So, we have been studying the “Good Life” that God has made available for us to live, and we have learned some wonderful truths out of the 23rd Psalm!
We spent the first eight weeks of this series covering verses 1-4 that give us the analogy of a shepherd’s relationship with his sheep. Then, we saw how there is a transition beginning in verse 5 from God being described as our Good Shepherd to Him being our “Hospitable Host.” So, these last two verses of the 23rd Psalm show us another part of God’s nature. Not only is He that Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep; He is that Honorable Host who crowns us with His lovingkindness and tender-mercies. Yes, He prepares this table before us and makes all things good and ready! Upon entering, He honors us by anointing our head with oil! He fills our cup up to overflowing! Then our response is, “Surely, my host’s goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life! And I will live in His house forever!” Amen! This is living the good life, my friends!
Now we saw how in the beginning of verse 5 God is said to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, and we learned some incredibly important principles about this table that He has spread before us:
First of all, we learned that just because a meal has been prepared by the Lord does not automatically mean that all of His children will partake of it. We saw from Jesus’ parable in Luke 14:15-24 that the reason why this is, is because we don’t always accept the invitation. Yes, those the Lord has invited generally don’t make showing up to that dinner a priority in their lives. We need to begin making eating at the Lord’s table a priority, church! The reason why is because God is not looking for the able, but He’s looking for the available.
Just as it was said to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:20 - the Lord is standing at the door of our hearts knocking, desiring for us to open the door, invite Him in, and dine with Him. And this was written to a church, saints! So, evidently even born-again Christians are capable of not experiencing all that the Lord desires for them.
But we also learned that there is another reason found in this verse why God’s children do not always partake from the Lord’s table. Notice that this verse includes eating “in the presence of our enemies.” We learned from this that the reason why so many fail to partake of the children’s bread is because they have left the Lord’s table to argue and fight with their enemies.
You see, our God delights in defending us from our adversaries. But the key to experiencing this is found in doing the same honorable things that David did in the midst of his persecution. He continued to honor the king. He did not take things into his own hands. He let the Lord justify and deliver him. Even when he seemed to have every right, he did not touch the Lord’s anointed.
Now we will find this out in a moment, but we are all the Lord’s anointed now. Therefore, even when one of your brothers and sisters in Christ (who are also loved by God as much as you are) do things that hurt you, you are to respond like David did, letting the Lord defend you. You and I are still to do good to them. We are to pray for them. We are to bless them. Bless and do not curse, knowing this - that you were called to inherit a blessing! (1 Peter 3:9)
But we learned that what so many Christians do is this: when their brother or sister does something to them, they fight back. They retaliate. They take matters into their own hands. However, in doing so, they get up from the Lord’s table. And what they need to understand is - even if they are successful at avenging themselves, they are missing the meal. Do you know how many of God’s children are missing out on the party at God’s table because they decided to let their enemies spoil their fun?
Church, when people - even God’s anointed ones - irritate us, we don’t need to miss the meal God has prepared for us because of someone else. We cannot control how others act, but we can sure enough control how we react. Don’t leave the table for someone who decided not to come to the party! Amen?
But the fact remains that there is a table prepared for us to partake of, and it is up to us to both accept the invitation and to not let anything or anyone distract us from the meal. We run our race before us, setting our hands to the plow and not looking back!
Then last week, on Resurrection Sunday, we looked at another phrase in Psalm 23:5, where David said, “My cup runs over!” We learned that this analogy describes that abundant life Christ came for us to have, and we saw how this life “more abundantly” describes a life that is “over, above and more than is necessary.” Strong’s says that it means “beyond, super-abundant in quantity, superior in quality and by implication, excessive.” The Amplified Bible gives a great definition to this phrase; it defines it as “to the full, till it overflows.”
We also saw how when it comes to this phrase “My cup runs over,” some other translations say, “My cup overflows,” “My cup overflows with blessings,” “My cup is full and spilling over,” and “my cup overflows as if it were alive.”
In fact, I failed to mention this last week, but this Hebrew word that is used for “runs over” is only used in one other place in the Scriptures, and that is found at the end of Psalm 66:12 when he says, “But you brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Other translations call this place of “rich fulfillment” a “wealthy place.”
