When I was a youth pastor we invited a guest speaker along to one of our services. When he turned up he said to me, “he had chosen a particular message of his for the evening”. He told me that, “this sermon of his had a real anointing on it.” Which really puzzled me… I just figured that it was Pentecostal speak for, I’m an itinerant preacher and I’ve got a series of ten or so messages I choose from and this one is one of my better ones. But I was concerned that he would use terminology that inferred that the message he had was somehow more spirit filled, more holy, more God inspired than other sermons and other peoples sermons
I’ve heard this word anointed used more and more recently. I’ve heard people call a song anointed, saying that somehow it is more special and more Holy Spirit endowed than other ones. I’ve heard people speak about this person or that person being anointed for a specific ministry, Christian conferences will talk of having this speaker along who will impart a special anointing onto people. This church or that ministry is anointed. It may be just a dialect of that weird church language, Chistianese that I don’t speak. It may just be Semantics, but it puzzles and worries me.
Along with that proclamation of something being anointed comes a sense that its better than everything else, or more special than anyone else, this is the reason it is successful. People will often use the anointing as a way of stopping people being critical or even asking questions about a person or an institution or a way of doing things, because it is speaking against God’s anointed. That can easily become abusive controlling power wrapped up in spiritual terms. It’s dangerous and can be damaging.
Why does this impact on you and I? why share this? Because I think it’s important. You see one of the things that came along with the reemphasis on the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements was that if you were not experiencing all these different manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit, it used to be based around speaking in tongues, then you didn’t have God’s Spirit and you were seen as kind of a second-class citizen of the kingdom of God. You may be familiar with Dr Zuess’ Sneeches who lived on beaches! And the star bellied Sneechers thought they were the best kind of Sneechers because they had stars upon thars. We can miss the fact that in God’s anointed one, Jesus Christ, we have all been set aside, anointed by God’s Holy Spirit to be God’s people to serve together to achieve the purposes of God.
We are working our way through the Old Testament, looking at the work of the Holy Spirit in scriptures: from hovering over the water in the creation narrative at the beginning of Genesis, to the fulfilment at Pentecost of God pouring out the Spirit on all who believe. It gives us a chance to look at what the Spirit did then and there, to ask what difference Jesus life death and resurrection made, and what it means for us today.
This week we are looking at Saul, his anointing as King and the connection with that of the work of the Holy Spirit, at the beginning of 1 Samuel chapter 10, and that disturbing verse in 1 Samuel 16 where it says that the Holy Spirit departed from Saul after Samuel had anointed David and that an evil spirit tormented him.
The book of Samuel follows on from the book of Judges. Israel has got to the point where they are not happy with simply having God appoint a judge for Israel when needed. They are beginning to have more of a sense of being a nation together, and want a central government to defend them against their enemies. God gives them what they want, he sends Samuel to find Saul… Physically Saul is what you might expect a warrior king to look like, he stands head and shoulders above the crowd. He had just been chasing his father’s donkeys across the hill country, he is physically fit. So on God’s command Samuel anoints him as King. He pours oil over his head, in Israel before this priests had been anointed with oil to set them apart for their work and now Saul is being set apart for the service of being King, being a leader. It is a symbol of God’s choosing, this is the one whom God has chosen to rule over us. It was also seen as God giving the person all the gifts that were required for the role they were being asked to take on. Given the wisdom to make right decisions, to,as we saw with Gideon last week, have the courage to trust God and to act.
The passage we had read out basically deals with the three signs that Samuel gives to Saul to encourage him that what Samuel has said and done is from God. To prepare him for the role he will take up. To enable his to develop the trust in God he will need to carry out that role. Three signs were, (click) that Saul would meet some men who would tell him his father’s donkeys had been found, and would convey back to Saul’s father news that Saul was safe and well. Just a simple thing but it could show Saul that Samuel was speaking from God. it also actually dealt with the things that were on Saul’s agenda from his past role as a shepherd’s son. Dealing with the past personal stuff so he was ready for what was to come.
The second was that he would meet some men going to worship who would offer his two loaves of bread to eat. A simple sign that Samuel was speaking the truth, a sign that God was able to provide for his everyday needs, like Jesus says to his disciples that he can provide our daily needs so that we should put first the Kingdom of God. It was also bread set aside for worship and sacrifice. This bread was only for the priests to eat, it was a sign that he was indeed anointed by God, just like the priests. David would also eat that consecrated bread.
The last one was that at the oak of tabor Saul would meet a group of prophets, dancing and singing and telling forth God’s word, and the Spirit would fall on him and he would join them. A garrison of the philistines being there is mentioned as well. The sign is that God would fill him with his Spirit to enable him both to speak God’s word but also the courage to face the enemies of Israel. All these things happen to Saul.
