This is one of the most beautiful, and deepest themes of the Bible. Nothing, to our thought, expresses a closer, or even so close, an union between God and man. It is so deep and high that some close their eyes in unbelief when you speak of man being inspired of God. They are ready to admit that the writers of the New Testament were inspired of God, but no others have been but them. Just as distinct an inspiration from God is necessary to the preaching of the Bible as there was to the writing. God does not inspire all men to do the same work, but no one can do God’s work except he be inspired. Bezaleel could never have constructed the tabernacle except he had been inspired of God (Exodus 35:30-35). Bezaleel means “in the shadow of God.” Just as your shadow, in its movements, follows your movements, so Bezaleel followed the impulses, or the inbreathing of God. The word inspiration means inbreathing. The poet states a fact when he says, “By His breath I live and move.”* In the creation of man, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. The spirit of man was formed by the inbreathing of God as the body was formed from the dust of the ground. Surely Genesis 2:7 teaches this. It was by God’s breathing into man that the soul was created, just as out of the dust, the body was created. Jesus breathed upon His disciples and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” (John 20:22) The Holy Spirit came like a wind from heaven. The Bible tells us, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) The Spirit teaches man all things. This teaching is nothing less than inspiration or the inbreathing of God. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44) This drawing is the inspiration of God. God draws by breathing in a man a feeling, a thought of coming to Jesus. Such thoughts and feelings have come to all men. We call it the Spirit’s wooing, the Father’s drawing, and so it is, and means the Father’s inspiration or inbreathing. The Holy Spirit is to dwell in us, walk in us, witness in our hearts.
We are led by the Spirit. Did you ever consider what it meant to be led by the Spirit? The bird is led to build its nest, the spider to weave its web, the migrating fowl to fly southward in autumn and northward in the spring. These are all taught of God. We call this instinct. Man is to be taught the ways of life, to have his steps ordered by the Lord, to have his way directed, to do all in the name of Jesus, by the inspiration of God as the bird is led by instinct. Philip was spoken unto by the Spirit and told to join himself to the Ethiopian’s chariot. Then it is said that the Spirit caught Philip away so the Ethiopian saw him no more, and Philip was found at Azotus (Acts 8:39-40). We are not to understand that the Spirit carried Philip over hill top and tree top, but that the Spirit led Philip to go to Azotus after baptizing the Ethiopian. See Acts 8:26-40. The Holy Spirit said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Paul thought to go to a certain place but the Spirit suffered him not (Acts 16:7). How is this being spoken unto and led by the Spirit to be wrought out in our life? Or is it to be supposed that man today cannot be spoken unto and led by the Spirit as men were in those early days of Christianity? Please ponder these words, and they will teach you a deep lesson. “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” (Job 32:8) It is by the inspiration, or the inbreathing, of God in the spirit of man that man has understanding of God and of all the ways of life.
In a preceding chapter, we spoke of saying more about how to know the will of God. Here is the precious secret. Man can know the will of God by the inbreathing of God in his spirit. As the bird is given understanding by instinct, so man can have understanding by the inspiration of the Almighty. The bird receives impulses from the southland, man receives impulses from God.
“Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.”*
We can be moved by the impulse of the southland. If not, why not? Just as the crystal can be radiated by light, so the spirit of man can be permeated and enlightened by the inbreathing of the Almighty.
The writer has made his mistakes in life, not because of a lack of sincerity, but because of obeying other impulses rather than the impulse of God. Because man is in the flesh, he is liable to other influences; he is a creature subject to other impulses, but is it not his privilege to live so near to God and be so filled by the Spirit that Jesus Christ will be the controlling influence in his life? Humanity is weak, yes, very weak, and the more we live in our humanity, the weaker we will be, but the more we live by the power of God, the stronger we will be. The reason Paul gloried in tribulations was because they caused him to live less in his humanity and more in God. He says, “When I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) By this, he means when it is less “I” that lives and more that Christ lives in me, then I am strong. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) While our mistakes and weaknesses have been serious enough, we are not ready to admit that this is inevitable. We are encouraged to believe the lessons we have learned will prove sufficient to enable us to move more perfectly “at the impulse of His love” the remaining days of life.
Some may think that we get a great portion of our knowledge of God’s will through His Word. This is very true, but except the word of God comes as an inspiration to our hearts, we will get no understanding of His thoughts toward us. The word of God is Spirit, and it is life (John 6:63). Man cannot know God’s will simply through his intelligence or human wisdom. The preaching of the Word of God is foolishness to the worldly wise. It is when the Word of God is preached in the Spirit or read in the Spirit that it comes as an inspiration from heaven; then, we know God’s will through His Word.
