“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil.” Psalm 23:5
In the ancient world, anointing a person with oil had several meanings. It was used to symbolize that a person was chosen by God. Anointing a person with oil was a sign of God’s approval. People were anointed as an act of sanctification, to make one holy. Early Christians were encouraged to pray and anoint those who were sick with oil.
Israel’s King David, doesn’t tell us in Psalm 23, just what he was thinking of, when he wrote, “Thou anointest my head with oil.” Was it the moment that the prophet Samuel visited his father Jesse, having been sent by God, to anoint a new king? Or at a coronation ceremony many years later, when he did become king? Or was it at a moment he had asked for prayer, and he was anointed again?
Along the way, David had acquired enemies. Which, unfortunately, is true for most of us. Our personality rubs a person the wrong way. We remind someone of a person they had trouble with. We say innocuous things, which are perceived in another person’s world as unkind. Jealousy grows and what could have been a beautiful friendship slides into resentment. David has dined in the “presence of his enemies,” and now is anointed with the oil of blessing. A promise God would continue to be with him, and confirmation of God’s approval.
The words of Psalm 23 give us encouragement. For as we read it, we too, are assured of God’s love and presence in every part of our lives. As David wrote the words, “Thou anointest my head with oil,” he celebrated both the physical touch of oil and the gift of God’s spirit, being poured on him.
Robert W. Fisher writes, *“When we sit at the Lord’s table and feel our foreheads anointed , we get a holy kiss that heals our places of hurt . We see the darkness around us lose its power in the midst of the Lord’s presence, and we are restored.”
(Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, pg 108)
Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing. In meadows of green grass he lets me lie. To the waters of repose he leads me;there he revives my soul. He guides me by paths of virtue for the sake of his name. Though I pass through a gloomy Valley, beside me your rod and your staff are there, to hearten me. You prepare a table before me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup brims over. Ah, how goodness and kindness pursue me, every day of my life, my home, the house of Yahweh, as long as I live! Jerusalem Bible