We’ve been on a journey looking through some of the themes found in Psalms. We learned this book of the Bible is like a communal journal… a diary expressing every aspect of the emotional spectrum. From extreme distress—“I’m going to die if you don’t intervene,” to, “I’m so ridiculously happy, I am going to explode.” Paraphrasing.
Because this is a collective of genuine, heart-felt, raw, emotional songs, it gives us great insight into the Israelites understanding of who Yahweh was and who they were in relation to their Covenant God, and each other.
Story So Far
So far, we have looked at how they perceived God to be:
- The Great King Enthroned in heaven
- The Avenger of Blood
- Who would be glorified… in His timing, not theirs
- And accepted no Rivals
However, we have also seen how he was considered:
Today we are taking a side-step and considering how the Israelites saw themselves in light of God’s election. We are considering the theme of Anointed. What does the word even mean, who was anointed, why, how and for what purpose.
What Does that Even Mean?
In the OT we read of how, for a few elect people and objects, anointing was a sign of God’s election. These people and or things were to be set apart and used for God’s glory and purposes. Anointing was not unique to Israel, it was a practice carried out by kings to their officials and vassals, anointing them for service established their subordinate relationship to him. Which, if we think about the theme, Great King Enthroned in Heaven, this concept sits well in Israelite culture.
Literally the word, “Anoint” means to pour oil over, rub oil into or sprinkle oil upon. We can learn a bit about how it made, what it was used on, and why, in Exodus 30:22-29
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take… liquid myrrh… fragrant cinnamon… fragrant calamus, cassia and olive oil. 25 Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. 26 Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, 27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, 28 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.Exodus 30:22-29
Not only were the most holy things anointed with the sacred oil, people were too. Aaron, Moses’ brother, and his sons were to be Holy Priests set apart for the Lord’s service. As a sign of their office, they wore a uniform identifying them as different… set apart from the ordinary. They even had a plaque of pure gold engraved with “holy to the LORD” attached to their turban. Once they were fully dressed in their uniforms, we read Exodus 30:30-31
30 “Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. 31 Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come.Exodus 30:30-31
The oil symbolised the gifts of God to the people and the responsibilities laid upon the leaders at their appointment. Anointing was seen in much the same way as OT circumcision and NT Baptism: an outward sign of an inward reality. When a person was anointed to the LORD, it indicated favour (outward sign) and endowment of the Holy Spirit (inward reality), enabling them to fulfil a specific God-ordained task or role. Often, when we read of someone or something being “anointed,” it’s in the context of them also being “consecrated”, “ordained” and or “dedicated”.
For example, in Isaiah 61:1 we read the appointment of the prophet for God’s service.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me (inward reality), because the Lord has anointed me (outward sign) to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (specific tasks).
This doesn’t mean other people weren’t specifically gifted by the Holy Spirit to achieve God ordained tasks. But as far as official anointing went, throughout the OT, Prophets, Priests and Kings were the only ones anointed to fulfil their role as guides, judges and shepherds of God’s people.
It is interesting to note that the office of “Anointed” was considered absolute by the people. We read of an incident in the OT when the prophet Elisha commissioned one of his underling prophets to,
“Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of olive oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. 2 When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. 3 Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!”
The prophet obeyed and told Jehu, not only was he going to be king, his task was wipe out every living member of King Ahab and Jezebel’s family. When Jehu went back to his mates, and they asked him, “What did that crazy man want?” He eventually told them,
“Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’” 13 They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”
Jehu’s companions literally called the prophet a “crazy man”, but when they heard he anointed Jehu King over Israel, what was their immediate response? Claim him as king. Such was the regard of anointing. You can read the whole story in 2 Kings 9.
Back to Psalms
So, back to the Psalms, like the one we read today, we see that God’s anointed, David, is reminding God of his side of the “Anointing” agreement.
In short, David is saying, “You selected my forefather Abraham from oblivion and promised him relationship, descendants and land (132:13-14). You made him a people—your people. You have promised provision, protection and your presence among your faithful people forever (132:15-16). As your Anointed, You picked me from oblivion, appointed me king over your people, Israel. You promised me strength (horn), protection and longevity (lamp) and victory (clothe enemies with shame) and favour (adorned with radiant crown). I have been faithful. Remember your promises to me, your anointed King of Israel (132:1).
