Revive Our Hearts Podcast

You Anoint My Head with Oil

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I don’t care what your problems may be—I mean I do care—but regardless of what your problems may be, it will always be true that you have more blessings than problems.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, August 10. Imagine being in a foreign country that is experiencing unrest and the safest place to go is to your embassy. When you arrive, your hosts will do everything in their power to protect you from what’s going on outside.

In a world of unrest and fear, we have a chance to get away and find protection in the presence of God. Nancy will explain more continuing in the series The Lord is My Shepherd.

Nancy: Well, I hope that you’ll never see the 23rd Psalm quite the same way again. It will take on even greater life and meaning to you if you will not only follow along in the series, but if you’ll be reading the passage yourself day after day. Meditating on each phrase, as I have been, you’ll find that your Shepherd has some rich things He wants to share with you.

We’ve seen that because the Lord is our Shepherd we have no lack. We’ve seen Him making us to lie down in green pastures and leading us beside still waters, providing rest and refreshment for our souls. We’ve seen His ability to restore our souls when we’re weak or we’re wayward.

We’ve seen that He leads us in right paths and that even when we walk through those valleys—those inevitable valleys—of deep darkness that we have no reason to fear. Even when evil surrounds us, we don’t have to be afraid. Why? Because He is with us—“for You are with me” (verse 4). And then how God uses His rod and His staff to bring comfort to us, to instruct us and guide us and protect us and deliver us in trouble.

Now as we come to verse 5, we see what may be a change in the psalm. Some commentators think this is a new word picture moving away from the Good Shepherd now to a word picture of a Gracious Host. The verse says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

You’ll read some books or studies on Psalm 23 that say this is continuing to talk about the Shepherd. That’s possible. I think you could make a case either way. I don’t think it really matters because either way there are some wonderful pictures here of what God does for the lives of His children.

So I’m going to stay for the moment with that picture of God is a gracious host welcoming us to His table, welcoming us to His home. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

I love something that Charles Haddon Spurgeon had to say about this phrase, “You prepare a table.” He said,

Just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary, peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door and yet God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. Oh! The peace which Jehovah gives to His people even in the midst of the most trying circumstances!

Isn’t that a great picture? You have these big eyes of the animal shining in the dark in the picture around the fireplace here or you have the enemies lurking, the enemies, the dangers looming. Yet right in the middle of that scene our Host, or our Shepherd if you prefer, prepares the table, a feast, a plateau, a resting place for us where we can be nourished and fed in the presence of our enemies.

That table He prepares for us—there are different places where that concept is used in the Scripture. Of course, one is the picture of the Lord’s Supper. Isn’t that a table He has prepared for us? The blood and the body of the Lord Jesus. We partake of that in the very presence of our enemies, in the presence of Satan. In the presence of cynics and critics and skeptics we sit down as the people of God to a feast. The Lord’s table prepared for us.

Then I think of that verse in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This is a picture of our sitting down together to have fellowship and intimate communion with our Shepherd, with our Host, with the resident of our lives, the Lord Jesus, in the presence of whatever enemies may be surrounding us.

Then not only for this life, but the promise of God’s hospitality to us through all of eternity. It’s a great picture. In John 14, Jesus said, “I’m going to prepare a place for you, and when it’s ready I’ll come back and take you there” (verse 2, paraphrased). What will we do there? Well, we read in Revelation about that future wedding supper of the Lamb.

You remember how the angel said to John, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). All the enemies of God around, but what can they do to God’s children? When God prepares the table, when He prepares the feast, you are safe. You can be satisfied and let God take care of the enemies.

Now keep in mind that this verse immediately follows the verse about the valley of deep darkness, walking through the valley of the shadow of death. So this is a person who’s been through that but on the other side, he comes out to a feast, a table, abundance, provision.

It reminds me of that passage in Psalm 66:

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance (verses 10-12).

Isn’t that like God? Keep that in mind when you are in the valley of deep shadows, when you’re in the place of fire and water and crushing burdens and being tried and tested and men riding over your heads—whatever all that means—that beyond that, beyond the cross there’s a resurrection. There’s a feast prepared for you. You have brought us out to a place of abundance.

