As we continue to study the gifts of the Spirit in our Seek the Gifts series, we have talked about who the gifts of the Spirit are for. Now we will see where the gifts appear in the Old Testament. Most of the time, teachers talk about the New Testament gifts.
But several gifts appear in the Old Testament. The same Holy Spirit of the New Testament is the spirit of the Old Testament. And things that happen in the New Testament often have their beginnings in the Old Testament.
So we will look more closely at the gifts in the Old Testament. Some of them may surprise you and others do not appear in the New Testament. Let’s see what gifts of the Spirit we find in the Old Testament.
The Gift of Craftsmanship
One of the first examples of the gifts of the Spirit used in Israel happens during the making of the Tabernacle and preparing the priests for service. The Lord commanded Moses to gather the priests together, probably to fit them for their new garments.
But God, who called the priests to His service, also called and prepared by His Spirit the people who made the garments for the priests. He put His Spirit on the craftsmen who designed and sewed the priestly garments.
“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, salt sex they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” (Exodus 28:2–3, ESV)
God specially chose these artisans and gave them greater ability to make these garments for the priests. The Spirit was integral in the ability to make the priestly garments and construct materials for the Tabernacle.
Later in Exodus, God told Moses about two craftsmen in Israel who had great skill in all kinds of working needed to build the Tabernacle.
“Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.” (Exodus 35:30–35, ESV)
God gave the names of two incredible individuals. Imagine what it would be like forgot to give your name to someone to do His work. But their skill was not all-natural. God’s Spirit gave them the skill and intelligence to work with these different materials.
Look at all the different materials these men had skill to work with. It requires an awful lot of ability to work with such diverse materials. And the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. But God didn’t stop there. He also gave these men the gift to teach others how to do what they did.
For many people, being able to do something may come naturally, but teaching others to do it is hard for them. Not everyone who can do can teach. Sometimes those who can’t do, teach. It’s amazing that these men could do both. And that’s because the Spirit of the Lord gave them these gifts.
The Gift of Leadership
Many people throughout the Old Testament led others. Some say leadership can be a natural ability, but people can learn how to lead. As we see in the New Testament, leadership is a gift of the Spirit.
For many years, Moses bore the mantle of leadership upon himself with no help. His father-in-law suggested showing others how to do the work of leadership. It’s easy to get burned out when you’re the only person doing something.
Moses gathered seventy elders and God’s Spirit filled them with the same gift of leadership Moses had. He put some of the Spirit on them as Moses had on him (Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25). They became leaders in Israel and took part of Moses’ workload of leadership.
They prophesied when the Spirit came upon them for a short time. But they did not become prophets. Perhaps prophecy was the sign that the Holy Spirit came upon them. Let us continue to talk about prophecy, a spiritual gift.
The Gift of Prophecy
The seventy elders weren’t the only people to prophesy when the Spirit came upon them. Two men supposed to be with them were not present. They stayed in the camp of Israel, but the Holy Spirit still rested upon them, and they prophesied (Numbers 11:26-30).
Unlike New Testament times, these examples of the prophetic gift did not last long. When Samuel anointed Saul as king, he told him that he would meet prophets in his travels to find his father’s donkeys (1 Samuel 10:5-10).
When he met these prophets, he prophesied along with them so much so that the people asked, “Is Saul among the prophets?” It’s common in the Old Testament for people to prophesy when the Spirit comes upon them.
This happens again to Saul when he meets the same prophets and prophesies (1 Samuel 19:20-20 work). But this time, Saul is not living for the Lord. The Spirit probably makes him prophesy to prove God is in control, even when Saul is wayward.
The office of the prophet gives many examples of the prophets prophesying only under the power of the Holy Spirit. But they knew the prophetic gift for a longer time. From the time they were anointed for the prophetic office in Israel, they prophesied.
Some have suggested that prophetic speech in the Old Testament was ecstatic speech. In the examples I have given already, especially Saul prophesying, because they are communicating with God, they are not speaking under their own power.
There are examples of ecstatic speech among the prophets of other nations. Ecstatic speech is uncontrollable speech in a trance-like state. I don’t see evidence that Old Testament prophets were in trances when God spoke to them. Some had dreams or visions, but these are different from a trance.
If the Spirit of God controls your speech, it is not a trance. He controls prophetic words in the native language so people can understand them, and speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1-13). They may not understand the content of the prophecy, but they understand the language.
Other Spiritual Gifts
The Spirit moves on people throughout the Old Testament and displays in them other spiritual gifts. As I mentioned before, these gifts do not last for a long time, and after the new covenant, people experience the Spirit’s ministry through them throughout their Christian life.
The Holy Spirit gives spiritual power to Micah (Micah 3:8). He gives wisdom, understanding, and the right judgment to Daniel (Daniel 4:8-9, 18; 5:14). The Spirit gives the ability to teach (Exodus 35:31, 34-35).
The gift of interpretation of His message in another language also appears in the Old Testament (Daniel 5:12). The gifts of teaching, interpretation of tongues, and the word of wisdom are New Testament gifts.
The Old Testament lays the foundation for the New Testament. When we see these gifts of the Spirit first in the Old Testament, seeing them in the New Testament doesn’t surprise us. The Holy Spirit came upon a few people for a short time in the Old Testament.
It makes sense that when the Holy Spirit indwells believers from their salvation for their whole Christian lives, He will give them gifts. The New Testament expands the gifts of the Spirit as He and habits many people and brings many gifts to communicate with us.
Let us thank the Spirit for inhabiting us today and ministering through us by His mighty gifts. He does great things through His people. What do you think about the many gifts we see from the Spirit coming upon people in the Old Testament?
Now that we have discussed the gifts found in the Old Testament, we turn next to talk about the foundation for using the gifts today. What do we need to know before we seek the gifts and use them?