Let me repeat what was said in a former chapter that it was a deep and beautiful conception of the poet who desired that her hands be moved at the impulse of God’s love. How many have sung these words, little realizing their depth of meaning. It was, however, a true conception, and one that was inspired by the inbreathing into the soul of the writer. It is in God that we live and move and have our being. There is a spirit in man, and his spirit can be indwelt by God’s Spirit so that man can receive impulses from God as truly as a receiving station can receive vibrations from a broadcasting station. We are surprised, astonished, amazed, at the wonders of radio, but the wonders of the communication of God’s will to the soul of man is still more wonderful, and blessed is the man who gets in such communication.
“My sheep hear my voice,” said Jesus, “and they follow me.” (John 10:27) They will not follow a stranger. They are able to distinguish between the voice of Jesus and the voice of a stranger. Someone may ask if there is not great danger of mistaking the voice of a stranger for the voice of Jesus? Not necessarily. If we live in humble obedience to God’s word, pray as we should, keep filled with the Spirit, we can know when it is Jesus speaking and when it is a stranger. Are there any who are living thus close to God? Yes, a few we call to mind, a number, but especially are we reminded of a colored sister—she can scarcely read the Bible but can tell readily the voice of a stranger from the voice of Jesus. What is meant by hearing the voice of Jesus? It is the inspiration of God to the spirit of man giving him understanding. Many who were once walking in the beautiful light of God and had understanding of God’s will and way by His inbreathing with their spirit are now walking with the world and know not the voice of Jesus.
We have occasion again to give warning against minding the things of the flesh. Herein lies the Christian’s greatest danger. “Walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13) There are men and ministers who years ago told me I was too zealous in giving warning against minding the things of the flesh, but these men today are living to the flesh, ministers greedy of filthy lucre, and blinded by worldliness. Listen to Peter’s solemn warning, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) The word beseech implies great earnestness because of grave danger. In the various translations, it is rendered, “appeal,” “urge,” “entreat,” “implore,” “warn,” etc. We are strangers in the world and not only strangers, but also are on a journey—we are strangers here in the world, just passing through it, and it is altogether out of place and unbecoming, and contrary to our heavenly nature to become attached to anything of earth. We beg of you to study the life of Jesus, and note how He went through this world. His life is the model life. Just a little undue attachment to any earthly thing will dull the soul’s sensibilities, until it cannot receive the impulses of God. The soul must be kept sensitive, by the Holy Spirit, to heavenly things to be able to receive impressions from the Lord. We speak kindly, and in sympathy with all, but we do fear that many a child of God is taking too much thought about earthly things, is striving to get around them something of this world to the neglect of their soul’s best interest, laboring to the neglect of prayer, spending money for things that are nice and convenient, humanly speaking, but could have been sacrificed for the helping of God’s cause and been far more pleasing to Him. You say you do not have the power in your life that you would like, you do not have the joy in prayer, God is not as real to you as you wish, you do not get the help in healing of your body as you believe to be your privilege, you do not have the unction of the Holy Spirit upon your soul in heavenly sweetness. It is because however unconscious of it you may be, you are too much in the flesh and not enough in the Spirit.
A word more in the conclusion of this chapter. In Isaiah are these words, “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:3) These words were spoken of Jesus, but they are applicable to man filled with the Holy Spirit. It is our privilege to be of “quick understanding in the fear of the LORD,” by the inspiration of the Almighty. In the margin of the Bible, you will notice that instead of “understanding,” it is “scent” or “smell.” The things that are spoken of in verse two shall rest upon Jesus, and these shall make Him of quick scent. Now the spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of might, of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord will also rest upon every child of God that will come close to God, and they will make him quick-scented. There are depths in these words. It is our privilege to detect spiritual ill-odors. If you live in the impure air of an unventilated room, you cannot detect the foulness of the air, but if you will step outside and breathe the pure air of the outside world awhile and then step inside that room, you will scent the ill-odor. Those who live too much in the flesh and the love of earthly things cannot detect the deadly spiritual miasma that is lurking there, but if they would step into God and breathe for a time the atmosphere of heaven, and let Him breathe the Spirit in us, then we will be quick to scent the corruption of the decaying flesh. We need to live much in the Spirit and the fear of the Lord that we may be able to detect the ill-odor in some things. This thing seems to be necessary; this will be very convenient; this will be quite useful; I need this badly; this literature is harmless; this fellowship will not affect me; this amusement is innocent. And all the while, there is a smell of fleshliness about these things we have not been able to detect, and we wonder why we cannot understand God’s will more perfectly. If you will read Hebrews 5:12-14 you will learn that it is our privilege and duty to cultivate our spiritual senses to the degree that we can know what is good and what is evil. Because of the importance of this subject, we loathe to leave it. There are many other Bible examples and texts teaching us how to know the will of God by His inbreathing into our spirit, but we must, for want of space, conclude, praying that we all may so walk in the Spirit that the inspiration of the Almighty can give us understanding of His will.
He who teaches the spider how to build its trap and weave its web and teaches the bird how to rear its young, can teach us of His will and of His way. If we will walk in the Spirit, He will breathe upon us a knowledge of His will in all the details of life.