, so if God then puts into us a new heart, or writes his Torah upon our hearts, and the idea is to give us a passion and desire for His Word, then what controls our insides is guided by God’s Torah, which effectively is Yeshua the Living Word who we are told to Imitate!!!

This makes far greater sense to me, and also aligns more perfectly with what I see in true followers of Yeshua, and also in my own testimony. Before I committed my life to follow Yeshua I read the Bible but it was not that important or interesting. After I committed my life to walking with Yeshua, the Word of God came alive and I had so much passion and desire for His word.

What is even move interesting is that we still have free will, and can choose to disobey what God has placed in us. In doing so we quench or hinder God’s work in our lives. This also lines up with what the Lord said in Deuteronomy…

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:15–18, ESV)

By the way, this verse follows on the heals of God telling His people that:

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6, ESV)

Lord, thank you that you put your Spirit within us and give us a new heart that desires and is passionate about obedience to your word. May the words of the Apostle John ever ring truer in my life..

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15–17, ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Bowling, A. (1999). 1071 לָבַב. (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke, Eds.)Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press.

(2) Barry, J. D., Grigoni, M. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 3:3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.