God's Anointing: Sovereignty and Responsibility

 

Originally published in Pulpit Helps, September 2009.

Throughout Scripture, the concept of anointing plays a crucial role. The anointing of blood on the doorposts of the Israelites marked them as God's chosen ones to be spared the Death Angel's plague on the firstborn of Egypt. The pouring out of oil on priests and altars signified that they were set apart for the Lord's work. Even the nation of Israel as a whole is referred to as God's anointed (chosen) people.

In the historical books, we see the God's use of anointing in marking the individuals He chose to lead Israel as kings. The title, "The Lord's Anointed" is often used in these books as a synonym for the king. David, as a man anointed by God, understood the significance of this better than most.

As he fled from King Saul, David was presented with an opportunity to kill his adversary, but instead chose to show mercy, cutting off the edge of his robe. Later, he was convicted of even this act, saying, "Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against Him, since He is the Lord's anointed" (1 Sam. 24:6). When the opportunity again presented itself, David again refused to touch Saul, telling his men, "Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be without guilt?" (1 Sam. 26:9).

In 2 Samuel 1, after the Amalekite came seeking to curry favor with David with news of how he had put Saul to death, David indignantly rebukes and punishes Him: "How is it that you were not afraid to stretch out your hand against the Lord's anointed?' And David called one of the young men and said, Go, cut him down.' So he struck him and he died. And David said to him, Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying "I have killed the Lord's anointed"" (2 Sam. 1:14-16).

In each case, David showed unwavering respect for the man whom God had chosen because of this very fact: God had chosen Him. The anointed one was seen as a representative of the one who anointed Him, and as such was to be treated with the same respect and reverence that God deserved. The Lord's anointed was someone to work with, not against; God alone had a right to give orders to him or raise up His hand against him. For everyone else, he was "off-limits".

There is a larger lesson here, namely, that we have to trust God's plans and timing. Because God is sovereign, nothing happens outside of His plan-there is a sense in which all people and things are "His anointed", set aside for His perfect purposes. The people and circumstances He's surrounded us with aren't ours to control. We can only navigate our lives by clinging to Him as He orchestrates our situation for His great glory.

The story of the Lord's anointing doesn't stop there, however. In David's own words in the Psalms, he blesses the Lord for His anointing and prophesies about the ultimate "Anointed One" to come from His lineage-Jesus Christ.

Psalm 2 shows us a king who comes in the Lord's might to both terrify the wicked and provide a refuge for those who follow God. Psalm 18:50 speaks of the Lord's preservation and protection of His anointed but also his descendents: "He gives great deliverance to His king, and shows lovingkindness to His anointed, to David and his descendents forever." The use of "forever" seems to indicate a spiritual dimension to the anointing of the lineage of David-the Lord will preserve them in eternity through the work of Christ.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the theme is intensified. Isaiah 61 clearly paints a picture of Jesus as the Lord's anointed. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners" (Is. 61:1). Jesus quoted this passage to establish His identity as the Son in the Gospels (Luke 4:18, Matt. 11:5).

The New Testament, anointing carries much the same connotation, and is used specifically of Jesus in several instances. Peter in Matthew 16:16 is prompted by the Holy Spirit to answer the Lord's question of identity by calling him "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Later, in Acts 4:27, Peter refers to Jesus as the one God anointed, and in 10:38 speaks of Him being anointed by God "with the Holy Spirit and with power."

Anointing, in Hebrew, is the word mshach, meaning painted or marked. In the Old Testament, it takes on the connotation of consecration for the Lord's purposes. A consecrated person is a mshyach, from which we transliterate the word Messiah. The name "Christ" likewise comes from the Greek word christos ("consecrated one", from chrio-to smear or rub, figuratively, to consecrate)-every time your Bible records the name Jesus Christ, read it as "Jesus, the Lord's Anointed." The Lord's anointing, according to Alexander MacLaren is "the symbol of the communication of a true divine influencewhich fitted him as well as designated him for the office that he filled." It is, he says, the Spirit of God upon the chosen one that sets apart, energizes, and moves Him.

The anointing of Christ, though unique in respect to His being in the Godhead and His work of redemption, is passed on to each believer in the form of our calling to follow Him and make disciples. Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, states that "He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge" (2 Cor. 1:21-22). 1 Peter 2:5 describes believers as "a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

We are set apart for "God's own possession" (1 Pet. 2:9), and we are each individually "the Lord's anointed." Even the name "Christian" bears that significance-we are "little anointed ones." As such, we have God's protection, preservation, and call. We also have a responsibility as His representatives to carry His name and His purpose everywhere we go.

Being a follower of Christ is a much more significant and costly endeavor than simply "being saved"; it is a calling to the abundant life in Him (John 10:10). He created us to bring Him glory, and, through the Spirit, He has set us apart and renewed our ability and desire to worship Him. Everything else about our lives as believers centers on that fact and flows from it. The awe that David and others had for the Lord and His anointing should characterize our life and work and draw us into a deeper walk with Him.

Justin Lonas is editor of Disciple Magazine for AMG International in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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