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3 Powerful Ways the Good Shepherd Waits to Anoint You

From the earliest times, oil has been used as a representation for the Holy Spirit’s work in us, with the Bible mentioning being ‘anointed’ over 700 times

Prophets, priests, and kings were authorized for their God-given calling through an anointing.

Ordinary items were consecrated for holy use in the temple through an anointing.

Pillars were anointed. Clothing was anointed. Feet were anointed.

Jesus Himself came as the “Christ,” meaning Anointed One.” Indeed, every time we use the word “Christian,” we’re referring to the anointing.

When someone surrenders to follow Jesus, they receive the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit as a kind of seal of ownership (1 Jn. 2:27, Eph. 1:13). But that’s only part of the picture. God longs to draw near continually with supernatural grace needed take us from ‘glory to glory.’ And He calls that grace His “anointing.”

God’s “anointing” refers to every place we allow His adoring presence to fill, consume, cover, and empower us, instead of limping by in our own limited ability, understanding, maturity, and capacity. 

We are anointed for our Healing (Mk. 6:13, James 5:14). 

We are anointed with Joy (Ps. 45:7, Is. 61:3, Heb. 1:9).

We are anointed to grow deeper in Discipleship (Rev. 3:18-19).

We are anointed to walk in Power (Acts 10:38). 

We are anointed to learn and remember His Truth (Jn. 14:26, 1 Jn. 2:27).

We are anointed to Embody the Gospel and Change Lives (Lk. 4:18)

We are anointed to step Into our Royal and Priestly Calling (Ex. 29:7, 1 Pet. 2:9). 

In David’s 23rd Psalm, we encounter yet another dimension to His anointing:

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

I am indebted to the insight of Phillip Keller* and the following 3 reasons ancient shepherds anointed their sheep. They preach volumes to the fields you and I live on today. 

  1. Shepherds Anointed Sheep to Keep Irritating Pests Out of their Heads!

In summer months, one of the greatest threats to sheep are parasites that surround the flock, looking for a place to set up camp. As disgusting as it sounds, these bugs are known to fly into the nose and ears of sheep in order to lay their eggs so their offspring can live there. These tiny predators torment sheep, causing them to bang their heads on rocks or trees for even momentary relief. Because of this, the loving shepherd draws near at the first sign of irritation, anointing the nose and ears of the sheep, establishing a protective barrier that leaves the pests no safe place to land.

Can you see creation preaching here?

We are also surrounded by an annoying parasite who seeks to plant thoughts, fears, accusations, lies, and offenses, hoping to occupy the real estate of our minds. He loves when we wriggle and writhe in search of distractions for monetary relief. Praise God, we needn’t bang our heads against a rock. We have a Good Shepherd who simply desires for us to let Him come near and anoint our minds

"We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 TPT

What thoughts or imaginations are camping in your mind, and need to go?

2. Shepherds Anointed Sheep to Heal their Wounds and to Protect the Flock from Infection!

Oil also operated as a balm that brought healing to wounds and relief to scratches the sheep encountered as they traversed difficult terrain. One of the greatest threats was an infection called “scab.” “Scab is an irritating and highly contagious disease common among sheep,” writes Keller. The most common place for scab to break out was on sheep’s heads, which is a problem, because sheep love to show their affection by rubbing heads together. 

As infected sheep lived in close intimate contact, they spread the disease through the unsuspecting at an alarming rate, threatening to infect the entire flock. The only antidote that could neutralize and reverse the disease was, you guessed it, for the shepherd to anoint the sheep. 

As a pastor of over 25 years, I have witnessed ‘spiritual scab' firsthand more times than I’d like to admit. It is a communal disease of discontent, offense, gossip, and grumbling that spreads rapidly as wounded believers ‘rub heads’ together. The damage done to God’s beloved through the distorted lenses and conspiracy theories that creep through the flock in hushed self-righteous whispers is impossible to overstate.


“A wicked scoundrel wants to dig up dirt on others, only to spread slander and shred their reputation. A twisted person spreads rumors; a whispering gossip ruins good friendships.” Proverbs 16:27-28 TPT

We need the shepherd to anoint us and cleanse our infection. Wherever we allow this to happen, we will invite others to multiply not our ailment, but the ointment of His Spirit! Then, our communities will be marked not by contamination, but consecration.

What wounds or offenses do you need the Shepherd to anoint with healing?

3. Shepherds Anointed Sheep to Put a Stop to Their Infighting!

There is one final anointing an ancient shepherd employed…and it’s kind of humorous. Whenever mating season was approaching, tensions would arise within the flock. Stirrings of scarcity would lead otherwise tightly knit sheep into fits of competition and conflict, fighting for the best portion and the best mate. The favorite way for male sheep to boast their bravado was through butting heads, which often led to great injury. Though they were members of the same flock, sheep were known to maim and even inadvertently kill one another, all in an effort to make a space for themselves

So, whenever a shepherd witnessed two sheep eyeing toward conflict, he would take them and anoint their heads with ridiculous amounts of oil. Here’s the funny part:

As the sheep would gather around for the epic battle of two rivaling ‘alphas,’ what they watched looked less like Gladiator and more like The Three Stooges. The warriors ran full speed, snorting, only to slide off each other, avoiding the brunt of contact…and making them look really silly in the process. Surprisingly, it worked.

Like sheep, we tend easily toward scarcity and competition. Comparison leads to petty jealousies. Feelings of insecurity lead to anger. And before you know it, members of the same flock are taking sides in the butting of heads. We need God’s anointing to come over our minds to awaken us to the silliness of it all, and to empower us to live out the love the Cross made available:

“Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves.  Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests. And consider the example that Jesus, the Anointed One, has set before us. Let his mindset become your motivation.” Philippians 2:3-5 TPT

Are there any rivalries, divisions, or resentments between you and any member of  the ‘flock’ that need to fall?

Our God is a Good Shepherd and right now, He stands on the field with us, oil flask in hand: 

He wants to anoint us so His thoughts will take residence in our minds. 

He longs to heal our flocks of infection and make us communities of hope. 

And He waits to remove our rivalries with a refining that reminds us that He is our promoter and provider, and we’ve only been called to love Him and each other. 

We NEED His anointing. Where is He calling you to draw near and receive it?


*Phillip Keller's excellent book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 was incredibly beneficial, as he shared firsthand experience from the vantage-point of a shepherd with sheep.

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