The Descent of the Dove

Each time the spirit of God appears in scripture there seems to be a thread. It is the descent of the dove. In the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament when God’s presence shows up it is in the form of fire: the flaming torch, the burning bush, in fire and smoke, or in a pillar of fire. We see God’s special presence, the glory of God showing up as fire. Later, on the day of Pentecost, the scriptures say that “tongues of fire came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2). Here we see that because of God’s Holy Spirit, every believer is a burning bush! 

In the New Testament when the spirit of God appears there is also a thread. When we see the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus at his baptism, the voice of heaven says, “this is my son, whom I love, in him I am well pleased.” Then in Romans 8:16 we read that the “spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of god.” In Galatians it says, “the Spirit cries out Abba Father.” Do you see the common thread? It seems that the job of the spirit is to come into your spirit and tell you of God’s love for you, his delight in you, and to reassure you of the fact that you are his child. This is the inner wonder of knowing God. This is the experience of knowing you are God’s beloved son or daughter. These are those moments in your life when you say, no matter what happens, I know I am in God’s loving care. It is when your spirit can sing out from the darkest valley and proclaim from the depths: “I will fear no evil for you are with me even here.” This is the unexplainable reality of an inner wonder that comes from being filled with the Spirit. 

A 17th century preacher named Thomas Goodwin gave one of the most enduring pictures of this experience of inner wonder. He said he was watching a father and son walk down the sidewalk hand in hand one day when suddenly the father scooped up his son into his arms.  The son threw his arms around his fathers neck and they embraced.  The father whispered in his son’s ear, ‘I love you so,’ and the son said, ‘ I love you dad.’ Then the father set his son down and they kept on walking hand in hand. Goodwin asks “did anything change in the relationship between the father and son in that exchange?” Legally nothing changed, formally nothing changed, but experientially the son knew his father’s love in a special way in the moments of that embrace. This is maybe the best image of being filled with the Spirit. It is experiencing our status as beloved children, it is knowing in our bodies, through our experience, and through an inner wonder that we are in fact beloved children of God. 

Nothing but love.

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