Psalm 23 Series, Part 9

An Unction of the Spirit

“Thou anointest my head with oil.” —Psalm 23:5

POURING oil on the head seems a far cry from shepherding sheep, yet in reality it is not, for it was the common custom of oriental shepherds to pour oil on the heads of their sheep at the close of the day or when they were weary from travel. To the sheep it was a welcome and refreshing service rendered them by the shepherd. And in this custom we find another beautiful illustration of our Great Shepherd’s care for us and the blessings which he bestows upon us through Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

Oil is used in Scriptures as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The anointing oil poured upon the heads of Israel’s high priests was a type of the anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit. The apostle says of him that he was “anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.” (Heb. 1:9) The New Testament also speaks of the anointing which we have received of Christ, while John refers to it as an “unction from the Holy One.” (I John 2:20) The term unction suggests lubrication and smoothness, so in this also there is an allusion to oil as symbolizing the Holy Spirit and what it accomplishes in our lives.

In this lesson we might think of David as representing the entire Christ company, in which case his head would represent Jesus, our Head. The statement, “Thou anointest my head with oil,” indicates what is elsewhere clearly taught in the Bible; namely, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit came first upon the Head of The Christ company, and throughout the Gospel Age has been received by the various members of his body. We can therefore truly say to Jehovah, our Great Shepherd, “Thou anointest my Head”—Christ Jesus. From him who is now our Good Shepherd, that anointing has reached us. And how we do rejoice in the blessings which accrue through the anointing of the Holy Spirit thus received!

While the original anointing of the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, each member of his mystical body receives of the same anointing, as, symbolically speaking, this oil of gladness runs down from the Head and covers the entire body. One of the primary scriptural lessons associated with the anointing of the Spirit is that of the divine commission to serve. The prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-3 relates to this, and it indicates that the entire Christ company is anointed to preach good tidings, and thus to bind up the broken hearted.

With this divine authority to represent God in the earth comes also a wonderful assurance of divine acceptance and approval, and from this standpoint the anointing of the Holy Spirit illustrates the thought of comfort. Indeed, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a Comforter which he would send, a Comforter which would represent him, and through which he would be represented among his followers throughout the entire Gospel Age.—John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7,13

The Holy Spirit was a great comfort to Jesus, our Head. When it came upon him at the time of his baptism he heard a voice from heaven saying. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) What greater comfort could be given to anyone than to be assured of divine sonship! This assurance afforded the Master strength for the trials through which he was called to pass. Forty days later, when Satan challenged the Master’s sonship, Jesus could and did resist him, for there was no doubt in his mind as to where he stood with his Heavenly Father. When the anointing of the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus it also enlightened him concerning his Father’s plans and the part he was to have in that plan—the “heavens were opened unto him.”—Matt. 3:16

Through the medium of the Holy Spirit Jesus was guided and strengthened for every step of the narrow way in which he walked, and if he is our Head, the same comforting blessings of the Holy Spirit which filled him with joy will be our daily portion. Jesus promised, in fact, that he would give his peace to his faithful followers. This peace is ours because of the many assurances of the Word which give us confidence and courage despite the difficulties of the way as we walk in the steps of the Master.

A very interesting summary of the blessings which accrue to us as consecrated, Spirit-anointed followers of Jesus is presented in the eighth chapter of Romans. Opening the subject the apostle writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Notice that Paul is here speaking of those who are in Christ Jesus. This means that Christ Jesus is their Head, the Head upon whom was poured the anointing of the Holy Spirit. To such as have him as their Head, there is no condemnation from the Heavenly Father, if they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.

Here, as in practically every case of God’s promises, there is a condition attached to its fulfillment, an ‘if which must be disposed of by faithful obedience in order that the assurance of the promise may properly belong to us. And to be assured that we stand approved before our Heavenly Father, that for us there is no condemnation, is indeed a rare blessing. We have learned by experience, by observation, and from the testimony of the Scriptures that “there is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10) We have learned also that God cannot look upon unrighteousness with any degree of tolerance. But oh, the wondrous grace that is provided through Christ Jesus, that those who are in him, and are following the leadings of the Holy Spirit which has reached them through him, are not under condemnation!

Later in the chapter the apostle emphasizes this thought with even greater force, saying, “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:33,34) How precious the thought that from God’s standpoint there is no condemnation for it is he who, through the redemptive work of Christ, has justified us freely from all sin. What difference, then, does it make as to who else may assume to condemn us, whether the devil or his agents?

Paul writes further that “if the Spirit of Him, that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Rom. 8:11) This quickening of our mortal bodies is an energizing of them for the service of the Lord. The fallen flesh by nature does not incline toward spiritual things and shrinks from being sacrificed in the service of the Lord and of the Lord’s people. But through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, received through our Head, Christ Jesus, our bodies are quickened, or stirred up, to serve the interests of the new creature. The flesh may become weary in well doing, but if we continue to walk after the Spirit it will be revived, even as the sheep, when weary at the close of the day, were refreshed when the shepherd anointed their heads with oil.

