Spirit/Breath/Wind: Ruakh (Strong’s 7307) (resh, vav, chet)
Root: ר֫וּחַ (resh, vav, chet)
Sounds like: Roo-akh. (Rhymes with Bach).
The word ruakh is translated in 3 different ways: breath, spirit and wind. Although sometimes it is clear that one word is the better translation, for the most part these words are interchangeable, starting with the very first time we read the word ruakh in the Torah:
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Breath/Spirit/Wind of God (ruakh Elohim) was moving over the surface of the waters.
BREATH OF LIFE
Ruakh is God in action. When you breathe on the palm of your hand you can feel it. You can’t see the breath, but it touches your skin. Breath is a strange thing. It is both tangible and intangible. You can sense it and feel it. It touches you, but you cannot grab it. You cannot completely control it but it completely controls you. Without it your life is snuffed out. There is a power connected to wind and breath. A strong wind can tear down a city, and breath taken away ends a human of life.
However, it is interesting to note that ruakh was not used in the first description of human creation:
Then YHWH God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed [eepokh] into his nostrils the breath of life [nishmat chayim]; and man became a living being.
This first breath is not written as ruakh. Instead the word for “breathed into” is eepoch which actually means “blew”… So YHWH breathed life (nishmat chayim) and the human took a gasp to begin life. It might better be translated like this:
Then YHWH God formed man of dust from the ground, and blew into his nostrils the gasps of life [nishmat chayim]; and man became a living being.
So this initial intake of breath- is a gasp for air and a beginning of life. Interesting that this first “Breath of Life” starts with a gasp. In Genesis 6:17 and Genesis 7:15, the phrase “Breath of Life” used the term ruakh chayim (Spirit/Breath of Life). Why?
I suggest that the initial gasp is God putting His Spirit within humanity. Once it’s there it changes from “Gasp of Life” (nishmat chayim) to “Breath/Spirit of Life” (ruakh chayim). Life, from this point forward, is embedded with the Ruakh (Spirit) of God.
In Genesis 7:22, which related what happened to life after the great flood, we get a combination of both the phrase:
So all creatures that moved on the earth perished: birds, livestock, animals, and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life [nish’mat ruakh chayim], died.
In other words, the first gasp became the last gasp and the Spirit that God gave them left them.
“Who among all these does not know that the hand of YHWH has done this? In whose hand is the soul (nefesh) of every living (chai) thing, and the breath (ruakh) of all mankind?”
God breathed life into the world, which means there is an essence of God in all creation, including YOU.
This is why you should love yourself… you should give yourself the greatest respect. Treat yourself kindly. Stop beating yourself up. For you have the breath of God within you. In point of fact, every human being does, regardless of religion, nationality, sexual orientation, political ideology, size, age, wealth and mental capacity.
But here’s the rub: It’s up to you to activate it.
ACTIVATING YOUR SPIRIT
To help with this concept of activating the ruakh (breath/spirit) within you, Yeshua presented a word picture of being “born again” (John 3:3). If your Spirit is dead, then you take a deep breath and reactivate your Spirit. It is the birth of a renewed Spirit. The Psalmist says, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). Note that renewing the Spirit, making it come alive (or in NT terms, being “born again”) starts with a cleansing of the heart, which makes the Spirit “ready”. (I suggest “ready” is a more accurate translation of “steadfast” Spirit. More on this verse later).
Once the Spirit within you is activated, you begin to grow in the Spirit. As you seek God out, the Spirit learns and graduates to new things. Check out how Isaiah described the Messiah to come:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of YHWH [ruakh YHWH] will rest on Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding [ruakh hachma u-bina], the Spirit of counsel and strength [ruakh etza u-gevoorah], the Spirit of knowledge [ruakh da-at] and the fear [reverence] of YHWH.
God’s breath/Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength and knowledge were naturally embedded in the person of Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua is our example of how to live as powerfully as possible. A relationship with your Creator awakens your Spirit and opens up various aspects of the Spirit, including wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength and knowledge. And that is not all. There is also the Spirit of Grace and Supplication:
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication [ruakh chen wey-takha-nuni, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
For believers in Yeshua we can say that our Spirit helps us recognize that Yeshua, who was pierced on the cross, is the Messiah, Son of God. It is the Spirit of Grace that takes us there.