So those enemies that surround us may be any number of things.

  • It may be Satan himself.
  • It may be my own flesh—that enemy that I fight as long as I’m in this body.
  • It may be something about my past that would haunt me or want to keep me in bondage.
  • It may be other people.
  • It may be living with a mate who doesn’t know the Lord.
  • It may be enemies of sickness, of old age, of death.
  • It may be things that we fear, things that we would want to fight, things that we may be terrorized by.

Don’t focus on the enemies. Focus on the Shepherd. Focus on what He’s doing. Focus on His provision in the face of your enemies. He will grant abundance and supply your needs in the face of opposition and danger. You can enjoy His presence and experience fullness and safety and provision and blessing even in the presence of your enemies.

Now it’s important to let our Shepherd be the One who prepares the table for us. Don’t try to come up with your own feast. It’ll never be as good as the one He wants to prepare for you.

Some of you may have read a wonderful book called Evidence Not Seen. It’s the story of a woman named Darlene Deebler Rose who spent four years in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.

During that time she faced threats and torture and sickness and every conceivable type of torment at the hands of her captors. In that book she shares an account at one point when she was extremely weak. She had been very sick. She had just come through that, but she could hardly stand up when the guards came to the door, and they were required to stand up and bow as the guards came to their cells.

She was just so weak and in that weakness she began to crave a banana. She wanted a banana. Here’s what she says,

Everything in me wanted one. I could see them. I could smell them. I could taste them. I got down on my knees and said, "Lord, I’m not asking You for a whole bunch. I just want one banana." I looked up and pleaded, "Lord, just one banana."

Then I began to rationalize—how could God possibly get a banana to me through these prison walls? I would never ask the guard. If he helped me and was discovered it would mean reprisals. There was more chance of the moon falling out of the sky than of someone bringing me a banana.

Then she describes the next day after she prayed that prayer and a whole series of events that led to a guard coming to her door. She said,

I heard the guard coming back and knew he was coming for me.

She says how she was expecting that he was going to take her and beat her.

Struggling to my feet, I stood ready to go. He opened the door, walked in, and with a sweeping gesture laid at my feet bananas. "They’re yours," he said, "and they’re all from Mr. Yamaji."

Now in the story Mr. Yamaji was the commander of another camp where Darlene had previously been held. This man had a fierce temper. He was a vicious, cruel, angry man and incredibly this ruthless commander had been softened through Darlene’s witness to him in that previous camp.

Now here he shows up at this camp and gives a messenger bananas to take to Darlene. She said,

I sat down in stunned silence and counted them. There were 92 bananas. I pushed the bananas into a corner and wept. "Lord, forgive me. I’m so ashamed. I couldn’t trust You enough to get even one banana for me. Just look at them—there are almost a hundred." I knew in those moments that nothing is impossible to my God. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies."

Are you looking at the enemies or at your Host? He has conquered every enemy and ultimately all of those enemies will bow before Him. You see the 23rd Psalm squarely faces the reality of death and darkness and evil and enemies. It doesn’t pretend like they don’t exist. God’s not offering us an escape from our enemies but triumph over our enemies.

Yes, the valley of death and deep darkness exists, but I can walk through it, and He will be with me. Yes, there is evil, but I don’t have to fear it. I don’t have to have dread. I can have His comfort. Yes, there are enemies, but He hosts me in their presence. And right in that context we read these two phrases: “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” In the presence of my enemies.

You see what God does for us? Sometimes we work so hard to escape from pressures and problems, to manipulate and connive our way out of them that I think we miss some of the greatest blessings God has in store for us. Some of us never experience what our Shepherd or our gracious Host could and would do for us if we’d give Him the chance.

We’re too busy running from our enemies—and I’m not saying go look for enemies. That’s not the point. Just stand there and take the abuse, but I’m saying there are circumstances in our lives over which we have no control. Rather than resenting and resisting and running from them, turn your eyes on the Lord.

