The Biblical pattern of anointing and sacrifice lays down a template for the spiritual life of believers today.
In the Bible, holiness, in the sense of something being set apart for God’s use, is a quality that was to have been instituted through a process of anointing. Anointing was the practice of rubbing, smearing, or pouring a substance on a thing or person to designate it as being set apart exclusively for God’s purposes. The most common method of anointing was with a type of oil or sacrificial blood, or both.
- Exodus 30:25-29 – And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.
- Exodus 29:21 – Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.
The idea that things could be set apart as holy became an object lesson for the people of Israel. They would come to recognize that when God sets something apart, it was special and uniquely his and should not be tampered with. Anything touching the altar or consecrated article would become holy, that is, set apart for God’s purpose.
A famous example of this is when King David was attempting to transport the anointed and set apart articles of the tabernacle, including the ark of the covenant, up to Jerusalem for the new temple.
2 Samuel 6:5-7 – And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating beforeYahweh, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger ofYahweh was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.
As harsh as this may sound in a surface reading of this passage, Uzzah, with the best of intentions, attempted to keep the ark from falling off of the cart, but because he came in direct contact with something that was wholly set apart for God’s use, he died. In a sense, he became instantly holy, that is, he became set apart for God’s purpose by being wholly consumed by the anointed article.
This is meant to teach us, not of the harshness of God, but of his set-apartness, his otherness that has real impact and lasting effect on our physical lives here. We can see from the physical examples of the articles of the tabernacle and temple that anything that is anointed and set apart as holy to Yahweh is to be taken very seriously.
Exodus 29:36-37 – and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.
Yeshua confirmed that anything placed on the altar was to become completely holy and set apart for God’s purpose.
Matthew 23:16-19 – “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold holy? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy?
The idea that anything which touched the altar specifically would become holy has to do with the idea that an offering that is on the altar is being used for its highest purpose, given in complete and full sacrifice to God.
In the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul, he touches on this aspect in the life of a believer.
Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
If our living bodies are to be considered living sacrifices, and sacrifices that are on the altar are considered holy, then our lives become a holy offering to God. Following the logic of the narrative of Uzzah, if we touch the altar of sacrifice with our living body, we must die. Paul expresses the paradox of the believer in that we are constantly in a state of dying to ourselves when we willingly offer ourselves to God.
The apostle John, however, focuses on the living aspect about the anointing of God. His contention is that believers have been anointed by God with his holy Spirit for the purpose of understanding truth, and learning to live and abide in him.
1 John 2:20, 27 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. … But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in him.
This paradox of the life of the anointing and the sacrifice of holiness is a reality that we must understand if we are to truly serve Yahweh faithfully in obedience to Yeshua.
- John 15:4-5 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
- Matthew 10:38-39 – And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
We have been called to die to ourselves and live for him. This is the path of the anointing and the way of holiness.
If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.
Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.
Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.