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The Lord is My Shephered part 7

Psalm 23 is a small passage of scripture but is so full of truth. The second half of verse 5 says, “You anoint my head
with oil, my cup runs over.” So often our view of this Psalm can be seen in the light of meeting our physical needs
only, however, this section of Psalm 23 reveals to us that God is vitally interested in meeting our daily spiritual
needs.

The anointing with oil introduces to us a symbol of the Holy Spirit and the importance of being filled with the Holy
Spirit. The shepherd used oil as a means of protecting his flock from some sinister dangers. Two examples in
particular stand out. The first one was the risk of sheep being bitten by snakes. The viper lives under-ground and as
the sheep grazed there was always the danger that a snake would poke its head up and bite the unsuspecting sheep.

The shepherd dealt with this problem by doing a survey of the pasture while leading his sheep. If he spotted a viper
hole he would get out his container of oil and pour out a ring of oil around the hole. The oil, at least for a while,
would prevent the viper emerging from the hole to attack the flock.v

The other example where oil was such an important part of the shepherd caring for his flock was as an insect
repellent. Insects of various kinds can make life almost unbearable for some animals. For sheep the appearance of
the nasal fly can cause great distress. These flies lay their eggs in the soft tissue membrane of the sheep’s nose, and
once the larvae emerge they start to burrow into the very sensitive nasal tissue, which can drive a sheep literally
mad.

In a vain attempt to gain some relief from what must be excruciating pain, the sheep will deliberately beat their
heads against trees, rocks or thick brush. So it is no surprise when a swarm of flies arrive that a flock of sheep can
start to panic by running around, trying to hide in rocks or brush to escape. The shepherd knows that his sheep are
troubled because they throw their heads back for hours. Some of the sheep stop eating and their general health can
start to deteriorate.

To stop all of this unsettled behavior the shepherd anoints the sheep’s head with some scented oil which keeps the
flies at bay. If we as Christians are going to be the witnesses, that we know God wants us to be, we need to be filled,
anointed, empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that regardless of the circumstances we are at peace within ourselves.

It is not long before you can see whether a person is filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. Our reaction to a
problem, situation or a word of criticism, or an unkind action soon tells us whether a person is controlled by the
Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says this, “And do not be drunk with wine...But be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Being filled
with the Holy Spirit is not an optional extra to the Christian life, but foundational and fundamental to a fruitful
Christian life and service.

The tense of this verse indicates that we are to be filled moment by moment with the Holy Spirit. The word filled
can be misleading because it can distract us from the fact that the Holy Spirit is not some nebulous force or
influence or liquid. We are to be controlled by the Spirit in our thoughts, choices and appetites.

It is interesting to note that once the sheep’s head is anointed it brings rest to the remaining parts of the body. We
as Christians need to have the anointing work of the Holy Spirit upon our minds. The mind is the critical area that
the enemy aims for when he wants us to cave into temptation. If he controls the mind he controls everything else.
This is why the writer of Proverbs says, “As a man thinks so is he.” How we think ultimately determines how we act.
Talk to someone who has been hooked on internet pornography. Ask them how they got hooked and they will tell
you one day they made a choice to open an email, and very quickly they lost control of their minds.

Oil was often used by the shepherd to help sheep who had been hurt or wounded in some way. How we need the
healing balm of the Holy Spirit to deal with our hurts, those relational wounds that have been weeping for years.
Often we battle with forgiveness, bitterness, or hurt because something has not turned out the way we had
expected. Just recently a friend applied for a job which he felt he was suitable for. Unfortunately he was not
appointed and as a result he has decided to move on from his employment feeling somewhat disillusioned and hurt.
It seems that daily we need the healing balm of God’s Holy Spirit to help us keep a right perspective on the various
issues that come across our path. So I think it is absolutely necessary that we daily seek from God a fresh unction, a
fresh anointing, a fresh fullness of the Holy Spirit so we can know His moment by moment leading and direction.

Carl Carmody
Challenge Editor

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