being Led by the Spirit

Spirit Led Leaders in the Old Testament

A couple of nights ago we celebrated the beginning of a new month, the month of Sivan, the third month of the Biblical year.  This is the month the omer count ends and we celebrate the next festival in the cycle of God’s appointed times.  That festival is called Shavuot (literally – “weeks”) by the Jews and Pentecost by most Christians.  Though it’s not my intent to get into the details of this festival, it is the day the Jewish people believe the Torah to was given by YHVH to His people - Israel.  For most Christians, it’s celebrated as the “Birth of the Church” and the day the Holy Spirit was given. 

The giving of the Holy Spirit is an interesting topic, and something that was covered here a few months back.  I generally don’t talk much about the Holy Spirit.  It’s not that I’m not interested in it, nor do I believe that it’s not important to understand.  It’s just that, for many, it’s a topic of dissension, and I’d rather not get involved in these types of arguments.  After all, is it more important to understand what the Holy Spirit is, or is it more important to understand what it does?  As our minds become more adjusted to the Hebrew way of thinking – that is, focusing our thoughts on action instead of belief - we  become less concerned about describing something by how it looks and feels, and become more concerned about what it does.

A year ago at this season I gave a talk entitled “The Spirit of God – Defining it by Its Actions1.  In that study, I tried to convey the idea that the Holy Spirit could be understood by what it does.  In this study, I want to take that idea a step further and see if we can identify the Spirit of God within ourselves by determining if we’re being led by the spirit.

Being spirit led is something we all want to be guilty of.  We all want to think that there’s a higher power that guides our lives, and that we’re faithfully submitting to that leadership.  It’s interesting that sometimes we hear a person describe how the spirit has led them and we’re thinking “I hope the spirit never leads me that way!”.  I’ve often been told that I should let the spirit lead me and not get so concerned about schedules and details.  This is a quandary I face, because I believe the spirit leads me to be concerned about schedules and details.

So how does the spirit lead, and how can we know if we are indeed being spirit led?  The answer cannot be found in any one verse or proof text, but has to be understood by seeing how the Spirit leads throughout the scripture.  God has given us numerous examples of how His spirit has led his servants.  We just have to go to those examples and see the outcome of that leadership.

I believe a case can be made that the Holy Spirit will always lead you towards a state of order, and away from a state of confusion.  YHVH is a god of consistency and order, and HaSatan is the author of chaos and confusion2.   So let’s go through a number of examples in God’s word where the Spirit has led God’s servants to bring order to His people; but before we do, let’s take a moment to define the word “spirit”.

The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach ( רוּחַ – Strong’s 7307) and it comes from a root word that is spelled the same way.  It means wind, breath, smell, perceive, understanding.  When you think about these meanings, how do they tie together?  Think about it for a minute.  If there’s a slight breeze from the east, and you take a deep breath and smell the scent of a skunk, you perceive that there’s a skunk somewhere to the east of you and thus you understand that you should not walk that way.  What’s more, you might have instant recollections of an early childhood experience when you spooked a skunk and got sprayed. 

When you think about it, we understand a number of things based on the wind.  For instance, if you smell smoke in the air, you know something is on fire.  When you feel a cool wind blowing on an otherwise hot summer day accompanied by the smell of fresh air, you know that thunderstorms are nearby.  And if that cool wind blows in late summer, it reminds me of the Feast of Tabernacles. 

So we see that one of the purposes of the Spirit is to help us understand and remember.  This is precisely what Yeshua told his disciples when He promised them the Spirit shortly before His crucifixion.

NKJ John 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

So the spirit, as it leads us, should help us to remember things that will bring order to our lives.  Let’s now turn to a few examples  . . .

Joseph -

Joseph, as a young man found himself a prisoner in Egypt, sold as a slave by his envious brothers.  All through his trials, Joseph remembered the God of his fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  When Pharaoh had his dreams, Joseph was able to interpret the dreams, giving Pharaoh advice as to how Egypt could survive the upcoming famine.  Joseph told Pharaoh that he should appoint a discerning an wise man to be in charge of gathering and storing grain for the seven years of the famine.  But even though Joseph didn’t mention it, Pharaoh perceived that discernment and wisdom were not all that it would take.  He knew that this person would also have to have the Spirit of God.

