Clothed with Power from on High, Luke 24:49

Just before His ascension (40 days after His resurrection and 10 days prior to Pentecost), Jesus commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high,” Luke 24:49, ESV.

Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.

But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  Luke 24:49, ESV

This phrase describes what Jesus’ followers will experience on the Day of Pentecost. So, why did Jesus choose the word “clothed”? Answer: In order to link what His disciples will experience on Pentecost with the empowerment experienced by several Old Testament saints. The roots of Pentecost sink deep into the soil of the Old Testament.

“Clothed with Power” in the Old Testament

In three Old Testament texts, “clothed,” is a metaphor for “empowered for service.”

In their Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 528, Brown, Driver, and Briggs explain the literal meaning of three Old Testament texts that use the word “clothed.” They note that we are to translate them as follows: “the Spirit of God clothed itself with” Gideon / Amasai / Zechariah. Unfortunately, neither the ESV, NASB, nor NIV bring out this important nuance. For example, look at Judges 6:34:

Judges 6:34, ESV.  The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 

Judges 6:34, NASB.  So the Spirit of the Lord came upon [lit: clothed] Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. 

Judges 6:34, NIV.  Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 

Translators choose similar phrasing for Amasai (1 Chronicles 12:18) and Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20).

But, according to Brown, Driver, and Briggs, the literal translation in the above three cases is, The Spirit of God clothed itself with Gideon (…Amasai / …Zechariah).Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Lexicon goes on to say that “G.F. Moore understands this to mean that the Spirit of God ‘took possession of him.’” (BDB, 528)

Since the Spirit of God is a spirit, He needs hands, feet, a mind, and a mouth to get his work done.

What possesses us controls us.

These texts tell us that the Spirit of God hijacked (appropriated; borrowed) Gideon, Amasai, and Zechariah’s hands, feet, minds, and mouths, and worked powerfully from within them to accomplish His agenda.

I love that concept. Since discovering it I often pray for myself as I am entering ministry situations by saying, “Be pleased, Holy Spirit, to clothe Yourself with me.” By this prayer,

a)      I am acknowledging that I am limited. I lack the power and authority needed to do God’s work in God’s time and way.

b) I am yielding myself to the Holy Spirit’s control and inviting Him to work through me to advance our Father’s agenda in the situation at hand.

This is what happened to the 120 gathered in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit clothed Himself with them.

Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  Acts 2:2-4, ESV

This concept may lie at the base of Paul’s exhortations to the Philippians and the Ephesians.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Philippians 2:12-13, ESV

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV

Be pleased, Holy Spirit, to clothe Yourself with me.

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