I wash my hair frequently to keep it from getting oily, so the Biblical precedent for anointing the head had long baffled me. Who wants their hair caked with oil? As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, I’ve run across the theme of anointing again…and again…and again.
The concept first shows up with the consecration of Aaron the priest. A special oil is devised to pour over his head in preparation for the holy ceremonies. I found it next in the book of Ruth—“Anoint yourself and dress yourself” Naomi told her in hushed tones, preparing her to visit Boaz on the threshing floor. When Yahweh chose Saul to be the first king of Israel, he sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him with oil and here the picture begins to crystallize. When Samuel had finished anointing him, God’s Holy Spirit came upon him and changed him. The same was true of David, when Samuel anointed him to take Saul’s place—God’s Holy Spirit left Saul and came upon David powerfully.
Later David praises Yahweh, his shepherd for anointing his head with oil and he spoke of the oil of gladness. What is the significance of the anointing? For Aaron, it set him apart, made him holy unto Yahweh, able to offer sacrifices. For Ruth, it made her acceptable to her redeemer. For those anointed king, it empowered them to fight Yahweh’s battles. It seemed simultaneous with the filling of the Holy Spirit—Yahweh’s imparting of strength, power and wisdom. By the Holy Spirit the heroes of old prophesied, performed feats of valor and strength, exercised wisdom, discretion and boldness—they were changed into men and women who reflected Yahweh.
I find the theme again in the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit is poured out, like a fragrant oil, bringing joy and gladness, power, wisdom and authority to those who have put their faith in God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, those in the upper room speak of God’s wonders in foreign tongues. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches the gospel to thousands. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Steven stands before his accusers and proclaims the truth.
This anointing, once something rare in the days of the imperfect old covenant, has now been poured out on every believer. “Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” No longer is it an occasional filling, but a constant indwelling, promising and aiding our sanctification. It is the agent setting us apart, making us holy to Yahweh. It is the beauty that makes us acceptable to come before our Redeemer. It is the power, enabling us to withstand the enemy, to speak God’s word, to understand God’s will, to desire God’s glory. By God’s Spirit I can come before Him, my prayers acceptable in His sight and can cry “Abba! Father!”
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, David understood this beautiful outpouring. “Yahweh has anointed my head with oil…my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever.”
Lord, Thou left us not alone
When Thou ascended to go home,
But sent Thy Spirit here instead
To feed us Thy own living bread
To lead us into truth and grace
To show to us Thy perfect face
To give us boldness, wisdom, might
And make us perfect in Thy sight.