Isaiah 63 The Holy Spirit - Grieving or Pleasing?

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The Messiah in Isaiah Bible Study

Isaiah 63 The Holy Spirit - Grieving or Pleasing?

by I Gordon


We looked last time at Isaiah 61 and I wanted to start there again this morning. We'll be looking at a short passage and thought in Isaiah 63 but it relates to the first verse in 61 so let's begin there now shall we? Here is the verse:

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

We saw last time that this passage governed and defined the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Jesus Himself obviously quoted from this passage in the Synagogue at the start of His ministry and more than a few jaws dropped when He said that it was now fulfilled in their hearing. In other words He was saying that He is the fulfilment of it - He is the Messiah. Jesus was able to preach the good news, help the afflicted, heal the broken-hearted, set the captives free and perform great miracles among them... How? What was the secret? The not-so-secret secret is explained in verse 1. 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me... He has anointed me.' Jesus, though God, still had to come and live as a man and that meant living in dependence upon the instruction of the Father and the power, life and energy of the Holy Spirit.

Here-in is a biblical principle that runs the length and breadth of the Bible. It is a principle that is shown in countless stories from Genesis to Revelation. It is a principle that sets Christianity apart from all other pursuits and is probably best summed up by a short verse in Zechariah - 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.' In a month's time the Olympics will start. The best in the world will compete to win the prize. We'll find out who are the mightiest by how far they can throw things. We'll see who is the fastest by how quickly they get from one point on this planet to another, and the most skilful by how they many times they can get a ball into a goal. Human strength, endurance and skill will be to the forefront. Yet when you become a Christian you soon learn that human endeavour, will power and strength is not where it's at. Having a right heart before God that depends upon Him and His strength is where it is at.

As I read a prayer of Isaiah's in chapter 63 there was a verse about grieving the Holy Spirit that spoke to me. So I wanted to focus on that in this study. But we won't be focusing on grieving the Holy Spirit alone. We shall also look at the opposite which is pleasing the Holy Spirit. We'll only start in Isaiah where we'll look at the role of the Holy Spirit and then camp in the New Testament where we will look at two connecting commands and one story.

Isaiah's Prayer

Isaiah 63:7-11 I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us-- yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. (8) He said, "Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me"; and so he became their Savior. (9 ) In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (10) Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. (11) Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people-- where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them?

This prayer surveys Israel's history and is split between what God did and what the people did. We read first about what God did in verses 7-9. When they (God's people) were afflicted, He was afflicted. And He led them by grace and gave them a wonderful deliverance from the hands of their enemy - their Egyptian masters. His grace carried them. It didn't come down to their strength but the work of His Spirit that He performed in their midst. Verses 10-11 show us how the people responded and we read the familiar but still troubling words 'yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.' Arrrgh! The following Psalm gives additional details:

Psa 78:40-42 How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power , The day when He redeemed them from the adversary.

Now before we start pointing the finger at those 'rebellious' Israelis, we need to remember 1 Cor 10:11 'These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.'

Now that might sound a bit grim. But it is relevant because the New Testament says that that the Holy Spirit, the one so crucial in our spiritual life, can be grieved as well as pleased. So let's start by looking at the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our life as Christians. Let's see what you know... Pop Quiz time! Can anyone think of what the New Testament says the Holy Spirit does in our life?

Role of the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit Gift / Aspect Verse Notes
Gives gifts and enablings 1Co 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. Heb 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. All of the different spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and enabled by the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit has been grieved then He may not be blessing that gift.
Gives Assurance - Child of God Rom 8:15-16 '... but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out 'Abba! Father! The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.' The Holy Spirit gives us an assurance that we are saved and enables us to cry out 'Abba', which means 'daddy' to God! He shows us how close God has drawn us, making us his own sons. If a person had grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit they could lose that feeling of intimacy with God and even begin doubting their salvation.
Teaches 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 the things that I have said.' The Holy Spirit teaches us and brings scriptures/songs to mind. If he wasn't doing this the bible would be continually boring as he would not be bringing anything alive out of it.
Keeps the desires of our sinful nature in check Gal 5:16 'But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.' The Holy Spirit is holy, and will always want to lead the believer into holiness in any given situation. If the Holy Spirit had been quenched the desires of the flesh could be well and truly evident.
Produces His own holy character

Gal 5:22 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.