KJV Genesis 41:37-38  So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants.  38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?"

What was going to be expected of this man?  Why was important that this man have the Spirit of God?  The answer lies in understanding the enormity of the task at hand, as well as a little about human nature.  What Egypt needed at that time was a man who would established an organized an orderly way of storing grain in all the cities of Egypt.  Not only did he have to come up with a way of storing it, he had to also devise a way of distributing it fairly once the famine hit.  But probably the most important requirement of this overseer was that he would always have to keep in mind – always bring to remembrance – the message of the dreams.  If, during the seven years of plenty, Pharoah or his overseer began to think “we’ve got more than enough grain.  Let’s stop gathering it, and instead, sell some to our neighboring countries so we can buy nice things”, Egypt could have very easily perished.

The Spirit of God helped Joseph to keep his priorities in order and continually reminded him of the pending famine.  As a result, Joseph was able to save his brothers.

The Judges of Israel -

The next example is the selection of the judges while Israel was making their way to the Promised Land.  Israel had just left Mt. Sinai and had been traveling for only two or three days when they began complaining again.  Apparently, the mixed multitude was stirring things up and the people quickly forgot all that YHVH had done form them the past year.  When Moses cried out for help, YHVH answered saying -

KJV Numbers 11:16-17  . . .  "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  17 "Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.

Deuteronomy 1 goes on to describe the responsibility of the judges.  Their purpose was to provide order to the people based on the Law of God, the Torah.  They had to have a good understanding of the Torah and always bring it to remembrance when making a judgment because once they made a decision; God took responsibility for that judgment.3  Thus the Spirit led them to a proper understanding of the Torah, and brought it to their remembrance as they sat to judge the people of god.

Joshua -

Joshua was the man chosen by God to actually lead Israel into the Promised Land.  Joshua made his debut as commander of the army of Israel.4  He was constantly at Moses’ side throughout the 40 years in the wilderness, and when Moses was about to die, Moses laid his hands on Joshua and he became full of God’s spirit.

ESV Deuteronomy 34:9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Joshua was about to take on the task of bringing Israel over the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, the same land that just 38 years earlier, the people had rejected.  God expected Joshua to remember what He had done for Israel and what He had done for Moses.  YHVH said to him -

ESV Joshua 1:5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua – this man who was filled with the Spirit - was instructed by God to –

ESV Joshua 1:7-8  . . .  (be) careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.

Joshua not only had to coordinate the overthrow of the Caananites, he had to oversee the orderly division of the land, dealing with the problems associated with the fair distribution of the land amongst those who were yet to come together as a unified people.  The Spirit of God was a necessary component in his being able to bring these people together and to see this job through.

The Order of the Temple Services -

When David was anointed King of Israel, he was given the blessing of having God’s Spirit, something that he would need in order to endure the trials he would face the rest of his life –

NKJ 1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward . . .

If you could summarize the role that David played during his 40 years as king, it would be that He was able to unite Israel into one kingdom.  He took a people that were oftentimes at war with each other, and brought them under his banner, making them the strongest and most prosperous people of that day. But one of the things that David is most known for is his preparations for the building of the Temple.

David wanted to build a place for the God of Israel to dwell.  A place that would convey the greatness and majesty of the one who had brought Israel to the point of being the greatest kingdom of all time.  But as we know, David was not allowed to build the Temple.  He was only allowed to prepare for it.  One of the things he prepared was the services and the order of the priesthood.  These were all given to David by the Holy Spirit –

NKJ 1 Chronicles 28:11-13   Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat;  12 and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, of all the chambers all around, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries for the dedicated things;  13 also for the division of the priests and the Levites, for all the work of the service of the house of the LORD . . .

By the spirit of God, David received and wrote down all that God instructed, including the order for the Temple services.  According to the Mishnah, everything that took place at the Temple was highly choreographed and orderly.  Nothing was left to chance.  Things were done in a prescribed sequence and at precise times.  Thus we can understand why, when Zachariah tarried when receiving news of the upcoming birth of his son, the people became quite anxious.