So, the picture we have painted here is of a cup that is not just filled full to the brim, but it describes a cup that is actually overflowing and spilling over- a rich, abundance of drink, hallelujah! Therefore, God’s nature is to not only give us enough life, but to give us more than enough life! This is always what He desires to do for us because He is an excessive God!
We saw this in the first name that the Lord used to reveal Himself to mankind - El Shaddai in Genesis 17:1.
This is when He appeared to Abram and revealed one of His names as, “Almighty God.” This name described God as the One who is able to supply and provide every need that we have. It carries the idea of Him being “All-Sufficient”, or you could say, “more than enough!” As I’ve heard my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, say time and time again - “God is El Shaddai, not El Cheapo!” J God is too much!
We then looked at three different examples from the life of Jesus of God’s excessive nature:
So, it is apparent that we serve a God who is a “too much and more than enough” kind of God! We see this in all of these witnesses as well as in our new and better covenant which is established upon better promises! Church, God’s nature and will is to reveal Himself as El Shaddai to us and to multiply us exceedingly! He desires to keep pouring His goodness into our cups, and fill us with His life until we are overflowing! So, as the Psalmist said, “Open your mouth wide and He will fill it” (Psalm 81:10)! Amen and so be it!
So now, let’s back up and cover this one other phrase that David wrote in Psalm 23:5 when He said, “He anoints my head with oil.” Mind you, the context of this phrase in Psalm 23:5-6 is of a gracious host honoring his or her guests, and the original Hebrew language paints this same picture in this phrase.
You see, this word “anoints” is not the common word used for the anointing of a king or a priest. It is for this reason that the Hebrew word David used here is only translated “anoints” this one time in the original King James version. And the reason why it is not translated this way any other time is because this word literally describes “to make fat, to thrive or to prosper.”
It is used this way four times in the Book of Proverbs:
1.Proverbs 11:25 - “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”
2.Proverbs 13:4 - “The soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”
3.Proverbs 15:30 - “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy.”
Therefore, based on this choice of words of David, we can clearly see that this describes an anointing all right, but not an anointing for regal or priestly duties. Rather, he was referring to the anointing of a guest at some prestigious banquet with oils and perfumes as a way of honoring them. Yes, the allusion is to the custom of anointing the head on festive occasions, as an indication of prosperity and honor. Therefore, as a whole, it is indicative of the divine favor, of prosperity, and of joy.
So, this oil that our most gracious and honorable Host (the Lord of Hosts, that is) anoints our head with is poured out in such a “full, thriving and prosperous” manner. In other words, He pours oil on our head so abundantly - thus the expression indicates an abundance of oil.
Do you see how this correlates with what we discussed last week and what David said immediately following this phrase - our cup running over? Both phrases, therefore, describe “abundance.” They echo each other in describing the Lord pouring more than enough. Essentially, what David was saying was, “He pours out an abundance of oil on my head, and He pours out an abundance of wine in my cup!”
WHO IS THE ANOINTING?
Now as we see the analogy of both oil and wine obviously being used here, that should automatically direct us to “WHO” these two elements represent in the Scriptures - the Holy Spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit is one of the main reasons why we are capable of living the good life. It is because He is “The Anointing” (see 1 John 2:20&27) Whom God has poured out on us in such richness and extravagance! He is Who has filled these cups up and Who flows out of our bellies like rivers of living water! Yes, the good life is the anointed life - the life anointed by the Holy Ghost!
You see, all throughout the Scriptures when we see someone being anointed with oil that is symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on them - either to equip and empower one for a particular office or to set free and deliver one from a particular bondage.
We see it used in the latter way in James 5:14-15 where the anointing with oil is seen as a method to bringing healing and deliverance to the afflicted. This, of course, is not saying that there is inherent power in the oil itself to heal someone; rather, it is using oil as a contact point between the minister and the one receiving ministry. And since “oil” is symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the sick with oil is a symbol showing how it is the power of the Holy Spirit to set the captive free.
But we also see numerous examples in the Scriptures of people being anointed with oil for the purpose of regal and priestly duties - showing us that it is the Holy Spirit Who equips and empowers us for the work of the ministry.
You see, in the Old Testament, you had two specific offices that were anointed with oil as they entered into their position:
So, since we are anointed of God, it should not surprise us that Revelations 1:6 says He has made us Kings and Priests to His God and Father. We are “anointed” to be His children (kings) and to serve Him (priests).
