Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:32-33)
Read: Job 8:1 – 11:20
Relate: When studying the Bible, there is a rule to keep in mind called the Law of First Mention. Basically what this means is that often when a thing or idea is first mentioned in the Bible it sets the tone for the theme that word or concept will carry throughout scripture. A couple examples of this would be the serpent representing Satan/temptation and oil representing consecration. The first time the dove is mentioned in the Bible is with Noah while in the ark. The tempest had stopped but the flood waters had not yet receded. Noah sends out two birds. The first was a raven that did not return. The second was a dove. That dove flew around for a little while and then returned to the ark. When it did, it was carrying an olive branch.
So what does the dove represent? It is a symbol of hope and peace. The wrath of God that destroyed the world in a flood has passed and a new era has begun. The time of death and destruction is at an end and now an olive branch has been extended. With this, and for so many other reasons, it is significant that when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, He did so in the likeness of a dove. Jesus is beginning a new ministry and that ministry is one of promise and peace. The time of the wrath of God has come to an end. An olive branch has been extended and a way for reconciliation has now begun. A new dawn has come in which we can have peace with God.
React: As beautiful as the symbolism of the dove is, all too often I find myself following the way of the raven instead. Noah’s raven decided to go its own way. Unlike the dove, the raven is a carrion eater. As it flew back and forth waiting for the waters to recede, it would have been able to feed on the death that rose to the surface of those waters. When we go our own way rather than following the way God offers to us, which is Jesus, we are doing the same. Apart from Christ this world has nothing but death to offer us. How often are we gorging ourselves on it? There is a hope offered. There is a peace available to us. His name is Jesus.
I am so grateful, Peacebringer, that You have come. You, who were baptized by John, baptize my heart. You, on whom the Spirit descended, pour out that same Spirit on me. I am desperate for You. Without the power of Your promised Holy Spirit, I have nothing to offer this world. Extend the olive branch. I surrender my life that You may give to me the peace that is beyond understanding. You who have come into this world, take up residence in my heart.