What Does It Mean To Be Anointed?
In the Old Testament, the word anointing can be traced to a special oil whose manufacture is prescribed in Exodus 30:22-33. The purpose of this oil was to set apart certain things as holy (e.g., the Tabernacle) or certain people as holy (e.g., the priests).
But anointing wasn’t the only way to render something holy. YHWH might render something holy by coming into direct contact with it, as in the case of Mt. Sinai (Ex. 3:5). Or an individual might render an animal, a field, or a house holy simply by dedicating it to the Lord (Lev. 27). By contrast, the method of anointing appears to have occupied a middle place between these two poles: it conferred a lesser degree of holiness than direct contact, but a greater degree of holiness than mere dedication.
The most important religious officials were set apart as holy through the use of the anointing oil: the earliest was the high priest (Lev. 8:12), followed by the king (I Sam. 10:1), and eventually the prophets (I Kgs. 19:16). As a result, they were sometimes referred to as “anointed ones,” the Hebrew word for which is “Messiah,” and the Greek word for which is “Christ.” So, for example, when David writes that “the rulers of the earth gather against the Lord and his Anointed One,” he is referring first and foremost to himself (Ps. 2:2).
Nevertheless, while the people of Israel depended heavily upon their various messiahs, they always looked forward to the coming of a single great Messiah. Moses spoke of him when he said, “YHWH will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers” (Deut. 18:15). And David spoke of him when he said, “YHWH said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (Ps. 110:1). He was to be the greatest among all the anointed ones, though in this instance the term came to be broadened beyond its conventional meaning, since the highest level of holiness could not be conferred through the application of the anointing oil, but only through direct contact with YHWH. Therefore, just as Moses received his “anointing” by beholding a partial revelation of the face of God (Ex. 34:29), so Jesus received his “anointing” by beholding a full revelation of the face of God (John 1:18).
Pastor Chad LewisApril 1, 2014