Turn your eyes to Him. Say, “Lord, what are You wanting to do in the midst of this situation?” You want to deal with my enemies? You want to provide for me in front of them? You’re not going to remove this situation? As Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, if it’s possible I would want this cup to be removed from me, but if not, Lord, have Your will, have Your way in my life.

Sometimes God’s will and God’s way is in the presence of the problems to prepare a feast for you and then to anoint your head with oil and to cause your cup to overflow. See when we think of being anointed with oil or our cup overflowing, we think of the sun shining and extra money in the bank and a husband who’s romantic and kids who are perfectly mannered and well behaved and rise up and call you blessed even while they’re still 17 years old. That’s probably not when they’re going to do that.

We say everything in my life would be okay if I could get just the right job, live in just the right house, have perfect health, not have any financial problems. Then my head would be anointed with oil and my cup would be overflowing. But you see the context for these promises? It’s in the presence of my problems. That’s where God can anoint your head with oil and cause your cup to overflow.

I think of that verse in Psalm 92 that says, “You have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies” (verses 10-11). God is caring for you even while God is dealing with your enemies.

Now if in this part of the psalm the Psalmist is still talking about the Shepherd and the sheep picture, then this might be a reference to the Shepherd putting oil on the sheep’s head, rubbing some oil on the sheep’s head, that serves to protect the sheep from things like sun stroke. It acts as a repellant against flies or snakes so the sheep can continue grazing in the presence of their enemies. It’s saying God meets my needs. He protects me in the presence of my enemies.

When you think about oil and anointing with oil in the Scripture, there’s several pictures that come to mind. One is the concept of gladness, fullness, abundance, satisfaction, sufficiency, wealth. Proverbs talks about oil on the head being like gladness of heart. The psalmist is talking about a sense of satisfaction here, fullness and joy.

Then in Scripture the oil and anointing with oil is used as a picture of hospitality where you come into someone’s home and the host, the gracious, welcoming host, says, “You’re welcome here. You’re esteemed. You’re accepted. You’re an honored guest.” It may be used in that sense, that my Host anoints my head with oil. He receives and welcomes me into His presence.

Certainly, the picture of oil in Scripture is a picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and what He does in our lives to purify and refine and fill and enable us. Anointing in Scripture was often used for consecration of the priests or of the kings who would serve the people and serve the Lord. Don’t we need that consecration and that anointing of the Holy Spirit in order to serve Him? We are priests unto God. In order to serve Him, we need our heads to be anointed with the oil of the Spirit.

My staff can tell you that when people ask how they can pray for me, one of the things I often say is, “Pray for fresh oil.” Because the psalm says, “You have anointed me with fresh oil.” I want a fresh filling of the Spirit in my life and working in and through me repeatedly.

And you see “you anoint my head with oil”—it’s not just a one-time thing. But this is applied repeatedly. Even so we need a fresh filling and anointing of God’s Spirit day after day for each new challenge, each new duty, each new opportunity.

Each new day you get up to deal with those children or to go to that job or to serve your husband or someone else that you’re responsible to care for, you need the oil of the Spirit. As God anoints you with His Spirit, you will find that it is an oil of gladness. It’s an oil of joy.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” I love this verse. I love that phrase. It speaks of God’s abundant, plenteous grace, an overflowing life. A number of Scriptures come to mind from the Psalms. “Blessed be the Lord who daily loads us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19, NKJV). “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). “What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?” (Psalm 116:12).

You don’t get a picture here of a servant of the Lord that’s just scrimping, scraping, barely surviving, poverty-stricken child of God. Now in a material sense they may be. But in the Spirit there is abundance. There’s fullness. There’s wealth. There’s consciousness that my cup overflows with God’s abundant blessings.

That’s how the apostle Paul can say from a prison cell, as he did in Philippians 4, “I have plenty. I am well supplied. My cup overflows” (paraphrase). And Jesus said that. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

And as Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). You see this picture all through the Scripture. My cup overflows.