Now regarding the New Testament usage of the word “anointed,” it comes from the Greek word chrio. This word was a medical term describing a physician pouring oil on his hands and then rubbing it into the body of the patient until the oil was transferred from the doctor’s hands deep into the skin of the patient. So, the word “chrio” has to do with “the hands” of the doctor as well as the oil itself. It describes God as being the Great Physician Who has the Holy Spirit as a type of oil on His hands, and once He has the Holy Spirit on His hands, He can’t wait to get His hands on the believer. Once He does, He begins to rub and rub until the believer is totally saturated (i.e. baptized) with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, to be anointed with the Holy Ghost means to be totally saturated with the Holy Ghost. So, saying someone is “anointed” is another way of saying “God’s got His hand on them.” Amen!
So, we are the ones anointed to be kings and priests in this new and better covenant (see 1 Peter 2:9)! This is an important point to understand. But even though it is true that God has anointed us to be His heirs and His ministers, the fact is that David was referring to a different kind of anointing here. It is an anointing of abundance. It is an anointing of honor.
THE ANOINTING IN BETHANY
Now as I have been studying this, I was drawn to our one, very solid biblical example of how this occurs, and it is found in the Gospels: It reminds me of Mary’s anointing Jesus found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, & John 12. For the sake of time, I would like for us to focus in on Mark’s account of this event.
In Mark 14:3-9, we are told that this event transpired when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper. Now Mark just described her as a “woman,” but we know from John’s Gospel that this was Mary, the sister of Martha & Lazarus (see John 12:2-3).
Now in verse 3, we are told that Mary came with an “alabaster flask” (some translations call it a “box”). In short, “alabaster” was a stone commonly found in Israel. It was a hard stone resembling white marble So, the container Mary used to carry the perfumed oil was made of a white, marble-like substance. Ointment, oils and perfumes used to be put in vessels made of alabaster, which kept them pure and unspoiled. The boxes were often sealed with wax, to prevent the perfume from escaping. And we are told in John 12:3 that when Mary broke open her alabaster box, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Alabaster was a strong enough substance to keep the oil or perfume completely contained until the time of its use.
Mark goes on to describe this alabaster flask as containing “a very costly oil of spikenard.” Now "spikenard" was a plant that only grew in the Himalaya mountains of India and Nepal. Therefore, Mary's fragrant oil of spikenard was a rare, imported product in Israel.
Now, how expensive was this spikenard contained in the alabaster flask? Well, we don’t have to speculate because in John 12:5, Judas evaluated that it could have been sold for “three hundred denarii." Now, in their day, one denarius was the wage for one day's labor. So, if Judas' estimate of the value of Mary's spikenard is correct, then it would have been worth close to someone's annual salary, equivalent to several tens of thousands of dollars today.
Other sources tell us that “spikenard’s” great cost stemmed from the fact that it had to be transported over 6,000 miles to reach Palestine, and depending on quality, it sold for as much as 400 denarii per pound (or $750 an ounce in modern purchasing equivalent). That made this that Mary used to anoint Jesus’ body even more valuable than gold!
In fact, this ointment was worth at least 2½ times more than the 30 pieces of silver that Judas received for betraying the Lord, which is obviously why Judas got so upset about it (see Mark 14:4-5 & Compare John 12:5). So, an interesting note regarding this is: this perfume was worth 2½ times what Judas thought Jesus was worth.
Judas’ negative reaction to this act of pure honor and worship is typical of many people’s reaction toward worship today. Judas and some of the other disciples evidently thought this was a waste, but that was only because they didn’t value Jesus as highly as Mary did. Selah.
You see, something’s value is only determined by what others are willing to pay for it. So, even though Judas and some of other disciples thought this was a waste does not mean that the Lord did. She obviously thought blessing and honoring Jesus was worth more than a year’s worth of wages and more than silver and gold. Amen!
But there was a “breaking” of that box or flask that had to occur to get out what was precious on the inside - for we learn that “this was a long-necked vessel for storing or holding ointment or perfume, and when the neck was broken off, the contents were used…”
Now this event teaches us several lessons:
One is this - I believe that not only is Mary an example to us of how we ought to strive to honor the Lord, but I also see this “alabaster flask” as symbolic of us too. Yes, I see this “alabaster flask” as symbolic of our temples - that is, our bodies - as “alabaster” was also one of the stones used to decorate Solomon’s glorious Temple (see 1 Chronicles 29:2). As the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5, we are living stones, being built up as a spiritual house. Praise God!
