March 03, 2019

Oil of Grace

Psalm 23

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

—  Psalm 23:5

Most of us wouldn’t ask to have oil poured over our heads. Oil is greasy, slippery, and hard to wash off. But people who knew about raising sheep in ancient Israel—and still in some places today—would understand the blessing of anointing.

David, the writer of this psalm, knew a lot about herding sheep. As a caring shepherd, he would have applied olive or grain oil to a sheep’s nose and ears. Sheep were often troubled by insects that buzzed about their heads and tried to lay eggs on the moist membranes of the animal’s nose and ears. The sheep became distracted and obsessed with keeping those bugs away. So shepherds applied oil as a soothing remedy that kept the pests away.

Relief was immediate. Gone were the aggravation, the frenzy, the irritability, and the restlessness. It was an incredible transformation.

This is a beautiful picture of anointing. Describing himself as a sheep, the psalmist says that the Lord, his shepherd, anoints his head with oil. The calming influence of oil on a sheep’s head is meant for us as well. The irritants and annoyances of life disappear.

Can you picture yourself receiving an anointing like that from God? We all need his healing balm to cope with the problems of each day. Allow the good shepherd to anoint you with his grace, mercy, and love.

Lord, thank you for your care for us amid the troubles and annoyances of life. Thank you for providing a way for us to find peace, that we may live for you. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Pete Byma

Pete Byma has served as a pastor of congregations in Michigan and in Washington state. Serving now as a pastor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he is also a consultant/coach for churches experiencing conflict, and he enjoys equipping and establishing people in ministry. He is married to Cheri, and they have four grown children and six grandchildren. Pete is also a registered soccer official and enjoys bicycling.

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