The apostle continues, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14) It was when Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit that he heard the reassuring message from his Heavenly Father, “This is my beloved Son.” And now, if we are in Christ Jesus, and walk after the Spirit by which he was anointed, we have the assurance that we also are sons of God. This Spirit which we have received, Paul explains, is not one of bondage again to fear, but a Spirit that enables us to address our God as “Abba, Father.”—Rom. 8:15

“The Spirit itself,” writes Paul, “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16-17) How precious is this testimony, this witness of the Holy Spirit, that we are the children of God! But note again the condition: this blessed witness of the Spirit is ours only, if so be that we suffer with him.

The scriptural viewpoint of this can be readily understood. The Apostle Peter explains that the operation of the Holy Spirit in the minds of the Old Testament prophets caused them to testify concerning the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Throughout his epistle Peter makes it plain that these foretold sufferings of Christ are participated in by his body members. It was this, then, that Paul had in mind when he wrote that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, if so be that we suffer with him. That is to say, if we are in Christ Jesus, and partaking of his sufferings as a result of our laying down our lives in divine service, then the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the prophetic writings of the Old Testament applies to us and assures us that, like Jesus, we are the children of God, and joint-heirs with him in the glorious kingdom of blessings which he establishes.

Peter reminds us that the Holy Spirit, through the prophets, not only testified concerning the sufferings of Christ, but also of the “glory that should follow.” (I Pet. 1:11) In keeping with this testimony, Paul writes, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”—that is, the promised glory that should follow the suffering.

“The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:18,19) We need only to reflect upon the many promises of kingdom glory that are to be found in the Old Testament, and to note the many promises of how that glory is to be manifested for the blessings of all the families of the earth, to make us long for the time to come when, together with all the divine sons of God, it will be our privilege to manifest the glory of God to the eternal joy of all nations.

Those of us who, through our consecration and the acceptance of God, have come into Christ, and are walking in accordance with the Holy Spirit by which he was anointed, have the assurance that we have been called according to his purpose because we love the Lord sufficiently to have made a full consecration to do his will. Of those thus called, Paul writes that all things work together for their good. (Rom. 8:28) But it requires a strong faith to be assured of this at all times and under all circumstances.

As our minds go back to the illustration of the shepherd and the sheep, we can imagine what difficulty the sheep would have—if they were capable of reasoning on the matter—to understand how some of the experiences of the day would be of benefit to them. Should the shepherd lead them through a barren wilderness in order to reach green pastures beyond, or perhaps over rugged mountain passes to find refreshing waters, it would be difficult for the sheep to comprehend the necessity of the hardships thus imposed. But no matter how difficult the way, the shepherd would understand the necessity thereof; and, if the sheep could but grasp the thought, they would know that all things were working for their good.

But through faith we are able to understand what the sheep could not grasp; namely, that all the experiences through which our Good Shepherd is leading us are for our very highest and eternal welfare. We know this, Paul wrote. The reason we know it is that we have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit and under its blessed influence have been enlightened to know something of the meaning of the trials of the narrow way. We may become bruised and weary from the hardships of the way, but the anointing of our Head, which has reached us through him, soothes and comforts by making us know that all things are working together for our good.

Some of the all things are of course pleasant and refreshing. The Good Shepherd leads us beside still waters, and he makes us to lie down in green pastures. These blessed provisions are a delight to all the Lord’s sheep. But there are other things among the all that are different, and in these, too, our faith needs to see value, so that by them we are drawn closer to the Good Shepherd and made to realize more fully our dependence upon him. It is in this vein that Paul inquires, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ, shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”—Rom 8:35,36

Here the apostle has enumerated some of the truly trying experiences of the Lord’s sheep, yet they should not be permitted to weaken our confidence in the wisdom and the tender loving care of our Good Shepherd. We may be, yea, will be, accounted as sheep for the slaughter, and if we were walking after the flesh we would decide under such circumstances to cease following the Good Shepherd. But inasmuch as we are walking after the Spirit, we should know that all the Lord’s sheep are to be sacrificed; that just as Jesus himself, our Head, was led by the Spirit to the slaughter as the Redeemer of the world, so it is our privilege, now that he is exalted to glory, to follow in the footsteps of sacrifice which he so clearly outlined by his example.

Thus in all these things we are more than conquerors, gaining the victory through faith in the Great Shepherd, faith in the Good Shepherd, faith in the divine plan, and faith that if we perform obediently our part in that plan, we shall ultimately dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Knowing this certain outcome of the all things which are working together for our good, we can say with the apostle that we too are persuaded that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:37-39

How thankful we are, then, for the anointing of our Head, and that as members of his body all the riches of divine grace involved in that anointing have come to us. No good thing will be withheld as long as we abide in him. (Ps. 84:11) All our needs will be supplied. Strength will be given through the Spirit of power. (II Tim. 1:7) We will be directed in the way in which we should walk. We will know that God is for us, and we will realize that because God is for us, nothing or no one can be successfully against us, for he is greater than all our enemies. (Rom. 8:31; I John 4:4) Truly, we can say with the psalmist that because our Great Shepherd has anointed our Head with oil, our cup is running over.

Click here to go to Part 10
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |