You Anoint My Head with Oil

Psalm 23:5 – …you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 10 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

In this chapter, the experienced shepherd, Phillip Keller, talks about how he anointed his sheep and more importantly why. He spoke of all kinds of nasty bugs and critters that will absolutely drive a sheep crazy, or make them sick. Keller also spoke of “scab” that afflicts the sheep.

The cure for treating his sheep from certain parasites and flies was anointing their heads, faces, noses and ears with a combination of oils and other remedies. The shepherd was anointed the sheep’s head with oil to bring comfort and healing and peace. A ewe would bash its head against fences and walls because flies were driving her bonkers. But after her “anointing,” she was contented and at peace because the shepherd anointed her.

You can look throughout scripture to see God or His leaders “anointing” His people for various reasons. The anointing was sometimes for healing (John 9:11; James 5:14; Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34) . Other times it was a calling to a specific work like a priest or king (Psalm 2:2; 89:20-21). Those anointed by God were also under his protection (Psalm 28:8; 105:15). Sometimes it was to honor and show gratitude to someone, which happened to Jesus more than once (Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8). We also see that God’s anointing involved teaching and guiding His people (Psalm 132:17; 1 John 2:20-21,27). But above all that, God anoints His people to say, “You are mine!” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Also remember that God’s anointing is an oil of gladness – it was true for Jesus and it is also true for us (Psalm 45:7; Isaiah 63:3)!

God is our shepherd. He anoints us to care for us, to teach us, to protect us, to heal us, and to reassure us. We are His sheep, and He loves us. And when He anoints us, our cup truly overflows.

God made Ezekiel hard-headed

Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
(Ezekiel 3:8-9)

God made Ezekiel hard-headed. That’s what the verse says. Not that Ezekiel was never to listen to people, nor was he to be a stubborn person. But look at the job he was called to do. The people to whom he was sent to prophesy were a stubborn, hard-hearted rebellious people. Ezekiel was sent to preach “whether they hear or whether they refuse” (Ezekiel 3:11). What was necessary for Ezekiel to endure this calling? God had to make his head hard, just like theirs.

He is told two things here that required hardness, and a steely-eyed determination:

  • Don’t be afraid of them.
  • Don’t be dismayed by their looks.

These guys could be vicious. They have killed prophets and imprisoned others. It was easy to be intimidated in their presence. The way they looked at Ezekiel when he tried to preach must have been scary. God said, stiffen up, have a hard head, and speak My message. The Lord isn’t telling him to be mean, or arrogant, just to be hardened against the coming attacks. Preach the word.

Think of how many of God’s ministers struggled with fear as they were called to preach or carry out His messages? Timothy, Ananias, Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Paul, Jeremiah. The list goes on…

God has to stiffen us up sometimes and help us to have that firm resolve and that hard head so that we can speak truth. Pray for a soft heart, a kind tongue and a hard head.

Honoring the Gray Head

“You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32

“A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.”  Proverbs 16:31

I get it, we’re all busy.  Work is crazy.  School is challenging.  The marriage is demanding.  The kids have soccer and band and football and baseball and piano lessons and, and, and… Life seems to run it’s own course and often we feel like we’re just along for the ride.  When it comes to relationships, we usually just take the natural, easy path.  We surround ourselves with those who are in similar life situations, people we share common experiences and interests with.  But are we missing something?

I first met Brother Claude just over five years ago.  Using his walker, he was making his way into the church building, every step seemed to be calculated and painful.  I shook his hand and took notice of how gnarled and twisted they were from years of arthritis. I made sure not to squeeze too tight as I didn’t want to hurt him.  I have to admit, my first thought about Claude consisted mostly of pity.  Just moving around seemed to be a difficult and monumental task.

Over the next few months I got to know more and more about Claude.  He didn’t have any family to speak of and relied on members of the church for transportation and companionship.  Eventually I invited him to lunch with the family one Sunday afternoon.  I hate to admit it, and I would have never said it out loud, but my initial involvement went something like this, “He’s a nice old man.  I’ll do a good deed and take him to lunch.”  It didn’t take long to realize that I was going to benefit from this relationships far more than he would.

Over the last few years I was blessed to spend more and time with Brother Claude.  I learned about his life, his accomplishments and his regrets.  I gained insight into the depth of his heart and his love for Christ and His people.  As his physical body failed and he lost more and more independence, he continued to look for ways to be useful in the kingdom and his hope in heaven grew stronger.

One of the greatest blessings was when he would take my hand and lead us in prayer.  In a low, humble, confident voice he would give praise and thanks to God.  I don’t recall Claude ever praying for his own comfort or healing, in fact, I don’t remember the physical concerns of this life ever crossing his lips.  He would pray for stronger faith, opportunities to serve, and for God’s glory to abound.

I could go on and on but to summarize my experiences with Brother Claude I’ll just say that, in him, I saw a living, breathing example of the word of God.  I saw faith personified in character and attitude and action.  Some lessons in life cannot be learned through reading and study.  Some lessons can only be learned through time and experience, in the classroom of life.

My encouragement today is to stop and look around.  Take notice of those people in the local body that, because of time and age,  struggle to get around.  The sister that fights to stand up for the prayer and with pain and difficulty sits back down but always has a smile and an encouraging word.  The brother that needs help to get out of bed and assistance to get into the building but would rather be worshiping the Lord than doing anything else.  Look for those individuals that have learned the lessons of life because of time and experience. Ask them to lunch, listen to their stories, and investigate the depths of their faith.

You will be blessed.

One Body

Today, I would like to give some ideas and verses about our place in the Body of Christ and invite you to pray and meditate on how your role as a leader and servant within the roles you are given.

A body is a living organism and is made up of many parts.  This is true of the Church.  We are the body of Christ on earth:

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:22-23)

Christ is the head of the body.  “…He is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18)

There is one body.  “…you were called in one body…” (Colossians 3:15)

This one body is composed of many members.  “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30)

The people of God are individually members of one another.  “…for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

As you consider this, I invite you to read John 15 and consider the imagery Jesus gives us of the Living Vine, the Good Gardner, and the branches.  The imagery is very similar and as where with the Vine the braches (that’s us) are to abide…what are we to do in the Body?

Hold fast to the Head!  “…holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments…” (Colossians 2:18).  Therefore, let our prayer be “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and build up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Be Holy!  “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…For God did not call us to uncleanness but in holiness…”  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).  Therefore let our prayer be that God would help us to “…cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”    (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Grow!  “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”  (Ephesians 4:15-16).  Therefore, let our prayer be that God help us to “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  (2 Peter 3:18)

My hope is you will join me today in reading, thinking about, and praying about the Body of Christ, what it is, what our role is and how we might grow so that the whole Body benefits.