In the Old Testament, Israelite kings were anointed with oil, marking them as new leaders of the people. In Psalm 23:5, King David wrote, “You anoint my head with oil.” That actually happened. David was anointed king of God’s people. Remember, though, this psalm is packed full of pictures of shepherd and sheep. There’s another meaning here connected to shepherding and to you.
In the arid landscape of the Middle East, grass doesn’t grow in abundance. The tufts of grass are quickly snatched up by sheep. Some of the choicest grass is found beneath thorns and thistles. It grows long as it’s untouched by other grazing animals, and the thick cover of the thorny bush keeps the refreshing dew on the grass longer into the day. Sheep cannot resist the temptation. When the thorns and thistles rip into the sheep’s heads, flies feast on the open wounds. It’s painful. It brings infection. The shepherd—after seeing the wounds from the sheep’s waywardness—applies oil to the animals’ heads generously. Oil protects sheep from the attack of flies and soothes pain.
Jesus anoints you with oil. Jesus sees the wounds you carry from being drawn into the devil’s temptations. He knows you’re in pain because you’re infected by the consequences of wrongdoing. So he comes to you. He calms you. He anoints you with his loving mercy and soothes your pain. You are forgiven. In that forgiveness, he keeps away the devil from pestering you and paining you. Oh, how he loves you!