I was reading in Psalms when in Psalm 51:11 David says "don't take your Holy Spirit from me." My question is centered on this. Jesus says as he is preparing to leave "But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Advocate (Counselor?) won't come." (John 16:7) This leads us to believe the Holy Spirit hasn't come yet. So what does King David mean when he pleads to God about Him?
First, we need to understand what the Bible means when it refers to God being present somewhere. Second, we need to understand the difference between the way the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of believers before Christ's sacrifice and after it. And before either of those, let me clarify a bit about who the Holy Spirit is.
The Holy Spirit is God. The Bible teaches that God is one Being who eternally exists as three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Acts 5:3-4, Peter pretty clearly says that the Holy Spirit is God. You can see references to the Trinity all throughout the New Testament in places like Matthew 29:19 where Jesus tells His disciples to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as well as places like 1 Cor 12:4-6, 2 Cor 13:14, Eph 4:4-6, 1 Peter 1:2, and Jude 20-21.
Two Types of God's Presence
It's important to know that the Holy Spirit is God because we know that God is omnipresent. In other words, the Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is not confined to a box and He is not only present in specific places on earth. He is God and He is not limited by time or space.
But if the Holy Spirit is everywhere, then what's the point of asking where He is? Why would David worry that the Holy Spirit would leave him? He can't leave because He's everywhere right? Why would Jesus tell the disciples the Holy Spirit hasn't arrived yet? Just like He can't leave, He can't show up either because He is already present everywhere right?
Well, that's part of the trouble when using human language to describe an infinite God. The Bible speaks about God's presence in two general ways.
First, there is God's omnipresence. What the Bible means with this kind of presence is that God is everywhere. You can't run away or hide from Him. Nothing can keep Him away or lock Him out. He is at all times ruling and reigning over every portion of His creation.
Second, there is God's active presence. This is sometimes called God's manifest presence. What the Bible means with this kind of presence is that God is not only present, but acting in His power to accomplish a specific and special task. This is what those above passages are talking about. When David is begging God not to let the Holy Spirit leave him, he is begging God not to stop working in his life in a personal way. When Jesus says the Holy Spirit hasn't come yet, He means that He hasn't shown up to do His great work in the church yet.
Two Ways the Holy Spirit Ministers to Believers
The Holy Spirit acted very differently in the lives of Old Testament believers than He does now in the lives of believers like you and me. In the Old Testament, we often see the Holy Spirit actively showing up in the life of a believer for a short period of time to help them accomplish a specific task and then departing when the task was done or when the person sinned greatly. In Judges, we see the Holy Spirit coming to occasionally empower Samson, leaving when he breaks his Nazerite vow, and returning when Samson prays one last time. In Psalm 51 mentioned in the question at the beginning, we see David begging the Holy Spirit not to leave after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. The only place that God's presence actively dwelt on any sort of permanent basis in the Old Testament was the Temple of God in Jerusalem.
There is a dynamic and critical change after Jesus' death and resurrection. Because Jesus' death was the final sacrifice to pay for sins once and for all, the place that God chooses to permanently dwell completely changes. God no longer causes His active presence to rest in the Temple in Jerusalem, instead He chooses a new Temple to dwell in. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies (those who have believed in Christ) are the new Temples of God. The Holy Spirit now dwells actively in us to guide us and empower us on a day to day basis. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that the Holy Spirit no longer comes and goes but has permanently been sealed within believers for good by saying, "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit."
That's the kind of presence of the Holy Spirit Jesus was talking about when He told His disciples He was going to send the Holy Spirit. After Jesus returned to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to permanently take up residence within all believers everywhere.
Where in the World is the Holy Spirit?
In a real sense, the Holy Spirit is everywhere. There is not a place you can go to escape His presence.
In another sense, the Holy Spirit is actively present and working within every single person who believes in Christ. This presence is permanent with no take backs. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would only come and go among believers. But you and I are blessed with a great gift! The Holy Spirit is daily and always alive and working within us to guide us, encourage us, empower us, convict us, correct us, and conform us to be more and more like Christ. David had to beg for the Holy Spirit to remain with him and you and I will never have that problem. Praise God!
- Have you received the Holy Spirit to empower your life by placing your faith in Christ? If not, today is the day! Trust in Christ to save you from your sins and tell a pastor or Christian friend you know so they can help you take your first steps of faith!
- Are you trying to live your life day to day on your own strength or are you daily leaning on and relying on the Holy Spirit? What struggles or burdens can you ask the Holy Spirit for help with right now?
- Got a question of your own? Click HERE to ask!