REVIVING THE OPPRESSED SPIRIT
But even though we have this wonderful Spirit within us, it does not make us immune to sorrow and pain. Even though our Spirit is activated we can still feel tested and troubled. Even Hannah, a beautiful example of faith and hope, was “oppressed in Spirit” [q’shat ruakh] (1 Samuel 1:15). It is okay to feel this way! God understands and He is there to lift you up!
Isaiah 57:15-16, 18a
For thus says the high and exalted One who dwells in eternity, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the crushed and lowly of Spirit [dakka u-shefal ruakh], in order to revive the Spirit of the lowly [ruakh sh’falim] and to revive the heart of the crushed. For I will not contend forever, neither will I always be angry. For the Spirit [Ruakh] would grow faint before Me, even the souls of those whom I have made… I have seen his ways, but I will heal him. I will lead him and restore comfort to him”…
We may not always feel like God-warriors, or feel like we can reflect the power of God, but that’s okay. God will revive your Spirit and your heart. All we need to do is believe that the Spirit of God can do anything through us:
“Not by might [valiance], nor by power, but by my Spirit [ki b’rukhi]”, says YHWH of Hosts
[Lo b’chayil weylo b’ko-akh ki b’rukhi, amar YHWH tsabaot].
It’s not an army or physical power that changes the world, it’s YHWH’s Spirit… and that Spirit is within YOU.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Generally we think of this Spirit as the Holy Spirit. The B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) strongly emphasized the Holy Spirit:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit [Greek: Hagiou Pneumatos] who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
The New Testament is very clear on this. Use the package you have been given (your body), and with the Holy Spirit, you can change the world!
God being “Holy” and God being “Spirit” is saturated throughout the Old Testament (Tanakh), but the phrase Holy Spirit only shows up three times in the Tanakh: twice in Isaiah (Isaiah 63:10,11) as et ruakh qad’show and once in the Psalms:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast Spirit [ruakh nakown] within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit [ruakh kad’sh’ka] from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing Spirit [ruakh nadeevah].
The Psalmist was asking for a renewed ruakh nakown. This is usually translated as a steadfast Spirit, but it might more accurately be described as a ready Spirit… ready to take positive, determined, action. He then asked God not to remove his Holy Spirit, but to restore joy and sustain him with a ruakh nadeevah. This is usually translated as a willing Spirit, but also means a noble, princely, free, generous Spirit. There is a royal aspect to this- we are daughters and sons of a great King, rich in Spirit. We need to show and share God’s love in action (chesed). Our willing, generous, Spirit leads us there! In other words, a healthy Spirit is a ready and willing Spirit.
A HEALTHY SPIRIT IN ACTION
Here is what having a healthy Spirit does:
The Spirit [ruakh] of the Lord YHWH is upon me, because YHWH has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners.
The wisdom, knowledge and grace we receive by activating our Spirit leads us to this… We are to be champions for the brokenhearted and release those who feel they are caged, be it mental affliction, spiritual bankruptcy, physical ailments, anger, loneliness, anxiety, sorrow. Take the joy that the Spirit gives you and share it. So that when you feel caged, they can share it back to you! When your Spirit is activated, and on fire, your soul will be rich with an unstoppable love for all of God’s creation that surrounds you!
INTO YOUR HAND I COMMIT MY SPIRIT
But what happens to our Spirit when we die? This is an age-old question which deserves exploration. When Yeshua died on the cross he spoke these words: “Into your hand I commit my Spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Yeshua, while suffering on the cross, was quoting Psalm 31. It is probable that in his mind he recited the whole Psalm, leading him to speak that one line out loud:
In You, O YHWH, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me.
Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my Spirit [b’yad’eka apqid ruchi]; You have ransomed me, O YHWH, God of truth.
Yeshua died on the cross and expelled His last breath:
And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last [exe-pneusen].
But that was not the end of His existence! Yeshua came back, visited His disciples and breathed on them:
Now when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were together due to fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be to you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit [Pneuma Hagion].”
Before His crucifixion Yeshua had promised His disciples that He would not leave them as orphans. He would send a Helper/Advocate/Comforter for them:
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth [Greek: Pneuma tes aletheias], whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.”
Our Spirit is our direct connection to YHWH and it could not be more safe in YHWH’s hand. He will deliver us, He will rescue us, He will save us, and He will lead and guide us throughout our days on this earth. And the Spirit of God that guides us wants us to heal the brokenhearted and to have a love for all the creation that surrounds us.
Activate your Spirit! Have a relationship with your Creator! … and when your life is at its end, your Spirit will go forth to the hand of YHWH who loves you.
Next week: Soul