Emblems of the Holy Spirit-the Dove


Emblems of the Holy Spirit-the Dove

July 11th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Luke 3:21-22

7-11-65    8:15 a.m.


Now on the radio, listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Emblems of the Holy Spirit.  And the beginning sermon on this long series is found as a text and as an introduction in Luke 3:21-22:

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.

There is a simile there:  “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove, like a dove” [Luke 3:22].  The Bible is a book of similitudes.  In the twelfth chapter of Hosea, verses 9 and 10, “I am the Lord thy God.  I have used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets” [Hosea 12:9-10].  The Bible is a book of similitudes.  It is a book of similes.  It is a book of metaphors.  It is a book of allegories.  It is a book of parables.  It is a book of types.  It is a book of emblems.  It is a book of symbols.  It is a book of similes, comparing one thing to another.

In the one hundred second Psalm, for example, the depressed and despairing psalmist says, “I am like a pelican in the wilderness:  I am like an owl in the desert” [Psalm 102:6], a simile.  In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Proverbs, Solomon says, “As cool water to a thirsty man, so is good news from a far country” [Proverbs 25:25].  In the Song of Solomon 1:9, he compares his beloved to a horse.  To us that is a little different.  I heard a fellow stand up and announce his song, he said, “I am going to sing a song entitled ‘You Stole my Wife You Horse Thief.’”  But to that day and to that time, horses were imported out of India to Egypt.  They were very costly and very precious.  And none but the very rich could possess them.  So when he compares his beloved to a horse [Song of Solomon 1:9], he is speaking of her costliness and her preciousness.  That is a simile.

The Bible is a book of metaphors.  A metaphor is calling one thing by the name of another.  One thing stands for another.  In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, when the prophet says, “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter” [Isaiah 53:7], that is a simile; but when John the Baptist, in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, says, “Behold the Lamb of God” [John 1:29], that is a metaphor.

The Bible is a book of allegories.  An allegory is an extended metaphor.  It is a story told in metaphorical language, calling things that mean something else.  For example, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Judges, Jotham tells an allegory.  You remember it; the story of the refusal of the olive tree, and the fig tree, and the vine to rule over the trees of the forest?  So they asked the bramble to rule over them, and he accepted [Judges 9:8-15].  He was telling an allegory of the cruel life of Abimelech.

The Bible is a book of parables.  A parable is a factual story illustrating some truth.  A little girl called it “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”  In the [thirteenth] chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord tells seven kingdom parables [Matthew 13:1-50].

It is a book of types.  A type is a thing or an incident, an event that prefigures another thing or incident, the antitype.  For example, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed on the day that Egypt lost their slaves and Israel marched out under the hand of God [Exodus 12:1-51]; in the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7].  The Passover lamb is a type of the sacrifice of Jesus [1 Corinthians 5:7].  Speaking to Nicodemus, our Lord said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14].  The raising of the brazen serpent in the wilderness was a type of the raising up of our Lord on the cross [Numbers 21:8-9].

An emblem is an object that represents an idea, or a truth, or an organization, or a spiritual idea.  It’s a visible image, a visible token, a visible mark, a visible object of an invisible truth or object.  An emblem has in it the idea that is associated with what it represents.  A circle could be an emblem of eternity; it has neither beginning nor ending.  A dove is an emblem of peace.  The red, white, and the blue with its starry field is an emblem of the United States of America.  Or the great soaring eagle is an emblem of the United States.  Or the cross is an emblem of the Christian faith.

There are characteristics of the emblem that bring to mind the associated remembrances of what it represents.  A symbol is arbitrary.  A symbol can be anything.  There are all kinds of symbols in algebra, in geometry, throughout mathematics, in astronomy.  In the whole political world a swastika is a symbol of a Nazi.  A donkey is a symbol of a Democrat.  How that came to be, I don’t know, and I’m not saying anything about it, I’m just pointing it out.

