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Exodus 30:22-30 1

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 24 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil. 25 Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. 26 Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, 27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, 28 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. 30 “Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.

Background

Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming.  Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity. The name was adopted from Latin adventus meaning “coming; arrival”, translating the Greek parousia.  This study looks at the anointing of kings, the purpose and the process.

The origin of anointing may have come from a practice followed by early shepherds. Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep’s head, they could burrow into the sheep’s ears and kill the sheep. So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep’s head. This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep’s ears because the insects would slide off. From this practice, anointing may have grown to become symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment. From shepherds, this evolved into anointing one’s body or head with oil and became a common practice with the Jews, as with other Oriental nations. ( 28:40 ; Ruth 3:3 ; Micah 6:15 ). Anointing the head with oil or ointment seems also to have been a mark of respect sometimes paid by a host to his guests. ( Luke 7:46 ) and Psalm 23:5.

What we know about anointing:

  • Anointing became a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices of the Jewish commonwealth.
  • Prophets were occasionally anointed to their office, ( 1 Kings 19:16 ) and were called messiahs, or anointed. ( 1 Chronicles 16:22 ; Psalms 105:15 )
  • Priests, at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood, were all anointed to their offices, ( Exodus 40:15 ; Numbers 3:3 ) but afterwards anointing seems to have been specially reserved for just the high priest, ( Exodus 29:29 ; Leviticus 16:32 ) so that “the priest that is anointed,” ( Leviticus 4:3 ) is generally thought to mean the high priest.
  • Anointing was the principal and divinely-appointed ceremony in the inauguration of the Jewish Kings. ( 1 Samuel 9:16 ; 10:1 ; 1 Kings 1:34 1 Kings 1:39 ) The rite was sometimes performed more than once. David was anointed three times.
  • Inanimate objects also were anointed with oil, in token of their being set apart for religious service. Thus Jacob anointed a pillar at Bethel. ( ( Genesis 31:13 ; Exodus 30:26-28 )
  • We still find anointing with oil in use in churches today. Anointing with oil was prescribed by St. James to be used for the recovery of the sick. ( James 5:14 ).  The Apostles anointing with oil. ( Mark 6:13 )
  • However, for Advent we will rely on the Old Testament promise that a Deliverer would come under the title of Messiah, or Anointed, ( Psalms 2:2 ; Daniel 9:25 Daniel 9:26 )

Lets look at some of the terms used in our verses for clarity:

shekel – The earliest shekels were a unit of weight, used  for trading before the advent of coins. (11 grams (0.39 oz)). Later, the term stood for a denomination of silver coinage.

hin – A liquid measure  equal to about 8 quarts.

cinnamon – A spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used mainly as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive.

calamus – Acorus calamus (also called sweet flag or calamus) is a species of tall wetland flowering plant. It was used in traditional medicine over centuries to treat digestive disorders and pain (however, it is banned in the US because it is toxic).

cassia – There are hundreds of Cassia species, but it is unclear just how many. One estimate stands at 692. It is one of the principal spices of the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:24 ), and an article of commerce ( Ezekiel 27:19 ). Biblical Cassia is from the inner bark of a tree resembling the cinnamon and was probably imported from India.

myrrh – A natural gum or resin extracted from a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora. Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Myrrh mixed with posca 2or wine was common across ancient cultures, for general pleasure and as an analgesic.

olive oil – A liquid fat obtained from olives (the fruit of Olea europaea), a traditional tree of the Mediterranean Basin,. Its quality can vary and for anointing, only the best and first pressings were used to produce the oil.

While Anointing and the use of Anointing Oil had its roots in the Old Testament, we should note that oil has symbolism also linked to the Holy Spirit’s presence. When someone consecrates and sanctifies something with anointing oil, they set it apart for God’s use.  This symbolism is still is relevant to us today. On this first Sunday of Advent, we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. We see the importance of oil through the word “anointed” and its associations with Jesus. Anointing oil was used on priests and kings for important purposes. In the same way, Jesus is our High Priest and our King. This practice used in Israel and throughout the Ancient World merely foreshadowed God’s work through his Son, the Messiah (anointed), our King.

Items for Discussion

  • To what purpose do you think God went through such detail to define the formula for anointing oil? Why so complex?
  • Why is setting someone or something apart from others such an important part of our culture?
  • Where else in our culture do we still anoint, set apart, people or things?
  • To what benefits does an anointing bring to the anointed and to the witnesses?

 

Luke 7:36-48

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Background

There is much in this story but lets focus on our message from the season of Advent and the topic for this study, the anointing of kings. Here we have a story that moves us to the heart of Christ’s mission on earth. Only those who understand their separation from God through sin, enough to be broken-hearted, can fully perceive the full scope of the mercy shown by Jesus. In fact, it is the very message within our Gospels that are written to encourage repenting sinners. The Pharisee, instead of rejoicing in the woman’s repentance, confined his thoughts to her former bad and sinful character. If our God was like this Pharisee, without free forgiveness, none of us could escape the wrath fairly due to us.

Instead, we have a gracious Savior who has purchased a full pardon with His own blood and then, moving against all typical human responses, freely gives it every one that believes in Him. Christ, by this simple parable, forced Simon to acknowledge that the greater sinner this woman had been, the greater love she ought to show to Him when her sins were pardoned. Our important point of learning is that sin is a debt and all debts must be fully payed. We are all sinners, debtors to Almighty God. Some sinners may be greater debtors but whether our debt is great or small, it is more than we are able to pay. We do not have the “currency” to repay God. Instead, God is ready to forgive that debt. Why, because His Son has already purchased a pardon for those who believe in Him and used His own life as currency. This is the simple message of Jesus and His Gospel message, repenting sinners are forgiven. The more we express our sorrow for sin, and our love to Christ, the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins. What a wonderful change can grace make on a sinner’s heart and life, as well as their position before God, when the full remission of all their sins through faith in the Lord Jesus have been removed!

Items for Discussion

  • Why does the concept of a debt appear to be so appropriate for the concept of a sin?
  • In a typical “anointing” a special person, a priest typically would do the ceremony, Here, a sinner anoints our Savior. To what purposes do you see in this act?
  • We typically anoint someone to confer title, position, power, authority, duty, etc. – How does the anointing of Christ by a sinful woman define the responsibilities of humanity toward Jesus? In other words, now that Jesus is anointed King by a common sinner, how should we view Him?
  • To much of the world, we will be the only Gospel that people will know and see. Why then is it so important to live a life that demonstrates our servanthood to an anointed Savior King?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we take what appear to be old and may be archaic practices like anointing and keep the relevant in today’s world?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. Posca was an Ancient Roman drink, made by mixing vinegar, water, and perhaps herbs. It was the soldiers, the lower classes, and the slaves who drank posca, a drink despised by the upper class.
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