The Holy Spirit produces this fruit. With the Holy Spirit quenched the flesh is in control and produces the exact opposite of these things.
Gives discernment 1 John 2:26-27 'I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you.' The Holy Spirit, (the anointing within us) discerns between true and false teaching. Without this a person could swallow anything.
Brings comfort John 14:16 'I will ask the Father and he will give you the Comforter, that he may be with you forever.' The Holy Spirit comforts us in our trials. The root of this word means to exhort, comfort, strengthen, and encourage. Pretty hard going without this!
Reveals the hidden things to us 1 Cor 2:9-12 'For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God... Now we have received the... Spirit who is from God so that we know the things freely given to us by God.' The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and reveals them to us! And they are the things freely given to us - Grace! If the Holy Spirit wasn't doing this we would slip back into religion and not see the great things that are given to us because of the cross.
Can speak through us Matt 10:20 'For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you,' The Holy Spirit can speak through us when are witnessing about the Lord, teaching others, giving advice in situations, encouraging others through testimonies etc. If the Holy Spirit was grieved our testimony wouldn't mean anything. It's His witness in the hearer that makes something real. A sermon is more that some scriptures, the odd story and a couple of illustrations. Without God speaking to a person's heart it is just a clanging bell.
Helps in prayer and intercession Rom 8:26-28 'In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know what to pray what we should...he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.' The Holy Spirit helps us in praying, and intercedes for us before the Father! If He was grieved, I think this would be one of the times when His role would increase. He would intercede for us more because He wants more than anything for us to come back into a true relationship with God.

This is why God's presence in our life through His Holy Spirit is so important. And why we don't want to grieve His Spirit. You can imagine trying to live a Christian life without this! [1] Impossible.

The first New Testament command

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (26) In your anger do not sin : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (27) and do not give the devil a foothold. (28) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (29) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (30) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Now the key verse is obviously Eph 4:30 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.' The Holy Spirit is a person. Not a force as some cults like Jehovah Witnesses would say. [2] One of the reasons given not to grieve the Holy Spirit is because He is with you in all things - the Good, the bad and the ugly. But let's be clear on this: Grieving doesn't mean leaving. Believers are sealed for the day of redemption. And as Jesus said in John 14:16 'I will ask the Father and he will give you the Comforter, that he may be with you forever.' This is not the Old Testament so the Spirit isn't removed or withdrawn as He was with say king Saul. No, He won't leave... but can be grieved. And it is this fact that He indwells the believer for all time that Paul gives us the command not to grieve Him.

Now what does 'grieve' actually mean? Grieve means 'to afflict with deep sorrow.' Why deep sorrow? Because He loves us so much! [3] The context would suggest that grieving is connected with carrying on doing the things that we did before we came to know God. That is, the things that are totally the opposite in nature to the very one we have received. The context is also especially to do with how we treat one another. God so cares about people. His very nature is to love and care for others. He loves them. He is patient with them. He is kind and gracious towards them. So when we keep treating others with harsh words, unforgiveness, bitterness and anger, it grieves the Holy Spirit for it is the opposite of who He is!

(32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Verse 32 shows us that the opposite is also true. It pleases the Spirit of God when we extend to others the same measure of grace and forgiveness that we ourselves have received. That is how things are meant to work. We experience the love, grace and forgiveness of God and pass this on to others. Even when they don't deserve it for none of us deserved the grace we received from God.

Let's look at a related verse: The second command: Do not Quench the Holy Spirit

1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 (16) Be joyful always; (17) pray continually; (18) give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (19) Do not put out the Spirit's fire; (20) do not treat prophecies with contempt. (21) Test everything. Hold on to the good.

If grieving is doing what you shouldn't... quenching is not doing what you should!

There are things that we should be doing that give the Holy Spirit more access to work in our life. Some are listed here: Be joyful, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. 'Thank you Lord' is the language of faith in which the Holy Spirit can move in our lives. [4]

Do not quench the spirit - The Greek word means 'go out or extinguish' - some translations say 'do not put out the Spirit's fire.' I think we all like fires. We've been having one each day through the winter. They are warm, inviting and attractive [5] . So what does a fire require? It needs fuel, oxygen and heat. Starve it of any of these things and the fire goes out for it isn't an environment in which the fire can burn. So to with us. The Holy Spirit is likened to a fire but that fire can be quenched, put out, or starved in an environment that is devoid of the things mentioned in this passage - joy, prayer, thankfulness or unresponsiveness to gifts and leadings of the Spirit. But of course the opposite is true. In an environment of rejoicing, thankfulness and prayer the fire can burn!

Finally - A story from the life of Jesus - Was He ever grieved?

Mark 3:1-6 He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. (2) They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. (3) He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" (4) And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. (5) After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart , He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (6) The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

What grieved Jesus?

1. The Pharisees studied the word of God yet were so far from the heart of God.

2. They were religious - crossing all their 't's and dotting their 'i's but their hearts were not affected and remained hard.

3. These religious leaders cared so little for others - yet loved their praise! They didn't care about this man, whether he was healed or not...they just cared about trapping Jesus.

