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Jun 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 10, 2012 – Psalm 23:5

You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5b

INTRO: Yesterday Barb and I watched “The Book of Eli” (I won’t recommend it, though, due to its graphic violence)

It is about a man with a mission after the world was destroyed by nuclear war
– the earth is scorched and still bakes in relentless sunlight that washes out all color
• even clouds look hot, like smoke rising from a smoldering planet
– humankind has regressed to primitive barbarism

A young woman asks Eli what life was like before the war (which would be, of course, this time that we live in) and he says:

“People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

One of the consequences of living in a consumer culture is that we lose the ability to discern what is precious
– we don’t realize the effect that culture has on us – we live in culture like fish live in water
• its atmosphere is filled with invisible chemicals and some of them are toxic
– the effect of being constantly bombarded by advertisements is discontent
• we are driven to desperation, as if we were starving

It is far too easy to become fixated on what we don’t have
– when that happens, we lose the ability to enjoy what we do have

The two lines of our psalm are more than a reminder – they make a strong impression on us

“You have anointed my head with oil”

First, this is not the official anointing we see so often in Bible (a different word for “anoint” is used)
– priests were anointed with oil as part of their ordination for their sacred position
– kings were anointed with oil as part of their coronation for their royal position
• also, lepers were anointed in a ritual of purification
– but in this verse, the oil is not poured over the head of the poet

The Hebrew word, dah-shane, means to make fat, or prosperous
– it is also translated “take away ashes” (from the altar, Ex. 27:3)
• what’s left on the altar after sacrifice? Ashes and grease (from the fat)

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
But the soul of the diligent is made fat.
(Pr. 13:4)

– Robert Alter, “Etymologically, it means something like ‘to make luxuriant.’”

We are used to thinking about the sacred uses of oil in scripture
– but in biblical times it was also used for fuel (lamps) and in cooking and dressing meals
– another major use of oil was for the care of the body
• frequently it was scented – like perfume
– in this regard, oil was typically used for:

  1. Grooming
    “Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head” (Ecc. 9:7-8)
  2. Health – Isa. 1:6, Israel’s “wounds” had not been “softened with oil”
  3. Hospitality – Lk. 7:44-46 – greet guest with a kiss, wash their feet, and drop scented oil in their hair
  4. A symbol of joy – so apply for any important or festive occasion
    God supplies the earth, fills streams with water and fields with grass for animals, “And wine which makes man’s heart glad, / So that he may make his face glisten with oil, / And food which sustains man’s heart” (Ps. 104:15)
    “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, / So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend” (Pr. 27:9)
    “. . . The oil of gladness instead of mourning . . .” (Isa. 61:3)

Oil was used in the same way we use creams, lotions and body oils

When Esther was conscripted into the king’s harem, she and the other young women received twelve months of “beautification . . . six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women” (Es. 2:12)

So, in effect, the poet is saying, “You have rubbed oil into my hair”

The poet is thanking God for special attention he’s been given

It is like someone:

  • bandaging your scraped knee
  • massaging your sore muscles
  • bringing you flowers
  • draping a lei around your neck while giving you a kiss on the cheek

God goes beyond meeting his essential needs, and in the process there is intimate contact
– God’s hands are on his head

“My cup overflows”

In the days of Joshua, the land of Israel was parceled out to the twelve tribes
– every clan or family was given their own piece of property
– they used a lottery to determine who received what territory (Jos. 18, “cast lots”)
• they referred to their property as an inheritance, portion, lot
• now look how the psalmist spiritualized these words and ideas:

The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
(Ps. 15:5)

– note “the cup,” which represents a person’s rations – whatever is appointed for them
– by the way, what’s in a person’s cup is not always good (Jesus’ “cup” in Mt. 26:38-39)

In this case, the cup is not just full, it overflows

If humans are the only self-conscious organisms in universe and God’s intention was to create people on whom he could pour out his love, then we can’t begin to comprehend the excess of what he’s done — the whole universe, just to have us

– I remember the first time I saw photos of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons
• every few minutes a plume of lava was spouting somewhere on the surface of Io
• I was deeply moved by the immense power and beauty of this small moon, and no one was there to see it
• and that is just one instance in our little solar system–never mind  our galaxy! Or the billions of other galaxies

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Ro. 8:31-32)

Sometimes we get impression that God is hard to live with
– that we have to keep earning the right to be his child
• we’re aware of what we lack to qualify as “saints”
– but God has taken care of all those things

Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Pe. 1:3)

– from here to heaven, you’re covered
– get past the idea that you need to keep “getting saved” and get on with what you’re life is about, what you are here to be and to do

Have you heard the expression “Messianic Psalm”?

What does it mean?

(A psalm that either is a prediction or includes a prediction regarding the Messiah)

Sometimes Bible commentators will describe a psalm as Messianic that isn’t

C. S. Lewis, in Reflections on the Psalms said that if someone says something about future and it happens, there are three possibilities:

  1. They were inspired – truly prophetic
  2. It was an accident, a coincidence, it happened by chance
  3. Someone describes a condition without anyone specific in mind, but then someone comes along who meets that condition
    Not mere chance, there’s a real relationship or resemblance

Example: Plato claimed that a perfectly good person would be so, even if he received no reward, but was treated as a monster
– according to Lewis, Plato says, “We must picture him, still perfect, while he is bound, scourged, and finally impaled (the Persian equivalent of crucifixion).”
– it is not by chance that Jesus matched Plato’s description
• he did not have Jesus in mind, but it’s not a coincidence that his model of goodness looks like Jesus

Psalm 23 is not Messianic – David did not have the Messiah in mind
– but it’s no coincidence that the shepherd looks like Jesus
– we find the same surplus in Jesus’ teaching
• he wants his followers to have fullness of joy and abundance of life

CONC: Negative thoughts have dominated my mind most my life

So I’m giving my soul time to learn, to practice, fail, and try again
– but not giving up
– I’m going to learn this dance

In contemplative prayer we practice taking the risk of enjoying what you have, free from the thought, “I need more”
– allow yourself to luxuriate in Jesus’ love, his care, his touch

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