Part I. The Anointing That Didn’t Last
A. The Anointing of King Saul
Anointing for ministry is only as powerful as the sacrifice behind it. How well do ministers understand that sacrifice?
I Samuel 10:1 tells us that the prophet Samuel poured a box (or flask) of oil on Saul’s head when he anointed him to be king. Oil in scripture can serve as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who came upon Saul mightily. The Holy Spirit empowered Saul to do his job as king. David, who succeeded Saul, acknowledged this fact continually.
David had great respect for God’s anointing on Saul’s life. Many times in scripture he refers to Saul as “The Lord’s anointed.” David did not dare harm Saul, because He knew God’s prophet Samuel had indeed anointed Saul.
Saul started out strong, following after God. His anointing didn’t last, however. That’s because he didn’t appreciate the truth supporting his anointing. As a result, he acted foolishly. This happened as he prepared to do battle against the Philistines. Samuel, the man God chose to make the sacrifice prior to waging war (I Samuel 13:8-10), had not arrived within the set time limit. As his men scattered from him, Saul panicked. He took matters into his own hands and sacrificed the burnt offerings and peace offerings himself. As a result, the Holy Spirit left him (I Samuel 16:14).
B. The Failure of Man-made Sacrifice
Like Cain, Saul discovered the hard way that you can’t earn God’s favor through your own labor. Think about it: Cain offered to God the fruit of the ground over which he had labored with his own blood, sweat and tears. Saul pretty much did the same thing – not by offering fruit and vegetables contrary to God’s law – but by stepping into the priest’s role. Saul, who was not a priest, made the sacrifice himself. Did he take the time to ponder the meaning behind the sacrifice? Not likely.
The point is this: Forgiveness of sins requires the shedding of blood. The Jews knew this. To escape Egypt, they had to sacrifice a lamb and place its blood upon their door posts. Moreover, the lamb must be spotless, without flaw or blemish. For Saul to offer such a lamb rashly – and improperly as well, was a foolish thing to do.
In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells a parable of ten virgins preparing for a wedding feast. Five, he says, were wise. They had plenty of oil. But five were very foolish. They let their oil run out.
This parable leaves much to ponder. For example, if oil represents the Holy Spirit, how could the foolish ones let it run out?
Saul, I believe, was like one of the foolish virgins. He started with the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit left him because of his disobedience.
But the Holy Spirit never left David.
Both kings were anointed. What was the difference?
C. Saul Got the Box; David Got the Horn
Well, we might want to consider the difference in symbolism, because Samuel used a box (or flask) of oil to anoint Saul. However, he used a horn of oil to anoint David. The story behind the horn, of course, goes all the way back to Abraham and the sacrifice that saved the one God called his “only son.”
It all points back to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, foreshadowed in the symbolism of this story. How well do ministers of this gospel understand the meaning behind that sacrifice? Do we rest on Christ’s finished work for us or choose to take matters into our own hands?