After that little personal diversion, I wanted to get back to the semi-series looking at the statement; "The Kingdom of God only becomes reality through the Holy Spirit" made by Dr Ern Baxter. If this is true - then surely I should want to get to know this Holy Spirit! It is amazing to me how the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the enthronement gift of the Son of God, all Christians have Him working within them, many testify to an empowering baptism of the Spirit and yet the ignorance surrounding the Third Person of the Trinity is rife. So far I have looked at the 'Gift of Prophecy', the issue of being "Sealed with the Holy Spirit" and finally the beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit as dew. Today's look at the Holy Spirit through the picture of a dove is relevent to my last post on returning to "First Love" because Dr R T Kendall argued that while we are sealed with the Spirit "to the day of redemption", His active and manifest Presence can and will leave in response to us quenching or grieving Him. He is tender - like a dove!
Establishing the Symbol.
- Mark 1:10 - "And straightaway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him".
1. The Purpose of the Dove.
So varied is the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit that it requires many symbols to give a complete symbolic picture of the full scope of God's purpose in and through the Spirit. The Dove-Symbol of the Holy Spirit speaks of the Spirit as the Imparter of Life and the Source of Christian character. The purpose of the Spirit as symbolized by the Dove is suggested as at the very threshold of Scripture.
- Genesis 1:2 - " ... the Spirit of God MOVED upon the face of the waters".
The word here rendered "moved" is in the Vulgate "incubabit" from which we get our English word "incubator". It suggests a bird sitting on a nest of eggs to warm them into life. "The earth was without form and void" (Genesis 1:2) and so needed the life-giving and life-sustaining ministration of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit of God came and fell upon the waters, cherishing the whole and communicating a prolific and vivific quality unto it, as a dove genty moves itself upon its eggs until it hath communicated vital heat unto them" - Dr John Owen. That the Holy Spirit is the Source of the believer's spiritual life is the unmistakable teaching of the Word of God.
- John 3:8 - " ... BORN of the Spirit".
2. The Prophetic Performance of the Dove.
- Genesis 8:8 - "Noah sent forth a DOVE from him ...".
The three-fold sending forth of the dove by Noah is a great panoramic view of the work of the Holy Spirit through the ages. The first time, the dove returned because she "found no rest for the sole of her foot". The waters yet covered the earth, and being pure in character and habit, she would not settle on the floating corpses and dirt that doubtless cluttered the surface of the judgement waters. This could refer to the period from Adam to Christ, during which time "God winked at" human ignorance (Acts 17:30) awaiting the time when sin would be once for all judged in the Person of Christ. It is true that God made temporary arrangements whereby men may receive the forgiveness of sins through the divinely appointed sacrifces and priestly ministrations. Those however could not make final the work of redemption but had to be constantly renewed (Hebrews 7:9, 9:7-9, 10:1-4). During this period therefore sin was not put away but awaited the time when the Lamb of God should "Put away sin in the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26). During this time therefore, with judgement pending in it's final form and falling in intermittant expressions of God's anger, the Holy Spirit could find "no rest for the sole of her foot". Thus the Old Testament tells of the Spirit of God visiting and leaving individuals, groups and places.
Seven days intervened between each sending forth of the dove. Seven being the number of completion, we see here the perfect timing of God's purposes. The dove returned from her second flight bearing "in her mouth an olive leaf plucked off£. By this we are told that "Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth". We suggest that the second sending forth of the dove correspond to the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Person of Christ during His life and ministry. The olive leaf is the emblem of peace. Thus with the ascension of Christ we have the Spirit returning to heaven with the evidence of peace made by Christ.
The third time Noah "sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him anymore". Judgement is complete and peace has been made. Therefore, the Spirit can now permamently indwell men and women who have become partakers of eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12) and the promise is that the Holy Spirit will "abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
3. The Perculiarites of the Dove.
i. The Dove is CLEAN in habit.
- Song of Solomon 6:9 - "My DOVE, my UNDEFILED".
The dove was a clean bird and as such was allowed to be brought in sacrifice. Peter, in his epistle says "Ye have PURIFIED your souls in obeying the truth THROUGH THE SPIRIT" (1 Peter 1:22). The apostle Paul also speaks of being "SANCTIFIED by the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:16). It is also to be remembered that while the raven never returned to the ark (Genesis 8:7) being satisfied to feed upon the rotting corpses of judgement, the dove did not care to so much as contaminate her foot by resting on this uncleanness and so returned to the ark.
ii. The Dove is GENTLE in manner.
- Matthew 10:16 - "HARMLESS as doves".
One reason that is given for the gentleness of the dove is that the bird has no gall, the gall being considered by the naturalists of old as the source and fountain of contention, the bitterness of the gall being supposed to infuse itself into the spirit.
The word "Gall" is twice used in the New Testament. 1) Christ on the Cross was offered "vinegar ... mingled with gall" (Matthew 27:34). What an illustration of what the world has to offer - "Vingear and gall" which is typified as sourness and bitterness. 2) Simon Magus was charged by the apostle with being in the "gall of bitterness" (Acts 8:23). "The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness" (Gal 5:22).
iii. The Dove is CONSTANT in love.
- Song of Solomon 5:12 - "His eyes are as the eyes of Doves beside the rivers of water".
"Doves by the riverside keep their eyes fixed on the purling streams, and in drinking, as Pliny observes, do not erect their necks and lift up their heads, but keeping their eyes fixed on the water, drink a large draught of it after the manner of beasts" - Gill. The dove "lives in the strictist monogamy, never desiring another mate". So the Holy Spirit fixes His attention on the believer and abides "with him forever". "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22).
iv. The Dove is TIRELESS in activity.
- Psalm 55:6 - "Oh that I had wings like a dove ...".
The wings are the strength of the dove. Upheld by them she can fly for many hours, so that the birds which are pursuing her cannot take her. So our strength and deliverance are in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:10, Zech 4:6, Romans 8:2).
v. The Dove is BEAUTIFUL in plumage.
- Psalm 68:13 - "Through ye have lion among the pots, yet shall ye as the wings of the dove, covered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold".
a) The Suggested Reference.
Referring to the flat Egpytian roofs, one says, "One thing never seemed cleared away and that was the heaps of old broken pitchers, sherds and pots that in those and similar houses are piled up in some corner; and there is a curious observation in this. A little before sunset, numbers of pigeons suddenly emerge from behind the pitchers and other rubbish, where they have been sleeping in the heat of the day, or pecking about to find food. They dart upwards and career through the air in large circles , their outspread wings catching the bright glow of the sun's slanting rays, so that they really resemble yellow gold; then, as they wheel around, and are seen against the light, they appear as if they were turned to molton silver, most of them being pure white or else very light coloured ...". Miss Whateley - "Ragged Life in Egpyt".
b) The Application.
"From the lowest condition the Lord would lift up His people into joy, liberty, wealth and beauty. Their enemies may have called them squatters among the pots - in allusion to their Egpytian slavery but the Lord would avenge them and give them beauty for blackness, glory for grime" - C H Spurgeon.
vi. The Dove knows where to go in a storm.
- Isaiah 60:8 - " ... as the doves to their windows".
"Doves fly to their houses or to their windows in an approaching storm or tempest. They seek a refuge there, and there are safe" - Barnes.
"The extraodinary flight of pigeons which I have seen ... affords perhaps a good illustration of this text. Their great numbers and the compactness of their mass, literally looked like a cloud at a distance, and obscured the sun in their passage" - Morier.