Now the emblem is the word that we ought to use as we follow through these similitudes of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Bible.  Sometimes that similitude will be a dove; sometimes a seal; sometimes the wind; sometimes the water; sometimes the fire; sometimes the clothing, “the Holy Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon” [Judges 6:34].  Sometimes it will be an earnest, the promise, a down payment.  But in any event, and in each event, the emblem carries with it some of the characteristics of the object or the person that the emblem is representing.

So today we’re going to take one of them.  Shows you how slow it is preparing these messages; I intended in one sermon to speak of all of the emblems of the Holy Spirit here in the Bible.  I finally, when I was done preparing it, I had taken up all of the time at this hour with just one of them, and that is the dove.  In the passage that I read, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily shape, in bodily form as a dove [Luke 3:22].

The Bible is a marvelous and wondrous book.  It is like a mountain.  It rises and rises in progressive elevation, yet it has a unity of substance.  A mountain is still one, however high and upward it may reach.  The poet Shelley said, “The mountain kisses high heaven, and the waves of the sea clasp one another.”  So the Bible in its elevation kisses the very throne of God in its testimony, and so the Old Testament and the New Testament clasp one another in their portrayal of the great revelation of God.  And we find in these similitudes, in these emblems and types, we find in the Old Testament these marvelous things that God made come to pass, brought into reality, in this present age of grace in which we live.

Now one of those emblems is the dove, as we find him in the Old Testament, and as finally its full meaning came to us in the revelation of the New Testament.  First verses in the Bible:  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1].  Now we’re looking at the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a bird, of a dove [Luke 3:22].  “And the earth was tohu wabohu, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God rachaph, rachaph upon the face of the waters” [Genesis 1:2].  We’re not told in the Bible what happened.  God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth became tohu wabohu, desolate, uninhabitable, waste, void [Genesis 1:2].  We’re not told what made it that way.

All that we’re told in the Bible is in the forty-fifth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and the eighteenth verse, where the prophet says, “Thus saith the Lord that created, bara,” out of nothing, by fiat, spoke it into existence, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God that formed the earth and made it; He created it not tohu, waste, desolate, void, uninhabitable” [Isaiah 45:18].  That’s all we’re told in the Bible, that it became waste, and desolate, and destroyed, and ruined, and void.

We would suppose that what happened to this world and to this creation was the judgment of God upon sin.  And evidently it was the sin of Satan, the anointed cherub, and his angels in heaven.  We have no other intimation and no other explanation, but the awful judgment of God upon sin found in that cherub that covereth [Ezekiel 28:14], the one that God made to be the steward of all of His creation, who walked in the glory of the jewels of fire—sin was found in him [Ezekiel 28:15].  And the judgment of God upon sin brought this destruction and this waste in God’s creation [Genesis 1:2].  That seems to have been a pattern in the character of God, wherever there is sin, there is terrible judgment.

You have an instance of this using those same identical words, tohu wabohu, “desolate and waste,” in the thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, describing there the day of the Lord and the awful battle of Armageddon.  He speaks of the desolation of the world after the judgments of God as being tohu wabohu, translated here “confusion and emptiness” [Isaiah 34:11], translated here in the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis, “without form and void” [Genesis 1:2].

But what happens always in the character of God, however God is, when there is judgment upon sin, and when there is desolation, and emptiness, and destruction, there is also, and apparently inevitably, there is also the brooding, the rachaph  “And the Spirit of God rachaph, brooded, over the face of the waters” [Genesis 1:2].  In the Book of Deuteronomy, that same word rachaph, “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord did Israel” [Deuteronomy 32:11-12].  Now that word, “As an eagle rachaph, fluttereth,” it’s interesting that the Vulgate translation of the Hebrew Scriptures translates that word rachaph, translated incubate, incubate.  And the idea in so many versions, and in that Hebrew word itself, is of a bird over a nest, warming gently, tenderly, patiently into life a nest of eggs.  So the Spirit of God seemingly does that after the judgment of God upon sin [Genesis 1:2].