And if this “alabaster flask” is a type of our bodies, oh, what a measure of treasure is contained within us! As 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 states - we are to be diffusing the fragrance of the knowledge of God in every place we go as the Lord’s “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Yes, there is a treasure within these “alabaster boxes” (i.e. earthen vessels) and it is meant to be released to honor and glorify the Lord with! Amen!
But the key to releasing the sweet-smelling aroma and blessing the Lord with it is found in being “broken”- that is, learning to lose our own dignity and pride and get “outside the box” where God can be God to us.
You see, one reason why this treasure stays within our vessels is because we like to stay in control. We don’t want to lose face in front of people. We keep our dignity and pride and, in so doing, we keep that anointing oil on the inside of us.
Church, we have to make that decision whether we are going to please God or please man. We can’t do both. So, start letting that “spikenard” out of your “alabaster box” today: Do it by laying down your pride and worshipping the Lord with reckless abandon!
Do you remember what King David said after he had danced before the Lord with all of his might (2 Samuel 6:13-23)? When David fully expressed Himself in praise towards God like he did, the Bible says that Michal disdained him. And why? Because he did not praise and worship his God the way she thought he should have. She thought, being a king, he should have been more dignified. But we all know David’s response, right? He said, “Woman, I will be even more undignified than this!” Hallelujah!
And we also know the reaction God had towards Michal’s criticism of her husband and king. The Bible says that from that day forth, she was barren. Saints, when we criticize and ridicule the response that others have to God, we are in danger of making ourselves fruitless. Or, you could say, our fragrant oils and perfumes stays all “bottled up.”
VESSELS OF HONOR
Now another lesson that we can learn from this anointing of Jesus by Mary is this - How does the Lord literally “anoint our heads with oil”- meaning, how does He honor and pour out His divine favor on our lives? Well, how did it happen to Jesus here? It happened through this “sinful woman”- teaching us that the Lord honors us through other people. In other words, He anoints us through other vessels.
Now our first ambition should not be to get God to get other vessels to bless us; our first ambition should be to be the vessels that the Lord uses to bless others. Amen! Yes, church, our aim and goal is to be “honorable vessels.” As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor…”
Now people read this and think - “Oh, that explains it. I must just not be a vessel of ‘honor.’ I guess I am just a base vessel.” No, no, no! Paul goes on to say, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” In other words, whether or not we are a vessel of honor is not God’s choice; it is our choice! That’s why he said, “if anyone cleanses himself…” That means, whosoever will! So, based on verse 21, our prayer should not be, “God use me!” Rather, our prayer should, “God help me to be usable,” and then cleanse ourselves of what is necessary to be more prepared and useful for every good work. Amen.
And what is “the latter” that Paul is referring to cleansing ourselves of to become this vessel of honor? In order to get the answer, we need to back up to verse 19 where he said, “Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’” The latter, therefore, would be his second statement of the seal of God’s solid foundation - namely, all of us who name the name of Christ departing from iniquity. Therefore, departing and cleansing ourselves from “iniquity” is the key to being God’s vessel of honor.
So, what is “iniquity?” In my opinion, iniquity can be best described as “a sin from within.” In other words, opposed to transgressions and trespasses which are simply missteps and mistakes in the flesh (i.e. on the outside), “iniquities” are sins of the heart. However, iniquity is sin at its worst. Iniquity is premeditated, continuing, and escalating.
So, what this teaches us is that it is not your simply transgressions and trespasses (i.e. the mistakes we all make from time to time) that disqualify us from being used of God. It is the premeditated, continuing and escalating sins of the heart that can keep us from our higher levels of usefulness.
But the fact is, the Lord desires to honor us like this. He will not be out-done - for we can never out-give God. So, if the Lord commends Mary for such an extravagant and honorable gift, then you must know that He desires to “anoint our heads with oil” in like fashion.
Yes, church, the Lord desires to bless and honor us in such an extravagant way! Mary is our example of that! He desires to give us more than we think we are worth. And it is all because our value is not based on our own estimation of ourselves; our value has been determined by how much the Lord decided to pay for us - and that was A LOT! Amen and so be it!