Tim was retiring from the US Air Force and moving out of the national capital area. He had had a stellar career and had been seeking civilian work. He showed great confidence in the future, but as the weeks passed, worry crept into his face. Tim, his wife and daughters moved out of their rental house and moved in with extended family, but several job opportunities had faded away.
They visited with us after Vacation Bible School one afternoon, as we were going through the same transition. As Tim and his family were leaving, my family gathered around to lay hands on them and pray. We prayed for their journey to Texas, their search for a new house, their transition to new schools, a new church, and a new community, and most of all, for a job. Once we finished, I turned to Tim and said “Congratulations, you have received the anointing of the Spirit for this task in your life. You will be successful.”
Tim gave me a quizzical look. As we said goodbye, it occurred to me that he may not have heard about the anointing of the Lord. Many people who have heard do not understand it. This article will discuss the anointing of the Lord.
In 1 Samuel 16, Saul had been the king of Israel for about 20 years. He had been rejected by God as king, but remained on the throne until the timing of the Lord was complete. Samuel had anointed Saul (1 Samuel 9:16, 10:1) and mourned the condemnation of his reign (1 Samuel 16:1). God was ready to move on, and told Samuel to anoint a new king. Samuel rightly considered that act treason, and God directed a subterfuge to prevent his execution (the morality of that act is outside the scope of this article).
On arriving at the house of Jesse, Samuel examined Jesse’s sons and thought to anoint Eliab, the eldest. Eliab was handsome, strong, and old enough that he could assume the throne quickly; as Samuel naturally expected that since God wanted a new king anointed, He would put a quick end to Saul. Instead, the Lord waited 15-20 years to install David as king, and the whole time Samuel’s life was in danger if the king discovered what he had done. At the command of God, Samuel rejected all of Jesse’s sons except the youngest, David. Samuel anointed him, and the Holy Spirit came upon him. At the same time, the Holy Spirit left Saul.
The Purpose of the Anointing
While we may focus on anointing with oil and laying on hands, the real anointing is with the Holy Spirit. A man who receives an anointing but fails to gain the Holy Spirit gains nothing, while a man who receives the Holy Spirit, regardless of how the anointing is performed, gains everything. Most religions have anointing rituals, purifying rituals, healing rituals, and other rituals. But such rituals are powerless without the work of the Holy Spirit.
Having established that real anointing can only be done with the Spirit of God, we must understand that the first anointing is for salvation; God wants to put people in right relationship to Him. This anointing is available for everyone, although some will refuse. David was already a fervent follower of Jehovah before Samuel broke the flask of oil and laid hands on him.
In the second anointing, the Lord anoints people to perform a certain task; to accomplish His mission for that individual in that time and place. Samuel anointed Saul to be king, and later anointed David for the same role. Jesus was the ultimate “anointed one” (Luke 4:18-21), and He only did what His Father told Him to do (John 5:19, 8:28).
God offers the second anointing to all His followers, but He chooses the task assigned to each person. Saul and David were chosen as king, while the disciples and Paul in the New Testament were chosen as evangelist. No one gets to pick his own role, and we get into terrible trouble when we try to do a role assigned to someone else, or get resentful in the role that the Lord has given us.
Some do not want the second anointing at all, because their lives are focused on pleasure, ease, and affluence, or because they reject their unique task. David could have had a quiet life in the family business had he not received the anointing. Paul could have remained a respected and wealthy Pharisee.
The Pathway of the Anointing
God always anoints His chosen workers through other people. Samuel was the vehicle for Saul and David, while the Apostles were the vehicle for the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17). Oil is not required, but laying on hands often is (James 5:14-18). Elijah anointed his successor, Elisha, and Ananias anointed his erstwhile enemy, Saul of Tarsus. I received the anointing of the Lord for salvation through my parents, and the anointing for ministry through the hands of men like Richard Harding, Reid Jepson, and Mike Woods.
The obvious corollary is that no man receives the anointing alone. Those who stay home from church or avoid gatherings of believers cannot receive the anointing. It is not enough to watch preachers on television or listen to sermons while driving to work. The Christian life is the life of community, and no one living out of the community can fully participate in the work of the Lord.
The Prerequisites of the Anointing
People seek outward signs to determine what to do since we cannot see into the hearts of men. The Lord knows each man better than he knows himself, however, and chooses those who hearts are totally His (2 Chronicles 16:9). Moses and David were used mightily because they were dedicated mightily to their Creator.
At times, however, God uses His people to anoint evil men. Elijah anointed Jehu (1 Kings 19:16, 2 Kings 9:1-6) as leader of Israel, even though he was wicked (2 Kings 10:31). Elisha anointed Hazael to be King of Syria even though the prophet foresaw that he would cause great grieving in Israel (1 Kings 19:15, 2 Kings 8:7-15).
The Power of the Anointing
People commonly assume that power derives from position, whereas in reality power comes from the individual. By anointing David, Samuel promised him that someday God would make him king. David would eventually get the power inherent in the position of king, but not until the Holy Spirit had made him into a man who could wield that power in accordance with the will of the Almighty. David played for Saul, defeated Goliath, befriended Jonathan, killed Philistines, and moved men all with the power of the Spirit. He became king in his character long before becoming king on the throne.
Moises Naim’s 2014 book The End of Power described how traditional centers of power in the world, such as businesses, armies, governments, and religious institutions, are losing their power to influence people. He writes “in the 21st century, power is easier to get, harder to use – and easier to lose.” A new egalitarianism is sweeping the world and self-determination to the point of anarchy, and gridlock, is at hand.
The End of Power makes many good points, but misses the greatest point of all. God has all power, and His power has not changed. He gives power to those who follow Him through the Holy Spirit, and He gives them exactly enough to accomplish His mission for them. What was true in 2016 B.C. remains true in 2016 A.D. Power does not come, and has never come, from other people or circumstances…it comes only from Him.
But how does the anointing actually work? Movies like Harry Potter (and Star Wars) suggest that magicians (and Jedi) have access to an impersonal universal power. In reality, the only universal power is personal, and He is God. Christians have access to God, but instead of using Him to accomplish our purposes as a magician might try to do, He uses us to accomplish His purposes. The anointing also affects other people. Let us consider how the anointing with the Holy Spirit changes things
- Effect on us – When the Spirit of God indwells us, it makes us more like Him. We gain His heart and His understanding and our works align with His will. We learn what He wants for us, and become more focused in our lives. David would never have dreamed that he could actually be king of Israel, but once God chose him, he focused his efforts to this end.
- Effect on others – When Samuel anointed David, everyone who knew of it was forced to make a decision: support David against Saul, or support Saul against David. The anointing will galvanize people for you, to help you in God’s mission with prayer, money, emotional support, and any other way they can. It will also galvanize people against you.
- Effect on God – When the Holy Spirit, who Himself is God, is active in a man’s heart through the anointing, the man becomes more like the Lord, and the Lord is more likely to heed the prayer of and bless the efforts of the man.
All of these factors make the anointed one more successful in what he or she does. Thus the anointing has power, real power, for those who believe.
My friend is a Christian and has had the Holy Spirit in him since he accepted Christ. My family and I anointed him and his family, not giving him the baptism of the Spirit but strengthening the work of the Spirit within him. Tim’s purpose is good, his pathway is sound, his prerequisites are faithful to the Lord. As a result, he has power to accomplish God’s purpose in this phase of his life. The Lord’s timing is not ours and sometimes we must wait much longer than we wish to get what we want. But Tim has more of the power of the Holy Spirit now than before; the only power that actually matters.