It was so in this creation; God’s beautiful universe, then the destruction that came through sin, then the Spirit of God brooding gently, tenderly, bringing the marvelous order and life out of the chaos of waste [Genesis 1:1-2].  Seemingly the same thing happened again in God’s beautiful Eden.  And then sin entered the glorious garden of God [Genesis 3:1-6].  And after the judgment, and the waste, and the thorn, and the thistle, and the death [Genesis 3:14-19], then the cherubim at the east of the garden [Genesis 3:24], they are symbols, they are emblems of the mercy and grace of God, brooding, wooing the man back to the faith of the Father [Genesis 1:2].

Seemingly that same thing happens at the consummation of the age.  In that vile iniquity of the world, there is the awesome judgment of God [Revelation 14:18-20, 19:15]; then the new heaven and the new earth, the creation of the Holy Spirit of God [Revelation 21:1].  So the pattern in the Bible reflecting the character of the Almighty:  there is always, where there is sin, there is judgment! [John 16:8].  And in judgment there is waste, and void, and destruction but always followed by the brooding of the Holy Spirit, bringing life out of death and order out of chaos, God’s new heaven and God’s new earth [Revelation 21:1].

We see it wonderfully in the story of the judgment of God upon the antediluvians:

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

And he sent forth a raven, and the raven went to and fro, and never returned.

Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the ground;

But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. . .

And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;

And the dove came to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off. . .

And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more—

[Genesis 8:6-12]

the emblem of the dove, sent out of the ark into the earth; the emblem of the dove upon Jesus at His baptism [Luke 3:22].

You see, when he sent forth the raven, the raven returned not to the ark [Genesis 8:6-7]; for the raven is a voracious, carnivorous fowl.  It eats carrion.  It eats flesh.  It’s like the crow.  It’s like the cormorant.  It’s like the vulture.  It’s like the buzzard.  In the Book of Leviticus, it is expressly declared unclean and unfit for sacrifice [Leviticus 11:13-15].  And when the raven was sent out, the whole earth was covered with bloated bodies.  And the raven, the carnivorous vulture, found food and rest on one floating dead body after another.  And it went to and fro in the earth, devouring those putrid and corrupting corpses [Genesis 8:6-7].

But the dove is a clean animal.  It is expressly offered in the ceremonial law as a sacrifice [Leviticus 1:14].  And when the dove was sent from the ark, it was repulsed by the putrid masses of the judgments of God upon sin.  And when first the dove was sent out, there was no rest for the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:8-9].  Josephus says, “She returned with her feet and her wings muddy and dirty,” a testimony of God against the awful sin of the world, the judgment of God, death, corruption, waste, void, destruction.   And the dove came back, a testimony to the awfulness of that day of visitation.  He sent the dove once again.  And this time when she returned she had an olive leaf plucked; a word of promise and of hope [Genesis 8:10-11]. And the third time he sent the dove, the judgment had passed, the waters had been assuaged, and the dove remained, aboded, stayed in the earth [Genesis 8:12].

So when the Scriptures say after our Lord went through the baptismal waters [Luke 12:50]; after the Lord went through the swollen stream of the Jordan [Matthew 3:13]; death [1 Corinthians 15:3], and judgment [1 Peter 2:24], and suffering, and crucifixion [Matthew 27:31], and burial [1 Corinthians 15:4], after the judgment of God [Mark 10:38], in the waters of the swollen river [Matthew 3:13, 16], then the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove [Matthew 3:16], just as it was here in the days of the judgment of God upon the antediluvians [Genesis 8:8-12], then the Holy Spirit of God came upon the Lord Jesus [Matthew 3:16].  First the judgment [1 Corinthians 15:3], first the baptismal waters [Matthew 3:13-16], first the dying [1 Corinthians 15:3], first the substitutionary sacrifice, first the burial [1 Corinthians 15:4]; then the Pentecost [Acts 2:1], the coming of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:2-4], the sweetness of the presence of God finding a tabernacle, a resting place for the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:8-12]upon this representative man, even Jesus our Lord [Matthew 3:16].

