HOLY SPIRIT LIKE A DOVE
Adapted sermon by Huei-Chia Chou
— California, USA
The Bible uses different metaphors
to describe the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to understand its profound
function and spiritual meaning more clearly. These metaphors make use of
familiar things to describe something more abstract.
One very important metaphor used
to describe the Holy Spirit is its likeness to doves and their unique and noble
characteristics; not only their characteristics but also their historical
significance in Noah’s time to the apostolic era to the present day.
Doves are known to be faithful to
their partners. They rarely seek a second mate in their lifetime. This is a
characteristic we ought to emulate.
I sleep, but my heart is awake;
It is the voice of my beloved!
He knocks, saying,
“Open for me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my perfect one;
For my head is covered with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night.” (Song 5:2)
Written by King Solomon, the Song
of Solomon is thought by some to be a memoir of his love life. Even though
Solomon had many concubines, it is said that he had only one true love—the
Some also say that the song is
Solomon’s description of his most beloved; but in actuality, it is not describing
the carnal love that people understand. Rather, it portrays the spiritual and
intimate relationship between God and His beloved.
God’s beloved is the Israelite
nation, and He has chosen them to be His people. Today, we are the spiritual
Israelites and He has chosen us to be His special nation. Together, we make up
the body of the church that Christ considers as His bride.
To His bride, God gives His
undivided and devoted love, just as a husband loves his wife and the same way
in which doves remain true to their partners.
Devoted love requires commitment
to one another. If there is any sign of infidelity in a marriage, there will be
problems and strife.
The book of Proverbs says that it
is impossible for a man to take fire into his bosom and not be burned (Prov
6:27), and this is the same for those with adulterous hearts towards God.
The Lord expects us to love Him
exclusively, and if we turn our love elsewhere we will incur His wrath.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know
that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to
be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that
the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
(Jam 4:4, 5)
God loves us with godly jealousy
(2 Cor 11:2, 3), and He has betrothed us to one husband in Christ Jesus. If we
lose sight of Him and become attracted to and tempted by the world, our minds
will be turned away from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Just as Jesus said, a man cannot
serve two masters: either our hearts are turned towards God or turned towards
He also gave us the Holy Spirit
so that we might always remember His love and experience Him in Spirit. The
Holy Spirit is faithful to God and to those who love God. If we chose a master
apart from God, the Holy Spirit will not continue to dwell with us.
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of
wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Mt 10:16)
This passage tells us that
another characteristic of doves is gentleness. They are innocent and docile;
attributes that the Holy Spirit shares. When we are filled with the Holy
Spirit, we will also become gentler.
The Lord Jesus Himself was a kind
and gentle man. His heart was always meek and humble, and it is these virtues
that He wanted and encouraged us to learn from Him.
During His ministry, Jesus was
filled with compassion for the sick and the demon-possessed. The Bible tells us
that He does not destroy a bruised reed nor will He extinguish a withering
Instead, He will cause the reed
to grow again, and He will rekindle the lamp. This, too, is how the Lord Jesus
treats us—with meekness, compassion, and mercy.
When we are filled with the Holy
Spirit, we naturally take on the characteristics and virtues of Christ. Through
the fullness of the Spirit, we are shaped and refined to be more like Him.
A Sign of Peace
There are many social events
where people release doves as a sign of peace. In the same way, the Holy Spirit
is our counselor and our peace, and it will reconcile us with God and motivate
us to live in harmony with others.
In the epistle that Paul wrote to
the Ephesians, he reminded the believers that it is by the gracious salvation
of Jesus Christ that we can be at peace with God. It is through the Holy Spirit
that the Jews and non-Jews are reconciled and made as one body in Christ.
Peace is one part of the fruit of
the Holy Spirit. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are able to live at
peace with everyone. Without the Holy Spirit, it is hard for us to be united in
one mind and recognize God’s will.
If each of us is filled with the
Holy Spirit, we will find it easier to have peace and humility in the body of
Christ, and we will be able to bear one another and to serve Him harmoniously.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them…
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11:6, 9)
This is a sign of harmony on the mountain of God—everyone will come and receive His
word, which will transform and enable us to live side by side without strife.
Those who were vicious as lions
in the past will become like lambs after the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
All will come to this mountain in meekness and humility so that the mountain of God will be filled with peace.
PREFIGURATION OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Early on in history, we see the
use of the dove in Noah’s time during the great flood.
After forty days and nights of
rain, Noah, his family, and all the animals in the ark waited until the right
time to come out. In order to find out how much water had receded, Noah first
released a raven. The raven did not return so Noah released a dove in its
The dove returned because it did
not have a place to rest its feet. Seven days later, Noah let out the dove
again, and this time it returned with an olive leaf. Noah sent the dove out a
third time a week later, and it did not return—a sign that the land had dried.
The sending of the dove prefigures
the three historical periods during which the Holy Spirit worked.
The dove returned the first time
because there was no clean place to set its foot and it didn’t want to defile
itself. The dove returned the second time, bringing with it an olive leaf, but
it did not return the third time.
In the Old Testament times, the
Holy Spirit strengthened the servants of God by empowering them to carry out
God’s work. But when the work was completed, the Holy Spirit returned to God
and did not remain with the servant, just as the dove was sent to do its work
the first time only to return to Noah when the work was done.
Only after the grace of salvation
through Jesus Christ, on the day of Pentecost, did the Holy Spirit descend and
dwelt among God’s people. The apostles received this Spirit and began to preach
the gospel with power, thereby establishing the apostolic church.
At the end of the apostolic era,
the Holy Spirit returned to God because the word of God began to deviate and
Christians began to turn away from Him. But the work of the apostles was not in
vain, just as the dove had returned with the olive leaf.
The olive leaf is a metaphor for
the fruits of the labor of the apostles who worked tirelessly to spread the
gospel of salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike. They sowed the seeds of God’s
plan to redeem and save us through the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus
The third time that the dove was
sent out, it did not return, and this is the sign of the end times in which we
now live. The Holy Spirit is the latter rain that will re-establish the true
The Holy Spirit will dwell with
the true church until the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and it will empower
the work of God’s ministry until the very end, when we will enter into the new
heaven and the new earth.
A NEW CREATION AND NEW LIFE
In the beginning God created the heavens and the
earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of
the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen
The first two verses of the Bible
records that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. The meaning of the word
“hover” in the original biblical text is likened to a dove preparing to fly
over the water.
Another Jewish text commonly used
as a biblical reference describes this passage to be the Spirit of God as a
dove descending upon the water, and this is probably the earliest record of the
dove as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit.
When God first created the heavens
and the earth, the earth was formless and empty, and it was filled with
darkness. It was the Spirit of God that transformed the earth from its lifeless
form to a life-giving place (Ps 104).
This is true of our spirituality.
Apart from God, our spiritual life would be in desperation and darkness.
Without Him, our life would feel empty and dissatisfied, but the Holy Spirit
brings us a new hope and a new sense of fulfillment.
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me
out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and
it was full of bones. (Ezek 37:1)
God explained this new life to the
prophet Ezekiel through a vision. He brought Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones
and asked him, “Can the dead bones be revived?” Ezekiel replied that he did not
Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy
to the bones so that a new life may enter into them. True to His words, these
dead bones grew tendons and flesh, and they rose and became a vast army.
God explained to him that these
dead bones represent the house of Israel. They were like dried dead
bones without hope, but when the breath of God entered into them, they came
This is also true for us today—the
spiritual Israelites. It is through the Spirit of God that we are able to have
hope of a new life, for His Spirit will renew us, and we can overcome the
dominion of sin and death and become a new creation.