It has to be more than a happy accident that in both Hebrew and Greek–the languages our Bible was written in–the same word in each has the same three meanings. That is….
In the Hebrew, ruach means spirit, wind, and breath. The context dictates which word best fits.
In the Greek, pneuma also means spirit, wind, and breath.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Wind of God, the very Breath of God.
Here’s a well-loved hymn….
Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Think of Adam, the newly formed clay figure of Genesis 2:7. The Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
In this life, I am often breathless. I am winded. I am dispirited.
I get used up so quickly. My natural reserves are so limited.
Life has a way of requiring all there is of us and calling for more. The people around us–even those who love us and whom we treasure–take and take and take, then ask for more. Unless we are constantly being replenished, we soon find ourselves spent and exhausted, with nothing more to offer.
Toward the end of his life, H. G. Wells concluded this was true of mankind as a whole, that we are played out, the world is jaded and without power to recover, and the only philosophy that makes sense is a disinterested cynicism.
I love that God is the “Great However.” Over and over we read in Scripture of the mess man makes of things, and then we come to those two little words: But God.
Early in Romans, the Apostle Paul chronicles the depths of depravity and rebellion mankind has descended into over the centuries. Then, when it seems that we are utterly destitute and without hope, he writes: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Nearly a half-century ago, Scottish pastor extraordinaire James S. Stewart published a book of sermons that went by the title of the first one, “The Wind of the Spirit.” His text for that message was something the Lord said to Nicodemus who was trying to get a handle on the work of God in his day.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
Stewart’s outline on that declaration from our Lord has never been surpassed.
“The wind blows” = That bare, simple statement affirms the ceaseless action of the Spirit. Never has there been a time, never a moment, when the Spirit of God has not been actively at work.
“The wind blows where it wishes” = This is the sovereign freedom of the Spirit. Just as it is impossible to control the wind or dictate its direction, so no man, no Church, can domesticate the Spirit of God.
“…and you hear the sound of it” = This is the indisputable evidence of the Spirit. He makes Himself evident, His presence felt. You know the living God is at work in this place.
“…but cannot tell where it comes from” = This is the inscrutable origin of the Spirit. We do not know what God has been doing before beginning His work at this point and in this place, only that He has.
“…and where it goes” = This is the incalculable destiny of the Spirit. You cannot tell where He is liable to carry you.
There. I thought you’d like that.
The Lord is God’s Wind.
Whatever else that says, it surely speaks to us of the incredible Force which is the Spirit of God in this world. A Resource for believers beyond all measure. God’s Strength for our weakness. His sight for our blindness. His supply for our need.
Some years ago, I was on a plane flying to New York City when the captain came on the intercom. “Folks,” he said, “I thought you’d be interested in knowing that we have a tailwind of 200 knots. This means that instead of flying along at 500 miles an hour, we’re doing something over 700.”
He paused to let that sink in, then said, “A few minutes ago, the pilot of a plane headed in the opposite direction said that same wind is a headwind to him. So, instead of doing 500, he’s doing 300 miles an hour.”
Resist the Lord and He becomes a headwind to us, slowing us down, making our way hard. The Lord said to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5).
Go “with the Wind of God” and we soon find we are being lifted and carried along by an incredible power beyond ourselves. The best prayer any of us can pray is the first one Saul prayed that day outside Damascus: “What do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6) Find out the direction the Spirit is moving and run with Him.
I’m not into sailing boats, but a pastor friend who is once told me of the experience of hoisting the sails, setting directions, making all the preparations, and then having to wait for the wind. He told how he was calling on an aged believer who was not long for this world. “Preacher, I’m ready,” the old gentleman said. “My sails are unfurled. I’m just waiting for the Wind.”
When he wrote a book of his essays and columns, my friend chose that for the title: “Waiting for the Wind.” (After giving away thousands of books over the past few years as I transitioned into this phase of ministry, I cannot find that little volume. I’m sorely missing it today.)
Recently, while praying for a friend, I broke into laughter.
“Father,” I prayed. “She’s like one of these lighter-than-air balloons we see from time to time. She needs to get airborne, to be lifted above the stuff that weights her down.
“I pray that You will cut the ropes that tie her down. Set her free from all that holds her back.
“And Lord, be the Wind that sends her soaring. Lift her up and move her into the place in life You want her to be.”
At this point, I paused to reflect on that metaphor–the colorful balloon with the basket underneath being pushed along by the wind–to see if there was any other connection or parallel to be made there.
Then it hit me.
“And Lord, I’ll be her hot air.”
We preachers are well-known for our hot air. I plead guilty. (On Facebook, at this point, I would insert a smiley-face, like so– 🙂
James S. Stewart prefaces his book with a line from an old hymn:
Blow, winds of God, awake and blow
The mists of earth away;
Shine out, O Light Divine, and show
How wide and far we stray.
–from J. G. Whittier
Stewart ends his sermon with this:
The one thing you must never say is–“My course is fixed and set and circumscribed: no chance of anything fine or noble now for me!” Never–unless you are prepared to “make God a liar”–never under any circumstances say that. It is so atrociously untrue…. All the drabness and tedium vanquished, al lthe suffocating poisonous atmosphere of disillusionment gone with the wind of His refreshing grace. And this is not all. For beyond the hopes of earth gleams the incalculable destiny of the hereafter.
Amen, and amen.