Had there been no Calvary [Luke 23:33], had there been no death and burial [1 Corinthians 15:3-4], had there been no suffering [1 Peter 3:18], had there been no judgment of God upon our sins [1 Peter 2:24], there had been no blessing of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]; but when Jesus, the representative man, suffered and died [1 Peter 3:18], and all of the judgment upon our sin fell upon Him [1 Peter 2:24], then the blessing of the Holy Spirit of God, the emblem of the dove, comes and rests upon Him [Matthew 3:16], and rests upon us [Acts 1:8].  For you see, in the story of our Lord as recounted by John, John adds a little word there.  He says, “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and menō, abode upon Him,” dwelt upon Him, stayed upon Him [John 1:32-33].  She found a resting place for the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:8-12].  In the Old Testament she went back and forth, back and forth [Genesis 8:6-11]; but in the representative man, Jesus the second Adam, she found an abiding place and she stayed [Luke 4:18].

And our Lord, as our Savior, avows that remaining of the Holy Spirit of God with us.  Three times with reference to the Holy Spirit is that Greek preposition meta used.  One is in John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of God, that He may meta, that He may abide with you for ever” [John 14:16-17];  a resting place for the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:8-12].  Second time it is used is in the glorious benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion, the fellowship, of the Holy Spirit be meta, with you, forever.”  The third time it is used is in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, “For ye received the word,” the gospel of Jesus, meta, “with joy of the Holy Spirit.” “That He may abide with you for ever” [John 14:16-17].  She found a resting place for the sole of her foot [Genesis 8:8-12], and remained, abiding with us in our souls, in our hearts, in our lives—the Spirit of God with us forever! [John 14:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-14].

Now I want to preach to you just a second.  Then the time’s gone.  May I close, and I have just a moment left.  May I close with an appeal?

Oh, to listen, to be quiet, to heed, to learn, to be taught by the Holy Spirit of God, who finds a resting place in our souls [Genesis 8:8-12].  John Ruskin wrote to a young friend, Katie, and said to her––and you children who, you youngsters, you young people, young men and women, whenever you sing, you must count, and there are rests in the music.  And the rest makes the music, if it were all just one note or one chord, why, you’d say, “Oh, oh, oh.”  But the rests that break it up make it music––now that’s what John Ruskin’s talking about.  Now listen as he says:

There is no music in a rest, Katie,

there is no music in a rest, Katie, that I know of.

But there is the making of music in it.

People are always missing that part of the life melody, and scrambling on without counting.

People are always talking of perseverance, and courage, and fortitude,

But patient waiting is the finest and worthiest, and the rarest too.

In every life there is a pause that is better than onward rush.

Better than hewing or mightiest doing,

‘tis the standing still at Sovereign will

There’s a hush that is better than ardent speech,

Better than sighing or wilderness crying,

‘tis the being still at Sovereign will

The pause and the hush sing a double song,

In unison low and for all time long; Oh human soul,

God’s working plan goes on, nor needs the aid of man;

Stand still and see, be still and know.

[“The Ethics of the Dust,” John Ruskin, 1875]


And when Israel cried to Moses, “Pharaoh’s army is here, and the sea is in front, and the mountains are on either side, and what shall we do?”  And Moses took it to God, and the Lord said, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” [Exodus 14:13].  And the waves parted, and God saved His people [Exodus 14:21-22].  And the psalmist, so disturbed, “I am like a pelican in the wilderness; I am like an owl in the desert” [Psalm 102:6] . . . “Be still, and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10]; listening to the voice of heaven in our souls, for He finds a resting place, a dwelling place, in His saints [Genesis 8:8-12].

Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, open your heart to the blessed Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], a family you coming into the fellowship of the church; as God shall say the word and lead in the way, come this morning.  On the first note of the first stanza, when we sing the hymn, stand up coming, “Here I am, pastor, I decide today,” while we stand and while we sing.