What does OT anointing have to do with us today? It shouldn’t really surprise us that the truth, wisdom and grace of God we read of in the OT, persisted through the NT and continues to this day. Now, however, we have the privilege and challenge to consider them through the lens of Christ.
In the OT the word “Anointed” is synonymous with “king”. In fact, “Anointed” and “messiah” are the translation and transliteration of the same Hebrew word. The Greek translation of the Hebrew term is Christos, from which we get the word “Christ”. A lot of trouble Christ encountered was people wanting him to be God’s Anointed in the same vein of David, the greatest earthly king Israel ever had. But that is not the kingship God had in mind for Christ. Christ is God’s ultimate Anointed. He is the faithful Prophet, High Priest and Great King.
The Spirit’s Anointing
That’s all very well and good, but what as it got to do with us? I am so glad you asked. Let’s look at what Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians:
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Let me repeat that, God anointed us. Remember, anointed means set apart from the ordinary, as a demonstration of favour, endowed with the Holy Spirit to enable one to fulfil a specific role or task. Why? So we can stand firm in Christ.
Priests, Prophets, Kings and Queens?
So, if in the OT prophets, priests and Kings were the ones anointed, does that mean today all Christians are prophets, priests and kings/queens? I guess, in a sense we are. In Exodus 19:6, God said to Moses:
6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.Exodus 19:6
As they were heading to the promised land Canaan, not only the crossroads of cultures, but the gateway to the continent, the Israelites, as a nation, were to represent God. And, like priests, fully consecrated to his service. They were to demonstrate God’s grace to the nations. And to do this effectively, they were to be Holy i.e. Set apart from the ordinary to do God’s will and glorify His name.
In his first letter, addressed to believers, Peter affirms this truth:
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Peter 2:5
In short, we, like David and the other kings prophets and priests of the OT, have been set apart, empowered by the Holy Spirit and purposed for the priestly tasks of:
- Reflecting the holiness of God in the same vein as our high priest, Christ.
- Offering spiritual sacrifices and ourselves as living sacrifices
- Interceding for others before God and
- Representing God before others.
But Wait, There’s More!
Before we close the book on anointing, I just want to leave you with one more aspect of this gift. As well as being an outward sign of election to a significant office, anointing was also a social practice. Not with the sacred oil, but with fragrant olive oil. Honoured guests at a banquet would have their heads anointed with oil. Psalm 23 refers to this practice.
Now, let’s jump forward 1000 years or so from the Psalms to the NT, John 12:1-8. I would like you to imagine a woman in the culture of that time. Apart from her father, husband, brother or son, she has no security. Picture a woman who only has one brother, no real prospect of marriage and therefore no future security. Imagine this woman has been gifted with a precious gift to ensure her security.
Now imagine this woman, who has no future security apart from this precious gift, taking it, and emptying it, all of it, as an offering, a gift to anoint her Lord, an honoured guest in her house, before he was killed. Can you imagine the depth of love that would inspire that act? What I love about this story of Mary anointing Jesus, is that, even in its immensity of love and devotion, it is a frail representation of the love and favour God pours down on us when he anoints us with His Holy Spirit.
Understanding the immensity of God’s love for us is incomprehensible. We are like newborns incapable of understanding the depth and breadth of love of our parents. We try to understand when we receive communion by remembering the sacrifice of God’s only Son that we might be reconciled to him. Jesus told us stories like the prodigal son which helps us understand the celebration God feels when even one of his children turns and comes home to him: our loving Heavenly father. And I believe this illustration of Mary, pouring out everything, her past, her present and her future in an act of love, gives us another glimpse of our Father’s heart.
An Anointed People
Friends, we may not fully comprehend the enormity of our God and his love for us, but know this, we are an anointed people, set apart from the ordinary to represent the love and light of our God in a dark and lost world.
We are filled with the Spirit, enabling us fulfil our purposes of
- Offering spiritual sacrifices as an act of worship,
- Standing in the gap interceding for others before our God, and
- Representing God to our neighbours.
But, friends, above all, we are loved. We are blessed, we are purposed, we are not alone or left without help. We are anointed for the task and filled with the Holy Spirit, empowered and enabled, like David, to fulfil the task God has called us to.
Trust in him to fulfil his promises to you as you step out in your specific role for His glory.