Some of us are a little more pessimistic by nature and we tend to look at the glass as half-empty. The Scripture is saying look how full your cup is. Count your blessings. It gives you a whole different perspective depending on whether you focus on your problems or your blessings. I don’t care what your problems may be—I mean I do care—but regardless of what your problems may be, it will always be true that you have more blessings than problems.

We have a God who is abundant in mercy, rich in mercy, a God who abundantly pardons us. Romans 5:20 says, “Where sin increased, grace abound all the more.” My cup overflows. You say, “Yes, my cup is so full of sin. If you knew the things I had done, the places I’ve been, what a mess I’ve made of my life,” His mercy overflows more than your sin. His grace overflows beyond the reaches of your sin.

So where there’s overflowing sin, there’s God’s overflowing, abundant grace.

Then the apostle Paul teaches us in the book of 2 Corinthians that we have been blessed abundantly so that we can overflow into others’ lives. My cup overflows. God fills me up with His benefits and blessings so that I can be generous, so I can bless others. You have this cycle here in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 of overflowing grace and then overflowing generosity and then we all have overflowing gratitude to God for what He has done.

Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 12 about some seasons when we have overflowing problems. He says sometimes you pray and you ask God and He doesn’t take those problems away. But he says in the midst of those problems, God gives overflowing grace. I don’t care how abundant your problems are, how abundant your sin is, there is grace and there is blessing that is more abundant than all else.

So Paul could say in 2 Corinthians chapter 7, verse 4, “In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” What was he saying? As our problems overflow so the comfort that is ours in Christ overflows.

Haddon Robinson, in his devotional book written years ago on the 23rd Psalm, said,

With the Lord the calf is always the fatted calf; the robe is always the best robe; the joy is unspeakable, and the peace passes understanding. There is no grudging in God’s goodness. He does not measure His goodness by drops like a druggist filling a prescription. It comes to us in floods.1

“My cup overflows.” So what does that mean? Well, two things at least. There’s no room for complaining. No room for whining. Secondly, there is every reason for overflowing generosity and gratitude. God has blessed you so you can be a blessing.

O Lord, you anoint my head with oil, the oil of Your Spirit, the oil of gladness, the oil of joy. My cup overflows.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss helping us understand Psalm 23 more deeply. She’s been giving us fresh insight into a familiar chapter throughout the series on Psalm 23. If you’ve missed any of it, you can order the entire teaching on CD. It can help you fear less, trust more and follow God more closely. To order you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

This series on Psalm 23 is the type of Bible teaching you’ve come to expect from Revive Our Hearts. It’s helping thousands of women discover freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. And, Nancy, our listeners play a big role in making this happen.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie, and I’m going to remind our listeners that there are two main ways that you can help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. First, you can make a financial donation by calling us at 1-800-569-5959, or you can do it online at ReviveOurHearts.com. And so many of you have done that. I want to thank you for your partnership with this ministry.

The second way you can partner with us, and even more important as far as I’m concerned, is that you can pray for us.

Let me read a portion of an email I received recently that was such a blessing. This listener said,

I prayed for many years for a godly mentor and for wise counselors in my life. God has answered my prayers through your program. It’s my privilege, my joy to learn more of God’s ways each day and to steadfastly study to become a wise and godly mentor myself.

By the way, I love to hear that. Not only that women are letting God train them in His ways, but that they’re seeking to be reproducers in the lives of others.

This woman goes on to say,

Thank you a thousand times for not just giving us pep talks without the Scripture. Your use of the precious Holy Scriptures to convict, to exhort, to admonish and to encourage are a blessing to my soul every day. As long as the Lord gives me breath, I will keep you and the staff and this ministry in my prayers and supplications to the Lord.

Well, that’s the kind of encouragement we love to hear. Thank you so much for your financial support and your prayers. We really appreciate both and they are making a difference in many, many lives.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Have you ever gotten the idea that the car behind yours is following you? It’s an uneasy feeling, but it’s wonderful to be followed by the right things. Find out what they are tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1Devotionals: From Psalm 23. Haddon Robinson. Moody, 1968, p. 52.

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