Anointing with Oil
Wednesday - March 24th
Devotionals from the Book of James
Scripture to Read Today: James 5:13-20
Is anyone among you sick?
Let them call the elders of the church to pray over
them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
In the ancient Middle East, olive oil had practical, spiritual, and ceremonial uses. One of the staples of the average diet included oil. People used oil to cook, flavor, and even preserve foods. Many use olive oil for the same purposes today.
Beyond cooking, oil was the primary medicine of the ancient world. People used it both internally and externally. When digested, olive oil was thought to relieve stomach issues, skin conditions, arthritis, etc. When applied to the body externally, it was used as a salve and disinfectant. In Luke 10, Jesus describes how the Good Samaritan treated the wounds of the Jewish man beaten and left for dead with oil he had for himself.
In the Bible, oil represented more than the practical use with food and as a medicine. When God confirms to Samuel, the High Priest of Israel, that David, the son of Jesse, would be Israel's next king, Samuel anoints David with oil (1 Samuel 16). The oil symbolically and ceremonially represented God's selection of David as His people's next ruler.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, anointing of oil represented God's unique, spiritual presence upon a particular individual. That would be true of kings, prophets, and priests (Numbers 3:3; 1 Samuel 10:1; Psalm 89:20). Even the concept of "Messiah" or "Christ" means "the anointed one" - the one chosen and sent by God.
James 5:14 indicates yet another aspect of anointing someone with oil. It tells the sick to call for the church elders to anoint them with oil and pray for them. The oil has no magical powers. The oil represents the presence of God. The elders being called to someone overwhelmed with disease or cancer speaks of the church standing with the Christ-follower. It appeared that all human, medical means of finding help and healing had been exhausted at that moment in time. The gathering of the elders to pray spoke of the ill individual's dependence upon God.
Over the years that I have served as a pastor, I have been a part of the elders called on to pray for the sick many times. Our Calvary elders regularly meet with and pray over those whose illness has become overwhelming. Leaders of the church praying over a brother or sister in Christ in this way speaks of both the desperation and dependence on the Lord of all involved. The anointing of the ill individual with oil reminds us that God is sovereign and can heal, not us. We call on Him in His great mercy to provide healing according to His will.
Ultimately, we trust the Lord and Him alone for our help and healing. Thank God today that He watches over your health. Thank God for the help and healing He brings. Rest in Him to act wisely and compassionately according to His will!
When sick, we may be treated by good medical people, but we are ultimately in the hands of the Great Physician!