Dr. Graham Scroggie notes that the word for "anger" here is in the aorist tense in the Greek and it carries the sense of momentary anger. The Greek word for "grieve" here is used in the present tense in the sense of a continuing grief. So what we find here is this: "When He had looked round about on them with anger" - just a flash of anger, not a grudge or with malice aforethought. But "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" was something that He carried with Him. He always had that awful grief because of the hardness of their hearts.

Now this is not us. But the principle remains to watch your heart [6] . Don't let it become hard to God. Don't let religion take over from a relationship. Be careful if we too can quote large portions of scripture but have no love for others. As Jesus later said to the Pharisees - I desire mercy not sacrifice! For without love we are nothing!

[1]  Just as an illustration, my sister Fiona is a piano teacher. She is pretty handy on the black and white keys. In contrast, I couldn't play a half-decent little tune if my life depended on it. When Fiona sits at her piano and plays, a beautiful sound comes forth. It is pleasing, with great melodies and a wonderful rhythmic harmonious sound. When I sit at that same piano and play the only conclusion one can come up with is that there is something terribly wrong with that piano. It must be busted. It now gives disharmony and discord. The piano no longer has rhythm. Stupid piano! But, maybe, just maybe, it is not the piano's fault! Just possibly it all depends on the one whom is in control. Fiona, good. Me, bad. Same with our life. When the Holy Spirit is free to quietly work in a person's life then the results are obvious - The harmonious sound of love, joy, peace, goodness... Yet the opposite can also be evident when we rebel and take control and do our own thing resulting in the clanging and disharmony of a self driven life.

[2]  A.W Tozer writes: ' Spell this out in capital letters: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON. He is not enthusiasm. He is not courage. He is not energy. He is not the personification of all good qualities, like Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather. Actually, the Holy Spirit is not the personification of anything...... He has individuality. He is one being and not another. He has will and intelligence. He has hearing. He has knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think. He can hear, speak, desire, grieve and rejoice. He is a Person.'

[3]  This is Important. The Believers Bible Commentary says : The fact that He can be grieved shows that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a mere influence. It also means He loves us, because only a person who loves can be grieved.

In like manner, Ray Stedman writes - 'The word grieve here is a word that is related to love. It is impossible for you to grieve someone who does not love you, nor can you be grieved except by those whom you love. If someone who does not love you is offended by what you do, he is not grieved, but angry, enraged. Grief is always an indication of the presence of love. Therefore this word reveals that God loves us. The Holy Spirit is in us, as Christians, in order to help us, to bless us, to strengthen us, to teach us how to live. The activities that grieve him, therefore, are those that hurt us and harm us and therefore hurt his love.'

[4]  I read the following illustration recently of always giving thanks. In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom tells how she and her sister Betsie had been imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews behind the wall of their Holland home, and the Nazi prison conditions were pretty well unbearable.

Corrie writes:"Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us--perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers--were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop. "It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy."

Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the women prisoners around Corrie and Betsie found comfort in the little Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes they gathered around the Bible "like waifs clustered around a blazing fire...The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God." When they were moved to Barracks 28, Corrie was horrified by the fact that their reeking, straw-bed platforms swarmed with fleas. How could they live in such a place? It was Betsie who discovered God's answer:

"'"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. "Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!' "I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room..." They thanked God for the fact they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners, that more people would be able to hear God's Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas. "The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.' "Give thanks in all circumstances,' she quoted. 'It doesn't say, "in pleasant circumstances." Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.' "And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong." It turned out that Betsie was not wrong; the fleas were a nuisance, but a blessing after all. The women were able to have Bible studies in the barracks with a great deal of freedom, never bothered by supervisors coming in and harassing them. They finally discovered that it was the fleas that kept those supervisors out. Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and harassment. Dozens of desperate women were free to hear the comforting, hope-giving Word of God. Through those fleas, God protected the women from much worse things and made sure they had their deepest, truest needs met.

We all have "fleas" in our lives. We all have those things that we can see no use for, things that are obviously horrible, unpleasant, painful things that we want gone. No life is free of 'fleas', but if Corrie and Betsie can be our examples, God can use even these nasty insects for our protection and blessing. As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, lets thank God for His constant care and provision, and for His hidden blessings that come in ways we can easily overlook.

[5]  Stedman writes: ' The Christian who is always cold and unpleasant to be with obviously has something interfering with the flow of the Spirit's love in his life. He has grieved the Holy Spirit.'

[6]  My mother's car recently had a slow leak in the back tire. Because it was slow, she didn't notice it. It took someone else to spot it (even though she was driving the car each day!) because the leak was just a little each day. This is the type of 'deflating' that we must be wary of as a Christian. As someone once said: 'Christian failure is seldom a blowout; it is usually a slow leak.'