The Practice of Anointing
Anoint. That’s not a word used in everyday conversation but is seen in Scripture. Depending on your religious preference, it is not a practice that may be employed. Yet, “to anoint” someone or something has significance and should not be taken lightly. I did not understand the richness of such a practice until well into my adulthood.
So what exactly does it mean “to anoint”? Let’s start with what the Bible says since that is the usual context. Here, anointing is meant to consecrate (ordain or devote exclusively to a particular purpose) or make sacred by dedicating the individual or thing to God. Anointing is done by dabbing or dripping aromatic oil upon one’s head, feet, or eyes.
Inanimate objects can be anointed, too, which means they are special or marked for a cause. The christening of a sea-going vessel before its maiden voyage is done with a bottle of champagne struck against its bow. (Actually, this is more for good luck than for anything else.)
When my mother was building her garden home, I decided to anoint its foundational beams. Unbeknownst to her, I took a bottle of anointing oil and rubbed some on the wooden structures that would brace the walls. With each room’s anointing, I said a prayer. I told my mother about it after the house was built. It gave her great comfort. She still talks about it.
I have also been known to anoint my office(s) wanting them to be set apart. I inwardly smiled as my office at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center often was used for sharing, counseling, offering sympathy, and praying. I never told anyone it was anointed.
Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed to their offices symbolizing a more profound spiritual reality that God’s presence was with them and His favor was upon them. In the New Testament, Jesus reveals Himself as our anointed King, Priest, and Prophet – God’s Chosen Son. He is often referred to as Messiah, which means “anointed one.”
One anointing described in the Old Testament was of David. When he was a young shepherd (I Samuel 16), he was anointed by Samuel, astonishing his father and brothers. David later became king over Israel with the Spirit of the Lord resting powerfully upon his life.
I’ll never forget the day I was anointed in my pastor’s office after announcing my cancer diagnosis. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was going to use my cancer experience to shine His glory through me. He absolutely did! One result was my first publication – an award-winning Bible study titled Confronting Cancer with Faith www.confrontingcancerwithfaith.com.
Other Reasons and Agents for Anointing
In addition to the anointing of high-ranking individuals, anointing with oil was an ancient custom of hospitality showing honor to guests. Psalm 23:5 describes this courtesy towards guests at a banquet. “. . . Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
Anointing for health reasons was not unusual. People living in the dry climate of the Middle East utilized the practice to hydrate their skin. A common reason, both then and now, is for healing (Mark 6:13). Power can be found in the anointing of the sick. Miracles can happen.
Burial traditions incorporated anointing. Preparation for Jesus’s death is recorded by a woman with expensive perfume who anointed Jesus’ head (Mark 14:8). Several women purchased burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body after His death, but, of course, they were unable to do so when He was resurrected.
Oil is not the only agent used to anoint. Exodus 30 mentions a specific formula of fine spices blended with oil that was to be used for religious purposes. If it was used for any other purpose, this was a serious offense causing one to be “cut off” from the community.
As mentioned, perfume was used for anointings. The Holy Spirit or His power can be considered an anointing agent. Have you ever been in a service where the Holy Spirit’s anointing was present? Talk about incredible.
Unfortunately, some charismatic teaching goes beyond what Scripture says. These individuals have a hunger for signs and wonders, so they seek new and more exciting experiences that require more anointings.
Who Are Some Anointed?
Among individuals identified in the Bible as being anointed are Aaron and his sons (Exodus 28:41), Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 2), Esther (Esther 2), Jesus (Luke 7:46), and ourselves as believers in Christ (II Corinthians 1:22). What a blessing to know that I am set apart with the indwelling of His Spirit.
I may be Southern Baptist, but this ‘ol gal believes in the power of anointing. I even carry oil (or balm) in my purse.