ESV Luke 1:5-22  5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,1 of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.  8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,  9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense . . .  21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple.  22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.

Obviously, the people were well aware of the order of the services, thus when Zachariah tarried, they knew something was awry.  The well defined and orderly pattern that had been given to David by the Holy Spirit so many years previous was not being followed. 

So here we have four examples of God’s spirit being given to men who were burdened with the responsibility to produce an orderly outcome . . . to oversee a monumental task that could only be accomplished by providing order and thus avoiding chaos and possibly disaster.  You might say that each of them were led by the Spirit to accomplish the tasks put before them.

But just having God’s spirit doesn’t guarantee a good outcome.  Some people reject the Spirit of God, choosing to go their own way.  Israel, especially the generation that came through the Red Sea, are a good example.  The book of Nehemiah records a restoration of God’s way among the Jewish people that took place shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles in the year Nehemiah was sent to Jerusalem to begin the process of rebuilding the city.  In a prayer recited by the Levites, it was said -

NKJ Nehemiah 9:19-20  . . . You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, To show them light, And the way they should go.  20 You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst.

Israel was given Gods spirit from the beginning, but as a people, they did not use it for good.  They did not use it to discover the pearl that God had given them in His Torah.  Instead, they rejected God and His Torah.  They refused to be led by the spirit, and were thus scattered throughout the nations.

To provide a way for Israel to be brought back (thus preserving the prophecies and to bring glory to His name) God sent His son with the mission to begin a process by which Israel could return. To assist Him with His mission, YHVH gave Him His Holy Spirit.

NKJ Isaiah 42:1 "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.  2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.  3 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.  4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law."

Yeshua’s mission was to restore order to Israel, and the first step was to overthrow the enemy of Israel, HaSatan – the one who brought confusion and disorder into Israel. So when He came on the scene and before He actually began His public ministry, Yeshua was led by the spirit to the wilderness, or as it’s said in Hebrew – B’midbar.  We don’t know where in the wilderness Yeshua went or how long He was gone.  Thus, there would be no reason to believe that He didn’t go all the way to Mount Sinai and spend at least some of those days on the Mountain of God, just as Moses did.  If that were the case, I would suspect that one reason for doing so would be to get so thoroughly entrenched in His Father’s Torah that He would have all the answers when haSatan faced Him; after all, each time He was tested, Yeshua answered haSatans advances right out of the Torah5.  Thus Yeshua would have been led by the Spirit to gain a deeper understanding of the Torah

As a result of the work Yeshua has done, God began the restoration of His people.  Though it was only fulfilled in small part back in the first century, it’s now beginning to see the ultimate fulfillment today.  Just as YHVH did 3500 years ago, He will again bring His people to the wilderness6.  There He will give them a renewed7 heart so that they might this time, accept His way, His Torah.  Ezekiel says it this way -

NKJ Ezekiel 36:24-28   24 "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.  25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.  28 "Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

God gives His spirit to lead us to Him and His way.  It was through the spirit that Joseph was able to save his brothers.  The spirit of God in him helped Joshua lead the people into the promised land.  The elders of Israel were given the Holy Spirit to help them judge the people of God,  and it was by the spirit that David was able to provide Israel the proper form of worship.  Most importantly, it was His willingness to be led by the spirit that enabled Yeshua to overthrow HaSatan and begin the restoration of His people.  The spirit will always lead us away from a state of confusion and toward a state of order, and that order is found in the Torah of God.

So are you being led by the spirit?  Are you “spirit filled”?  The answer just might come down to this -  are you moving towards God’s way, his Torah; or are you moving away from it.  This is important to consider, for Paul said –

ESV Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Shalom Alecheim


21 Cor. 14:33
3Deut. 1:17
4Exodus 17
5 Deut. 8:3; Deut. 6:16; Deut. 6:13 & 10:20
6 Ezekiel 20:33-38
7 “new” = “kadawsh” which is from “kadash” which means “renew”. “Kodesh”, the “new moon” also comes from “kadash”, but we know the moon is never new, it’s simply renewed.