Before the Spirit of Truth Arrived
Joel’s prophecy shows that prior to the pouring out of the spirit of truth, mankind did not have truth. He had understanding, knowledge, counsel, and wisdom, but he did not have truth. Note the words of Isaiah:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord - and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
– Isaiah 11:1-3
Truth pertains to origins and destinies, meanings and values, not only ‘how’ or ‘what,’ but ‘why.’ Truth about origins and destinies was reserved for a future time, namely, when Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry to mankind.
As a preliminary step toward leading man to truth, God prompted Moses to organize a people. Instead of truth and spiritual realities, Moses gave them “the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:5) The entire book of Hebrews discusses these early primers and shows that, instead of truth, the Israelites were given a tutor leading to truth. (Galatians 3:24)
Additionally, the nation of Israel only had an elementary understanding of God, his nature and his true relationship with man. They viewed God as a wrathful, jealous potentate much like young children view a focused and determined earthly father. Their immaturity prevents them from grasping the love that motivates their father’s actions. It is not until they reach the full stature of a man that they can look back and see a loving and faithful father. We recall that the nation of Israel began as a bedouin tribe of nomads. They were hardly ready for a revelation of truth about their origins and destiny. Moses’ presentation of the story of Adam and Eve sufficiently satisfied their curiosity about who they were and why they had to submit to Moses’ direction. But the more weightier matters surrounding this account had to wait for a further revelation.
Even the prophesies of their prophets alluded them. In all that Isaiah, Ezekiel, the psalmists and others wrote about peaceful conditions, the Israelites always applied them to conditions that would prevail on earth. It never occurred to them that they were being exposed to “truly life” in heaven. (1 Timothy 6:19) It would have been like teaching physics to 2nd graders. Not only would it have been a waste of time, it would have discouraged them from pursuing the worship of Jehovah. It is not an accident that Moses started from the ground up in developing the godly devotion of Israel. And as Joel prophesied, the spirit of truth would have to await a future time.
Not only the Israelites, but no nation had a real understanding of truth. History records valiant efforts to arrive at truth by many nations around the world. A review of ancient books of other nations reveals much knowledge, understanding, counsel and wisdom. Wisdom was the closest mankind came to truth – the ability to use knowledge to live successfully and peacefully with one another. Their attempts to go beyond the mundane and arrive at truth resulted in superstitions, myths and fantasies, many of which continue to fascinate man today. None of these theories or teachings lead mankind to the ‘door’ to truth and to heaven. (John 10:9)
No, man did not have an awareness or cognizance of heavenly matters. Thus, he could not comprehend and accept truth. He had no frame of reference within which to place an understanding of his true origin and destiny. Such matters would have to wait until a greater revelation was given, the revelation contained within Jesus Christ.