Friday, November 4, 2016

The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is The Lord who Helps, "Jehovah-Ezer"

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John 14:16-17 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."

Today's post is about the way in which Jesus uses a particular title for the Holy Spirit to refer to the Spirit's Personality and Deity. What is that title? In the opening verse above we find the underlined word: "Helper". This word is rich in meaning, rendered by English translations as "Advocate" (New Living Translation and Lexham English Bible); "Counselor" (HCSB); "Comforter" (KJV) and of course "Helper" (NASB above, as well as the ESV, NKJV and New Century Version). 

What makes this particular title "Helper" so important in Jesus' teaching on the Holy Spirit is in the Old Testament background from whence He is drawing. The Divine nature of the Holy Spirit as the God Who assists His people is in view. As one Bible teacher has noted, The idea of "Helper" or "Advocate" doesn't refer to someone strengthening you after a trial or test, but giving you strength prior to or during the ordeal. With that brief introduction to the meaning of "Helper", we can now consider how this title is used of Yahweh, Jehovah God in the Old Testament, and why this title points us to the Personhood and Deity of the Holy Spirit.

"The Lord our Helper" in the Old Testament is identified as the Holy Spirit
Like we noted already, Jesus uses this title "Helper" to refer to the Holy Spirit in his final teaching on the eve of crucifixion. In John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26 and 16:8 we find this descriptor used by Jesus to refer to the Holy Spirit. 

As one scans the Old Testament material, a treasure-trove of references to this title are discovered. In one of the earliest references we find these words in Deuteronomy 33:29“Blessed are you, O Israel; Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, Who is the shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, And you will tread upon their high places.” 

In the Psalms we find a personal appeal to Yahweh in Psalm 30:10 “Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” Psalm 54:4 has similar wording - "Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul."  

As we continue to survey the Old Testament material, we not only find Yahweh to be "The Helper" by name (i.e "Jehovah-Ezer = LORD who helps), but also in actions. Whenever one turns to the book of Judges, the Lord is not only found helping His people in delivering them from their enemies by the hands of the judges, but specific reference is made to the Person of the Holy Spirit as doing the delivering. Judges 3:9-10b for example states - "When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel." Or again, in Judges 14:19 we read of Samson - "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house."

References such as the ones above provide the backdrop for what would had been Jesus' usage of the particular term translated "Helper" in John 14-16. 

The Holy Spirit is truly the LORD God who helps, Jehovah Ezer
In thinking on the Divine names associated with this idea of "The Lord our Helper", many of the passages surveyed reveal two names: "The God Who helps" or "Elohim-Ezer" and "The LORD who helps" or "Yahweh- Ezer". The Person of the Holy Spirit is intentionally revealed by Jesus to be none other than "Yahweh (Jehovah)-Ezer"and "Elohim-Ezer". All three Persons of the Trinity share in the same divine nature, and thus, whatever we can say about one of the Persons touching their Deity, we can say of the other two. The Son Himself is identified in terms of being "The Helper" or as we often see in the case of 1 John 2:1, "the advocate". Hebrews 13:6 speaks of the Son as the "Helper" - “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Consequently, the writer of Hebrews is quoting Psalm 118:6 "The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?" 

In the Old Testament passages quoted earlier, especially in Deuteronomy, although we may not be always able to tell which Person is being referenced, we can say that in the Deuteronomy text, the Father appears to be the focus. So if anything, Jesus' use of this title for the Holy Spirit serves to assert His deity and Personhood. The New Testament emphasizes the deity of the Holy Spirit in such passages as Hebrews 9:14 - "how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

Closing thoughts:
So why does it matter that we understand the Holy Spirit as "the Helper" or as "Jehovah-Ezer", "The Lord who helps"? First, as truly God, the Holy Spirit personally works in every believer, meaning that in effect, no one can say that God is absent in their life. There may be those moments where we cannot sense His presence due to either unconfessed sin or the sheer enormity of the situation. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit's indwelling of the Christian means they have the Divine Helper (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). 

Second, as "The Helper", as "Jehovah-Ezer", the Holy Spirit delivers to us all that Christ is and points the way to the Father. By the Person of the Holy Spirit, we have access to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father. 

Then finally, since we have the Holy Spirit operating in our world (see John 16:7-12), God is not absent after all! The doctrine of the Trinity guarantees that God is ever present in heaven and in our space-time universe. Particularly, the Person of the Holy Spirit's sharing in the same essence with the Son and the Father insures that when we experience His working, we are truly experiencing God. 

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