It tells us that the Spirit of the Lord did fall on Saul and he prophesised, we don’t know what that actual did, just that people acknowldged it was because the Spirit of the Lord had come upon him. . We know the prophets were singing and dancing and giving praise to God, maybe hesimply joined in. when we praise and worship God we are proclaiming and declaring God’s goodness and God’s story, God’s faithfulness and power to each other and to those who hear us. It maybe that Saul started talking and speaking God’s word… taking what the people knew of God’s activity and applying it to the present situation, speaking truth to power, with the philistines not too far away to speak of YWHW as Israel’s God was speaking truth to the military power of the time. But those present recognised it as coming from God’s spirit. It was out of character which is why one of the men asks if “Saul is now one of the prophets’.
It tells us that Saul changed, he was transformed. But such a spiritual experience wasn’t a guarantee that Saul was totally different than he had been. He may have at that time been aware of God’s presence and God’s provision and empowering, but as the story of Saul goes on we see that it does not translate into him being willing to trust and wait on God, he seems very determined to go his own way. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not being possessed by the Holy Spirit, it does not over ride our will or our personality, we always must choose to follow and live for Jesus. The power of being King, draws him away from being humble and trusting God. It leads to God choosing another in David and the presence of God’s Spirit departing from Saul and God allowing his to be tormented by an evil spirit. It is not the Spiritual experience that is the significant thing it is that on going right relationship with God, humbly walking with the Spirit, with the Lord that brings lasting change. While David made heaps of mistakes the thing that sets him apart a a king is, that David was a man after God’s own heart.
What does this all have to say to us.
Firstly we ned to doa bit of theology. The whole of the Old Testament is preparing us and pointing towards the coming of Jesus Christ. People being anointed and spirit filled to achieve God’s purposes and there brokenness and in ability to perfectly keep God’s will points us towards God Anointed one, God’s chosen one, God’s messiah who would be filled with God’s Holy Spirit to achieve God’s purposes in reconciling the world to God. Jesus is the anointed one, set aside for God’s purposes, empowered to declare God’s kingdom in word and signs and wonders and in his death and resurrection. It is in the anointed one that you and I are bought into relationship with God and are anointed by the Holy Spirit to be God’s people.
In our new testament reading today, Paul is defending his calling as an apostle to the Corinthians, who think Paul’s change of travel plans, and postponing coming to see them is a sign that he is fickle and not trustworthy, rather than it being a set of difficult circumstances. Paul does not defend that by saying well I’m God’s anointed don’t criticise me. Rather he points to the fact that he and his team are like everyone else, we belong to Christ. He is the one who makes us stand firm, he has anointed us all, poured out and filled all of us by his Holy Spirit. That is his seal of ownership on us. A message would be sent from a king to a group of people or an individual and it would be deemed authentic if it had the kings seal on it. Made in wax with a ring or a stamp… The spirit’s presence in all our lives is like a down payment a guarantee of what is to come. A taste of eternity with Christ.
Applying that to our lives… anointing is first about all of us in relationship with God. being anointed by the Holy Spirit means we are all God’s chosen people, we have been chosen in and through the chosen one Jesus Christ. God chooses to live with and in us by the Holy Spirit. It is no longer just the chosen one or two, the ones that seem to be more successful or prominent, but all of us, you and even me. We are God’s spirited people. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter uses the image of both sets of people who were anointed and set aside for God in the old testament to speak of the body of Christ, the Church. He says ‘But You are a chosen people (anointed) a royal priesthood, a holy nation (set aside) God’s special possession’. That you may declare forth the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” The spirit of God is on all of us that together, like Saul did initially, we may declare what God has done for us.
It applies to us because we are all anointed for service. It’s not about being successful or having influence in the world, but the road of humbly serving the Lord. God will often make the things that someone does more fruitful in terms of numbers and being noticed, but we are all anointed and gifted to together to witness to Jesus Christ. Paul talks of Christian ministry to the Corinthians as one planting and one watering, but affirms that it is God who brings the growth. It’s interesting we can see mass evangelism having big results and we can forget that most people come to know Jesus through a friend or family member loving them and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
It applies to us because it is easy to equate being filled with God Spirit or anointed in God’ spirit as a spiritual experience. I’ve had heaps of Spiritual experiences and they are encouraging and life changing, they awaken us again and again to the transforming power and presence of God, being filled with God’s Spirit invites us to live in step with the Spirit, It I about a daily walk with Jesus Christ, an ongoing, on growing relationship…We can be about wht God has called us to do because we know he both is able to deal with our past and hold our future in his hands, can put first the kingdom of God because we know God will supply our needs, that he has filled us with his Holy Spirit. That in the end is what allows that anointing to permeate all areas of our life, that in the end is the thing that strengthens us and enables us to live for Christ and that is fruitful… as it produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… it results in Christ, the anointed one, being made manifest in and through us.